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Childhood and Parenthood in the Novel

A main theme in Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein is that of birth, childhood and parenthood, this is explored through Shelly’s choice of frame narrative and structure for the novel. She uses a circular story in which Robert Walton, an arctic explorer, rescues Victor Frankenstein off the ice whilst he is in pursuit of the monster. This takes place at the beginning of the novel but at the end of the story, which Frankenstein tells to Walton who writes it in letters to his sister.

Shelly uses the letters to make the story seem believable (verisimilitude).

Although Shelly uses verisimilitude, and makes an effort to make the story seem real, it is not especially realistic as Frankenstein would not really be able to remember the monster’s exact words when telling them to Walton, but she chooses this option so the reader can hear both Frankenstein and his creature’s story in their own words and can therefore sympathise with both the ‘parent’ and ‘child’.

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I agree with Mary Shelly’s sacrifice of believability, as the reader’s sympathy is very important to the story.

In the first chapters of the story, Frankenstein shares his childhood experiences with Walton and how his parents were devoted to him loved him unconditionally, to whom he claims he owes his good nature. A good example of this is: “With this deep consciousness of what they owed towards the being to which they had given life… it may be imagined that while during every hour of my infant life I received a lesson of patience, of charity and of self-control.

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” This is effective in contrast to the way the creature is brought into the world and how its ‘parent’, Frankenstein, treats it.

The monsters first experiences are of cruelty and abandonment as his creator rejects him as do everyone else he comes across. The lessons of “patience, of charity and of self-control” Frankenstein has been taught by his parents were not passed on to the monster; therefore it injures and kills. In the novel, Shelly portrays parental love as not always unconditional. When Elizabeth is brought into the Frankenstein family, she is at first treated with love and compassion, not for her personality, but her natural good looks. “She appeared of a different stock…

Her brow was clear and ample, her blue eyes cloudless, and her lips and the moulding of her face so expressive of sensibility and sweetness. ” Elizabeth stands out and draws people’s attention with her good looks and is treated with higher respect and affection, because of this, she then learns to treat others with the same respect, as she grows older. This is not unconditional love. Frankenstein is not loved unconditionally either, but instead of being loved for good looks, he is hated as a result of bad looks and as the creature grows older, he learns to treat people with the same hate.

So it is logical to believe that if treated with respect and affection as Elizabeth was, the monster would have treated people better and would not have murdered innocent people in revenge. However, it is also perceivable that even if the monster was treated well and not rejected due to his appearance, he would have still committed these horrible crimes. The same principle also applies with Elizabeth. It could be interpreted by the reader that had Elizabeth not been treated well because of her beauty, she still would have treated others with respect.

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Childhood and Parenthood in the Novel. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

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