Contents Index

My imagination, unbidden, possessed and guided me

With an uncanny artistry that must be considered deliberate, in this and the next paragraph Mary Shelley internalizes within her own writing the imaginative process by which Victor Frankenstein is first swept along by his scientific advances ("my imagination was too much exalted," 1.3.5 and note), then becomes concerned by their obsessiveness ("[it] had taken an irresistible hold of my imagination," 1.3.7 and note), and finally finds himself haunted by his own terrifying creation ("I imagined that the monster seized me," 1.4.7). Throughout the novel, although the power of the human imagination is universally underscored, its uses or effects are as much deeply questioned as they are celebrated.

In her introduction Mary Shelley appears to be purposefully collapsing the customary distinction between the curiosity of the scientist and the creative afflatus of the writer, a design we see carried out as well in the novel itself. Following these introductory materials, we will turn immediately, as yet a third example of the same elemental process, to the imaginative enthusiasm with which Robert Walton foresees his polar explorations (Letter 1.2).