Justine in prison

A woodcut illustration of Justine Moritz in prison. Image source:

Over the many years, Mary Shelley has been picked apart and her works dissected in every way possible. 

One of the most common views of her work is through the lens of politics.  There are many reasons to this, one being the reality that her parents were Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin, who were two of the most outspoken British political writers of their day. Mary Shelley came from a long line of heavy opinions and passions and so naturally, Shelley’s own writing would reflect that of her childhood. The main focus is on feminism, but her thoughts on education, just as her mother's, were heavily laced throughout her writing as well. 

Randel poses the belief that writers of the Romantic period, or of the Gothic novel, often used political geography in their writings to make social statements.  He discusses his view on how the horrors in Frankenstein, specifically the murders and where they take place, are Shelley’s attempt at making a statement to her government and about social constructs.  He talks about a study done by Robert Mighall about that particular theory and how he does not mention Frankenstein, so in this paper, Randel makes his arguments of why Frankenstein should be on the list of the Gothic fiction used to challenge politics by the geography used in the writing.

One of his main arguments is that the politics centers around the events and timeline of the French Revolution.  He explains the significance of all the majority of major events in the book, including the place of creation, and every single death that follows.  He unpacks the death of William and Justine in Geneva, Elizabeth at Evian, and talks about Henry Clerval’s believed death in Ireland and why that is important.  With each death or major event, he interweaves where Shelley was at the time with her husband, both in their travels or lives and also mentally with areas of politics and what they were writing about or reading at that time.   

Works Cited

Randel, Fred V. " The Political Geography of Horror in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein." ELH 70.2 (2003): 465-491. Web.