Consider Mary (Godwin) Shelley

Even that beautiful, barefoot adolescent---
Mary Godwin (later Shelley)---
sometimes felt awkward, clumsy, unattractive;

even unwanted (thanks to Pappy Bill
who blamed her for the death of her mother,
who died of sepsis after giving Mary birth).
But she did not disclose her victimology:

instead, she turned it into Frankenstein

(and, some years later, The Last Man)

calling forth characters to express her sadness.
Imagine her:  nineteen years old, at her desk,

clad in a silk chemise, curled up in the chair,
one hand guiding her pen over the manuscript;

the fingers of the other hand teasing her toes,
as she felt the thrill of her dynamic words---
"I am fearless. and therefore powerful"---
To have the last word, she dedicated

the ghastly shocks (for that era of time) of
that first, and highly successful, effort

to Pappy Bill (and that still stands today).
Her volcabulary created the Monster,
but did not disclose her private disappointments.

.

 

Starward

Author's Notes/Comments: 

I gratefully acknowledge the highly informative article, and the interpretation of Frankenstein contained within it, by Samuel Rosenberg, published in Life Magazine in 1968, under the title, "Happy Sesquicentenial, Dear Monster."  Ths article, which I re-read until the pages fell apart (and I subsequently taped them back together), introduced me to Mary Shelley, who became my first inspiration to be a writer (although I later abandoned my poorly juvenile efforts at science fiction for poetry, seven years later).  I knew of her existence from the first three Universal films (1931, 1935, 1939), although I sneer at Universal's prejudicial attempt to conceal her identity in the first (1931) film's acknowledgement, "From an idea by Mrs. P.B. Shelley."  In 1975, I read---even studied---her letters and journal:  the reader can hear the frustration in a long sequence of entries, in the journal, that bear just one sentence---"Correct Frankenstein" as she prepared her final draft for the publisher.  The manuscript, now in the British Museum, shows that she omitted all punctuation except dashes, and she misspelled a lot of words in the first heat of telling the story.  At college, I was told about an incident in which the United States minister to the court of Saint James, the writer Washington Irving, wept openly before other patrons of a London restaurant, where he and Mary had been dining, because she had (in her gentle and charming way; she is said to have been very softspoken) declined his proposal of marriage.  In 1831, she attended a theatrical performance of a stage version of Frankenstein written by some dramatist.  The actor who performed the Monster wore a very ghastly and shocking make-up, and frightened the majority of the audience when he first appeared on stage.  Mary asked the theater manager if she might go backstage to meet that actor (after all, the Monster is her spokesperson in the novel).  Having returned to normal appearance, he met her; and though he was well over six foot tall, and she was less than five foot tall with her shoes off, he began to tremble and stumble over his words after she was introduxed to him.  He told her that although he had enjoyed frightening the audience, he himself was terribly frightened to meet her---because she had created the character he had performed on the stage.

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patriciajj's picture

It was a fascinating

It was a fascinating experience, getting to know the woman behind the immortal work. It's amazing how she took her inner pain, and instead of lashing out at the world, unleashed all that energy into the form of a trailblazing, iconic novel. That it stood the test of time, inspiring fantasy thrillers and even creating moral dialogues to this day, is a testament to her genius. 

 

The stark contrast between Shelley's thundering declaration of empowerment (even more meaningful given the oppressive state for women at that time) and one who has a victim mentality is stunning. I loved the scene where Shelley is at her desk, creating personal triumph as well as a masterpiece, while at the same time maintaining an approachable, charming and slightly sensual humanity.  

 

The poem, and the notes following, were completely captivating. Loved it. 

 
Starward's picture

Thank you.  I owe her so

Thank you.  I owe her so much; and this poem is only a small tip of the iceberg, so to speak, of the gratitude I owe to her.  The record of her lonely and frustrated childhood helped me get through mine; her disregard of her father's deep disappointment in her early years helped me keep a decent perspective about my own parents' disappointment in me. Her written work has touched me at many of the same levels as yours does.  Thank you so much for the comment. 


Starward