Romantic Era Literature: “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley Critical Essay
The Romantic era/ Romanticism
The Romantic era of art and literature is a movement which started in Europe at the end of the 18th century, peaking around the time between 1800 and 1840. Its main proponents were keen on showing that emotion was a fundamental origin of all beauty, and in this regard, deep-seated feelings such as awe and apprehension were given new importance.
Because of this link with emotion, the era saw tradition and custom got regarded as noble and also made individuals interested in the artistic and literary fields of the time value spontaneity. The movement’s roots were in German but later spread to the rest of Europe in a bid to give prominence to emotion over enlightenment.
The Romantic era was mainly characterized by the room for free expression, which was permitted to artists of the time.
For all works of literature and art that defined the movement, creators drew inspiration from imagination, and were not required to shape their works around conventional rules set about the production of such material. During this period, originality was highly-rated and any works that borrowed ideas from the creations of other artists were shunned by the adherents of the movement.
In literature, the Romantic era was characterized by thematic revolution that revolved around criticizing the past. This movement held satire in low esteem terming it undeserving of critical attention. Some of the most renowned authors of the time were Edgar Allan Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne, whose main works centered around the occult.
Thomas Chatterton was the first poet to have his English works gain appreciation during the movement. Other notable authors of the period were James Macpherson, Walter Scott, Mary Shelley and Horace Walpole.
Mary Shelley and Frankenstein
Mary Shelley was born on August 30th 1797 to philosophers William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft. Her mother passed away eleven days after her birth, leaving Shelley and her two siblings under the care of her father and Mary Jane Clairnmont, her stepmother.
Godwin, being rooted in political philosophy, made it a point to take all his children through an informal education system that emphasized on his liberal political theories. Aged 17, Mary entered into a relationship with Percy Bysshe Shelley, a keen follower of her father’s ideologies who was also married. The two got married two years later after Percy’s first wife Harriet killed herself.
In the same year, while spending her summer break in Switzerland, Mary came up with an idea for the novel Frankenstein. Percy supported her and together they dedicated most of their time to writing. Together with poet Lord Byron, they spent a lot of evenings discussing the experiments conducted by Erasmus Darwin and his concepts of giving life to a dead body and combining body parts to an alive being.
At the time, the popular myth in the area was that Darwin had actually managed to give motion to dead matter. This in combination with ideas from other ghost stories that the trio read while seating around a fire led Byron to suggest that each of them should write a supernatural tale.
Mary came up with Frankenstein. She had initially planned to have it as a short story but later, with Percy edging her on, she turned the story into a novel, Frankeinstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. The novel was published in 1818.
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