Addiction in Fiction of Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Shelley

June 7, 2022 by Essay Writer

Opium was a popular drug that was used in the 19th century. Specifically, a drug known as Laudanum, which was made from opium was used extensively then. It was used by various artists based on the fact that there was a perception that it increased creativity. Among the people who were perceived to use the drug was Percy Bysshe Shelley, who was Mary Shelley’s husband. Percy Shelley used the drug majorly to ease the pain he felt as a result of the chronic nephritis that he was suffering from then. However, as much as the drug was useful, Mary Shelley also witnessed its negative aspects because her half-sister known as Fanny Imlay overdosed herself and ended up committing suicide (Koretsky 242). Based on these facts, Mary Shelley gained some experience regarding how the drug can be used, as well as the negative aspects associated with it when abused. The experience gained may have influenced her depiction of the relationship that was present between Frankenstein and his monster in a number of ways, which the paper seeks to discuss. However, it is also important to note that Shelley also had previous scientific knowledge regarding various aspects such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), which majorly focused on use of electricity to bring dead people back to life (Hasselqvist-Ax, et al. 2307). Additionally, Shelley also had knowledge of experiments that were conducted in the past regarding the use of electricity to facilitate movement of muscles. This knowledge may have caused her to direct her storyline as shown in Frankenstein because it gave her a brief idea regarding resurrection of the dead using electricity. This instance illustrates that knowledge of opium use may not have necessarily influenced her depiction of the relationship that was present between the protagonist in her story, Frankenstein, and his monster because in this case, it is evident that the driving factor of the author is not associated with opium in any way, but is based on scientific experiments conducted in the past as a means to determine if a lifeless being can still move when exposed to a specific type of stimuli, which is electricity in this case.

Regarding the arguments in support of opium use and addiction influencing Shelley’s depiction of the relationship between Frankenstein and his monster, it is important to note that “Frankenstein” was among the first of horror stories written by various scholars. The story brings out ideas that may cause the readers to wonder if the dead can truly be brought back to life. This argument is based on the fact that the story discusses an individual who uses his knowledge in science to bring a dead being back to life, whose parts have been collected from different corpses. Additionally, it also portrays the potential danger that science holds, as illustrated by Shelley. This assertion is backed by the fact that through science, Frankenstein was able to create a monster without thinking about the dangers that the monster could cause to himself or other people who may come into contact with it. It is argued that the scientist was not after finding out ways of reviving life after one dies, but was after coming up with concepts and ideas that would increase his popularity. Other factors that people may consider relate to the motivational factors of medical scientists that cause them to do what they do, and if they should be held accountable, especially in instances where experiments fail. In relation to this assertion, it is evident in the story that Frankenstein was not cautious of the implications that the monster would have on other life forms and the surrounding at large. In her novel, Shelley has her main character, who is the protagonist in this case, create a monster that has life. The monster is created by assembling different parts from corpses. In this case, Shelley suggests that Frankenstein’s motivation was not associated with extending life for humans or saving them from various dangers such as diseases that may cause death. Instead, Frankenstein is portrayed as a character that is seeking fame and glory. Based on these assertions, it is highly likely that Mary Shelley’s experience with opium would have cause her to showcase the relationship between Frankenstein and his monster because of the bad experiences that she had with her family members who depended on the drug. For instance, her half-sister’s death, which was majorly cause by overdosing opium may have affected her so much and thought that there was a scientific method through which the dead could be brought back to life. Based on this, the idea that is brought out is that Shelley’s instability, which was caused by her experiences with opium may have caused her to portray Frankenstein as an unstable person as a means of expressing her instability after she lost her loved.

The argument suggesting that knowledge of opium use may not have necessarily influenced Mary Shelley’s depiction of the relationship that was present between Frankenstein and his monster relates to CPR, which, in a layman’s language, is a procedure through which lifeless beings are brought back to life through galvanism. In relation to this fact, it is important to note that in the 18th century, frictional machines were majorly used in electrostatic electricity production. Additionally, the findings of the research conducted by Luigi Galvani showed that electricity could make the muscles of a dead frog move (Cambiaghi and André). These results illustrated that electricity is a vital factor that runs all over one’s body to facilitate movement. When Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, she was already aware of these previous experiments conducted, which means that they may have been her main driving factor when she was writing the book, but not her knowledge and understanding of opium use. On the same note, Mary Shelley’s husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley, suffered from chronic nephritis, which caused him to depend on opium to kill the pain associated with his condition. Chronic nephritis is majorly a condition where the functional parts of the kidney, particularly the nephrons, become inflamed. As much as the use of opium was involved, it does not necessarily mean that it was Shelley’s driving factor when writing the book. The basis of this argument is tied to the fact that Frankenstein’s storyline majorly described how the main character used his science to assemble different parts of corpses to create the monster.


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