Presentation on theme: "Romance and Realism In Mary Shell’s Frankenstein “So much has been done…more, far more, will I achieve: treading in the steps already marked, I will pioneer."— Presentation transcript:
Romance and Realism In Mary Shell’s Frankenstein “So much has been done…more, far more, will I achieve: treading in the steps already marked, I will pioneer a new way, explore unknown powers, and unfold to the world the deepest mysteries of creation” (Shelly 28)
No!Not this kind of Romance!
Romance Defined In the context of Frankenstein, what we mean by Romance is something: fanciful; impractical; unrealistic; imbued with or dominated by this cherished pursuit of high or noble principles, purposes, goals, etc. There is also a more specific socio-historical context we will discuss in a moment. Think of idealism.
Realism Defined In contrast, Realism is: the representation in art or literature of objects, actions, and social conditions as the actually are without idealization or presentation in abstract form.
Historical and Cultural Context o It is really important to recognize and try to understand Mary Shelly’s novel as a product and as a reaction to the culture of her time. o Shelly wrote during the Romantic Age (Late 1700s and early 1800s); recall: Percy Shelley was one of the great Romantic poets. o The Romantic Age was preceded in history by the Enlightenment: “mankind’s final coming of age, the emancipation of human consciousness from an immature state of ignorance and error”- Immanuel Kant. o Thought in this “Age of Reason” was based on logic and rationality. It sought objectivity and a scientific approach to understanding the world and rejected emotional and religious dogma. o To underestimate the importance of the Enlightenment on our society and Western society in general would be a grave mistake. It influenced the fathers of our nation and formed the basis of political and scientific thought in the west that is still in use today. Think of great names such as Spinoza, Newton, Locke.
Historical and Cultural Context o However, the era was criticized as a “cultural climate that had been lacking in spontaneity, creativity, and individuality” (Smith). o “As Bloom and Trilling [two Romantics] explain, the meaning of sublimity changed between the Enlightenment and Romantic periods: ‘This sublimity [unlike that of previous eras]…is not a Sublime of great conceptions, before which the self feels small, but rather of a hoped-for potential, in which the private self turns upon infinitude, and so is found by its own greatness.’” (Smith) o “Romanticism encouraged people to look inward, trusting themselves and their own intuition” (Smith). Through this sort of introspection, people would understand themselves and their world more profoundly and thereby advance society as a whole. o Romanticism sought to expand beyond Enlightenment philosophy which was bound by logic into a more emotional, artistic sort of understanding.
Historical and Cultural Context o Mary Shelly allows her characters to engage in and express the consequences of this sort of introspection that characterizes Romantic thought, allowing them articulate their dreams and what they desire their own lives to eventually amount to. Consequently, many of her characters, at least for a time, are romantics. o However, Shelly understands that the pursuit of ideality has its limits—true idealism is impossible to attain because of the inherent imperfection of mankind and of the world in general. o This is where realism comes into the picture. In many, many instances, the idealistic notions that driver her characters are put to bed as reality sets in. Often, the characters have to accept bitter consequences of their romantic pursuits and must come to terms with the fact that reality is not the ideal they dream of.
Victor Frankenstein’s Quest to Create Life and Transcend Death “No one can conceive the variety of feelings which bore me onwards, like a hurricane, in the first enthusiasm of success. Life and death appeared to me ideal bounds, which I should first break through, and pour a torrent of light into our dark world. A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me. No father could claim the gratitude of his child so completely as I should deserve theirs. Pursing these reflections, I thought, that if I could bestow animation on lifeless matter, I might in process of time….renew life where death had apparently devoted the body to corruption” (Shelley 48)- Victor Frankenstein
RomanceRealism Victor Frankenstein dreams of creating life—a perfect man, an aid to society—and overcoming death. Victor’s endeavors result in not perfection, but a monstrosity that becomes a bane to society. In an irony of the greatest magnitude, Frankenstein's quest to overcome death eventually leads to the deaths of most of those people who he held dear—and eventually to his own death. Shelly makes the point that man cannot exceed his boundaries.
The Creature’s Quest to Belong “I looked upon them [the family in the cottage] as superior beings, who would be the arbiter of my future destiny. I formed in my imagination a thousand pictures of presenting myself to them, and their reception of me. I imagined that they would be disgusted, until, by my gentle demeanor and conciliating words, I should first win their favor, and afterwards their love. These thoughts exhilarated me and led me to apply with fresh ardor to the acquiring the art of language” (Shelley 103).- The Creature “Cursed, cursed creator! Why did I live? Why, in that instant, did I not extinguish the spark of existance which you [Frankenstein] wantonly bestowed?...I gave vent to my anguish in fearful howlings…O! what a miserable night I passed!...my protectors [the cottage family] had departed, and had broken the only link which held me to the world” (Shelley )- The Creature after being rejected by De Lacey’s Family
RomanceRealism The creature fantasizes the at he will be accepted and loved by his “protectors”; he believes that they will throw appearances aside and accept him for who he is with open arms. The family of the cottage, apart from De Lacey, despises the creature because of his looks. The perceived “monster” is forced to flee the cottage. He is not loved, nor is he even accepted—he is detested. Shelley constructs a dark social reality in her fiction—a reality that would eventually corrupt the creature just as it corrupts the outcasts of our own society.
The Creature’s Desire for Companionship "Shall each man," cried he, "find a wife for his bosom, and each beast have his mate, and I be alone? I had feelings of affection, and they were requited by detestation and scorn.” (Shelley 149)- The Creature “Had I right, for my own benefit, to inflict this curse [of a species of monsters] upon everlasting generations? I had before been moved by the sophisms of the being I had created; I had been struck senseless by his fiendish threats; but now, for the first time, the wickedness of my promise [to create a mate for The Creature] burst upon me; I shuddered to think that future ages might curse me as their pest, whose selfishness had not hesitated to buy its own peace at the price, perhaps, of the existence of the whole human race.” (Shelley 147)- Victor Frankenstein
RomanceRealism The Creature moves Victor to believe that if Frankenstein creates for him a companion in the world, he shall move to the remote jungles of the Americas, never to be heard from henceforth, never to curse mankind again, and live in peace for the remainder of his life. Victor goes back on his promise, realizing that the monster will always be a threat and, if he and his companion were to reproduce, they would extinguish man from the earth. Shelley makes the point that ideal scenarios often do not play-out as intentioned, and that we have to hold that expectation as truth.
Walton’s Quest towards the North Pole “This expedition has been the favourite dream of my early years. I have read with ardour the accounts of the various voyages which have been made in the prospect of arriving at the North Pacific Ocean through the seas which surround the pole.” (Shelley 2)- R. Walton “I write to you, encompassed by peril…the brave fellows, whom I have persuaded to be my companions, look towards me for aid; but I have none to bestow…if we are lost, my mad schemes are the cause…the dies is cast; I have consented to return, if we are not destroyed. Thus are my hopes blasted by cowerdice and indecision: I come back ignorant and disappointed. It requires more philosophy than I possess, to bear this injustice with patience” (Shelley 158,160)- R. Walton
RomanceRealism Walton desires the experience of adventure from the North Pole to and through the North Pacific Ocean. He wants this voyage to be the dream he had been favoring ever since his early years. Walton realizes that the expedition was more dangerous than he had imagined. Being stranded in a desert of ice, Robert is forced by the will of his men to return home. Shelly makes a point that an iron will cannot overcome a reality set in stone.
Victor’s Quest to Rid the World of His Creation 'In a fit of enthusiastic madness I created a rational creature and was bound towards him to assure, as far as was in my power, his happiness and well-being I refused, and I did right in refusing, to create a companion for the first creature. He showed unparalleled malignity and selfishness in evil; he destroyed my friends..... Miserable himself that he may render no other wretched, he ought to die. The task of his destruction was mine.” (Shelley )- Victor Frankenstein “…seek happiness in tranquility and avoid ambition, even if it be only the apparently innocent one of distinguishing yourself in science and discoveries." (Shelley 200)- Victor Frankenstein
RomanceRealism Victor seeks revenge and tries to find and capture the Creature. He desires to end his misery and lessen the guilt be bore ever since the night his creation was born— the guilt of being father to a fiend. Victor vows to accomplish this last task: the pursuit of his creation, the destruction of the creature, and thus the purgation of his own soul. Victor tries in vain for the rest of his life to capture the creature. He is sadden with guilt and has become ill. He ends his life too weak to pursue his revenge and departs life giving one last piece of advice to Walton. Again, ambition cannot change the fact of reality.
“Seek Happiness in Tranquility” Victor Frankenstein
Works Cited Bradfitzpatrick.com / Cartoonstock.com Dictionary.com Article: “Overview of Romanticism in Literature” by Nicole Smith Article: “Romanticism and Frankenstein by Mary Shelley” by Nicole Smith Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Barnes and Noble Classics.