The Absent Mother in Shelley’s Frankenstein

Motherlessness is at the heart of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. It drives the character’s motivations and shapes the entire plot, as well as throwing into consideration the position of women in an alternate universe where they are no longer needed.

The removal of the woman’s role when creating life is a controversial subject even to a modern reader. The comparison of the Creature’s awakening to childbirth are frequent and occur throughout. Victor’s creation of the Creature itself is described as “days and nights of incredible labour and fatigue”, and again referred to as “painful labour”; far too obvious to be coincidental. In fact, in Chapter 4 alone, the word “labour” appears six times, as a precursor to the Creature’s birth in the following chapter. Considering that Victor is the sole parent of the Creature and the one to undergo “labour” dismantles the idea of the nuclear family and subverts any traditional familial expectations, particularly in the 19th Century, of what a family should consist of.

The significance of this is that through creating life without the inclusion of a woman, the primary function and biological need for a female is dismissed. The non-sexual method of reproduction that is described in Frankenstein illustrates the problematic nature of removing females from the equation. It demonstrates a dark dystopian universe in which mothers are no longer relevant, and females no longer possess their source of natural and cultural power. Women are therefore reduced to subordinate members of society in comparison to the males in the world of Frankenstein. Unlike the professional, well-travelled men in the story, women rarely exist outside of their domestic spheres and are barely relevant in the over-arching plot. They are dismissed in a society where men have full power and control, and can even reproduce on their own.

The context of this novel, too, makes these points all the more poignant. Mary Shelley’s own mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, died shortly after giving birth to her. This offers an explanation for the many allusions to absent mothers in Frankenstein, and a reason as to why the novel is so heavily focussed on the female’s role in birth and in their child’s life thereafter. Additionally, Mary Shelley herself experienced a great deal of loss in the lead-up to her creation of Frankenstein. Before the end of 1816, she had already given birth to, and lost, three children. One of these children was, rather hauntingly, called William: the name of the Creature’s first victim.

This supports the common idea that the lack of a female mother figure in Frankenstein is essentially the cause of all of the tragedy in the novel. Victor’s rejection of maternity is what creates this monstrous Creature and catalyses the death and destruction that follows. Frankenstein can be considered an exploration of birth and death, as well as highlighting the importance of the female role in society, and the impact that the lack of females, mothers in particular, would have.

 

The Cold War in The War of the Worlds

J J Hallam

Although written before the Cold War, HG Well’s The War of the Worlds is almost clairvoyant in the way it echoes the foundations of the tense conflict that took the earth to the brink of nuclear annihilation. The Cold War brought with it the same suspense that the Brits endured in War of the Worlds, only the world was threatened to be destroyed at the hands of men wielding nuclear power as oppose to a Martian invasion. One of the most interesting comparisons between the factual and fictional conflicts is the importance of information, and misinformation.

Partly what made the Cold War such a terrifying experience for the majority of civilians, was the harrowing silence. On both sides, the USA and the USSR, a silence descended as the iron curtain was drawn closed. In retaliation to this silence, both sides prepared for the worst. War. In The War of…

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Rome: 2 Days in the Eternal City

   I’m taking a quick break from literature-based blog posts to write about the reason for my WordPress absence; my trip to Rome! For my boyfriend’s 21st birthday I decided to treat us to a few days away in Rome; one of the most romantic and beautiful places I have ever seen. I’m going to include our highlights of Rome and hopefully our experiences will give anyone hoping to visit this incredible city some tips! (This will also probably end up being super long and rambling but I want to keep it as a sort-of diary so that I can look back and remember all of the things I loved about Rome… apologies in advance!)   

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To squeeze the most out of our trip, we hopped straight off the plane, onto our transfer, and hunted down the Colosseum; number one on our list of attractions to visit in the city. I could hardly believe how absolutely gigantic it was: pictures do it no justice. The architecture was gorgeous and it you could feel the historical significance of the ruins as you walked around them. We went mid-week and bought our tickets online so it wasn’t too busy, but we decided to find a tour guide on our arrival- and whilst I’m sure some tour guides are very good, ours was super disorganized and rambled on about irrelevant things like how much he hated the Gladiator movie… Us, as well as most of the tour group, ended up sloping off to explore without him. If we were to visit again I think we would just wander around and read the informative signs on our own terms. 

   We had a quick explore of the Forum as it was included in our tickets, but decided half-way through to exit the site and grab some lunch as we were feeling peckish after our journey. Big mistake. A miscommunication on our E-Tickets suggested that we could re-enter the sites if we left, however this was not the case (!!!). Unfortunately this meant that we weren’t able to see the rest of the Forum or any of Palatine Hill, an absolute bummer but at least we got to eat some great Italian pasta. 

   On our way back to our hotel we decided to find the Trevi Fountain; it was an excruciatingly hot day and with all our bags still with us we were exhausted. However, I cannot stress enough how much the Trevi Fountain lifted my spirits: it is AMAZING! The sculptures are absolutely beautiful and the water was crystal clear; it is immensely busy but we were still able to find a seat next to the fountain to rest and toss a coin in to make a wish. We then headed back to our hotel, the wonderful Hotel Aurelius, to grab some dinner and rest up for the next day. 

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Bioparco de Roma

   We woke up bright and early and took the Metro to the Borghese Gardens- a sprawling public park in Northern Rome that makes you forget you’re even in the city at all! Walking to the farthest point of these gardens, we reached “Bioparco de Roma”. At only 16 Euros per person, this is a fantastic zoo. It was huge and we easily spent a few hours there, and we were delighted to find many of our favourite animals- brown bears, seals, hippos, and my personal favourite… Guinea pigs! Hundreds of them! 

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Pietro’s Psyche

    After a poddle around the zoo, we visited the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, right next door and also found in the Borghese Gardens. The collection of artworks here is incredibly varied, and includes masterpieces by some of the most famous artists such as Klimt and Monet. The collection, unusually, was not displayed in chronological order. Following with their subtitle of “Time is Out of Joint”, the artworks were instead grouped by theme, regardless of their time period. This gave the gallery a unique feel and the way in which the artworks clashed and complimented one another but ultimately had the same purpose was really interesting and revealed new dimension to some pieces that may have been overlooked otherwise. We chose to visit this gallery over the Vatican Museums as it offered us an alternative to religious art, and we were not disappointed! 

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    On oufinal day, we decided to visit the Pantheon. We arrived extremely early before the masses of tourists swarmed it and were left in complete awe. Once you walk into the building, you immediately feel the spiritual significance and all of the sculptures and lavish architecture give the site an atmosphere of considerable weight. It is truly jaw-dropping. Before travelling back to the Hotel to catch our hotel we had one last look at the Trevi Fountain and stopped for some delicious Ferrero Rocher, Nutella, and Tiramisu gelato… A perfect end to a perfect few days! 

    Side note for anyone interested…

   Our hotel can be found at http://aureliusartgalleryhotel.com/ and it is perfect!! Just outside of central Rome it is quiet, friendly and the restaurants nearby are inexpensive, authentically Italian and frequented by locals, a sign of how good they were! 

   Side side note… 

I need to get a better camera. 

 

Elinor Glyn: Defining the “it” girl

Elinor Glyn exploded onto the scene in the early 20th century following the 1907 release of her controversial novel Three Weeks. She became Hollywood royalty, coining the term “it”, the definition of which is still used to describe women today, but what exactly is “it”?

“It” is a quality that can be described as an innate sex appeal, something that draws people’s attention without even trying. In an interview in 1930, Elinor Glyn herself states that “it” comes from being “perfectly self confident”. She likens this quality to a “tiger in a zoo”, and the way in which it is “utterly indifferent”. In addition to this, Lindsey baker has written a thoroughly interesting  article  for The Guardian on what it means to be an “it” girl. In this, she details a timeline of the “it” girl and quotes the most concrete definition that Glyn has given to this term:

“To have ‘It’, the fortunate possessor must have that strange magnetism which attracts both sexes.   ‘It’ is a purely virile quality, belonging to a strong character”

The qualities of “it” certainly applies to the mysterious woman in Three Weeks, known simply as “The Lady”. The lack of a name allows her character to be a sort-of blank canvas, perhaps creating an archetype for the original “it” girl. Indeed, the Lady appears to possess the “strange magnetism” that Glyn describes. Even from Paul’s first sighting of her, she entices him in a way that he cannot resist; a feeling that he describes as an “absorbing interest thrilling his whole being” (p. 19).

Elinor Glyn’s comparison between “it” and the image of tigers also holds great significance in Three Weeks. The Lady is commonly associated with the motif of the tiger skin, first mentioned when Paul enters her room and notices a couch “covered with a tiger-skin” (p.37). This image of the tiger is mentioned throughout the novel no less than 33 times (a fact that I discovered through use of the Voyant tool). The last mention of the tiger is in the penultimate chapter of the novel, when Paul thinks of how The Lady “had loved tigers, and been in sympathy with them always” (p.263), cementing her connection to these animals as well as her status as the embodiment of “it”.

Glyn, too, seemed to enjoy being associated with the image of a tiger. She would often be pictured posing alongside tiger skins- an image that quickly became her trademark. Her highly-refined public persona was so iconic that it prompted a short poem satirising Three Weeks; including the linesWould you like to sin/With Elinor Glyn/ On a tiger skin?”. This poem addresses her image as a tiger-adorned “it” girl as well as the controversy stemming from the “sin” in Three Weeks.

Striving to define “it” as well as embodying the qualities she herself described, Elinor Glyn has managed to cement herself as part of Hollywood history. The term she has coined has endured through decades, and The Lady in Three Weeks remains an interesting case study as to what it takes to have “it”.

 

And for those that are interested… Further Reading:

Anonymous, “Would you like to sin with Elinor Glyn?”, Forgotten Patriot , at

https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Elinor_Glyn

Baker, Lindsay, “Got It?” , The Guardian, at https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2001/apr/21/weekend.lindsaybaker1

Glyn, Elinor, for British Movietone, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gAoFIYulf90&feature=youtu.be