If you don’t have access to ShowTime and you’ve wondered what Penny Dreadful is all about, let me clue you in. I enjoy the show and recommend it. Ethan Chandler a Wild Bill Cody type is hired by Sir Malcolm Murray and Vanessa Ives to find and rescue his daughter, Mina Hunter, kidnapped by a vampire. Dr. Frankenstein teams up with them as well. And Dorian Gray is added to the mix. In honor of Penney Dreadful and Halloween month, October, my three post this month are on Bram Stoker who gave us Dracula, Mary Shelley, who gave us Frankenstein, and Oscar Wilde who gave us Dorian gray.
Dorian’s turn was two weeks ago so it’s Frankenstein’s turn today. In Penny Dreadful, Victor Frankenstein creates a monster who stalks him and kills people who are important to him, including a newer creation that looks and acts more human then the first one. The monster works in the theater handling all the back stage special effects. He threatens to kill everyone Victor cares about unless he makes him a bride, a companion who can love him. In the book Frankenstein’s monster doesn’t work in or even attend the theater but he he does threaten to kill everyone Frankenstein loves unless he creates a bride for him. He is shunned by all and the loneliness and need for friendship drives him to become the monster everyone believes him to be.
We emotionally connect with the monster as we have all been lonely at times and felt like an outcast. Though we care about the hero of the story, Victor Frankenstein, and his innocent bride and family members, we all are also concerned about the bad guy, the monster. The way he looks is not his fault, he didn’t ask to be born.
Great writing is timeless. Without question, Mary Shelley was a great writer. She tells the story through letters a sea captain/scientist writes to his sister about a man they rescued. Writing in first person through these letters allows the suspense to steadily build into a nail biting intensity as Victor Frankenstein’s remarkable and horrid tale is unveiled. Her writing is also fabulous due to the emotion she embeds in it. Mary Shelley pulled from her own raw pain to write that emotion. The authors of Frankenstein, Dracula, and The Picture of Dorian Gray all drew from their own intense pain to create those master pieces.
Mary transferred the loss and guilt she felt over her mother’s death into Frankenstein. Her mother was famous, Mary Wollestonecraft was the leading feminist of her day, the author of A Vindication of the Rights of Women, published in 1792. She died eleven days after giving birth to Mary due to complications form the birth. Mary Wollestonecraft was a believer in free love and had one daughter, Fanny, born out of wedlock from an affair with an American. She only married for the good of her unborn child, Mary, when she was four months pregnant. Upon her death her two daughters were raised by her new husband, Mary’s father, William Godwin, a famous journalist, philosopher and novelist. Mary gained a step-mother when her father remarried when she was four. The woman had two children from a previous marriage, but she did not treat Mary or Fanny like her own children. She did not even allow Fanny or Mary to go to school although her own children did. It has been said she showed feelings of jealousy toward Mary. Mary was educated at home by a governess and she spent much of her childhood alone, reading at her mother’s grave.
Mary was further outcast when at 16 she fell in love with a married man, the famous poet, Percy Shelley. Mary became pregnant and her father refused to help her. Mary gave birth seven months into her first pregnancy and the premature baby died shortly after. She and Percy faced ostracism and constant debt. Mary and Percy left for Geneva in 1816 to spend the summer with Lord Byron. That is where she wrote Frankenstein. More heart ache came to Mary when she and Percy returned to England and both her haft-sister, Fanny and Percy’s wife, Harriet, committed suicide.
So a baby whose mother dies due to complications from the birth grows into a a lonely, outcast child often reading alone by the grave of a mother she never knew. She then grows into a teenager who has an affair with a married man, looses her first child shortly after giving birth and has to deal with the suicidal deaths of her lover’s wife and her mother’s only other daughter. It’s easy to see the similarities between Mary’s life and the story of Frankenstein.
The guilt, pain, and shock Mary carried contributed to her creation of Frankenstein. It’s the raw pain of the author that makes the story so great and so timeless. This pain, this intense emotion transferred from Mary into the characters of Frankenstein and his monster is what makes the story real to us. The emotion creates an unbreakable connection between us and the characters.
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Maeve Alpin, who also writes as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 22 published books. She creates stories with kilts, corsets, and happy endings. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter, and her cat, Severus. Her latest Steampunk Romance is The Brass Octopus, a romance novella for ages 18 on up which is free today 10/15/14 – 10/19/14 on Amazon. .