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Mary Shelley’s Fears in “Frankenstein” Essay

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Updated: Jul 1st, 2020

The world of fictional literature is mysterious and has many layers. Artistic people such as writers are very sensitive and can particularly see things, they are perceptive, and often their emotional experiences differ from those of other people. This is why writers create their imaginary worlds in the novels. These words are often the reflections of the inner passions and suffering of their creators. In many cases, the readers need to be very attentive and careful to catch the true hidden meaning of the writer’s descriptions.

Mary Shelley was a truly gifted and unusual person who lived a very extraordinary life full of losses and tragedies. Her novel called “Frankenstein” was written during the author’s youth. This outstanding work first saw the world in 1818. Many years have passed since that moment, but the novel is still incredibly popular. Mary Shelley’s creation is often spoken about as a philosophical work telling about the influences of industrialization and technological progress on the society and the ideas about the values of life and death, the argument about god’s existence and people’s ignorance towards the powers of nature.

This novel is often seen as a demonstration of unplanned outcomes of a technological catastrophe and the negative results of scientific experiments. It is often overlooked that the author of this novel was a young woman, who was barely bothered by the industrial future of the planet and the power of god over mankind. Mary Shelley was overwhelmed with her dramatic relationship with Percy Shelley, miscarriages, psychological trauma from losing a child and her mother’s sad history. Regarding all of these facts, “Frankenstein” can be seen as a reflection of Mary Shelley’s fears of childbirth and pregnancy.

Ever since her early childhood Mary Godwin, the future wife of the poet Percy Shelley, was surrounded with Gothicism. Mary’s mother died while giving birth to her. Mary’s father, William Godwin, used to take his little daughter to the cemetery to see her mother’s grave. With the help of her father, Mary learned how to write and read her name by the example on her mother’s tombstone. Being a teenager, Mary developed deep feelings for Percy Shelley, the poet. The young couple soon ran away together as Percy was already married. The society was shocked by what Percy and Mary did, so they immediately became outcasts.

Mary started having babies very early in her life. By the age of nineteen, she already had had two. Her first child was born prematurely and lived only for several days. The young mother was devastated by the loss of her first baby, even though she soon had other children, she never fully recovered from that tragedy. This was the time when the young writer had the idea of “Frankenstein” based on the fear of giving birth to a creature and failing to raise it properly, which would result in a creation of a monster.

For the rest of her life, Mary Shelley was surrounded by death. Out of her four children, only one survived till adult age. Mary’s lived through shocking experiences of losing her half-sister that committed suicide. Soon after that tragedy, another dramatic event happened, Percy Shelley’s wife Harriet, who he ran away from with Mary, also killed herself. Finally, Mary and Percy’s union did not last long because the young poet drowned when Mary was only twenty-four. After his death, she lived alone with her little son, poor and rejected by society.

Mary Shelley’s tragic experiences with pregnancy, childbirth, and the responsibilities of raising a baby are unfortunately not rare in the world of nowadays. Women from all around the world suffer from pregnancy injuries and traumatic experiences, which cause shocks and health damage that often is very hard to cure. It is a well-known fact that pregnant women are exposed to various anxieties and worries about their babies, their future, and their health. Carrying a child can be an emotionally exhausting experience, even if everything goes well.

Women are very fragile during this period; this is why every shocking experience can leave a lot of irreparable damage. When during pregnancy, women experience injuries and bad accidents, which hurt them and their babies; this creates extremely negative impacts physically and psychologically. Women that had traumatic experiences during pregnancies and childbirth develop phobias towards the further child developments, having more children or becoming pregnant again.

In the case of Mary Shelley, her fears of pregnancy and childbirth were based not only on her tragic experience of a very dangerous miscarriage and having a baby that was born prematurely and died soon after that, but also because of the history of her mother that died in labor. Mary Shelley’s fears were what made her write about the creation of the undead monster. The book is a representation of her pregnancy anxieties and worries as to what happens if her child is born damaged if she cannot love her child if she cannot raise her child properly and it turns into a monster if she wishes that her child died.

The relationship between Victor Frankenstein and the creature he made depicts Mary Shelley’s worst fears related to parenting. From the moment when Victor realizes that his creation is alive, he starts to be afraid of it. It turns out that the scientist was so busy with the technical side of his calculations and experiments that he never took a moment to think what kind of responsibility he was going to face after his creature first opens its eyes. Fear and disgust were the only emotions Victor Frankenstein could feel towards his “child.” The “brilliant” scientist failed to think through what he was going to do with his creature after the experiment.

He also failed to care if the being he created was going to want to be alive and how it was supposed to live in human society. From the very beginning, Victor thought of his creature as an object, a result of an experiment, but not a person. This resembles the fact that pregnant women often think of giving birth as of the hardest and scariest thing they would have to do, whereas, in reality, the most difficult experience for them is going to be parenting and responsibility for the child, and the child’s upbringing, health, wellbeing, and future.

Victor Frankenstein was focused on his role as a creator of life, but not his responsibilities for the life and the being he created. Of course, such “parent” failed to teach his creature many essential things about life and society. Logically, the creature soon turned into a dangerous monster, and the “father” started to desire for his “child” to die.

Frankenstein’s monster is often seen as a cruel and aggressive creature, yet in reality, he is a very good and detailed description of a severely neglected child. The author of the novel was perfectly aware of what kind of child can be raised with disgust and hatred, replacing love and care. Nineteen-year-old Mary Shelley understood the importance of giving birth to a healthy baby and raising it properly, as by that time she already was a mother with a tragic and deeply traumatic experience of losing her child and a fear of losing another one.

The anxieties and worries women often experience during their pregnancies are the signals of doubts and insecurities. These feelings are normal for young mothers having their first child, or any other healthy pregnant ladies, but for the women that have been through negative experiences connected with childbirth having the next child can be a serious stress. New pregnancies make women re-visit their past and go through their tragedies all over again fearing what may happen.

The phobias of women that have been through various negative and painful emotional and physical experiences related to pregnancies, childbirth and child development are much more real than the ones of inexperienced mothers, who are simply afraid of the unknown. Mary Shelley’s fears were significant and strong enough to result in the creation of a novel that keeps bothering the publicity centuries after it was first published.

“Frankenstein” can definitely be referred to as the first novel about the issues of childbirth in human history. The analysis of Mary Shelley’s work today brings public awareness of the seriousness of the problems many women have to face due to their traumatic physical and psychological experiences related to childbirth and pregnancy. It is worth knowing that the number of women undergoing this kind of stress is growing every day (Mirza, Devine & Gaddipati, 2010).

Such phobias may be caused by various accidents and injuries as well as illnesses and infections of female reproductive organs (Brown, 2009). These issues often cannot be cured only by gynecologists because after the physical damage heals, there is still deep emotional trauma that can influence the woman’s future decisions about pregnancy and childbirth. After going through bad experiences of this kind, a woman may never want to have children again or find enough courage and faith to become pregnant one more time.

It takes a long while to cure the physical injuries of female reproductive organs, but the emotional and psychological consequences of negative accidents related to childbirth and pregnancy may never go away if they are not addressed or are treated inappropriately (Dailey, Humphreys, Rankin & Lee, 2011). Childbirth is, without a doubt, one of the most miraculous and beautiful happenings in the world, but under certain circumstances, this amazingly magical experience may be turned upside down and viewed as the most stressful and devastating torture.

The novel by Mary Shelley offers the readers an alternative perspective on the author’s deepest personal fears of different stages of the process of having children and being a parent. “Frankenstein” is not only a legendary gothic book admired by many modern readers but also a psychological representation of its author’s inner sufferings related to childbirth and pregnancy.

Reference List

Brown, H. (2009). Trauma in pregnancy. Obstetrics & Gynecology, 114(1), 147-160.

Dailey, D., Humphreys, J., Rankin, S., & Lee, K. (2011). An exploration of lifetime trauma exposure in pregnant low-income African American women. Maternal And Child Health Journal, 15(3), 410-418.

Mirza, F., Devine, P., & Gaddipati, S. (2010). Trauma in pregnancy: a systematic approach. American Journal of Perinatology, 27(7), 579-586.

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