Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

Mary Shelley was greatly influenced in her writing of Frankenstein by the Romantic poets. Discover the similarities between the works of Mary Shelley and the writing of Romantic poetry.

Mary Shelley was greatly influenced by Romantic poetry, most notably the poetry of William Wordsworth, while writing Frankenstein. Shelley employs passages from Wordsworth's poems throughout her writings and allows the adventures of Victor Frankenstein from youth to maturity to mirror the journey taken by Wordsworth's speaker in the poem, "Tintern Abbey." In addition, the employment of Henry Clerval throughout Frankenstein is representative of what Victor's childhood could have been if Victor had not engaged in a similar youthfulness depicted in "Tintern Abbey."

Throughout the writings of "Tintern Abbey," the speaker of the poem nostalgically remembers his youth and the eagerness with which he explored his natural surroundings. He states, "Like a roe I bounded o'er the mountains, by the sides of the deep rivers, and the lonely streams, wherever nature led." The speaker was in constant interaction with nature and allowed his course throughout youth to be dictated by things occurring in nature. Although this constant communication with nature appears to be a positive aspect of his youth, the speaker realizes that he was acting "in the hour of thoughtless youth." He takes no time to ponder the profound aspects of nature and simply concentrates on the superficial aspects that are easily observable in the natural surroundings. These trivial activities engaged in throughout youth reveal recklessness and total abandonment of anything other than the superficial in nature. In comparison to the youth described in the poem, the youthfulness exhibited by Victor Frankenstein mirrors the reckless youth shown in "Tintern Abbey." Victor was "in a fit of enthusiastic madness" during his frantic search for scientific discovery. He devotes all of his time and energy during his youth towards science and fails to think about the consequences of his actions. Victor is eager to follow the path of science wherever it leads and never stops to wonder what will occur after the successful completion of his scientific experiment.

Additionally, Clerval is employed by Shelley to represent what Victor could have achieved in his youth. Clerval and Victor were "alive to every new scene; joyful when [they] saw the beauties of the setting sun, and more happy when [they] beheld it rise, to recommence a new day" during their youth. Although both characters are eager for every new day to commence, both have drastically different reasons for their eagerness. Clerval puts his energy towards good use by furthering his knowledge and education, whereas Victor uses his scientific knowledge for harm. Victor fervently works on his creation without rest and laments the time lost when it is too dark to work on his project. The dawning of a new day represents the continuation of his scientific experiment and the hope of putting the creation into motion as a human being.

The latter part of "Tintern Abbey" reveals the maturity that the speaker experiences after the recklessness of his youth. He states that his "wild ecstasies"¦[are] matured into a sober pleasure" (116). As an adult, the speaker realizes that his actions in youth were incorrect and harmful in that they did not allow him to experience anything other than the overt natural surroundings. This relates to Victor's life because Victor ultimately realizes that his scientific discoveries have created disastrous consequences for his own life and the lives of others. Additionally, the speaker of "Tintern Abbey" states that the past, with "all its aching joys, are now no more, and all its dizzy rapture" are lost. He realizes that the past is gone and he does not want to engage in the negligent activity that he once possessed so much passion for continuing. With regard to Victor Frankenstein, Victor does not regret that he no longer feels the fervent passion to create because he realizes the mistakes of ambition without consequence. He wants to warn others against engaging in scientific discovery without regard to repercussions that may occur. Victor states, "Learn from me, if not by my precepts, at least by my example, how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge." Through memories of his youth, Victor understands the growth that has occurred in his life from being a reckless individual who thinks solely of his own gain and status to a responsible adult. As an adult, Victor wishes he could take back the mistakes of his youth because he now possesses a clear perception of correct and incorrect actions.

The reckless youth and the responsible adult depicted in Wordsworth's "Tintern Abbey" exemplify the alterations that occur during Victor Frankenstein's life. Additionally, Mary Shelley employs the characters of Henry Clerval and Victor Frankenstein in an attempt to reveal the two opposing choices present in youth. Henry Clerval chose to use his youthful energy to further his education and knowledge, whereas Victor Frankenstein uses this same energy to engage in disastrous scientific discoveries without thought of consequence. Clerval is representative of what Victor Frankenstein could have become had he wisely chosen an alternative path during youth.

© High Speed Ventures 2011