Belated Thesis Posted In Interpretation Of Mary Shelley's Novel, *Frankenstein"

Having constructed my (collegiate) sophomore project, in partial completion of the requirements of my History major, on the historical response of critics and scholars to Mary Shelley's novel, Frankenstein, I had, in that spring of 1978, opportunity to view some transcripts of the original manuscript.  They tell me that it is now preserved in the British Museum, having been deposited there by her son some years after her passing away.

   Two aspects of the manuscript struck me immediately.  While writing in the flurry of inspiration, Mary mis-spelled a lot of words.  And the only punctuation she used, during first drafting, was a hyphen or a dash.  We know from reading her journal, which was published (if I recall correctly) in the early 1940's (and was edited by a scholar who was openly hostile toward her, and belittled her; to my deep resentment), that rewriting it as a fair copy, fit for the publisher to set in print, was a tedious, slow task.  Many of her journal entries for that time consist of just two words, "Correct Frankenstein."

    Now, at one time, I thought I understood the purpose of the process, despite how much distress it seemed to cause her.  But now, having witnessed several posters, here on postpoems, that believe that any incorrectly spelled word is still a poem, and that a poem can be in any form at all---because the essence of poetry is not what an item is, but what it's creator say it is, even if it is a clodhopping pile of heart-seep---I have to wonder why my girl, Mary, felt she had to correct her spelling errors, and use standard punctuation in order to prepare the fair copy for her publisher.

    After all, was she not writing from her heart?  And isn't attention to detail, to verbal skill, to literary precedent, to certain readers' expectation of a sophisticated use of language---isn't all this detrimental and unproductive in the dissemination of heart-see?  In composing Frankenstein, was Mary not expressing the deep emotions and concerns in her heart; the honest expression of which, according to certain posters whose, uh, work I have read, is inhibited and obstructed by too much attention to verbal skills, literary or canonical precedent, and readers' expectation of an engaging use of volcabulary properly spelled and deployed in ordinary English grammar?

   So I wonder why Mary Shelley, the daughter of two of England's most socially and politically defiant writers, preferred to bring her manuscript into order of spelling and acceptable grammar, rather than just publishing it as she wrote it . . . from, one might say, "her heart."

    I think the answer to this glaring, and apparently unresolvable, question is, perhaps, found in her novel itself; in the metaphor provided by Victor Frankenstein's attempt to create a living being of his own design.  That design violated the expectations---the precedent, if you will---of what canonically defines a human being.  Victor Frankenstein did not want to be inhibited by societal expectations, ethical expectations, and the precedents of human anatomy and physiology.  So he created a living thing that caused mayhem and misfortunate everywhere it went; and that, ultimately, caused the death of Victor Frankenstein, himself, before leaping for the prowl of an icelocked ship, having made a vow to seek out the northernmost ice floes and there created a flaming pyre on which it could bring its artificial and chaotic life to a fit end.  I think it ironic that the monster becomes the most human when he realizes, and admits in that final soliloquy to the novel's frame narrator, Captain Walton (no, no "goodnight Johnboy"), that his existence is a violation of principles and precedents and that, in no way, can he be considered genuinely human, but still, in the end, simply a living mass cobbled together from dead bodies and rotten organs, conceived not during a romantic evening between two naked people, but by the workings of some machine that Mary Shelley, wisely (for a nineteen year old) did not attempt to describe or explain.  Victor Frankenstein's monster was built with defiant disregard of the form, symmetry, function, and measure of human life.  In other words, it was constructed from the motivations of Victor Frankenstein's heart---basically, an embodied Heart-seep---without regard to canonical human life.  In this way, the monster becomes a metaphor of prostitute art, of disregard of canon, and of a failure to acknowledge that the arts and sciences are a community.  Victor Franeknstein, as Mary Shelley depicts him, is so awkwardly turned inside, so preoccupied with the heart-seep dripping from his own ego, that he allows an inocent girl to be executed by hanging after being found guilty of one of the Monster's murders.  Mary Shelley gave us a chilling gothic horror story; but, within it, she also have us a chilling metaphor of the prostitution of art when it is pimped by a feckless, reckless and unread, uncouth ego.


Starward


   

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patriciajj's picture

There are few writers as

There are few writers as trailblazing and intriguing as Mary Shelley, so this screamed "must read" from the beginning. In this riveting thesis, you managed to ignite my fascination with the writer and her opus while exploring the two seemingly contradictory processes in a writers' workshop: raw inspiration and grueling mechanics. 

 

Certainly, Shelley paid her dues—otherwise her genius would have remained unknown and the world would have been poorer for it, but her genius needed a free space to play and romp and flow in the beginning. 

 

Making a very convincing case for the importance of structure, you cleverly looked to the novel itself and saw the monster as a metaphor for reckless abandon in the creative process and how, no matter the greatness of the idea, without some semblance of coherent style, the finished product is perceived as carelessness, ignorance: "prostitution of art". 

 

I was completely captivated by this brilliant, deftly composed unearthing of an iconic story and its relation to contemporary writing. 

 

Starward's picture

Thank you so very much.  I

Thank you so very much.  I really appreciate your comment, the compliment, and your validation of my interpretation.  While writing this, I felt again like a sophomore, hoping that I might have something original to say about her, because I owe her so much.  I just realized, this morning, that my life, as regards poetry, has a kind of symmetry---at the beginning was Mary Shelley's brilliant words, and at the end is Patriciajj's brilliant poems.  I realize from this pattern that I have been blessed beyond my wildest dreams.


Starward

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patriciajj's picture

This was certainly original.

This was certainly original. There's no end to your artistry. Thank you for your uplifting words. 

Starward's picture

Thank you for those kind

Thank you for those kind words.  I am always glad to write, or talk, about Mary Shelley.  I owe her so much.  I am very glad that she bookends an early part of my life, as your great poetry bookends the late part of my life.


Starward

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