Mary Shelley & The Birth of Frankenstein, Part 5
SARAH PARKIN concludes her Mary Shelley and the Birth of Frankenstein series by describing the novel’s legacy
She was also an accomplished biographer, poet and editor of the works of her husband Percy, whose status as one of the major poets of the Romantic period was largely assured by her efforts.
Despite the significance of works such as The Last Man (1826), however, her full importance as a writer is only just beginning to be understood: it’s interesting that, when her later work was more critically acclaimed at the time, it has mostly been forgotten, while Frankenstein’s reputation continues to grow.
It’s one of the most accomplished Gothic novels of the period, borrowing heavily from the conventions pioneered by her father among others, but at the same time its voice is unique. Mary’s own chequered personal life provides themes and preoccupations which are not articulated as strongly by anybody else – her insight into the traumas of childbirth and parenthood, as well as her own struggle to live up to the reputations of her famous parents, shine through in Victor Frankenstein’s struggles to create a human being and then to make a man. The suggestion that the two are not the same is one of the keynotes of the novel.