After reading the novel: “The Strange True Tale of Frankenstein’s Creator Mary Shelley” by Catherine Reef, I was left very intrigued on getting to know more about this influential women of the 1800’s. The struggle this Woman had to endure and the beautiful storey that was her life inspires me. She never knew true fortune until she was in her old age. Even then her real prize for all her lifetime of devotion to her husband was that she got to live out the rest of her days in the room that was once Shelley’s. You see after Sir Timothy died and the fortune was left to his grandson. Percy had his mother move in and her last years were spent surrounded by the memory of her love.
Besides being the obvious there were many admirable qualities that were instilled apon Mary Shelley. To be a woman having to struggle through much of life it’s no wonder she was so vividly able to portray horror in her writings. Even since birth, her beautiful beginning was her mom’s tragic ending. Her mother passed away 11 days after child birth leaving a permanent hole in Mary’s heart.
Mary Wollstonecraft (her mother) was one of the earliest feminists that cried out for a change in the way women were treated. Specifically better education, more freedom away from men and to be granted more rights. Her mother was very admired amongst all classes of women. The women admired her for her ability to provide for herself and thought it was a much more respectable trait than mere beauty alone. Both women were incredibly intelligent and were very powerful writers for their time.
“At fourteen and fifteen we only feel that we are emerging from childhood. Adolescence was a dreamy delicious period, when all is unkown: and yet we feel that all is soon to be unveiled.” The Strange True Tale of Frankenstein’s Creat Mary Shelley, Catherine Reef. I love when an author is able to invoke imagry to transport us away to a better time. The best part about memories is we only like to remember the good. Being an adolescent was very intoxicating. You were free from the weight of the World and thought you were educated enough to make the best decisions. It is true if you think back to the conversations you had with your parents you always had that thought that when I am a parent I am going to do that better. I won’t do that. Some of us have lashed out at our parents. The sad truth is think back to your know it all youth look down at that child you have now. Don’t you feel a little bit sad for the way you have, had or will be treating your parents. I think back to every curfew I broke, every phone call I forgot to make and I shudder when I remember every “I hate you” I ever muttered. I hate to break it to you but for most of us we know our parents did the absolute best that they could. Kids are adventerous, curious full of spit and vinegar. The scariest thought is that my child will do half of the stuff that I did to my parents. Parenting is hard and we can only do the best that we can so educating, reading, and being open is absolute key. I love that quote from her book. It just makes me think…Yes Mary I have seen what is happening in your 40’s and take it from me it is probably best if you embrace your youth and sports and all those activities you love. Boys grow up alot slower these days. Mr Right is out there. Don’t settle for beer. Wait for him to age to fine Single Malt Scotch.
Like any herione in a romance novel she was courted by Percy Bysshe Shelley. He wrote such exquisite words about Mary:
…all being become bright or dim
As the Moon’s image in a summer sea,
According as she smiled or frowned on me….
It’s interesting to compare that in this era the love storey of Percy and Mary mirrors those that were to come. Percy was married before meeting Mary. Just like in most love storeys it starts with an undeniable wave of chemistry that can’t be denied. They carry on an affair as to not disturb their family dynamics as much as possible. Harriet had just given birth to a son. Just writing this I started to cringe. I read the book I know the storey. Mary and Shelley skip out of town and travel most of Europe. They are love and adored by all of their friends except for the ones that may have been foolish enough to lend Percy money. See to me their lifestyle looks all romantic and blissful but when you consider just like in art their fame was not what it is now so they did live in poverty. I am just going to chalk it up to how sweet and romantic it is to have such a suitor that is so well educated and versed to say sweet nothings. I am just going to ignore that she is kindof a homewrecked but when you consider that Shelley died at 29 at least he had the courage to make the change in his life that he needed to make. He always compared Mary to the moon because having her around lite up her life. The sweet irony is as he perished at sea many years later the Moon would have been watching the boat sink at sea.
“Like Prometheus, Frankenstein produces a thinking, feeling being. he expects to be proud of what he achieves. When his work is done, though, he could only look with shock and horror” (Catherine Reef). The reflection of Frankenstein is the exact expectation of what one can expect when looking at themselves in the mirror. The shocked horror of what we can become when we don’t nurture our soul. The beast that awakens inside of us when we choose to live a life full of numb altering states void of all emotion towards ourselves and each other. The results that come forth are one of mania when we don’t recognize what we see in the mirror. You can never truly like the person on the other side until you start reconnecting with your being that is on the inside. I feel that Mary’s novel was more than just the horror of dead flesh brought to life. I feel Frankenstein is the symbol for what happens to us when modernization takes over and we stop reconnecting with our soul.
“Why am I doomed to live on seeing all expire before me?” words spoken apon hearing the passing of her dear friend Lord Byron at 36. He died of Malaria. He was a close friend of her and her late husband. They spent many a happy day at Lake Geneva. To say she adored him would never do the relationship justice. She mourned her dear friend, a truly gifted poet and the true shining star that he was. “It seemed that Byron’s death had left the earth darker than midnight.” That feeling of despair when you bare witness to those that you love perish before you. In one sense you are thankful that you are able to carry that weight but the amount of guilt that overtakes you when you can’t reduce the pain of those you love is one that is very hard to withstand. Grief is something that at one point or another we will all have to experience. No grief will ever be the same even for the same person. Every emotion that we have ever experienced entertwines in some magical way with those before us. One can never get used to the pain of losing a loved one. You may develop different coping mechanisms and strategies to turn to in the event of a tragedy but the reality is no matter how much you prepare there will always be that one that will bring you to your knees.
“In London, Jane had told Isabel that Mary had been a callous, uloving wife. Jane implied that Percy Bysshe Shelley had been so unhappy with Mary had been a callous, unloving wife and implied he sailed into the storm on purpose.” It seems that this is just a clear example of grief and how it is handled in different ways. You see Jane’s husband was aboard that ship that sailed into the storm that night so maybe she was just lashing out at a dear friend. Either way the poisonous venom made it’s mark on Mary. We have all beeen subject to a treachorous snake. Mary kept her composure and waited several months before telling Jane that she was entirely too devoted to her before. Basically telling her that she knew what was said and she had her eye on her. Knowing the value of time however Mary never wanted to hold a grudge. She did have very fond memories of their friendship and it was those memories of jane that she chose to remember. Focusing her attention to those times allowed her to remain friends with her. I so wish people were more like that these days. It is a scarey time when you have to constantly see what these children do to each other. Children get bullied for alot less than spreading vicious, malicious rumours. They could sure take a page out of Mary’s book to see what loyalty and devotion looks like.
Another reason to read and enjoy Mary’s life is that she was once alive and facing the same struggles that most of us face. She was able to articulate and visualize her pain in a way that provided comfort to some. She was a great role model for women and the value of perservance to live your life with passion and in the way that you saw fit. The fact that she chose to wrap her beloved’s heart in some of his poetry and keep it safe for decades. Showed us that the love that the two shared could be equated to that of Romeo and Juliette both entirely devoted to the other. Where Mary shines is her ability to use her gift of writing to release her soul from that pain in order to entertain and enlighten us in her personal life journey. The more we educate ourselves on the heroes and heroines of their time the more the mystery of life will begin to unravel. Or maybe does it just give one a sense of calm. Knowing that no matter where you are in this moment in time it is comforting to know that some truly great and inspiring people are moving through the same motions. We are not alone like we always want to think. There is a character out there that we can all relate to. Except if we look deeper we can see that they are all real people complete with all real experiences. We can learn about how they were able to pull themselves out of the darkness to realize our true potential. Isn’t that what life is all about? To unleash our true potential and embrace the essence of all that we are. We can do this by exploring the lives that are layed out before us while living amongst the lives that are right in front of us.
I am truly humbled and thankful to have read the journey that is Mary Shelley. I have a deeper understanding of who she is as a person and an appreciation for her struggle. “She sought bliss, and she found it, but she also found heartbreak that no one could have foreseen: suicides, drowings, and children born and lost.”(Catherine Reef). Having so much misfortune in one novel about one’s life would have the reader complaining that the storey is too far fetched. “But real life is more incredible than anything a novelist can invent, even one like Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley” (Catherine Reef).