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Bewildering Stories

Challenge 311 Response

Frankenstein Reformed

by Gary Inbinder

The author responds by anticipation to part of Challenge 311:

In what ways do Victor Frankenstein’s “monster” and Isaac Asimov’s “robots” reflect the plight of the child brought to life by an ambivalent parent?

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“Accursed creator! Why did you form a monster so hideous that even you turned from me in disgust? God, in pity, made man beautiful and alluring, after his own image; but my form is a filthy type of yours, more horrid even from the very resemblance. Satan had his companions, fellow-devils, to admire and encourage him; but I am solitary and abhorred.” That is the voice of the creature from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; it is not the grunting monster portrayed in most films. Moreover, it may be the cri de cœur of Frankenstein’s nineteen-year-old author.

At the time she wrote Frankenstein, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin was involved in scandal, and the object of gossip and ridicule. At sixteen she had eloped to the continent with the then married poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Her teen-aged half-sister, Jane Claire Clairmont, joined them. Claire may have also been intimate with Shelley, and she later became Lord Byron’s mistress, bearing him a daughter whom Byron had placed in an orphanage where the girl, Allegra, died at age five.

At seventeen, Mary gave premature birth to an unnamed daughter who died within days. The following year, Mary’s other stepsister, Fanny Imlay, killed herself, and she too may have had an affair with Shelley. That same year, Shelley’s pregnant wife, Harriet, committed suicide by jumping from a bridge over the Serpentine in Hyde Park.

Mary was the daughter of famous parents. Her mother, who died shortly after giving birth, author and philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft, is considered among the first modern feminists. Mary Wollstonecraft’s husband, William Godwin, was a noted radical author and philosopher. Both of Mary Shelley’s parents advocated free love and questioned traditional marriage. Therefore, Mary was shocked, confused and deeply hurt when her father refused to speak to her for two years, until after the death of Shelley’s wife and Mary and Percy’s subsequent marriage. At the time she wrote Frankenstein, young Mary must have felt like her creature, despised and abandoned by its creator. And there is also evidence from her journals that she identified with pariahs she encountered in her reading, like Milton’s Satan and Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner.

My novel, Confessions of the Creature, begins where Mary Shelley’s novel ends. However, instead of killing himself on an ice-floe north of the Arctic Circle, the creature survives and, transformed by love and magic, becomes a handsome man of superhuman strength, intellect and courage.

The once solitary creature gets his chance to live among humans; he experiences love and hate, war and peace, acceptance and rejection, victory and defeat. In other words he perseveres and lives like his creator, Mary Shelley, and goes on to become the human being he was meant to be.

Copyright © 2008 by Gary Inbinder

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