Contents Index


Katherine C. Hill-Miller

Chapter 2 of "My Hideous Progeny": Mary Shelley, William Godwin, and the Father-Daughter Relationship (Newark: Univ. of Delaware Press, 1995), pp. 59-100

{59} The pivotal relationship of Frankenstein -- the interactions between a rejecting father and his rejected creature -- certainly has biographical resonance in Mary Shelley's life. When Mary Shelley began Frankenstein at the age of eighteen in the summer of 1816, she had been most definitively cast out of the circle of her father's favor. As we have seen, Godwin severed all direct contact with his daughter when she ran away with Percy Bysshe Shelley in 1814; he did not meet or speak with her again until the very end of 1816, when her marriage to Shelley legitimized their elopement. By this time, Frankenstein was well underway. During their two-and-a-half-year estrangement, from the time Mary was nearly sixteen until she had just passed her nineteenth birthday, Godwin spurned his daughter as she passed out of adolescence, into adult womanhood, and through hardships and joys alike. He ignored the death of her first child; he refused to communicate with her on the occasion of the birth of her second, though she named the child William in his honor. In Godwin's eyes, Mary was, like Frankenstein's rejected creature, "guilty of a crime."1 The dedication of Frankenstein makes it clear that Mary Shelley had her father in mind as she finished the book. She "respectfully" inscribed it "To William Godwin, Author of Political Justice, Caleb Williams, &c." Yet the epigraph on the title page of Frankenstein focuses the biographical resonances of the novel -- and directs the father's attention to his child -- in a decidedly different manner. Quoting the bitter and rebellious Adam of Book 10 of Paradise Lost in his retort to God the Father, Shelley writes, "Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay/ To mould me man? Did I solicit thee/ From darkness to promote me?" (lines 743-45).

Much recent criticism of Frankenstein has focused on the way the novel examines female anxieties about sexuality. Ellen Moers was one of the first to describe Frankenstein as "birth myth" and to outline the ways the novel traces a young woman's responses to her burgeoning sexuality and capacity for maternity.2 Other writers, following Moers's lead, have studied the way Frankenstein evokes pregnancy or engages in a quest for identity with the {60} lost mother.3 Pursuing a different line of inquiry, a second group of critics has applied psychoanalytic models to Frankenstein and argued that the monster personifies Victor Frankenstein's incestuous desire for his mother.4 Yet a third group of critics has argued the Frankenstein's monster may be read as a daughter, in particular a daughter who embodies some of Mary Shelley's specific anxieties about daughterhood and writing.5 All these different approaches yield useful insights into the meaning of Mary Shelley's first and most puzzling novel, but none grasps the centrality of the incest theme to the daughter's story rather than the father's. Those critics who read Frankenstein as an incest tale see the monster as a psychoanalytic symbol, as a living psychic projection whose importance lies in what he means to Frankenstein rather than in what the monster himself feels and suffers. Those critics who read the monster as a daughter focus on the monster's anger and pain, but tend to skirt the importance of the incest theme to the monster's anguish. When Frankenstein is read through the lens of Mathilda, the tale of father-daughter incest that Shelley wrote immediately after Frankenstein, one can propose a fuller interpretation: Frankenstein tells the story of a father and daughter locked in bitter conflict; more specifically, Mary Shelley portrays Victor Frankenstein as a paternal figure who projects his own incestuous guilt upon his creature and, having made it monstrous, rejects it. As we shall see, Frankenstein examines what followers of Freud would call a family romance. And the novel's composition is in itself a remarkable family romance, since Mary Shelley read and revised the works of both her father and her mother to tell the tale of Frankenstein's spurned, desolate offspring.

Victor Frankenstein, the overreaching scientist who gives the novel its name, can certainly be read as a father figure. Part of his motivation in fashioning his creature, after all, is his desire the homage and thanks of beings dependent on him for their generation. As Frankenstein puts it, describing the sources of his enthusiasm for his work, "A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me. No father could claim the gratitude of his child so completely as I should deserve their's."6 Once brought to life, Frankenstein's nameless creature responds to its maker as a child to its father, first swearing to be "mild and docile to my natural lord and king" (95) and eventually rebelling in anger and vengeance when Frankenstein first rejects him and then refuses to complete work on a monstrous companion. Frankenstein is packed with allusions to Milton's Paradise Lost, and these allusions serve to underscore the creature's situation as the offspring of {61} a powerful father: the creature repeatedly describes himself as an Adam or Satan figure (95, 125), in both cases casting Victor Frankenstein as a type of God the Father.

The characterization of Victor Frankenstein as a paternal figure carries over into other relationships in the novel as well. He sees himself as the protector and guide of Elizabeth Lavenza, the cousin who comes to live with the Frankenstein family and who will one day be Victor's wife. As Victor himself puts it, he sees Elizabeth as his pampered pet: "While I admired her understanding and fancy, I loved to tend on her, as I should on a favourite animal" (30).7 And, once his mother dies, Victor holds himself responsible for the well-being of his younger siblings, though his father, Alphonse, is still alive.8

In portraying the details of Victor Frankenstein's background and upbringing, Mary Shelley uses a technique she later employs in Mathilda: she draws upon data from the life and work of both William Godwin and Percy Bysshe Shelley, thus casting Victor Frankenstein as a composite of her father and her husband. Numerous critics have remarked upon the many ways Victor Frankenstein may be read as a Shelley figure. Shelley published early poetry under the pseudonym "Victor," after all, and had a passionately loving attachment to his sister Elizabeth. Victor Frankenstein's intellectual development follows the same path as Shelley's, beginning in a fascination with magic and the occult and shifting into a passion for what seemed the nearly limitless borders of the "new" natural sciences.9 Even the details of Victor Frankenstein's preoccupation with death are from a source in Shelley: just as Victor's Frankenstein's curiosity forces him "to spend days and nights in vaults and charnel houses" (47), so the narrator of Alastor, one of Shelley's versions of himself, makes his "bed/ In charnels and on coffins . . . / Like an inspired and desperate alchymist" (lines 24-25, 31).10

But the specific contours of Victor Frankenstein's situation and imagination can also be associated with William Godwin. Like William Godwin, Victor Frankenstein's intellectual preoccupations draw him away from the bosom of his family, so that his closest family relations feel abandoned, emotionally or literally. Like William Godwin, Victor Frankenstein begins his work convinced of the power of benevolent intentions -- a conviction rudely erased by the realities of human unpredictability. And Mary Shelley draws heavily on autobiographical sources in William Godwin's own work to portray some aspects of Victor Frankenstein's peculiar transgression. Before Shelley wrote Frankenstein, she reread Godwin's autobiographical St. Leon. She then used St. Leon as a model for Victor Frankenstein. Both {62} Victor Frankenstein and the Count Julian de St. Leon, blinded by a flaw in their early educations, seek to obtain the elixir of life. Both spend the rest of their days trying to conceal this equivocal secret from family and friends. For Victor Frankenstein, as for St. Leon, the terrible "secret" drives a wedge between himself and his chosen mate, eventually killing her. For both characters, possessing the "secret" results in the total annihilation of family ties, leading Victor Frankenstein to echo St. Leon in his condemnation of any knowledge that interferes "with the tranquillity to grasp the lesson that William Godwin worked out for himself in the pages of St. Leon: domestic emotions are among the greatest of human treasures and their loss the greatest of human tragedies.11

Critics have generally agreed that Shelley's portrayal of Frankenstein as a composite of her father and husband expresses her negative reaction to the ideas and behavior of both William Godwin and Percy Bysshe Shelley. But when Shelley conflates the figures of the father and the lover in her central character, she also suggests the centrality of the theme of incest to her story. The issue of incest surfaces early in Frankenstein; it is imbedded in the familial relationships between Shelley's characters and in the language the characters use to describe their feelings for each other. Most important, the question of incest haunts the relation between Frankenstein and his creature, locking them in mortal conflict and dooming them to destroy each other.

The issue of incest is clearly involved in Victor Frankenstein's animation of his creature. The generation of the "monster" is an act tinged with sexuality -- a sexuality that has its roots in Frankenstein's desire to possess his mother. Shelley goes so far as to portray Frankenstein's scientific research as reminiscent of an act of intercourse. Frankenstein throws himself into his scientific labors with an "ardor" that astonishes his fellow students (45). When Frankenstein first discovers the secret of the generation of life, he feels an orgasmic "delight and rapture": "to arrive at once at the summit of my desires, was the most gratifying consummation of my toils" (47). To pursue his discoveries further, Frankenstein enters a womblike place: "a solitary chamber, or rather cell, at the top of the house . . . separated from all the other apartments by a gallery and staircase" (50). There, Frankenstein loses himself in "midnight labours"; warmly enclosed in the womb of his study, Frankenstein, as he puts it, "pursue[s] nature to her hiding places . . . with unrelaxed and breathless eagerness" (49). Shelley even describes the animation of Frankenstein's creature in sexually suggestive terms. With "an {63} anxiety that almost amounted to agony," Frankenstein collects the "instruments of life" around him. As the creature lies prone at Frankenstein's feet, Frankenstein applies the "instruments of life." The creature responds with an orgasmic shudder as it comes to life: "it breathed hard and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs" (52).12

Shortly after the sexual shudder that animates the creature, Victor Frankenstein falls asleep. As he tosses on his bed, he has an incestuous dream that ends with another convulsively sexual moment, this time Frankenstein's:

I was disturbed by the wildest dreams. I thought I saw Elizabeth, in the bloom of health, walking in the streets of Ingolstadt. Delighted and surprised, I embraced her; but as I imprinted the first kiss on her lips, they became livid with the hue of death; her features appeared to change, and I thought that I held the corpse of my dead mother in my arms; a shroud enveloped her form, and I saw the grave-worms crawling in the folds of the flannel. I started from my sleep with horror; a cold dew covered my forehead, my teeth chattered, and every limb became convulsed; when, by the dim and yellow light of the moon, as it forced its way through the window-shutters, I beheld the wretch -- the miserable monster whom I had created. (53)
On one level, Frankenstein's incestuous dream is the perfect revelation of something he cannot grasp in his waking moments: his desire to animate lifeless matter is ultimately traceable to his desire to bring his dead mother back to life and possess her. Frankenstein had an intensely close relationship to his mother; her sudden death was a "most irreparable evil" (38) that cast his soul into a "void" of despair. Frankenstein departs for the university at Ingolstadt shortly after his mother's death, and it is there that his fascination with science specifically fastens upon the possibility of creating new life from dead matter. As we have seen, Frankenstein's first stated reason for building his creature is his desire to father a new species. But behind this desire lies a second, less articulated motivation:
A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me. No father could claim the gratitude of his child so completely as I should deserve their's. Pursuing these reflections, I thought, that if I could bestow animation upon lifeless matter, I might in process of time (although I now found it impossible) renew life where death had apparently devoted the body to corruption. (49)
{64} Behind Frankenstein's wish to father a new species lies his desire to resurrect the dead. Because at this point in the novel Frankenstein has experienced only one death -- his mother's -- the reader can infer a motivation that Frankenstein cannot quite put into words himself: If Frankenstein can learn to "renew life where death had apparently devoted the body to corruption," he will possess the power to bring his beloved mother back from the realm of the dead.13

Frankenstein's dream expresses his own sense of the connection between his desire to create life and his desire to resurrect his mother, as well as his physical longing to possess his mother in an act of incest. Frankenstein has his dream, after all, immediately after he has brought his "monster" to life -- giving life to his creature results in a dream-vision of Frankenstein's mother rising from the dead. But the mother rises from the dead in a manner that reveals Victor Frankenstein's incestuous longing for her: she appears in the guise of Frankenstein's lover. Frankenstein dreams he sees Elizabeth Lavenza walking in the streets of Ingolstadt and kisses her. At the first imprint of his lips, Elizabeth is revealed for what she really is, that is, the body of a ghastly dead mother, whose garments are covered with grave-worms. Frankenstein's dream thus pictures for him what, in his waking life, he seeks to accomplish in his relation to Elizabeth: to possess his mother sexually, to recreate with Elizabeth the blissful, undisturbed union of mother and child. As Frankenstein dreams, the sight of the mother/lover -- and the sexually suggestive worms covering her body -- make Frankenstein shudder awake, thus completing the fantasy union with the mother that began when Frankenstein applied the "instruments of life" to his creature.

Because Frankenstein vaguely connects his desire to generate life to incest and death, it is no wonder that he finds his work detestable even as he is driven to complete it. Frankenstein is inexorably drawn to what he calls his "work-shop of filthy creation"; he castigates himself even as he "disturb[s], with profane fingers, the tremendous secrets of the human frame"; his spirits turn "with loathing" from his occupation as he is "still urged on by an eagerness which perpetually increased" (50). And Frankenstein's guilt over his incestuous longing leads him to commit one other instinctive and irrevocable act: he rejects the creature he has just brought to life, a creature too closely associated in Frankenstein's mind with death, incest, and illicit sexual desire.

There is, consequently, more to Frankenstein's repudiation of his creature than Frankenstein puts into words for his listener, Robert Walton, and the reader. Shelley deliberately makes Frankenstein's stated motive for rejecting {65} his creature seem implausible an unconvincing. According to Frankenstein, he repudiates his creature solely because he finds it ugly:

How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate the wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavoured to form? His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful -- Great God! His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun white sockets in which they were set, his shrivelled complexion, and straight black lips. (52)14
Frankenstein has, by his own description labored many months to construct the creature;15 it not entirely credible that, after months of looking at the creature's face, Frankenstein should suddenly find the creature's appearance unbearable. Further, a number of physical details in Frankenstein's description of his "monster" do not seem loathsome to the reader. Aside from his gigantic stature, the creature's facial "deformities" consist of three things: unnaturally light, watery eyes; shriveled, jaundiced skin; and straight black lips. Frankenstein's reaction to his offspring, in short, seems out of proportion to the facts as Frankenstein himself states them.16 There is clearly some other deep-seated and unarticulated taboo at work in Victor Frankenstein's imagination.

It is the creature's "straight black lips," in fact, that provide the clue to the real source of Frankenstein's aversion to his offspring. Frankenstein falls asleep and dreams his incestuous dream immediately after running away from his creature in disgust. When his lover Elizabeth appears in Frankenstein's dream and he kisses her, her lips undergo a telling transformation: "[T]hey became livid with the hue of death; her features appeared to change." The word "livid" describes a deep, bruised color -- specifically black and blue (OED). In this light, Elizabeth's "livid" lips are linked in Frankenstein's dream to the creature's "straight black lips." Suggestive of the vulva,17 both sets of "lips" repulse Frankenstein because of their incestuous associations. The creature has not only been animated by an act whose sources lie in incestuous longings -- the creature becomes, in Frankenstein's mind, another embodiment of his lover, Elizabeth, and, by extension, Frankenstein's dead mother. This association is solidified in Frankenstein's mind when the first thing Frankenstein sees as he wakes from his convulsive dream is his creature, who hangs over his bed with an entreating gesture: {66} "[E]very limb became convulsed; when, by the dim and yellow light of the moon, as it forced its way through the window-shutters, I beheld the wretch -- the miserable monster whom I had created" (53). Shelley immediately gives Frankenstein a pun that emphasizes the connection between his offspring and the figure of the mother/lover: "[N]o mortal could support the horror of the countenance. A mummy again endued with animation could not be so hideous as the wretch" (53 -- italics mine). The newly animated creature, therefore, is entangled in the troubling association of mother and lover for Frankenstein. That the creature is also in some sense Frankenstein's child makes the emotional equation yet more disturbing, so Frankenstein quickly decides his creature is a "monster" (53). Troubled by guilt over his own barely perceived incestuous desires, Victor Frankenstein dispenses with his guilt in a convenient fashion: he projects it onto his creature and then rejects the being he has labored so long to bring to life.

It is worth noting that Frankenstein's incestuous dream looks forward to an incestuous dream in Mary Shelley's last novel, Falkner. In Falkner, Rupert Falkner's lover, Alithea Neville, is a mother figure to him. Near the end of the novel, Falkner has an incestuously suggestive dream in which this mother/lover blends imperceptibly into Falkner's daughter, Elizabeth Raby. Something of the same overlapping of female roles in apparent in Frankenstein's dream. Elizabeth Lavenza, Frankenstein's fiancée, becomes the corpse of his dead mother; as Frankenstein awakes, the composite lover/mother figure immediately merges into the palpable vision of Frankenstein's offspring, with Victor Frankenstein staring straight into the eyes of his child, "the miserable monster whom I had created." The overlapping of female roles in both dreams implies a similarity in the meaning of the figures in them. Can Frankenstein's creature be read as a wretched predecessor to Elizabeth Raby? Is the "monstrous" consciousness at the center of Mary Shelley's first novel the precursor of a whole series of other abandoned or rejected daughters who appear in the rest of her work?

Several arguments can be made for reading Frankenstein's "monster" as an embodiment of the female in some sense, and specifically as a daughter. For one thing, Victor Frankenstein's displacement of his own monstrous fears upon the head of his creature parallels and repeats the male cultural act that associates, by an act of projection, what Gilbert and Gubar have called "filthy materiality" with female otherness.18 After Victor Frankenstein projects his sexual anxieties upon his creature -- a creature who is, until them, nothing more than a blank slate -- the creature becomes, in Frankenstein's eyes, the living, moving embodiment of sexuality, filth, and death. In precisely {67} the same way, male culture can project its fear of sexuality and death upon the female and cast her symbolically as physically monstrous -- deformed, dirty, "an embodiment of just those extremes of mysterious and intransigent Otherness which culture confronts with . . . fear [and] . . . loathing."19 In this context, the repulsive physical appearance Frankenstein imputes to his creature may be read as a figure of its loathsome femininity. And, as we shall see, the creature quickly internalizes its father's "reading" of it.

If Frankenstein's creature can be read as an embodiment of the female, it can be also read more specifically as representing the plight of the daughter. Shelley takes pains to underscore the similarities between the situation of the creature and the predicament of the other abandoned, rejected, or betrayed daughters with whom she populates the pages of Frankenstein. Although Frankenstein's nameless creature is emphatically male, his circumstances have much more in common with the daughters who appear in the novel than with the sons. Chief among the similarities is the fact that the creature is "an orphan and beggar" (28) -- a condition to which, at some point in the novel, all the daughters in Frankenstein have been reduced by their fathers. On the opening page of Frankenstein's narration, Shelley presents the story of Caroline Beaufort, Frankenstein's mother. Caroline Beaufort was motherless; she was cast into helpless poverty when her father lost his fortune and died. Society did not allow her the means to support herself; she was saved from penury and wretchedness only because Alphonse Frankenstein found her and allowed her to depend on him for protection. Similarly, Elizabeth Lavenza, Frankenstein's cousin, was sent from her family home when her mother died and her father remarried. She was saved because Alphonse Frankenstein, her kindly uncle, was willing to take her into his house.20 Justine Moritz, a Frankenstein family servant who is eventually accused of murdering Victor Frankenstein's younger brother, is made into "an orphan and a beggar" when first her father dies and then her mother. Shelley further emphasizes the connection between Justine and Frankenstein's creature when Justine, explaining why she succumbed to her confessor's pressure to admit to a crime she did not commit, exclaims, "I almost began to think that I was the monster that he said I was" (82). Even Safie, the Arabian girl who falls in love with Felix DeLacey at the center of the creature's narration, is orphaned of a mother and betrayed by her father.21 The histories of these daughters all serve to suggest Shelley's recognition of the pitifully dependent circumstances to which female children can be brought by the absence of a mother and the abandonment of a father. But they also point to and parallel the plight of the novel's central character. {68} Like these daughters, Frankenstein's creature is motherless, has been abandoned by his father, and has thus been reduced to the condition of "an orphan and a beggar." The difference is that the other daughters in Frankenstein find some haven of male protection and are thus not driven to rebellion and revenge. For Frankenstein's offspring, devoid of any social ties or saving human affection, the story is very different.

Some details of the creature's early history link him to a very specific daughter: Mary Shelley herself. As the creature hides in the novel behind the DeLacey cottage, he reads Paradise Lost, a volume of Plutarch's Lives, and the Sorrows of Werther (123) -- all works that Mary Shelley read as she prepared to write Frankenstein. Motherless and rejected by her own father as she wrote Frankenstein, Mary Shelley gives the creature her own obsessive fascination with her "accursed origin" (126).22 Most important, Mary Shelley uses Frankenstein's rejected offspring to express her own rage and aggression, in particular at William Godwin and in general at cultural fathers whose power and prerogatives rob daughters of autonomy by associating them with sexuality, filth, and death. As U. C. Knoepflmacher has persuasively argued, Frankenstein is to a large degree a revenge tale in which Frankenstein's creature punishes his neglectful father/creator by forcing him to experience the creature's own desolation.23 The centrality of rage and revenge to the meaning of Frankenstein explain Shelley's decision to cast the figure of the betrayed daughter as a male: in the guise of a gigantic male, Frankenstein's offspring possesses vast power, specifically the physical power to avenge itself through murder.24

To tell the tale of the fate of the father and his "monstrous" offspring, Mary Shelley uses, in part, a revisionary literary technique: she rewrites Caleb Williams, her own father's most important and widely read novel. From this angle, the composition of Frankenstein may be seen as an extraordinary family literary romance. As Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, she made a point of reading and rereading works written by both her father and her mother. From 1814 through 1817, she read Godwin's Political Justice, St. Leon, Caleb Williams (twice), Essay on Sepulchres, Life of the Phillips, Fleetwood, Life of Chaucer, and Mandeville. During the same period, she also read works by Mary Wollstonecraft: Mary: A Fiction, Letters from Norway, Wrongs of Woman, The French Revolution, Posthumous Works (edited by Godwin), and Vindication of the Rights of Woman. For our purposes, the most important of these works are St. Leon, Caleb Williams, and The Wrongs of Woman. St. Leon provided Shelley with autobiographical material, together with the outlines of the character and situation of Victor Frankenstein. Caleb Williams provided {69} Shelley with the structure of Frankenstein and with a means to depict the desperate plight of Frankenstein's "monster."

Shelley borrows many themes from Caleb Williams and incorporates them into Frankenstein. One of the most obvious is Mary Shelley's use of her father's ideas about the injustices of the English legal system. In Caleb Williams, Godwin excoriates the English courts for dealing unfairly with citizens who possess neither social rank nor money -- a criticism epitomized in the fate of Hawkins, a leaseholder who is convicted of a murder he did not commit, forced to confess, and then executed.25 In Frankenstein, Shelley also criticizes the English justice system by giving Justine Moritz the same fate Hawkins meets: like Hawkins, Justine suffers unjust conviction, a forced confession, and wrongful execution. Further, Shelley uses many of her father's ideas and philosophical vocabulary in her description of the beliefs of Victor Frankenstein. In Caleb Williams, Ferdinando Falkland, the man who eventually pursues Caleb across England in an attempt to prevent him from revealing Falkland's "secret," is a scion of the upper classes who propounds the importance of "benevolence" and reason, and judges all acts by the principles of "benevolence" (42, 95) and reason, and seeks to discover scientific truths that will be useful to the social community.26

But Shelley puts Godwin's Caleb Williams to use in a more significant fashion in her portrayal of the plight and powers of the "monster." Chiefly, Shelley adopts her father's analysis of the impact of environment upon character, but rewrites the analysis to highlight individual paternal guilt rather than the social system Godwin emphatically indicts. Caleb Williams is, by Godwin's own description, "a general review of the modes of domestic and unrecorded despotism, by which man becomes the destroyer of man" (1). In Caleb Williams, the novel's hero learns the guilty secret of Falkland's past: Falkland, Caleb's master and mentor, murdered Barnabas Tyrrel over an insult to Falkland's honor. Falkland confesses his guilt to Caleb but then feels compelled to keep Caleb in his power to prevent further revelations. Godwin structures his plot to reveal the way that Falkland, as a wealthy landowner, controls Caleb's environment and fate, making Caleb into an outlaw. Falkland first refuses to let Caleb leave his employ; when Caleb insists, Falkland determines to ruin Caleb by accusing him of robbery. The story of Caleb Williams's abandonment and persecution begins at this point. Falkland ceases to be his supportive mentor. He has Caleb thrown into jail, and when Caleb escapes, Falkland pursues him mercilessly. Caleb grows to recognize the extent to which deprivation generates immorality. "O poverty!" he {70} exclaims, "thou art indeed omnipotent! Thou grindest us into desperation . . . thou fillest us to the very brim with malice and revenge, and renderest us capable of acts of unknown horror!" (116). Cut off from human contact and hardened by impossible living conditions, Caleb falls in with a band of thieves. As Falkland's agents ferret Caleb out of whatever hiding place he can contrive, Caleb sinks lower and suffers more. Caleb repeatedly castigates the social system that allows a wealthy, upper-class "master" to exert such power over his servant (72, 83-85, 163, 182-83). Close to the end of the novel, Caleb blames society and his circumstances for making him what he has become:

Pursued by a train of ill fortune, I could no longer consider myself as a member of society. I was a solitary being cut off from the expectation of sympathy, kindness and the good will of mankind. . . . I cursed the whole system of human existence. I said, Here I am, an outcast, destined to perish with hunger and cold. All men desert me. All men hate me. I am driven with mortal threats from the sources of comfort and existence. Accursed world! that hates without a cause, that overwhelms innocence with calamities which ought to be spared even to guilt! Accursed world! dead to every manly sympathy; with eyes of horn and hearts of steel! Why do I consent to live any longer? Why do I seek to drag on an existence, which, if protracted, must be protracted amidst the lairs of these human tygers? (247, 251-52)
From Godwin's point of view, the social system's support of Falkland's prerogatives as a wealthy landowner has deprived Caleb of the essential civilizing ingredient -- human sympathy. As Caleb says,
The greatest aggravation of my present lot was, that I was cut off from the friendship of mankind. I can safely affirm, that poverty and hunger, that endless wanderings, that a blasted character and the curses that clung to my name, were all of them slight misfortunes compared to this. . . . Sympathy, the magnetic virtue, the hidden essence of our life, was extinct. (308)
Deprived of human sympathy, Caleb has lost all human sympathy himself. As he puts it, "I was a monster with whom the very earth groaned!" (249).

In Frankenstein, Shelley ascribes her "monster's" descent into violence to similar environmental causes but focuses the responsibility for his plight more squarely on the monster's rejecting creator. Like Caleb Williams, Frankenstein's creature is subjected to countless physical deprivations -- he {71} goes hungry, he shivers with cold, he sleeps in the elements when he cannot find shelter. Like Caleb Williams, Shelley's "monster" suffers chiefly from the lack of human contact, from the fact that he is, to borrow Caleb's phrase, "a solitary being, cut off from the expectation of sympathy, kindness, and the good will of mankind." The creature knows that misery has made him evil. "I was benevolent and good; misery made me a fiend," he tells Frankenstein. "Make me happy, and I shall again be virtuous" (95). Specifically, the monster knows that his lack of "sympathy" and companionship has forced him to transgress social boundaries. Full of this recognition, he asks Frankenstein to fashion a companion for him declaring "my evil passions will [flee], for I shall meet with sympathy" (143).

But while Godwin traces Caleb Williams's suffering to the oppression of the social institutions that stand behind Falkland, Shelley has her "monster" insistently condemn a single individual -- his rejecting father. According to the creature, Victor Frankenstein is to blame for the "deformity" that isolates him from other human beings. "Cursed creator!" the "monster" exclaims in agony. "Why did you form a monster so hideous that even you turned from me in disgust? . . . Satan had his companions, fellow-devils, to admire and encourage him; but I am solitary and detested" (126). And, according to the creature, Frankenstein did worse than make him physically ugly. The creature continually insists that rejection by his father is the origin of his suffering, and therefore of his vengefully malicious behavior. "No father had watched my infant days," (117) he laments, and later: "I remembered Adam's supplication to his Creator; but where was mine? he had abandoned me, and, in the bitterness of my heart, I cursed him" (127).

To reinforce and explain the creature's sense of Frankenstein's responsibility for his isolation, Shelley borrows and rewrites an important scene from Caleb Williams, specifically locating the father's rejection as the cause of his creature's violence. In one of Caleb Williams's encounters, he is guarded by a "venerable" and "benevolent" (246) old man whom Caleb seeks to interest in his case. Caleb tells the old man how unjustly he has been handled and asks the old man's help. The old man seems favorably disposed to becoming Caleb's "benefactor" (247) and aiding his escape, but first asks to know his name. When Caleb reveals his identity, the kindly old man is aghast -- he refuses to have anything more to do with Caleb, and he tells Caleb "it would be an abuse of words to consider [Caleb] in the light of a human creature" (249). Rejected by the kindly and benevolent old man, and made to feel like a "monster" (249) by the rejection, Caleb eventually succeeds in escaping without him.

{72} Mary Shelley adopts and revises this scene from her father's novel for a crucial sequence of Frankenstein. Shelley has her creature seek out the support and help of another kindly, "benevolent" (103) old man, Mr. DeLacey. Like Caleb Williams, the creature tells the old man the tale of his misfortunes; like the old man in Godwin's novel, DeLacey seems favorably disposed to helping the supplicant until circumstances reveal the supplicant's identity -- in Frankenstein when DeLacey's son, Felix, enters the room and reacts in terror to the nameless creature's horrid appearance. Godwin's old man is kind and venerable but not particularly paternal; Shelley, on the other hand, takes pains to emphasize the importance the "monster" attaches to DeLacey as a father figure. In Frankenstein, the abandoned creature consistently views DeLacey as a father who might replace the one who abandoned him. The creature secretly watches the DeLacey's for months, yearning to be admitted to their family circle. When he first sees DeLacey offer fatherly comfort to his daughter, Agatha, the creature identifies with the daughter instantly and reacts powerfully to the father's love: "I felt sensations of a peculiar and overpowering nature: they were a mixture of pain and pleasure, such as I had never before experienced, either from hunger or cold, warmth or food: and I withdrew from the window, unable to bear these emotions" (103-4). Shortly afterward, the creature learns the word associated with the old man's affection for his daughter, and with the creature's own mingled emotions of daughterly pleasure and desperation: "The youth and his companion had each of them several names, but the old man had only one, which was father" (107-8, Shelley's italics). As the scene unfolds and the creature sees the mutual sympathy the DeLacey children share with their father, he becomes increasingly obsessed with the question of his own origins and increasingly covets DeLacey's affection, even admitting that, as he views the children's "bliss," "the bitter gall of envy rose within me" (125). Shelley's use of allusion underscores DeLacey's importance to the creature as a father who might replace Frankenstein. When the creature reads Paradise Lost, huddled in the hovel behind DeLacey's cottage and walled off absence of paternal protection that differentiates him from Adam. As the creature puts it, Adam "had come forth from the hands of God a perfect creature, happy and prosperous, guarded by the especial care of his Creator; he was allowed to converse with, and acquire knowledge from beings of a superior nature: but I was wretched, helpless, and alone" (125).

In this context, DeLacey's rejection represents rejection by the father figure in whom the creature has invested his hope for human {73} sympathy. As Shelley portrays it, the creature's approach to DeLacey is the culmination of his search for a father; when DeLacey cries out "Great God! . . . who are you?" (131), the scene repeats Frankenstein's own horrified response to his first glimpse of his creature.

DeLacey's rejection, since it is a father's rejection, has an awful impact: unlike Caleb Williams, who feels "monstrous" but continues to run from his pursuers, Shelley's creature contemplates violence when the sympathy of his father figure is denied him. He retreats to his hovel in despair and, for the first time in his history, considers aggression and vengeance. Where the creature had initially envied the DeLacey children and longed to be one of them, he now yearns only for their destruction:

[M]y feelings were those of rage and revenge. I could with pleasure have destroyed the cottage and its inhabitants, and have glutted myself with their shrieks and misery. . . . All, save I, were at rest or in enjoyment: I, like the archfiend, bore a hell within me; and, finding myself unsympathized with, wished to tear up the trees, spread havoc and destruction around me, and then to have sat down and enjoyed the ruin. (132)
The creature's reference to Paradise Lost again underscores his situation as the offspring of a rejecting father. Indeed, it is immediately after DeLacey's rejection that the creature commits his first act of vengeful destruction: once DeLacey has broken his "mind towards injury and death" (134) and burns down DeLacey's cottage.

Caleb's encounter with the "venerable" old man is not a crucial scene in Caleb Williams. Caleb is wounded by the old man's repudiation, but their meeting, one in a long series of picaresque adventures, does not change Caleb's behavior in any material way. Shelley, on the other hand, places her revision of Godwin's scene from Caleb Williams at the emotional center of Frankenstein. DeLacey's rejection of the creature is the turning point in the creature's history; DeLacey's refusal to provide the creature human sympathy touches off the chain of violence and vengeance that eventually destroys both the "monster" and the original rejecting father, Frankenstein himself. In her emphasis of DeLacey as a father figure, and in the structural importance Shelley accords this scene in the organization of Frankenstein, Shelley in effect turns William Godwin's environmental argument against William Godwin himself: she shows that the creature is made monstrous by the lack of human sympathy his environment allows him, but she lays the blame for the offspring's vengeful violence directly at the door of the rejecting father. {74} Shelley borrows from and rewrites Caleb Williams in one final way: she inverts the structural elements of her father's plot to place the balance of power in the hands of the figure of the betrayed daughter. Numerous writers have observed that both novels are organized by the device of a relentless pursuit, in which two opponents are obsessively and fatally linked to each other.27 In Godwin's Caleb Williams, Falkland controls the chase and punishes his servant through most of the novel. Caleb runs away from Falkland and his accomplices for the better part of two hundred pages, through a picaresque series of apprehensions and escapes. Finally, in the last few pages, Caleb succeeds in revealing the secret of Falkland's crime and thus frees himself from the grip of Falkland's power. The plot of Frankenstein, on the other hand, has two cycles of pursuit, with the figure of the daughter dominating both. In the first cycle, the creature tracks Frankenstein. Using the papers he found in Frankenstein's coat the creature learns Frankenstein's name and his origins in Geneva, and the creature makes his way there. On the outskirts of town, the creature meets little William Frankenstein; when he realizes that William "belong[s]" (139) to his enemy, he kills him. The creature next hides a locket-sized portrait of Frankenstein's mother in the clothing of Justine Moritz, thus ensuring that Justine will be accused and convicted of the William's murder. The creature finally finds Frankenstein at the foot of a glacier in the Alps; he tells Frankenstein the story of his suffering and demands that Frankenstein make him a companion. The creature then pursues Frankenstein across Europe and into England as Frankenstein prepares to build a female creature. When Frankenstein destroys the female before animating it, the creature bursts into violence again, murdering first his friend, Clerval, and, after tracking Frankenstein to his honeymoon destination, his bride, Elizabeth. Thus, throughout this first cycle of pursuit in Frankenstein, the outcast pursues and punishes his master in a direct inversion of the pursuit pattern of Caleb Williams.

In the last pages of Frankenstein, Shelley adds a second cycle of pursuit and ostensibly reverses her scheme by allowing Frankenstein to pursue his rejected creature. But even here it is clearly the creature who controls the terms of the chase and who manipulates Frankenstein into following him to increasingly desolate terrain. As Frankenstein prays at Elizabeth's graveside, the creature's fiendish laugh goads Frankenstein into following him. From then on, the creature taunts Frankenstein whenever his energy fails and jeers at him whenever he is about to give up the chase. The creature leaves marks on trees so Frankenstein can follow his trail (201, 202); he leaves food to keep up Frankenstein's strength (201, 202). The creature even warns {75} Frankenstein, in a mocking note, to wrap himself in furs and load his sledge with food before setting out after him over the Arctic wastes (203). Frankenstein obsessively pursues his rejected creature through the last pages of the novel, but the creature is clearly in control.

The point, of course, is that Shelley rewrites her father's plot to give power and authority to the rejected social outcast. As the creature puts it, after telling Frankenstein he is his creature's slave, "Remember that I have power; you believe yourself miserable, but I can make you so wretched that the light of day will be hateful to you. You are my creator, but I am your master" (165). In this way, the figure of the betrayed daughter gains ascendancy over her rejecting creator by dominating and punishing him. Frankenstein's creature does what the other daughters in the novel cannot do: he vents his fury and frustration in violence. In Shelley's first novel, her protagonist's rage is expressed openly, even if Shelley must portray her protagonist as nameless and male. As we shall see, Shelley's subsequent daughters become emphatically female but express their rage in less direct ways.

Perhaps the chief artistic triumph of Frankenstein is the fact that Shelley expresses her creature's malice and violence thoroughly, yet manages to keep him almost entirely sympathetic. She accomplishes this chiefly by allowing the creature to describe his suffering at great length and by placing the creature's own narrative at the structural center of the novel. Shelley uses one other strategy to manipulate her readers' sympathies in favor of the rejected creature. Victor Frankenstein repeatedly insists that his creature is monstrous and loathsome; Shelley manipulates point of view to invite an ironic response to Frankenstein, his behavior, and his assertions.

Shelley gives Frankenstein a complicated, concentric narrative frame. The outermost narrative frame consists of a series of letters written by Robert Walton, an arctic explorer, to his sister, Margaret Saville. Walton's narrative frames Frankenstein's narrative -- told to Walton on a ship locked in the ice close to the North Pole -- which in turn frames the creature's story. This structure of related framed narratives serves, among other things, to highlight a crucial fact: that Frankenstein's narrative is in fact a story, told by Frankenstein about himself and therefore open to scrutiny by the reader for its reliability. Upon close inspection, the reader discovers that Mary Shelley repeatedly casts Frankenstein as less than a completely reliable narrator.

We have already seen that Frankenstein's description of the animation of his creature is not to be taken entirely at face value -- that is, that Frankenstein fails to articulate in it all his reasons for creating his creature and all {76} his reasons for abandoning. Having suggested that Frankenstein finds his creature "loathsome" for reasons he cannot entirely express, Shelley continues to suggest that Frankenstein's responses to his creature mask hidden motives and are therefore to be read with a questioning eye. First of all, Shelley undermines Frankenstein's credibility by her use of sight imagery. Frankenstein sees his creature as physically ugly; he consistently extrapolates from the creature's physical appearance to his moral nature, concluding that the creature's soul is as hideous as his face. When Frankenstein meets the creature on the ice at Montanvert, for example, Frankenstein is repelled by the creature's "unearthly ugliness [that] rendered it almost too horrible for human eyes." Frankenstein immediately interprets the creature's moral nature from its appearance: "[H]is countenance bespoke bitter anguish, combined with disdain and malignity" (94). As this encounter represents the first meeting between Frankenstein and his creature since the night the creature came to life, Frankenstein has little basis, except his preconception, for deciding that his creature feels "disdain and malignity." Frankenstein continues to associate his creature's appearance with moral corruption as the novel unfolds, repeatedly making assertions such as "[H]is countenance expressed the utmost extent of malice and treachery" (164) and "His soul is as hellish as his form, full of treachery and fiend-like malice" (206).

Shelley's rendering of Victor Frankenstein's reaction to William's murder also casts doubt on Frankenstein's total reliability. Frankenstein hears of William's death in a letter from his father; he quickly returns to Geneva to comfort his family. On the way there, Frankenstein gets a glimpse of his creature:

A flash of lightning illuminated the object, and discovered its shape plainly to me; its gigantic stature, and the deformity of its aspect, more hideous than belongs to humanity, instantly informed me that it was the wretch, the filthy daemon to whom I had given life. What did he here? Could he be (I shuddered at the conception) the murderer of my brother? No sooner did that idea cross my imagination, than I became convinced of its truth; my teeth chattered, and I was forced to lean against a tree for support. The figure passed me quickly, and I lost it in the gloom. Nothing in human shape could have destroyed that fair child. He was the murderer! I could not doubt it. The mere presence of the idea was an irresistible proof of the fact. (71-72)
Frankenstein again associates the creature's physical deformity with moral loathsomeness and guilt. Since the creature's aspect is "more hideous {77} than belongs to humanity" and since "nothing in human shape" could murder a child, Frankenstein reasons, the creature must be the culprit. Yet Shelley's rendering of this speech makes Frankenstein undercut the reasoning behind his conclusions even as he asserts their accuracy. "No sooner did that idea cross my imagination, than I became convinced of its truth," admits Frankenstein, in a startling abandonment of logic. And, forsaking the scientist's insistence on corroboration and proof, Frankenstein asserts that the mere existence of an idea proves its correctness: "He was the murderer. . . . The mere presence of the idea was an irresistible proof of its fact." Coming from a scientist of Frankenstein's obvious powers, Frankenstein's presumptive logic suggests he is prone to read his creature in a flawed way, consistently imputing malice to a creature he barely knows. Frankenstein's irrational response to his creature undercuts his negative pronouncement about the creature's moral nature, creating sympathy for the misunderstood and abandoned wretch, and reminding the reader that Frankenstein's reactions to the "monster" disguise his own hidden feelings.

This pattern of presuming that his creature is fundamentally malevolent persists throughout the first half of Frankenstein's narrative. Frankenstein eventually admits that he does not know for certain if the creature is guilty of murder: "I had hitherto supposed him to be the murderer of my brother," he says, "and I eagerly sought a confirmation or denial of this opinion" (97). But the lack of confirmation does not prevent Frankenstein from continuing to hold firmly to his belief in the creature's malignity -- and responding to this belief with a torrent of hatred and abuse. As Frankenstein puts it, after concluding that the creature is somehow responsible for Justine's death as well as William's,

My abhorrence of this fiend cannot be conceived. When I though of him, I gnashed my teeth, my eyes became inflamed, and I ardently wished to extinguish that life which I had so thoughtlessly bestowed. When I reflected on his crimes and malice, my hatred and revenge burst all bounds of moderation. I would have made a pilgrimage to the highest peak of the Andes, could I, when there, have precipitated him to their base. I wished to see him again, that I might wreak the utmost extent of anger on his head, and avenge the deaths of William and Justine. (87)
Of course, Frankenstein's conclusions about this creature are eventually proven true. When the creature tells his story, he admits his culpability in the deaths of William and Justine. But that the creature is eventually proven guilty does not undercut the irony implicit in Mary Shelley's treatment of {78} Victor Frankenstein. Through the first half of Frankenstein's story, until he hears the creature's account, all Frankenstein knows of his creature with certainty is that he finds the creature loathsome to his sight.

Shelley invites an ironic response to Frankenstein and his actions in the first half of his narration in at least one other way: she emphasizes the aggression Frankenstein displays toward his creature and contrasts it to the creature's tendency, in encounters with Frankenstein, initially to avoid violence. When Frankenstein first sees the creature by the side of the glacier, his opening statement indicates yet again the presumptively negative light in which Frankenstein has decided to construe his creature. "Devil!" Frankenstein exclaims, "Begone, vile insect!" (94). Frankenstein immediately threatens the creature with violence: "[R]ather stay, that I may trample you to dust!" And then, "My rage was without bounds; I sprang on him, impelled by all the feelings which can arm one being against the existence of another" (94-95). The creature, for his part, remains calm. He points out to Frankenstein that Frankenstein himself is guilty of the aggression he tries to assign his creature. "I expected this reception," he says. "All men hate the wretched; how then must I be hated, who am miserable beyond all living things! . . . You purpose to kill me. How dare you sport thus with life?" (94). When Frankenstein tries to jump on the creature, the creature does not attack but runs away. "Be calm!" the creature implores Frankenstein. "I entreat you to hear me, before you give vent to your hatred on my devoted head. . . . I will not be tempted to set myself in opposition to thee" (95). For much of the rest of this scene, Frankenstein rages while the creature begs him to listen to his tale before passing judgment. As the creature wryly puts it, "The guilty are allowed, by human laws, bloody as they may be, to speak in their own defence before they are condemned. Listen to me, Frankenstein. You accuse me of murder; and yet you would, with a satisfied conscience, destroy your own creature. Oh, praise the eternal justice of man!" (96).

Shelley again emphasizes Frankenstein's aggression and the creature's rationality in the scene immediately following the close of the "monster's" narration. After a brief moment of bewilderment, Frankenstein's anger at the creature flares out again: "I could no longer suppress the rage that burned within me" (141), Frankenstein cries. As Frankenstein execrates his creature, the creature again points out the irony implicit in Frankenstein's aggressive behavior toward him, and tries to calm Frankenstein. "You are in the wrong," he says, "and, instead of threatening, I am content to reason with you. I am malicious because I am miserable. . . . You, my creator, would tear me to pieces, and triumph; remember that, and tell me why I should pity man more than he pities me?" (141). The creature then makes what he {79} sees as a "reasonable and moderate" (142) demand: that Frankenstein build him a companion, so that the creature and a partner may share a "harmless" (142) life, hidden in the jungles of South America, eating berries and living in peace with nature and human beings. Frankenstein momentarily softens and promises to construct a female creature to end his creature's desperate isolation.

In both of these scenes, Shelley subtly manipulates the reader's sympathies in favor of the spurned, desolate creature. Frankenstein presumes his creature to be malevolent and attacks it; the creature responds either by running beyond Frankenstein's reach or reasoning with him. In its encounters with Frankenstein, the creature repeatedly acts more "human" than its creator. In short, the weight of each scene casts Frankenstein's behavior in an ironic light as he plays the role of the aggressor to the creature's role of rational and miserable victim.

This is not to say, of course, that Shelley portrays the creature as essentially and consistently virtuous. The creature quickly internalizes Frankenstein's rejection and sees himself in Frankenstein's terms as loathsome, filthy, and repulsive. He is initially puzzled when local inhabitants run away from him in terror, but he grasps the horrible truth of his predicament when, in a painful parody of Eve's first glimpse of her face in Paradise Lost, the creature sees his reflection in a pool and starts back in horror:

At first I started back, unable to believe that it was indeed I who was reflected in the mirror; and when I became fully convinced that I was in reality the monster that I am, I was filled with the bitterest sensations of despondence and mortification. (109)
Milton's Eve, of course, finds her reflection beautiful. As Gilbert and Gubar have pointed out, Mary Shelley's rewriting of this scene corrects Milton's portrayal of Eve's reaction to her appearance: How could any woman, created second and as an inferior type of man, find her image pleasing?28 By the same token, how could to creature, rejected by a father because of its troubling associations with incest, sexuality, and death, see its own reflection as anything but monstrous? In part, the creature's horrified reaction to its image in the mirrorlike surface of the pool is a female reading of the mirror held up to women by the culture that shapes them: their femininity, due to its entanglement in sexuality and "filthy materiality" is loathsome. From this point of view, it is little wonder that the creature's emotions sometimes veer wildly -- from the extremes of self-hatred to a startled rage directed at the creator who made him what he is.

But the monster's horrified response to its image in the pool is not only a general feminine response to self shaped by culture. It is, even more specifically, an expression of an individual daughter's self-loathing, generated by the father's inexplicable rejection of her. Just as cultural "fathers" may define femininity as repulsive and filthy, so can individual fathers cause daughters to associate themselves with sexuality and guilt when, at crucial passages, the fathers behave in an inexplicably rejecting manner. As we have seen, this situation arises most commonly as the daughter passes through adolescence and matures physically into a fully sexual being. As the daughter leaves the asexual latency of her childhood and as the father recognizes the daughter's burgeoning sexuality, he often withdraws affection, both to eliminate the possibility of incest and to erect a barrier against his conscious recognition of the desire the daughter inspires in him.29 This pattern of paternal rejection is one of the mechanisms that moves the daughter into the cultural stream of adult femininity, and, simultaneously, perpetuates the daughter/woman's association with sex, guilt, and "filthy materiality." This paternal response, of course, also shapes the way the daughter views herself. The daughter sees her emerging sexuality as connected to her father's inexplicable rejection and as emblematic of rejection by the male world.30 In this way, the individual father's rejection, with its attendant implication of the daughter's guilty sexuality, not only precipitates the daughter's introduction into adult womanhood but also teaches her the self-loathing that culture attaches to the female state.

In this context, it is worth examining what Mary Shelley tells us about the imaginative origins of Frankenstein. Shelley provides her lengthiest account of the genesis of the novel in an introduction written for Colburn and Bentley's 1831 Standard Authors edition. The purpose of the introduction, Shelley tells us in curiously sexual language, is to explain "How I, then a young girl, came to think of, and to dilate upon, so very hideous an idea" (1831 introduction, 222). Shelley relates the famous tale of the ghost story contest with Byron, Shelley, and Polidori; she then describes a waking dream, inspired by a conversation about galvanism and the reanimation of corpses. The waking dream is a "hideous phantasm" (1831 introduction, 228) that terrifies her and provides the germ of her tale:

Night waned upon this talk, and even the witching hour had gone by, before we retired to rest. When I placed my head on my pillow I did not sleep, nor could I be said to think. My imagination, unbidden, possessed and guided me, gifting the successive images that arose in my mind with a vividness far beyond the usual bounds of reverie. I saw -- with shut eyes, {81} but acute mental vision, -- I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half-vital motion. (1831 introduction, 227-28)
Shelley's account of her nightmarish "waking dream," with its description of the "working of some powerful engine" to bring the creature to life, duplicates the sexual overtones of the animation scene in Frankenstein as Shelley wrote it in the summer of 1816. As Shelley explains, she began to write Frankenstein the day following her dream, and began composition with the sexually charged scene in which Frankenstein brings his creature to life. By Shelley's own account, this nightmarish image and the scene it produced lie at the very heart of what inspired her to write Frankenstein, as well as at the heart of the novel itself.

As several commentators have pointed out, Shelley's placement of the origins of Frankenstein in a dream diverts focus away from her authorial responsibility for telling such a hideous story.31 But it is worth noting that the 1831 introduction, in addition to deflecting attention away from Shelley's active labor as an author, also locates the origins of Frankenstein in "waking dreams" that antedate the ghost story competition and conversations at Villa Diodati by several years. Shelley begins her explanation of how she came to "dilate upon so very hideous an idea" with an account of her childhood as "the daughter of two persons of distinguished literary celebrity" (1831 introduction, 222). Her favorite pastime, she says, was to "write stories," and she goes on to describe her sense of how her imagination worked in her adolescence:

Still I had a dearer pleasure than this, which was the formation of castles in the air -- the indulging in waking dreams -- the following up trains of thought, which had for their subject the formation of a succession of imaginary incidents. My dreams were at once more fantastic and agreeable than my writings. In the latter I was a close imitator -- rather doing as others had done, than putting down the suggestions of my own mind. What I wrote was intended at least for one other eye -- my childhood's companion and friend; but my dreams were all my own; I accounted for them to nobody; they were my refuge when annoyed -- my dearest pleasure when free.

I lived principally in the country as a girl and passed a considerable time in Scotland . . . my habitual residence was on the blank and dreary northern {82} shores of the Tay, near Dundee. . . . They [the shores of the Tay] were the eyry of freedom, and the pleasant region where unheeded I could commune with the creatures of my fancy. I wrote then -- but in a most commonplace style. It was beneath the trees of the grounds belonging to our house, or on the bleak sides of the woodless mountains near, that my true compositions, the airy flights of my imagination, were born and fostered. I did not make myself the heroine of my tales . . . but I was not confined to my own identity, and I could people the hours with creations far more interesting to me at that age, than my own sensations. (1831 introduction, 222-23)

Several observations can be made about Shelley's account of her adolescent "waking dreams." To begin with, one wonders how William Godwin responded to Shelley's insistence that she "lived principally in the country as a girl and passed a considerable time in Scotland" when, as we have seen, Shelley lived principally in William Godwin's house in London and spent a year and a half in Scotland, the place Godwin sent his daughter for part of her adolescence to eliminate friction with his second wife. As we have seen, Mary Godwin was almost fifteen when Godwin sent her to Dundee; associated as it was with her developing womanhood and her conflicts with her father's second wife, the Scottish sojourn must have seemed to the adolescent Mary Godwin to be both a paternal rejection of the adult woman she was becoming and a definitive exile from her father's affection. Shelley's distorted emphasis on Scotland in the 1831 introduction to Frankenstein suggests that Scotland dominated everything else in Shelley's youth; it became for Shelley a place that shadowed and defined her adolescence, determining her perception of herself and her relation to her work as a writer. Equally important, Shelley's account locates the period of her Scottish residence as the source of her "true compositions" -- her first "waking dreams" that, by Shelley's account, lay behind the very specific "waking dream" that coalesced, some four years later, into the text of Frankenstein. As Shelley puts it, in what seems a very accurate description of a girl coming to grips with her adolescent anxieties in fantasy, these "waking dreams" were her "refuge when annoyed" and her "dearest pleasure when free." In short, Shelley's 1831 introduction to Frankenstein subtly implies that the novel has its imaginative origins in a period related to, but antedating, Shelley's relationship to her husband and Byron. Specifically, Shelley implies that Frankenstein is rooted in the "waking dreams" of Scotland -- waking dreams that perhaps allowed the adolescent Mary Godwin to grapple with paternal rejection, that rejection's incestuous implications, and the burgeoning female sexuality that seemed to have inspired both.

{83} It is in this context that Frankenstein's creature, like Mathilda, can be read as a daughter made monstrous by incest. Shelley's rendering of Victor Frankenstein's incestuous relation to his creature is a figure for the sources of the daughter's sense of her own guilty sexuality and loathsomeness. The father's rejection teaches a daughter to see herself as different -- sexual and hideous; in precisely the same way, Victor Frankenstein's rejection teaches his creature to see himself as repulsive and not of the human species:

I was . . . endowed with a figure hideously deformed and loathsome; I was not even of the same nature as man. . . . When I looked around, I saw and heard of none like me. Was I then a monster, a blot upon the earth, from which all men fled, and whom all men disowned? (115-16)
Frankenstein's creature has learned a terrible lesson from his father's rejection, and he has acquired the daughter's awful knowledge of being like -- yet horribly unlike -- her father: "Cursed creator!" the monster exclaims in agony. "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 your's, more horrid from its very resemblance" (126).

Much of the creature's tragedy, then, lies in his sense of himself as loathsome and less than human. Yet in a very real way, the greater part of the creature's tragedy -- and the daughter's -- is the constant realization that he is not so different at all from either his creator or the people who run from him in terror. As we have seen, Mary Shelley was trained before her adolescence to expect to inherit the prerogatives of the son rather that the guilt of the daughter. Her description of the monster's baffled sense of his similarity to privileged human beings perfectly captures the daughter's confused sense of similarity, disappointment, and loss, as she enters adolescence and finds expected opportunities removed. Significantly, Shelley sets this moment of recognition in the context of the creature's literary education. As he reads Werter, Paradise Lost, and Plutarch's Lives -- all definitive expressions of male culture and works that Shelley herself read -- Frankenstein's creature reacts in this way: "As I read . . . I applied much personally to my own feelings and condition. I found myself similar, yet at the same time strangely unlike the beings concerning whom I read, and to whose conversation I was a listener" (124). As we shall see, Mathilda enter adolescence longing to be a boy and expecting to inherit a son's prerogatives; she is dismayed to find she is instead treated like a daughter. In the same way, Frankenstein's creature reads the stories of male protagonists and finds he is strangely like, {84} yet strangely unlike, the favored males who populate the pages. It is in this context that Shelley's insistent doubling of the creature and his creator may be read. Shelley goes to great pains to employ imagistic patterns that make Frankenstein and his creature obvious repetitions of one another.32 It is entirely appropriate, emotionally and psychologically, for a daughter to resemble, or double, a father. And part of the daughter's baffling tragedy of recognition begins when, despite the fact that she resembles and repeats the father, she is rejected and denied his prerogatives.

This line of argument allows us to understand the creature's explosive rage as well as some of the logic underpinning his first and last crimes -- the murder of William Frankenstein and the murder of Elizabeth Lavenza. Rejected and made loathsome by a father, deprived of any legitimate social position or connection, the creature turns to revenge. "I will glut the maw of death, until it satiated with the blood of your remaining friends" (94), he threatens Frankenstein; and later, "I can make you so wretched that the light of day will be hateful to you" (165). The creature does precisely what a repudiated daughter might be expected to do were she gigantic and powerful: he turns of his father/creator and punishes him by making the father experience his offspring's own desolation. As Knoepflmacher correctly points out, the creature's first murder -- that of the child William Frankenstein, Frankenstein's youngest brother -- may be read as an act of fratricide. Mary Shelley's younger brother, the first son of William Godwin and Mary Jane Godwin, was named William. As Knoepflmacher suggests, Shelley kills off William as the creature's first victim and thus triumphs imaginatively over one of the younger siblings with whom she competed for Godwin's affection.33 This first murder may also be read from a slightly modified perspective, as a subtly different kind of fratricide. With the first murder, the creature punishes and eliminates the figure of the son, the privileged boy who stands to inherit the prerogatives offered to, but ultimately withheld from, the daughter. Yet, finally, the fact that Shelley names the first victim "William" -- the name not only of her brother but also of her father and her six-month old son -- suggests a rage directed at all the male figures who define her in the roles played by a woman in the family sexual romance: daughter, sister, mother.34. And in murdering Henry Clerval, Frankenstein's close friend and an obvious figure for Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Shelley has her creature kill off the person who defines her in the only remaining sexual role a female may play to a male: wife and lover. Clearly, Shelley's creature revenges himself on and destroys all the family's males who entangle the woman in guilt and sexuality. In doing so, the creature exacts a {85} daughter's vengeance on a patriarchal society that projects its own guilt upon the figure of the daughter.

The creature's murder of Elizabeth, Frankenstein's fiancée, has a different but equally compelling logic. It is important to point out, first of all, that Shelley carefully emphasizes the incestuous nature of the relationship between Frankenstein and his cousin. As we have seen, the 1818 edition portrays them as first cousins who are raised as brother and sister, so that the tie of blood relationship between them is deepened by growing up as siblings. But Victor and Elizabeth are not only cousins and siblings; their behavior also suggests they resemble a father and his daughter. As we have seen, Shelley portrays Victor Frankenstein's relation to his fiancée largely in paternal terms. Frankenstein dotes on Elizabeth and strives to shelter and care for her -- a tendency that Shelley stresses and enlarges upon in her 1831 revisions. In fact, Shelley frames all the marriages in the Frankenstein family as relationships that cast the husband in the role of a paternal figure and somehow enshrine a daughter's submission to and passion for her father. The marriage of Alphonse Frankenstein and Caroline Beaufort, Frankenstein's parents, does precisely these two things. Alphonse Frankenstein, as an intimate friend of Caroline Beaufort's father, is clearly old enough himself to be the girl's parent, yet he marries her.35 Shelley portrays Alphonse's relation to Caroline with all the fatherly overtones the difference in their ages would imply. As Victor Frankenstein describes it, Alphonse "came like a protecting spirit to the poor girl, who committed herself to his care" (28).36 And Shelley makes it clear that Alphonse is attracted to Caroline at the outset because of her passionate attachment to her real father. Alphonse enshrines in a portrait what he sees as Caroline's consummate virtue and then hangs the painting over the mantelpiece for all to see and admire. At Alphonse's command, the painting depicts Caroline as the very embodiment of a daughter's consuming devotion to and passion for her father: "It was an historical subject, painted at my father's desire, and represented Caroline Beaufort in an agony of despair, kneeling by the coffin of her dead father" (73).

Shelley highlights the incestuous currents of the relation between Victor and Elizabeth in other ways. In her 1831 revisions, Shelley removes the blood tie -- Elizabeth becomes an Italian foundling instead of Frankenstein's cousin -- but then intensifies the incestuous currents even more in the linguistic texture of the novel. Shelley has Frankenstein continually refer to Elizabeth as "my more than sister" (235, 236), while Elizabeth writes to Frankenstein and refers to his younger brothers as "our dear children" (243). {86} In the 1818 edition, Shelley also underlines the incestuous implications of their relationship by having key characters wonder aloud if the incest taboo interferes with the cousins' attachment to each other and therefore poses a barrier to their marriage. Alphonse Frankenstein speculates about this matter first, when he surmises that his son, having grown up with Elizabeth, might view Elizabeth as a sister, "without any wish that she might become your wife" (148). Elizabeth herself later worries over the same difficulty in a long letter to her fiancée. "But as brother and sister often entertain a lively affection towards each other, without desiring a more intimate union, may not such also be our case? Tell me, dearest Victor" (185).

For Victor himself, the difficulties posed by marriage to Elizabeth surface in his incestuous dream, which focuses not so much on Elizabeth as a sister, but rather on Elizabeth as a troubling amalgam of mother, lover, and "monstrous" offspring. Indeed, once Frankenstein has dimly grasped the nature of his emotion for Elizabeth and projected his "monstrous" desire onto his newly animated creature, he seems to go to great lengths to avoid marrying Elizabeth. As critics have noticed, Frankenstein spends an inordinately long time away from Geneva, always finding projects to postpone his marriage, even as he insists he misses and loves Elizabeth:37 his first absence lasts six years (73), his next about two (150). When Frankenstein's father finally presses his to marry Elizabeth, Frankenstein reacts with aversion: "Alas! To me the idea of an immediate union with my cousin was one of horror and dismay" (149). This aversion, rooted in Frankenstein's troubling association of Elizabeth with incestuous guilt and the animation of his creature, continues until the day of the marriage itself. As Frankenstein returns to Geneva to marry Elizabeth, after he has been cleared of Clerval's murder, he recalls the night of the creature's animation, remembering in particular the sexual shudder that brought the creature to life: "I remembered shuddering at the mad enthusiasm that hurried me on to the creation of my hideous enemy" (181). Against such a background of guilty sexuality and fear, the impending marriage fills Frankenstein with horror and loathing. He strives to hide "in my own heart the anxiety that preyed there" (189), but "[a]s the period fixed for our marriage drew nearer, whether from cowardice or a prophetic feeling, I felt my heart sink within me" (188).

After the marriage, Frankenstein's troubled sense of the incestuous guilt implicit in his relation to Elizabeth becomes even more closely associated with his fear of confronting his creature, a fact that in itself suggest a parallel in Frankenstein's mind between Elizabeth and his "monstrous" {87} offspring. The creature has ominously warned Frankenstein that, like Elizabeth, "I shall be with you on you wedding-night" (166). For his part, Frankenstein expresses his emotions about the wedding night in ambiguous language that conflates Elizabeth and the creature. As Frankenstein enters the gates of their honeymoon retreat, for example, an "unexplainable feeling" (191) arrests him momentarily -- an aversion that can be traced either to fear of consummating his marriage to Elizabeth or fear of grappling with his creature. The implication, of course, is that the two acts are somehow the same. Later when night falls and the time to retire draws near, Frankenstein experiences the same ambiguous aversion: "[S]o soon as night obscured the shapes of objects, a thousand fears arose in my mind. I was anxious and watchful" (192). Frankenstein tells Elizabeth that this nuptial "night is dreadful, very dreadful" (192); as the hour grows late, he reflects, in language heavy with ambiguity and sexual connotations, "how dreadful the combat which I momentarily expected would be to my wife, and I earnestly entreated her to retire" (192). Just before this passage, Frankenstein has sworn to "not relax the impending conflict" of his wedding night "until my life, or that of my adversary, were extinguished" (192). In this context, it is difficult to tell whether the "adversary" Frankenstein expects shortly to confront in a "combat" dreadful to his wife will be his creature -- or his bride.

Shelley's ambiguous conflation of Elizabeth and Frankenstein's "monstrous" offspring in these scenes serves several purposes. First of all, it emphasizes the connection between Elizabeth and the creature that exists in Frankenstein's own mind, a connection that first surfaces in the "straight black lips" of Frankenstein's incestuous dream. Just as Frankenstein's nightmare of the ghastly connection between his dead mother and Elizabeth gave way to his vision of a "monstrous" daughter, so, on Frankenstein's wedding night, his feverish imagination inversely links his monstrous offspring to his wife/lover and, through her, his mother. As we have seen, Frankenstein's creature may be read as the corpse of his dead mother come to life; entangled in the guilty sexuality of seeking to reanimate his mother through his love for Elizabeth, Frankenstein can possess Elizabeth physically only when she, too, has become a corpse. And this is precisely what Frankenstein does. Immediately after Elizabeth dies, he holds her in his arms for the first time in the novel and caresses her passionately: "[N]ow, as she lay, her head upon her arm, and a handkerchief thrown across her face and neck, I might have supposed her asleep. i rushed towards her, and embraced her with ardour" (193).38

{88} But Shelley's ambiguous conflation of Elizabeth and Frankenstein's creature suggests that both characters are something more than figure for the dead mother. It reinforces the fact that Elizabeth, like the creature, is also a figure for the daughter; to the extent that Frankenstein's relation to Elizabeth is a paternal one, their marriage has incestuous overtones of a different sort. It is in this context that the creature's murder of Elizabeth should be discussed. Shelley portrays both Elizabeth and Frankenstein's "monstrous" offspring as daughters, but as daughters of a very different type. Rejected by the father figure and unable to become Elizabeth, the creature murders Elizabeth instead.

The Elizabeth of Shelley's 1818 edition of Frankenstein is a very different character from the one who appears in the 1831 version. As Mary Poovey and others have noted, the Elizabeth of 1818 is a more realistic and believable woman, while the Elizabeth of 1831 is an elevated and sentimentalized type.39 For most critics, Shelley's sentimentalization of Elizabeth in the 1831 version constitutes an aesthetic flaw: they have argued that Shelley's artistic powers waned in her later years and that Shelley's sentimentality implies her endorsement of Elizabeth's conventional behavior.40 It is worth examining some of the specific features of Elizabeth's personality that Shelley erased in 1831, for these features, imagined and described when Shelley first composed the novel, identify Elizabeth more closely with Frankenstein's "monstrous" offspring.

To begin with, the Elizabeth of the 1818 edition shares the creature's ability to reason and learn, intellectual tendencies almost entirely eliminated in the Elizabeth of 1831. In the 1831 version, Elizabeth's "brow was clear and ample" (235) and the mature Elizabeth's face has an "expression more full of sensibility and intellect" (245). But aside from one mention of Elizabeth's taste for "the aerial creations of the poets" (236), these are the only references to Elizabeth's mental capabilities -- quite weak suggestions of intellectual vigor, at that.41 The Elizabeth of 1818, on the other hand, possesses a strong mind and an appetite for knowledge -- qualities that both make her more like Frankenstein himself and tie her to Frankenstein's creature. In 1818, Elizabeth has a great "capability of application," and Frankenstein insists that he "admire[s] her understanding and fancy" (30). Frankenstein even shares his consuming interest in Paracelsus and Albertus Magnus with Elizabeth, but she is not captures intellectually by the material: "I disclosed my discoveries to Elizabeth . . . under a promise of strict secrecy; but she did not interest herself in the subject, and I was left by her to pursue my studies alone" (33-34). Caroline Beaufort's death makes Elizabeth's mind "acquire new firmness and vigour" (39); she applies herself {89} to the instruction of Frankenstein's younger brothers. When one of the brothers shows a taste for working out of doors, Elizabeth even presents his father with a forcefully reasoned argument -- based on Godwin's principles of benevolence and utility -- that the life of the farmer is superior to the life of a lawyer. Alphonse Frankenstein is so impressed by her conviction and logic that he tells Elizabeth she should become the advocate instead, a comment that, as Elizabeth ruefully says, "put an end to the conversation on that subject" (59-60).

If the Elizabeth of 1818 shares the creature's intellectual tendencies and acquirements, she shares with him a second significant quality: the capacity for feeling anger and expressing it eloquently. This quality is also entirely erased in the revised Elizabeth of 1831, who meets injustices with sad smiles and resignation. The prime example of the 1818 Elizabeth's capacity for anger appears in the scene in which she visits Justine in prison. Once Elizabeth realizes Justine is innocent, having been convicted by an unjust social system of a crime she did not commit, Elizabeth breaks into an angry denunciation of the system. Elizabeth's indictment is passionate, pointed, and filled with Godwinian vocabulary and spirit:

[W]hen one creature is murdered, another is immediately deprived of life in a slow torturing manner; then the executioners, their hands yet reeking with the blood of innocence, believe that they have done a great deed. They call this retribution. Hateful name! When that word is pronounced, I know greater and more horrid punishments are going to be inflicted than the gloomiest tyrant has ever invented to satiate his utmost revenge. (83)
This speech is entirely omitted from the 1831 edition. In Shelley's revised version, Elizabeth accepts Justine's advice to "submit in patience to the will of Heaven!" After Justine's execution, Elizabeth is deprived of her angry voice entirely, and surrenders herself silently to a "deep and voiceless grief" (246).

The 1818 edition of Frankenstein identifies Elizabeth and Frankenstein's "monstrous" offspring in one final way, that is, through an intriguing structural juxtaposition omitted from the 1831 version. In the 1818 edition, Frankenstein travels to the valley of Chamounix with Elizabeth, his father, and brother; in 1831, he makes the journey alone. It is on this trip, of course, the Frankenstein first encounters his creature face to face outside the laboratory and talks with him. In the 1818 version, having settled Elizabeth and his family into an inn on the valley floor, Frankenstein decides to ascend to the summit of Montanvert alone. He meets his creature on the glacier; the {90} creature tells Frankenstein his tale; Frankenstein is filled with disgust, yet agrees to construct a female companion for him. Frankenstein then returns to Elizabeth, who has waited anxiously all night for his reappearance. Sickened by the recent sight of "the filthy mass that moved and talked" (143), plagued by his promise to create a second creature, Frankenstein finds everything around him unspeakably "filthy" and hellish:

[T]he gentle affection of my beloved Elizabeth was inadequate to draw me from the depth of my despair. The promise I had made to the daemon weighed upon my mind, like Dante's iron cowl on the heads of the hellish hypocrites. . . . Can you wonder, that sometimes a kind of insanity possessed me, or that I saw continually about me a multitude a filthy animals inflicting on me incessant torture, that often extorted screams and bitter groans? (145)
Two features in the 1818 version of this scene link Elizabeth to Frankenstein's creature. The first is a structural juxtaposition: Elizabeth waits anxiously for Frankenstein in the inn on the valley floor while the creature, filled with equal anxiety, tells Frankenstein his tale close to the mountain's summit. The juxtaposition of the two anxious figures parallels them; it also places Frankenstein between them, thus suggesting that Frankenstein's relation to the two characters is itself somehow parallel and similar. And there is a second telling similarity between Elizabeth and the creature, brought home in the language of the passage just quoted -- a passage that is also omitted from the 1831 edition. In the 1831 version, Frankenstein descends from the mountaintop and meets no one; in the 1818 edition, he meets Elizabeth and simultaneously sees "continually about me a multitude of filthy animals inflicting on me incessant torture." In the 1818 version of the novel, that is, Elizabeth becomes entangled in the visions of filth and animality generated in Frankenstein's imagination by his encounter with his creature. She is thus identified in mind with his "monstrous" offspring; as part of the "multitude of filthy animals" Frankenstein sees surrounding him, Elizabeth is mired in the same in the same loathsome materiality and sexuality Frankenstein associates with his creature.

Shelley's 1831 revisions to Frankenstein, then, erase the specific features linking Elizabeth to the "monster" in the 1818 edition: Elizabeth intelligence, her latent anger and ability to verbalize it, her association with filth and sexuality in the imagistic pattern of the novel. The 1831 Elizabeth is pure, celestial, and often voiceless, like so many of Shelley's later heroines. In the 1831 version of Frankenstein, Shelley seems to strive for a different {91} effect, stressing the great gap in the patterns of female behavior exhibited by Elizabeth and the creature. In 1818, Shelley portrays Elizabeth as a type of the monstrous daughter; by 1831, Elizabeth instead embodies the elevated ideal of a woman committed to the domestic affections, a point to be taken up in due course.

But though the 1818 version of Frankenstein carefully parallels Elizabeth and the creature in significant ways, there is a crucial difference between them. Despite the intelligence and latent anger the Elizabeth of 1818 shares with the creature, she is finally a daughter of a very different sort. The 1818 Elizabeth is complete and privileged; all the different qualities of her temperament have achieved an equilibrium that suits her perfectly to the family role she plays. The symbol of this privilege is the education Elizabeth receives. The 1818 Elizabeth is educated in languages with her brothers (31) and taught that "mutual affection" (37) binds the family together. The symbolism of Elizabeth's education presents a jarring contrast, of course, to the education the creature has received: huddled in a "kennel," walled off from the warmth of the DeLacey family hearth, the creature has educated himself by overhearing the lessons meant for Safie, another daughter, who is eventually able to find protection in the paternal love of an adopted father. When Frankenstein assesses the relative status accorded to him and Elizabeth in the family circle, he insists that "Neither of us possessed the slightest preeminence over the other" (37). On closer inspection, of course, a difference between Elizabeth and her male siblings does indeed exist; it consists of the same set of qualities that differentiates Elizabeth from Frankenstein's creature. Shelley sums up the essential difference between Elizabeth, her male siblings, and Frankenstein's "monstrous" offspring in the first words of description she applies to Elizabeth:

She was docile and good-tempered, yet gay and playful as a summer insect. Although she was lively and animated, her feelings were strong and deep, and her disposition uncommonly affectionate. No one could better enjoy liberty, yet no one could submit with more grace than she did to constraint and caprice. (29-30)
Frankenstein's creature is certainly not "docile and good-tempered." Although he initially pledges to be "even mild and docile" to his father, whom he acknowledges as his "natural lord and king" (95), the creature is, finally, utterly incapable of suffering rejection, and the pressures of isolation placed upon him, with any redeeming female "grace." For all her intelligence and latent capacity for anger, Elizabeth, unlike Frankenstein's "monstrous" {92} offspring, finally submits to the "constraint and caprice" of her situation as a daughter. This submission is, of course, the price of the privilege and paternal protection she receives in return. But for the creature, the situation is entirely different. Having been denied the father's affection and any share in the father's privilege from the outset, the creature has developed little capacity, or taste, for compliance and submission. This analysis suggests another reason why Frankenstein's "monstrous" offspring is driven to murder Elizabeth. Elizabeth represents the figure of the compliant and therefore beloved daughter. Deprived of the love that would keep him "docile" and jealous of the paternal protection bought by Elizabeth's compliance, the creature murders Elizabeth, the daughter he despairs of becoming.

As this line of reasoning implies, Frankenstein's "monstrous" offspring simultaneously accomplishes a second purpose when he murders Elizabeth: he not only eliminates the compliant daughter, but he also eliminates his chief rival for Frankenstein's affection. In this sense, the murder of Elizabeth is an important crisis in the pattern of love-hate tensions that tie Frankenstein and his creature together. The creature has slowly attacked Frankenstein's family members and friends, destroying Frankenstein's other relational ties in a pattern of increasingly emotional closeness. When the creature murders Elizabeth, he robs Frankenstein of his most cherished possession -- the figure of the wife/lover, toward whom Frankenstein extends the prerogatives of his paternal affection. Shortly afterward, Frankenstein's father, in despair at the death of "his more than daughter" (195), dies of an apoplectic fit.42 Frankenstein is thus left entirely alone; he ceases fleeing from his "monstrous" offspring and begins to pursue him instead. In a sense, the creature has finally won what he has always most wanted -- his creator's undivided attention.

The creature's murder of Elizabeth accomplishes a third and final purpose, one that draws together the incest themes structuring Frankenstein. When the creature murders Elizabeth, he denies Frankenstein the emotional consummation he most desires and dreads: physical union with a woman who represents, for Frankenstein, a troubling amalgam of lover, mother, and "monstrous" daughter. As critics have noted, Elizabeth's murder in one way relieves Frankenstein of his dreadful anxiety and fear about incest. Elizabeth's death removes her from Frankenstein's physical grasp and thus prevents him from breaking the incest taboo that hovers over their relationship.43 But on another level, and read from the perspective of Frankenstein's "monstrous" offspring, the murder of Elizabeth accomplishes something quite different. When the creature murders Elizabeth, he denies {93} the father his desire and breaks the father's sexual hold over the daughter. By murdering Elizabeth, the creature, himself a figure for the daughter, prevents the father from consuming his guilty passion on the body of another daughter. In the process, the creature gains yet another kind of power over the figure of the father and briefly removes the daughter from the realm of the father's association of the daughter with lovers, mothers, and guilty sexuality. Frankenstein's "monstrous" offspring thus punishes the father for entangling the daughter in loathsome sexuality. Elizabeth is redeemed from "filthy materiality" -- but the price of her redemption is her death. From this perspective, Frankenstein makes the same point about fathers, daughters, and sexuality that Mathilda will: woman's only escape from the consequences of her sexuality is into death. As we will see, the murder of Elizabeth is the structural equivalent in Frankenstein of a prophetic dream Mathilda has; both express the daughter's hostility toward the guilty sexuality the father has imposed on her, and both hasten the father's death.

Though the crippling power of fathers is essential to understanding the plight of the "monster" in Frankenstein, mothers -- and their absences -- are also crucial to the work. As Gilbert and Gubar have remarked, part of the creature's quest is "a doomed search for a maternal, female principle in the harsh society that has created him."44 The creature's violent rage is generated by his father's rejection, but behind the creature's anger at the father lies an agonized search from the mother who, eventually, proves to be dead, dying, or deadly. As we have seen, the daughters who inherit Frankenstein are motherless -- a situation that, as Judith Herman has pointed out, deprives the daughter of female protection and makes her more subject to the father's demands.45 Caroline Beaufort, Elizabeth Lavenza, Agnes DeLacey, and Safie have lost their mothers to death; only Justine Moritz's mother remains alive, and she "through a strange perversity . . . could not endure" (60) her daughter. Frankenstein's "monstrous" offspring is, of course, entirely motherless; having been created by a male, from bits of dead bodies, the creature yearns not only for his father's affection but also for the soothing presence of a female companion.

The creature's motherlessness provides the context for his aggression against Justine Moritz, the only one of his victims besides Frankenstein he does not actually kill. After the creature murders William, he finds a portrait of Caroline Beaufort Frankenstein in William's clothing. The image of William's mother momentarily softens the creature, but his rage returns: "I remembered that I was forever deprived of the delights that such beautiful {94} creatures could bestow; and that she whose resemblance I contemplated would, in regarding me, have changed that air of divine benignity to one expressive of disgust and affright" (139). The creature is infuriated by what he imagines would be the mother's rejection; he places the locket in Justine's clothing, thus assuming the execution of the only daughter in the novel whose mother remains alive. In this scene, the mother's image exerts a deadly and destructive power. Deprived of a mother's "benignity" and having learned the "lessons of Felix, and the sanguinary laws of man" (140) the creature works "mischief": he implicates another daughter in the murder of William.

Immediately after relating the story of Justine and the locket, the creature orders Frankenstein to build him a female companion of the same "deformed and horrible" species as his (140). As we have seen, Frankenstein agrees to do so. But the thought of the female creature's maternity leads Frankenstein to dismember her. As Frankenstein labors at the "filthy process" (162) of building a female creature, his heart sickens. He begins to consider reasons to break his promise to his monstrous offspring: that the female might be "ten thousand times more malignant" than her mate; that she might "turn with disgust" from the creature "to the superior beauty of man" (163). It is, finally, the possibility of the female creature becoming a mother that convinces Frankenstein to destroy her:

Even if they were to leave Europe, and inhabit the deserts of the new world, yet one of the first results of those sympathies for which the daemon thirsted would be children, and a race of devils would be propagated upon the earth, who might make the very existence of the species of man a condition precarious and full of terror. (163)
"Trembling with passion" (164) at the thought of the female creature reproducing herself, Frankenstein tears the lifeless body to pieces. The lifeless female creature becomes, of course, another visual equivalent for Frankenstein's dead mother's corpse: when he destroys her, he expresses his own dread of the female and fear of the figure of the mother. For Frankenstein, as for his "monstrous" offspring, maternity exerts a deadly and threatening power.46

The figure of the dead or deadly mother is central to another novel Mary Shelley read before she wrote Frankenstein: Mary Wollstonecraft's Wrongs of Woman. Shelley's mother's novel lies behind Frankenstein much as her father's Caleb Williams does; Shelley clearly had both her parents' work in mind as she composed the tale of Frankenstein and his "monstrous" {95} offspring. There are general similarities between all three novels. All three works incorporate a plot based on flight and pursuit, and all three feature a central character plagued by a sense of monstrosity.47 The Wrongs of Woman, however, has an important feature that Caleb Williams does not: Wollstonecraft specifically characterizes her "monstrous" heroines as motherless daughters.

Jemima, the prison matron whose tale takes up two chapters of The Wrongs of Woman, is the daughter of a rejecting father and the servant girl he seduces -- a girl who dies in agony nine days after Jemima's birth (102). Left to fend for herself, and without a mother's protection, Jemima becomes, by her own description, a "monster" (116) and a "wretch" (105, 107, 113). Deprived of all human ties and affection, brutalized by the harsh conditions in which she is forced to live, Jemima steals, tries to abort her illegitimate child, and finally descends into prostitution. It is, in fact, what society views as Jemima's guilty sexuality that marks her as a reviled outcast. Once Jemima has lost her virginity to the tyrannical master in whose house she works -- he attacks her just as she turns sixteen and enters adult womanhood -- Jemima can find no other legitimate work, no place to live, no companions. Like Frankenstein's "monstrous" offspring, Jemima is "treated like a creature of another species" (104, 107); like Frankenstein's creature, Jemima "had not even the chance of being considered as a fellow-creature" (106).48 Jemima's situation draws inspiration from William Godwin's point that monsters are made, not born, and much of Wrongs of Woman adopts Godwin's criticisms of unjust social institutions. But Wollstonecraft focuses specifically on the way social institutions shape women and traces Jemima's misfortune directly to the fact she is a motherless daughter. As Jemima puts it:

Now I look back, I cannot help attributing the greater part of my misery, to the misfortune of having been thrown into the world without the grand support of life -- a mother's affection. I had no one to love me; or to make me respected, to enable me to acquire respect. (106)
Maria, the imprisoned mother who is the chief protagonist of The Wrongs of Woman is, like Jemima, a motherless daughter. As a girl, Maria lives with a loutish father who demands "unconditional submission" (125) from his daughters, and with a mother who has little affection for her. After Maria's mother dies, Maria and her sisters become prey to the tyranny of their father and his new mistress -- a former serving girl -- and Maria soon marries George Venables, mainly to escape the constraints of her father's home. But Venables, like all the husbands and fathers in {96} The Wrongs of Woman, proves to be a brutal tyrant, too. When Maria becomes pregnant and then leaves his house to make a new life for herself and her child, Venables enlists all the powers of the laws to track her down and capture her. Like Jemima, "who had been hunted from hole to hole, as if she had been a beast of prey or infected with a moral plague" (80), Maria is driven from one wretched hiding place to another and treated as an outlaw. Though Maria's only crime is leaving her husband -- a decision she makes to save her unborn daughter's life -- society makes Maria, like Jemima, into a monstrous outcast. As Wollstonecraft puts it, Maria is "hunted, like an infected beast, from three different apartments" (178) and, finally, "hunted out like a felon" (173) and captured.

Maria's lack of a protective maternal figure thus leads ultimately to the same fate Jemima and the creature confront: Maria becomes a reviled outlaw and a spurned social outcast.49 Maria's daughter's lack of a mother leads to something even worse: the daughter's death. When Venable finally captures Maria as she is about to flee to the Continent with their tiny daughter, he steals the baby and imprisons Maria in a lunatic asylum. There Maria, the daughter just turned mother, suffers horrifying pangs of maternal deprivation. Her breasts ache with the milk she can't give her daughter; she laments "the aggravated ills of life that her [child's] sex rendered almost inevitable," yet she cannot bear to think her daughter is dead (75-76). Maria bemoans the mother's powerlessness -- that she is herself shut up in a madhouse, that "the tender mother cannot lawfully" (159) protect her fortune and her children from a tyrannical husband. And Maria is right to fear for her daughter's safety, for Jemima soon discovers that the baby daughter, deprived of its mother and confined and neglected by its father, has died (123).50

Mary Wollstonecraft's Wrongs of Woman is, like her daughter's Frankenstein, novel full of tyrannical fathers, dead or powerless mothers, and abandoned daughters who become outcasts. The emotional center of The Wrongs of Woman is, therefore, occupied by an appropriate tale: the story of the imprisoned mother, written for and to her daughter. Fearing her own death, Maria composes a memoir of her life to leave for her daughter. Maria carefully frames her tale as a precautionary narrative -- a story that emphasizes the vital importance of a mother's love, yet warns of the mother's powerlessness:

The tenderness of a father who knew the world, might be great; but could it equal that of a mother -- of a mother, labouring under a portion of the misery, which the constitution of society seems to have entailed on all her {97} kind? It is, my child, my dearest daughter, only such a mother, who will dare to break through all restraint to provide for your happiness -- who will voluntarily brave censure herself, to ward off sorrow from your bosom. From my narrative, my dear girl, you may gather the instruction, the counsel, which is meant rather to exercise than influence your mind. (124)
Although Wollstonecraft shows Maria composing her narrative for her daughter early in The Wrongs of Woman, the reader does not see the narrative itself until Maria learns her daughter is dead and gives the narrative to Henry Darnford, her prison lover. Maria's narrative takes up chapter 7 through 14 of what was published as seventeen-chapter novel. The Wrongs of Woman was left unfinished when Wollstonecraft died, but Wollstonecraft left notes suggesting plans for the elaboration of at least several more chapters. It is tempting to speculate that Wollstonecraft may have planned to place Maria's memoir -- the tale of the imprisoned and powerless mother -- close to the structural and emotional heart of the novel.51

History provides a poignant footnote to the composition of The Wrongs of Woman. Having composed Maria's memoir to her baby daughter, Wollstonecraft herself gave birth to a daughter, and she died shortly thereafter of complications arising from the birth. This circumstance must certainly have exerted a peculiar power over Mary Shelley's imagination when, a daughter turned new mother herself, she prepared to write Frankenstein by rereading her own mother's novel about motherhood. In any event, the imprisoned and powerless mother lies at the emotional center of Frankenstein in much the same way she lies at the heart of Wollstonecraft's Wrongs of Woman. Enclosed within layers of concentric narratives -- Walton's, Frankenstein's the creature's -- lies the story of Safie's mother, the dead harem slave.52 By placing the story of the imprisoned and powerless mother at the center of Frankenstein, Shelley accomplishes several things. She expresses the daughter's longing for -- and natural dread of -- the maternal figure the daughter needs to sustain her, yet fears becoming herself. And, as we shall see, the dead mother entombed at the heart of Mary Shelley's first novel looks forward to a dead mother buried at the center of Shelley's last novel -- although, in Falkner, the daughter learns to use the mother's intermittent power over the figure of the father rather that fearing her.

The wretched, motherless daughter who becomes a monstrous outcast is the central figure in The Wrongs of Woman and Frankenstein; she is also the central figure in Shelley's Mathilda, a novel that openly examines an incestuous relationship between a father and daughter. Mathilda was written not two years after Frankenstein appeared in print. It is worth noting here that {98} the numerous similarities between the two works confirm the importance of the theme of father-daughter incest in Frankenstein. Both Mathilda and Frankenstein, after all, explore intensely sexual material, and both works examine a sympathetic central character haunted by a sense of "monstrosity." Both Mathilda and the creature describe themselves as "unnatural"; both emphatically characterize themselves using the words "wretch" and "monster." Both protagonists describe themselves in language replete with images of darkness, disease, and filth, and both see themselves as "unspeakable" in some sense. Mathilda and the creature think they are cursed and set apart by nature; both sense an insurmountable barrier separating them from other human creatures; and both are "marked" in some physical sense -- Mathilda with the imagined sign of Cain on her forehead,53 the creature with an indeterminate feature of countenance that terrifies humans into wild flight and rejection. Shelley describes the situation of Mathilda and Frankenstein's spurned creature in suggestively similar terms. Not only are both motherless, but both are deserted by a father figure who comes back to haunt them or whom they haunt.

Shelley even place Mathilda and Frankenstein's creature in the same emotional landscape. As we shall see, Mathilda experiences one of the reactions of an actual incest victim: once her father leaves her, her feelings go completely cold. Shelley describes Mathilda in terms of icy, mountainous terrain, saying Mathilda is "a solitary spot among mountains shut in on all sides by steep black precipices; where no ray of heat could penetrate; and from which there was no outlet to sunnier fields" (54). In Frankenstein, externalizing this same emotional landscape, Shelley places Frankenstein's "monstrous" offspring in physical surroundings of precisely the same description. The creature lives alone in the place where he first talks to Frankenstein: an isolated spot walled in by Alpine peaks, among "the desert mountains and dreary glaciers . . . the caves of ice" (95). In Shelley's first two novels, it would seem, the daughter's relationship to her father dooms her to inhabit, or contain, bleak and desolate emotional landscapes.

In each of Shelley's first two novels, the daughter's relationship to her father also acts as a catalyst for the daughter's self-immolation. The closing pages of Mathilda and Frankenstein, in fact, contain a surprising number of similarities, suggesting yet again that both novels depict the fate of the daughter made monstrous by incest. Like actual incest victims, Mathilda feels responsible for her father's "fall" and subsequent death -- she recalls with horror the day "three years ago that my folly destroyed the only being I was doomed to love" (79). Similarly, Frankenstein's creature assumes full {99} responsibility for his creator's demise, uttering "wild and incoherent self-reproaches" (217) and exclaiming "that is also my victim! . . . in his murder my crimes are consummated" (216-17). Both daughters are distraught after the father's death, even though the father in each novel has entangled the daughter in guilty sexuality. After Mathilda's father commits suicide, Mathilda prostrates herself on the ground close to his grave and, in an act charges with sexual innuendo, strikes "the ground in anger that it should cover him from me" (50). For all his rage and desire to punish Frankenstein, Frankenstein's creature behaves in a similar manner. He is stricken with "grief and horror" (216) when his creator dies, and he situates himself near his father's lifeless body in a sexually suggestive pose. In a scene that echoes the creature's first glimpse of his maker, when the creature pulled back the curtains of Frankenstein's bed and reached out to detain him (53), Frankenstein's "monstrous" offspring hangs loverlike over Frankenstein's dead body (216).54

Both daughters express a lyrical, sensuous affection for the beauties of nature -- a nature free from "unnatural" desires, in which they no longer have a place. Mathilda invokes "Your solitude, sweet land, your trees and waters" and notes that after her death the unsullied beauty of nature "will still exist, moved by your winds, or still beneath the eye of noon" (77). Frankenstein's creature displays a similar sense of loss when he realizes the "I shall no longer see the sun or stars, or feel the winds play on my cheeks" (220). Most important, both daughters -- alienated from nature, bereft over the loss of the father, afflicted by guilt over the father's death -- take their own lives. Mathilda becomes lost in a fantasy reunion with her father and chooses to spend the night in the elements, thus inducing the illness that eventually kills her. Mathilda craves death, "the moment I had so much desired," knowing it will be an experience "sweeter even than that which the opium promised" (76). The suicide of Frankenstein's "monstrous" offspring is more violent and self-torturing. The creature plans to burn himself alive, a self-immolation that will both punish him for his crimes against the father and put a final end to his guilty suffering. As the creature puts it, "soon . . . miseries will be extinct. I shall ascend my funeral pile triumphantly, and exult in the agony of the torturing flames" (221).

Despite the sense of triumph and exultation that his impending suicide gives him, Frankenstein's creature ends the novel in precisely the same way as Mathilda: confronting self-extinction and imminent death. From this perspective Frankenstein seems to convey the same message about fathers, {100} daughters, and sexuality that Mathilda does: it is impossible for a woman to escape the consequences of her sexuality as long as she remains alive. In Shelley's first two novels, the figure of the daughter meets an unnaturally early end. She is associated in the father's mind with lover, wife, and mother, but the figure of the daughter is prevented by death from assuming any of these roles in a concrete way with a figure other than the father. In Mathilda and Frankenstein, that is, the daughter finally remains subject to the power and limiting scope of the father's desire. As we shall see, Shelley's last novels allow the daughter to subvert and move beyond these paternal limits.


1. Godwin, The Elopement, 16.

2. Ellen Moers, "Female Gothic," in The Endurance of Frankenstein, ed. George Levine and U. C. Knoepflmacher (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979), 79.

3. Alan Bewell writes about Mary Shelley's use of eighteenth-century obstetrical theory, with its emphasis on the power of the female imagination to mark or deform a fetus growing in the woman's womb (Alan Bewell, "An Issue of Monstrous Desire: Frankenstein and Obstetrics," Yale Journal of Criticism and Interpretation of the Humanities 2, no. 1 [Fall 1988]: 105-28. Other discussions of Frankenstein, birth, and babies can be found in Gordon Hirsch, "The Monster was a Lady: On the Psychology of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein," Hartford Studies in Literature 7 (1975): 116-53; Barbara Waxman, "Victor Frankenstein's Romantic Fate: The Tragedy of the Promethean Overreacher as Woman," Papers on Language and Literature 23, no. 1 (Winter 1987): 14-26; James B. Twitchell, "Frankenstein and the Anatomy of Horror," Georgia Review 37 (1983): 41-78; and others. Several important pieces have recently appeared that study Frankenstein as a search for identity with the lost mother. Marc Rubenstein's is still the best ("My Accursed Origin: The Search for the Mother in Frankenstein," Studies in Romanticism 15 [Spring 1976]: 165-94); see also J. M. Hill, "Frankenstein and the Physiognomy of Desire," American Imago 32 (1975): 335-58. Janet Todd writes persuasively of the many connections between Frankenstein's monster and Jemima, the warder and fallen woman in Mary Wollstonecraft's Maria, or the Wrongs of Woman (Janet M. Todd, "Frankenstein's Daughter: Mary Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft," Women and Literature 4 [1976]: 18-27).

4. See Morton Kaplan and Robert Kloss, "Fantasy of Paternity and the Doppelgänger: Mary Shelley's Frankenstein," in The Unspoken Motive: A Guide to Psychoanalytic Criticism (New York: Free Press, 1973), 119-45; Rosemary Jackson, "Narcissism and Beyond: A Psychoanalytic Reading of Frankenstein and Fantasies of the Double," in Aspects of Fantasy: Selected Essays from the Second International Conference on the Fantastic in Literature and Film, ed. William Coyle (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1986), 43-53; Gerhard Joseph, "Frankenstein's Dream: The Child as Father of the Monster," Hartford Studies in Literature 7 (1975): 97-115; Gordon Hirsch, "The Monster Was a Lady," 128; James Twitchell, "Frankenstein and the Anatomy of Horror," 53; J. M. Hill, "Frankenstein and the Physiognomy of Desire," 335-58. William Veeder, particularly in "The Negative Oedipus: Father, Frankenstein and the Shelleys," Critical Inquiry 12, no. 2 (Winter 1986): 365-90, reverses the equation, but still uses a psychoanalytic model. Other works that examine incest in Frankenstein, though not necessarily using a psychoanalytic model are Anca Vlaspolos, "Frankenstein's Hidden Skeleton: The Psycho-Politics of Oppression," Science Fiction Studies 10, no. 2 (July 1983): 125-36; Mary Patterson Thornburg, "The Monster in the Mirror: Gender and the Sentimental/Gothic Myth in Frankenstein," Studies in Speculative Fiction 14 (Ann Arbor, Mich.: University Microfilms International Research Press, 1987): 14-30; Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar, The Madwoman in the Attic (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1979); David Ketterer, Frankenstein's Creation: The Book, The Monster and the Human Reality, ELS Monograph series no. 16 (Victoria, B.C., 1979); Christopher Small, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein: Tracing the Myth (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1973). As Paul Sherwin points out, the psychoanalytic critics manage to lay bare the source of much of the sexual tension in Frankenstein, but fail to account for two very important aspects of the novel: the monster's interiority and the vast sympathy he calls forth from the reader (Paul Sherwin, "Frankenstein: Creation as Catastrophe," Publications of the Modern Language Association 96, no. 5 [October 1981], 891).

5. See in particular Gilbert and Gubar (in Madwoman in the Attic), U. C. Knoepflmacher, James P. Carson, Douglas Bond, and Marc Rubenstein. Knoepflmacher's essay is a particularly acute study of some of the psychological dynamics underpinning Mary Shelley's creation of her monster ("Thoughts on the Aggression of Daughters').

6. Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Frankenstein, or, The Modern Prometheus: The 1818 Text, ed. James Rieger (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1974). This discussion of Frankenstein uses the first edition, published in 1818. Mary Shelley offered revisions to the 1818 edition on two significant occasions. In 1823, she wrote variants into a published copy of Frankenstein and presented the copy to Mrs. Thomas; in 1831, she revised the novel in a more thorough fashion for its inclusion in Colburn and Bentley's "Standard Novels" series. As the following discussion will indicate, the 1831 version of Frankenstein is a very different novel from the one that first appeared in 1818. Shelley's 1831 revisions sentimentalize the female characters in Frankenstein and adopt a whole series of other literary techniques that look forward to Shelley's particular storytelling strategies in Falkner. These were not the same strategies Mary Shelley employed when she originally conceived and wrote Frankenstein. This discussion, therefore, uses the 1818 text, and all subsequent references to it will be cited parenthetically. Any references to the 1831 edition will be specifically indicated; the 1831 variants are conveniently collated at the back of Rieger's edition of Frankenstein.

7. In her 1831 versions, Shelley makes Elizabeth Lavenza an Italian foundling rather than a blood relation. And the 1831 revisions accentuate even more the possessive, protective, paternal character of Victor Frankenstein's attachment to her. As Victor puts it: "On the evening previous to her [Elizabeth] being brought to my home, my mother had said playfully, -- 'I have a pretty present for my Victor -- to-morrow he shall have it.' And when, on the morrow, she presented Elizabeth to me as her promised gift, I, with childish seriousness, interpreted her words literally, and looked upon Elizabeth as mine -- mine to protect, love, and cherish. All praises bestowed on her, I received as made to a possession of my own" (235-36).

8. Here again, the 1831 revisions emphasize the paternal character of Victor's relationship yet more specifically. In the 1831 text, for example, Elizabeth writes to Victor and describes Victor's two brothers, Ernest and William, as "our dear children" (243). Such a characterization casts Victor in a paternal role; it also emphasizes the incestuous currents of the relationship between Elizabeth and Victor, a point to be taken up in due course.

9. Small, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, 108.

10. Many critics have discussed the resemblances between Percy Bysshe Shelley and Victor Frankenstein. Two of the most thorough discussions may be found in Christopher Small's Mary Shelley's Frankenstein: Tracing the Myth and William Veeder's Mary Shelley and Frankenstein: The Fate of Androgyny. Among other helpful sources are P.D. Fleck, "Mary Shelley's Notes to Shelley's Poems and Frankenstein," Studies in Romanticism 6 (1967): 226-54; William H. Hildebrand, "On Three Prometheuses: Shelley's Two and Mary's One," Serif 1, no. 2 (1974): 3-11; Richard Holmes, Shelley: The Pursuit (New York: Dutton, 1975); Mary Graham Lund, "Shelley as Frankenstein," Forum 4, no. 2 (1963): 28-31; Peter Dale Scott, "Vital Artifice: Mary, Percy, and the Psychopolitical Integrity of Frankenstein," in The Endurance of Frankenstein, ed. George Levine and U. C. Knoepflmacher (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979), 172-202; Ketterer, Frankenstein's Creation, 100-02.

11. Numerous critics have discussed William Godwin's life and works as a source for Frankenstein. See Pollin, "Philosophical and Literary Sources of Frankenstein," 99; Clifford, "Caleb Williams and Frankenstein," 601-17; Harvey, "Frankenstein and Caleb Williams," 21-27; Knoepflmacher, "Thoughts on the Aggression of Daughters," 88-110; Small, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, 68-99; May, "Publish and Perish," 489-512; and Powers, The Influence of William Godwin on the Novels of Mary Shelley. Powers's is the most extended study to date: it traces the reappearance in Mary Shelley's work of Godwin's ideas about education, benevolence, justice, and reason. Although useful, Power's study treats the problem of "influence" in a facile manner. Powers does not sufficiently take into account the powerful psychic currents at work when a daughter comes to grips with the varieties of a father's influence, or the various strategies a daughter might employ to rewrite her father. Knoepflmacher's "Thoughts" is the best piece available on William Godwin and Mary Shelley to date.

12. Mary Shelley's subsequent additions to the text of Frankenstein make Victor Frankenstein's work yet more sexually suggestive. In the Thomas copy (1823), Frankenstein's work leaves him "exalted to a kind of transport" (46); he is afflicted with "trembling hands" and an "alternate tremor and passionate ardour" (51). Likewise, in 1831, Shelley describes Frankenstein's "fervent longing to penetrate the secrets of nature" (238). Devon Hodges makes a similar point about the sexual suggestiveness -- and menacing power -- of Frankenstein's posture as he hovers over his creature: "Frankenstein's desire for domination and his expectation of submission are captured in the pose he takes before his inanimate creature: Frankenstein stands erect above its prone body, a position that has been called the classical spectacle of male power and female powerlessness in patriarchal society" (Devon Hodges, "Frankenstein and the Feminine Subversion of the Novel," Tulsa Studies in Woman's Literature 2, no. 2 (Fall 1983): 159.

13. In the 1818 edition of Frankenstein, Victor Frankenstein's desire to reanimate the dead serves as the central, if masked, motivation in his creation of the "monster"; in the 1831 revisions to the novel Shelley stresses different themes. Specifically, she accentuates Frankenstein's thirst for knowledge and glory and emphasizes the role of fate in determining what Frankenstein's attempts and suffers. Poovey (The Proper Lady, 133ff.) and Mellor (Mary Shelley, 170ff.) each provide excellent discussions of the significance of the 1831 revisions. It is worth making an additional point about them: When Shelley's 1831 revisions accentuate an additional motivation for Frankenstein's creation of his monster, they deflect the reader's attention away from his desire to reanimate his mother, and, thus, away from the incest theme. This strategy of deflection is consistent with other aspects of Shelley's last two novels, Lodore and Falkner, the first of which Shelley began shortly after she revised Frankenstein.

14. In the Thomas copy (1823), the sexually suggestive convulsions that bring the creature to life continue to the end of this physical description of the "monster." In the Thomas copy, this description concludes with the sentence: "And the contortions that ever and anon convulsed & deformed his un-human features" (52).

15. The 1818 text is consistent in naming the exact period of time over which Frankenstein works to make his creature. Frankenstein at one point remarks that he had "worked hard for nearly two years" (52). At another point, he says his creation has taken roughly nine months: "Winter, spring, and summer, passed away during my labours" (51).

16. In a tantalizing suggestion, Ellen Moers argues that Frankenstein's creature, with its jaundiced, wrinkled skin and weak eyes, is ugly in precisely the way newborn babies are. See Moers, "Female Gothic," 81.

17. I am grateful to Gilbert Tippy's essay "Feminine Rage in Mary Shelley" (Greenvale, N.Y.: C. W. Post Center, Long Island University, 1991) for this observation.

18. Gilbert and Gubar, Madwoman in the Attic, 240.

19. Ibid., 19.

20. Shelley's 1831 revision makes Elizabeth even more of "an orphan and a beggar," and thus more closely allies her to the wretched, rejected, penniless "monster." In the 1831 version, Elizabeth is not Frankenstein's cousin, but the daughter of an Italian nobleman and a mother who died at her birth. Her father abandons her while he goes to fight for Italy against Austria; Elizabeth lives in the cottage of some poor Italian peasants until she is discovered by Caroline Frankenstein, who rescues her and takes her home. In the 1831 version, Shelley specifically refers to Elizabeth as "an orphan and a beggar" (235).

21. Note, too, that Frankenstein's creature receives an education intended for a daughter when he hides in his hut next to the Delacey house -- he overhears the lessons intended for Safie. See also Knoepflmacher's excellent discussions of the similarities between Frankenstein's creature and Agatha, DeLacey's daughter ("Thoughts on the Aggression of Daughters," 101-3).

22. Marc Rubenstein suggests that the creature's fascination with a written account of his "accursed origin" (126) parallels Mary Shelley's own. Shelley has the creature describe how he finds and reads Frankenstein's journal of "the four months that preceded my creation" (126). In this journal, Frankenstein describes every step of the progress of his work, mingled with accounts of "domestic occurrences." As Rubenstein points out, Frankenstein's diary echoes the contents of the correspondence between William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft as their affair began and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley was conceived. Rubenstein suggests that the creature looks at the written account of his origin with precisely the same horror and fascination that Mary Shelley looked at hers (Rubenstein, "My Accursed Origins," 168-720).

23. Knoepflmacher, "Thoughts on the Aggression of Daughters," 89.

24. While Janet Todd has noted that Mary Shelley cast her mother as male because "creator and creature should be of the same sex to avoid sexual implications" (Todd, "Frankenstein's Daughter," 27 n. 7), one can argue Todd's point from a slightly different, and for our purposes more revealing, angle: that Mary Shelley made her monster male as part of an evasionary tactic that repressed the sexual overtones of much of what she was writing. What happens, in short, if we read the relationship between Victor Frankenstein and his creature as the relationship between a father and a daughter? Reading the "monster" as a daughter does emphasize the sexual suggestiveness of several scenes in Frankenstein, such as the animation scene and the closing scene of the novel, in which the creature hangs, loverlike, over Frankenstein's coffin. Shelley may have made her "monster" male to cloak, or deflect, some of the sexual suggestiveness of a tale in which a father figure rejects his creature because of his incestuous guilty. Other authors who read the creature as female in some sense, or as a daughter, are Gilbert and Gubar, in Madwoman in the Attic; U. C. Knoepflmacher, in "Thoughts on the Aggression of Daughters"; Gordon Hirsch, in "The Monster Was a Lady"; Marc Rubenstein, in "My Accursed Origin"; James P. Carson, in "Bringing the Author Forward: Frankenstein Through Mary Shelley's Letters," Criticism 30, no. 4 (Fall 1988): 431-53; and Douglas Bond, in "The Bride of Frankenstein," Psychiatric Annals (December 1973): 10-22.

25. William Godwin, Caleb Williams, edited and with an introduction by David McCracken (London: Oxford University Press, 1970), 103--5. Subsequent references to Caleb Williams will be taken from this edition, and indicated parenthetically.

26. Shelley borrows from Godwin for other elements of Justine's situation, too. In the stories of both Hawkins and Justine, a crucial element in the jury's vote to convict is the apparent ingratitude of the accused toward a benefactor. In Hawkin's case, "the compassion of the public was in great measure shut against him, as they thought it a piece of barbarous and unpardonable selfishness, that he . . . [suffered] . . . Mrs. Falkland . . . who had been so desirous of doing him good, to be exposed to the risk of being tried for a murder that [Hawkins] had committed" (Caleb Williams, 104). In this context, Hawkins's apparent ingratitude to Falkland sets the jury against him, and seals Hawkins's fate. Similarly, in Justine's case, Elizabeth's impassioned defense of Justine only makes the jury marvel at Justine's ingratitude toward the Frankenstein family, and thus seals her conviction: "A murmur of approbation was heard; but it was excited by [Elizabeth's] generous interference, and not in favour of poor Justine, on whom the public indignation was turned with renewed violence, charging her with the blackest ingratitude" (Frankenstein, 80).

And other, more minor contours of Victor Frankenstein's situation are also borrowed from Caleb Williams. Both Falkland and Frankenstein are doomed by a fatal flaw in their educations: Falkland's fondness for Italian romances leads him to murder Tyrrel (Caleb Williams, 97); Frankenstein's affection for the occult sciences provides an early impetus for his scientific experiments. And both Falkland and Frankenstein listen passively as an innocent character is unjustly condemned for murder -- murders for which Falkland and Frankenstein are actually responsible. Falkland and Frankenstein are then both haunted by the guilt of allowing an innocent to be executed in their place.

27. See especially A.D. Harvey, "Frankenstein and Caleb Williams," 24-25, and Locke, Fantasy of Reason, 279-80. For other discussions of similarities between Caleb Williams and Frankenstein, see Sylvia Bowerbank, "The Social Order vs. the Wretch: Mary Shelley's Contradictory-Mindedness in Frankenstein," English Literary History 46 (1979): 418-31; Clifford, "Caleb Williams and Frankenstein," 601-17; Pollin, "Philosophical and Literary Sources of Frankenstein," 99; Small, Mary Shelley Frankenstein, 76-99; Powers, The Influence of William Godwin on the Novels of Mary Shelley.

28. Gilbert and Gubar, Madwoman in the Attic, 240.

29. Herman, Father-Daughter Incest, 117; Boose, "The Father's House," 35.

30. Boose, "The Father's House," 35-36.

31. See especially Poovey, The Proper Lady, 137-42 and Rubenstein, "My Accursed Origin," 178-85. Poovey and Rubenstein both argue, essentially, that when Shelley places the origins of Frankenstein in a "waking dream," she expresses a deep need to "hide her own originality within someone else's imagination" ("My Accursed Origin," 182) -- specifically, a male imagination. They further suggest that Shelley accepts the notion of the female as being passively creative, and therefore strives to disclaim any role for her own imagination in the creative act that spawned the novel. Bewell, on the other hand, reads the 1831 introduction, with its discussion of Shelley's "waking dream," as Shelley's ambiguous assertion of her own imaginative authority ("Issue of Monstrous Desire," 124).

32. A great many commentators discuss the various ways in which Frankenstein and his creature are "doubles," often basing the discussion on psychoanalytic patterns of "projection" and "otherness." Some examples are Kaplan and Koss, "Fantasy of Paternity," 131-45; Thornburg, The Monster in the Mirror, 79-92; Ketterer, Frankenstein's Creation, 56-65; Jackson, "Narcissism and Beyond," 43-51; Hirsch, "The Monster Was a Lady," 130-39; Joseph, "Frankenstein's Dream," 100-12; and Sherwin, "Creation as Catastrophe," 886-87.

33. Knoepflmacher, "Thoughts on the Aggression of Daughters," 100-103.

34. As we have seen, Knoepflmacher argues that when the creature murders William, he gains revenge against a father (since he mistakes William for Victor Frankenstein's son) and commits fratricide (since William is named after Shelley's half-brother, William Godwin, Jr., for whom she felt hostility and by whom she felt displaced). For additional discussion of the name "Williams," see Knoepflmacher, "Thoughts on the Aggression of Daughters," 93.

35. The 1818 edition implies this difference in age; the 1831 edition makes it specific: "There was considerable difference between the ages of my parents, but this circumstance seemed to unite them only closer in bonds of devoted affection" (1831 text, 233).

36. Shelley stresses and elaborates upon this tendency, too, in her 1831 revisions: "He strove to shelter her, as a fair exotic is sheltered by the gardener, from every rougher wind, and to surround her with all that could tend to excite pleasurable emotion in her soft and benevolent mind" (1831 text, 233-34).

37. See, for example, Gerhard Joseph, "Frankenstein's Dream," 109.

38. As Rieger notes, the 1818 edition gives the honeymoon destination as Cologny, Byron's residence in 1816 (xxiii), near where Shelley had the nightmarish dream that resulted in Frankenstein. Her use of Cologny as the honeymoon destination links Frankenstein's union with Elizabeth and the generation of the "monster" in yet one more way. In the 1831 edition, Shelley changed the honeymoon destination to a villa on the shores of Lake Como.

39. See especially Poovey, The Proper Lady, 134, and Mellor, Mary Shelley, 175-76.

40. But see Kate Ellis's "Subversive Surfaces" for a very different opinion. Ellis views the sentimentality of Shelley's later work as a deliberate artistic strategy.

41. These are the page numbers of the 1818 and 1831 variants on Elizabeth, all collected in the Rieger edition: pp. 29-32 (1818), variant pp. 233-37; pp. 33-34 (1818), variant p. 238; p. 37 (1818), variant p. 239; pp. 38-39 (1818), variant p. 240; pp. 58-62 (1818), variant pp. 242-43; p. 75 (1818), variant p. 245; pp. 82-83 (1818), variant p. 246; p. 88 (1818), variant p. 247; p. 89 (1818), variant pp. 247-48.

42. I cannot agree with Veeder's contention that the most important death in the novel is that of Alphonse Frankenstein. The idea of "father" is certainly central to the relationship between Frankenstein and his creature, but in a very different sense from Veeder's discussion. Veeder's analysis is based on Freud's concept of the "negative Oedipus" -- a concept that is not particularly useful for discussing women's developmental psychology, the relations between a father and his daughter, or the ways in which a woman portrays parent/child relationships in a novel such as Frankenstein. Veeder is, I think, too intent upon reading Mary Shelley through the lens of Percy Shelley and his influence. See Veeder, "The Negative Oedipus," 386-86.

43. For other discussions of this point, see Rosemary Jackson, "Narcissism and Beyond," 49; James Twitchell, "Frankenstein and the Anatomy of Horror," 52-54; and Gerhard Joseph, "Frankenstein's Dream," 109.

44. Gilbert and Gubar, Madwoman in the Attic, 243.

45. Herman, Father-Daughter Incest, 45, 77.

46. Rubenstein provides an excellent discussion of the centrality of the mother figure to Frankenstein, and of the emotions of desire and dread she inspires in both Victor Frankenstein and his creature.

47. Gary Kelly, in his introduction to The Wrongs of Woman, notes that Wollstonecraft was also inspired by the way in which Godwin used the fictional elements of Caleb Williams to illustrate the political ideas he enunciated in Political Justice. As Kelly puts it: "Godwin's Things As They Are; or, the Adventure of Caleb Williams has presented a fictive version of his Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, and now The Wrongs of Woman; or, Maria was to fictionalize the arguments of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman" (Gary Kelly, introduction to Mary, A Fiction and The Wrongs of Woman, by Mary Wollstonecraft [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1976], xvi). All subsequent references to The Wrongs of Woman will be taken from this edition, and indicated parenthetically.

48. Janet Todd provides an excellent reading of Frankenstein and its relation to The Wrongs of Woman. Specifically, Todd argues that the creature's fate in Frankenstein, like that of Jemima in Wrongs of Woman, is the fate of the fallen woman who is excluded from both family and the dominant male society because of the ghastly aspects of her physicality.

49. There are also other suggestive parallels between Maria and Frankenstein's monster. Like the creature, Maria sees herself as a "wretch," and reads Milton's Paradise Lost to distract herself from the sorrows of her imprisonment (Wrongs, 85). Maria also comments on the ways in which society makes monsters of the female sex: "By allowing women but one way of rising in the world, the fostering the libertinism of men, society makes monsters of them, and then their ignoble vices are brought forward as a proof of inferiority of intellect" (137).

50. Wollstonecraft died before she finished writing The Wrongs of Woman, but left notes for several different endings. In one of them, Maria's daughter is found alive and reunited with Maria at the story's end. See Wrongs, 201-4.

51. William Godwin edited and published The Wrongs of Woman shortly after Wollstonecraft's death. He notes in his appendix to Wrongs that Wollstonecraft intended her novel to be composed of three parts, and that chapters 1 through 14 constituted the first of those three parts (Wrongs, 186).

52. Rubenstein also argues that the story of Safie's dead mother lies at the emotional center of Frankenstein, though he reads Safie's mother as a cartoon for Mary Wollstonecraft herself ("My Accursed Origin," 169-70; 189-90).

53. Mary Shelley, Mathilda, in The Mary Shelley Reader, ed. Betty T. Bennett and Charles E. Robinson (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990), 71-72. All subsequent references to Mathilda will be taken from this edition, with page numbers cited parenthetically.

54. See Bette London's "Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, and the Spectacle of Masculinity," Publications of the Modern Language Association 108, no. 2 (March 1993): 255 for a very different reading of the iconography of Frankenstein's death scene.