The Creature and the De Lacey Family in Frankenstein

face of a prisoner

The scene of the creature and the De Lacey family in Frankenstein shows a second-personal moral claim leading to disaster. Scholars have put that scene into remarkably different contexts. For example, one scholar reads the scene of the creature and the De Lacey family as a rewriting of Matilda’s seduction of Ambrosio in Matthew Gregory Lewis’s popularly successful work The Monk (1796).^ Lewis (known amusingly as Monk) visited Byron and Shelley at Villa Diodati in 1816. Perhaps that visit generated competition for acclaim:

If Mary Shelley was indeed trying consciously to surpass the famous Monk Lewis, it’s not surprising that she would rewrite a scene from the novel that literally made his name.^

Mary Shelley was at this time a home-schooled, eighteen-year-old with no experience in writing for persons outside her intimate circle. But she evidently understood the position of women academics publishing articles in academic journals in the late twentieth century:

the Monster’s stories become tales told by a woman in a novel by a woman who feared that such tales – like her own – would be understood as signifying nothing.^

Reading a line from Frankenstein’s preface in a remarkably literal way, this scholar declares that Mary Shelley’s husband:

usurped the voice of the author, domesticated (in every sense) a powerful story, and greatly reduced its meaning, offering that meaning to us almost as a hard, smooth kernel, deftly extracted from the whole.^

That analysis cannot be fully appreciated without careful study of communicative standpoints in Frankenstein and careful comparative analysis of the prefaces to the 1818 and 1831 editions of Frankenstein.

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