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Class Year

2004

Abstract

Is man inherently good or evil? Nineteenth century Romantics, inspired by the doctrine of Jean Jacques Rousseau, hypothesized that man is a product of his or her environment. Middle class society imputed the mother as the gateway by which a child learns to become a model human being. This theory held that mothers nurture their offspring naturally. Children learn proper morals and social conduct based upon a female-inspired education. Without this domestic influence on their lives, children fall into the trap of an “eye for an eye” ideology. The monster that Mary Shelley conceives in Frankenstein defies the domestic conception of a maternally guided household. The piece serves as a didactic tool; Shelley, in representing the Romantic Movement, warns nineteenth century society about the dangers of a maternally void world, a world that contradicted the Romantic conception of proper maternal guidance in both the home and in society.

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