Mary Shelley Wiki



The Swiss Peasant opens with the beginning of a frame narrative. The narrator, alone in Switzerland by the waters of Uri, talks about their solitude and describes their surrounding scenery in great detail. The narrator says that the only book they posess is "Prisoner of Chillon". The narrator praises this book and says they have read it three times in an hour. The point of this, so it seems, is to use that book to present the frame narrative: "Its noble author composed it to beguile weary hours like these when he remained rain-bound for three days in a little inn on the shores of Lake Geneva; and cannot I, following with unequal steps, so cheat the minutes in this dim spot?"


The actual story opens with the previous narrator and his friend, Ashburn (a painter), traveling through a ravine admiring nature.The two travelers go to meet a peasantess the see climbing down the hill to bathe her child. They had previously made a bet that she had had no normal life and they were meeting her in order to solve that bet and possibly one of them would win a Louis from the other. After introducing themselves to Fanny Chaumont, a violent storm begins to roll in and Fanny invites them back to her cottage. At the cottage, they meet Fanny's husband and they admire his adventurous appearance even though he is much older than Fanny. At this point, it is already told that the narrator lost his Louis meaning that the peasentess has actually had an interesting life; It becomes a frame narrative within a frame narrative.

The second-level frame narrative opens by describing Fanny's uncanny beauty. Her beauty eventually catches the eye of the governer's wife and became a common visitor at their house; Fanny was the favorite playmate of their son. In one stormy night plagued with avalanches and snow storms, Fanny was forced to stay at the Governers house and avoids the death her entire family had at the hands of the storm, and from there, she began to stay with the Governer's family full-time.Fanny became part of the family so to speak. She was educated but still, everyone realized she could not be risen from her natural social status. The only son, Henry, began to fall for Fanny making the mother very nervous though Fanny was unaware. To the mother's relief she found out Fanny was starting to have feelings for Louis Chaumont, Fanny's current husband. At length, Fanny and Louis were married, much to the aggravation of Henry. Henry would complain to his father about Louis' "assumptions". Though the mother figure, Madame, encouraged the match between Louis and Fanny, she wished that Fanny stay at her house until Henry returned and this infuriated Louis as he saw the Governer and his wife to be his oppressors. Louis had decided to renounce his love for her; Fanny did not hear from him for months.

Riots were spreading through the country following suit with the French Revolution. The peasants revolted against the Governer. The revolutionists called for everyone in the Governers house leave and have their life spared as they burn it to the ground; all except the governer himself, he must give himself over to the leader of the group. The Governer had resolved to escape into the mountains alone and leave his family to catch up with him later. After the Governer had left, the Madame and Fanny were left to leave. When they had decided to leave, the Madame had passed out, Fanny yelled for help and Henry showed up determined to fight the mob outside. Fanny calmed him down and convinced him to stay with his mother. The peasant revolutionists had resolved to sacrifice Henry to justice, so he had to hide to escape. As they were escaping they ran into Louis Cheaumont. He said he would protect them until they had escaped although that ideal did not apply to Fanny who had told him "Be gone!".

Their carriage got stuck in a rut on the way out and a peasant, who owed Fanny a fovor, offered to give them his cart. The Madame instantly refused in a derogatory way, inciting the mob. The mob attacks the two royalty and Louis intercedes to save Fanny. Louis stops the crowd and decides to let the mother go, but Henry must stay and face his consequences. Fanny intercedes by dishonestly saying that Henry is her husband hoping to save his life. It works and Louis decides to let them go free.Lousi personally leads them from the village.

They rode along in silence until they dropped of Louis. He says good bye and takes off. They eventually make it to the mountain refuge the Governer had retreated to. They stayed there 3 weeks until news of the revolution ending had reached them. Fanny soon finds out that Louis had quit the campaign and no one saw him after their escape. Over time Fanny became obsessed with were Louis had gone, Henry got married to another and the Madame died. Fanny moved to Subiaco to be with a relation.

War had broken out again and ended after leaving many soldiers searching for home. A soldier happened upon the cottage that Fanny lived in and had no where else to go. Fanny finds out it is Louis. Louis had been through a lot of hardships, including those that involved raiding the Governers castle. He realized his mistake though he had had good intentions: trying to get Fanny back.


The Family space: Louis makes a classic flaw and does not realize the domestic space he could have been happy with had he waited. He also comes to find later that Fanny, his wife, would be a central figure in how his life turned out regardless of how he treated the situation. This idea empowers the woman in the domestic setting as do many of Mary Shelley's works.

The French Revolution/Class Jumping: [[The pure hatred for the upper class is diligently presented in this story. Class jumping, as proved by Shelley once again, is impossible for any person in the time period. Also, the French Revolution is displayed in brutal color in this story. ]] The realness of the situation (how it affected families and relations) shines through as a central theme. The idea that most of the interconflict came from Henry falling for Fanny displays the frailty and flaws of the class system. If the classes were not so strongly enforced, most, if not all, conflict would be avoided.