Many critics argue that the novel “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley was used as a reflective piece for attributes of her own life. In many ways, there are associations which have been made as to the deficiencies that Shelley had in terms of parental involvement which are believed to have manifested themselves in her work, prominently in the conception of the Creature and what attributes came to define both the beast and the doctor who conceived the being. Sherry Ginn of Wingate University argues that, by using the theory of psychosocial development by Erik Erikson, one can interpret themes that relate to the lack of care that Shelley received from her parents. As such, this essay will seek to analyze this claim and provide claims from other authors to support the notion that the Creature is representative of Shelley’s own life.
Sherry Ginn is an established writer with various books and theses published in the subject of Women’s Studies. She’s the Director of Women’s Studies at Winngate University and has her Ph.D in General-Experimental Psychology that she obtained from the University of South Carolina. (Alibris.com, “Sherry Ginn”) She’s wrote multiple books pertaining to different subjects, such as the works of Joss Whedon and reflection on the role that women have played in shows such as “Doctor Who.” Her overall thesis of this analysis is that Shelley did not receive sufficient maternal and paternal care, and that the novel itself is a reflection of her own life. This thesis is interesting and the angle that Ginn uses makes a lot of sense, especially when she provides the sufficient context that she does.
Ginn identifies certain elements of Shelley’s life that correlate, such as the Creature having no mother and the father turning their back on the child. As Ginn illustrates, her mother died while giving birth to her and this could have a significant impact on how she developed. This is significantly similar to the Creature, who was born with no mother and had a father who abandoned it. (Shelley, 914) Ginn illustrates that Shelley’s life was further complicated by her father deciding to remarry and her stepmother being rather insecure in regards to Mary and her sister. Overall, the relevant themes are there and the correlations between the Creature and Shelley’s own life are evident. The supporting information that Ginn uses to make this assertion are also very present and relevant. Over the course of the entire analysis, she uses forty-three sources of different types and from different locations to support the thesis that she introduces.
After reviewing these sources and attempting to locate the actual citations, it’s evident that Ginn spent a significant amount of time focusing on articles and sources that were scholarly in nature and provided extensive support of the claims that she was making. Most of the emphasis of each source is either in providing supporting information for “Frankenstein” and its relationship to Shelley’s life and actual psychological resources that support these claims from a more scientific standpoint. The supporting documentation that she provides is used adequately; there are few points when she relies to heavily on these citations to present her arguments. Rather, they’re centrally developed around arguments that she makes herself and uses the citations to reinforce these arguments, as citations should be done. By and large, the extensive nature of her reflection on the subject is supported by each of the assertions found in these citations which she uses correctly.
The second article that I used was that of “Autobiography, Patriarchy and Motherlessness in Frankenstein” by L. Griswold. This article makes many of the same assertions that are found in Ginn’s. The author concludes that the lack of a maternal figure had a profound impact on why Shelley chose to create the Creature in the way that she did. Furthermore, much like Ginn, Griswold concludes that the role that her father played was likely to have a profound impact on the development of Shelley’s characters. (Griswold, 90) As Griswold asserts, each daughter in the story has some direct involvement with the death of their own mother, including Victor’s cousin and Justine, an assistant. This article does a great job of addressing many of the themes that Shelley uses, and given the expansiveness of the analysis itself, delves into these subjects extensively.
Interestingly, Ginn concludes that “Frankenstein” is more than just an autobiography and stands as a complex examination of Shelley’s own internal factors, but doesn’t do so at the expense of her father much like Victor Frankenstein in the book. (Ginn, 2) Ginn believes that Shelley did not directly attempt to indict her own father, like she does Frankenstein in the novel and that this occurs only as a result of the themes she was attempting to address in terms of family relationships and paternal abandonment. Griswold’s article makes similar claims but does more to address the novel as more of an autobiography.
In summation, the correlation between “Frankenstein” and Shelley’s own life is founded well in Ginn’s examination and in Griswold’s. In each of these articles, the author does a great job at summarizing these connections and ensuring that proper citation of relevant information occurs. They present strong arguments for the points they are attempting to make and to the overall connotation between these themes. Ginn’s analysis, while not as thorough as Griswold’s, is useful in that it carefully presents certain themes that relate to the fact that the novel could in fact be an autobiographical account, such as the lack of a mother figure and the role that the father plays in essentially abandoning the child, or the Creature in the novel.
- Ginn, Sherry. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: Science, Science Fiction, or Autobiography? Wingate University Press. 2003. pp. 2-4.
- Griswold, Lynsey. Autobiography, Patriarchy, and Motherlessness in Frankenstein. Fordham University Bronx, New York. 2004. p. 90.
- Shelley, Mary. “Frankenstein.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 7th ed. Vol. 2. Eds. M. H. Abrams. Et al. Norton. 2000. 912-1034.
- Alibris. Sherry Ginn Featured Books. Alibris.com. 2012.http://www.alibris.com/search/books/author/Sherry-Ginn