Writing Prompts – Motherless Daughters and Shelley

When I saw the prompts for this weeks assignment my first reaction was to not participate but then I realized it would be a good opportunity to share a different perception. I started this post in April when I was trying to finish my massive research project on Fra.nken.stein. I finished the project and am still in therapy processing the research and revelations. I give this information not for sympathy but in the hope that it might help other motherless women. I have taken bits of my paper and mixed it with some thoughts on the research. It is a little long but I want to recommend if you know a woman who lost her mother early suggest Edelman’s book and go ahead and read it yourself so that you can have some understanding into the psychological world of a motherless daughter.

Do you ever start something important like a research project worth 30% of your grade but pick a topic that is actually traumatic to you? Please note that I am discussing the original 1818 version of Frank*nstein. It is very very different then any of the movies. The book itself is definitely a psychological thriller. When I first read Frank*nstein one of the things that struck me was the lack of mothers. With further investigation when you consider that Mary Shelley’s mother died just days after giving birth to her and she had a distant father it all kind of makes sense. I felt like I could look into a mirror and reach across time to touch Shelley. My issues of being an orphan are prevalent throughout Frank*nstein. My thesis became that Shelley’s grief of being motherless and losing her own daughter is woven throughout Frank*nstein. Unfortunately I have been reading about the psychology of grief and growing up motherless. Talk about handling issues and opening up a closet I nailed closed years ago. The one book I read is called Motherless Daughters by Hope Edelman. It is an amazing and traumatizing book. I feel like I could have written this book. I vacillate between “Oh Wow! This is me.” and “OMG! This is Me!”. I called my BF to tell her that I feel like I should carry copies of this book around and when I run into people who hate me or do not understand me. I would hand them a copy of the book and say, “I’m sorry. I didn’t understand myself before but this helped me and maybe it will help you understand me as well.”

There are characteristics common among women who were orphaned by their mothers during their formative years. Many of them feel like they don’t know how to be a woman. My mother never got the chance to show me how to put on makeup, how to pick out a proper bra, how to handle a relationship with a man or even how to sit like a lady. I missed out on these things.
Another characteristic of motherless women is loneliness. To quote my paper: “Jane Littlewood, in Aspects of Grief, describes several physical sensations felt by bereaved people as “being wounded, torn, ripped, hollow or broken” (41). This is exemplified when Victor(upon the death of his mother) says, “I need not describe the feelings of those whose dearest ties are rent by that most irreparable evil, the void that presents itself to the soul, and the despair that is exhibited on the countenance” (Shelley 72). I believe this line is referring to the hollow or void feeling women have when they lose a parent. Parents provide their children with unconditional love. This is a love that no one else can provide no matter how hard they try. Motherless women often feel that a piece of them, they cannot replace, is missing. For most this feeling never goes away.
This post is getting way to long. I want to leave you with parts of my opening and closing paragraphs of my paper. I edited them down to be brief. It sums up some of the conclusions I found.
Although literature has brought us great examples of grief throughout time, the example least explored is the grief of losing a mother. I have to wonder why we, as a society, shy away from the death of a mother. In her book, Of Woman Born, Adrienne Rich wrote “the loss of the daughter to the mother, the mother to the daughter, is the essential female tragedy” (237). The fact this tragedy has been largely ignored is shocking. However, I believe the emotion and the psychological aspects of the type of grief experienced by motherless women is woven into and disguised in one of our most popular, psychologically thrilling, literary masterpieces, Frank*nstein.
What Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley was able to do with Frank*nstein was to imbibe her characters with her own psychological effects of grief. We may not have the actual story of a mother-daughter loss tragedy; however, we do have the emotions. Victor Fran.kenstein is the mother and father of his creation which he quickly abandons to its own fate. The creature must fend for himself, educate himself and live a life of forced isolation. Overall, I still wonder why history has not given us more examples of the greatest female tragedy. Shelley lost her mother and her own daughter, which would be the definition of tragedy and a wealth of psychological drama to share. The answer could lie with Sigmund Freud. In his 1908 essay,” The Poet and Day-Dreaming”, Freud said that if poets shared their inner feeling with us then the reader would find no pleasure in them. However, he contends “when a man of literary talent presents his plays or relates what we take to be his personal day-dreams, we experience great pleasure” (Freud 182-183). Frank*nstein corroborates my premise the truth is too hard for most people to handle. If Shelley had written a story containing the depth of her grief wrapped up in women, it may not have survived as the exalted novel it is today. I have to admire how Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley was able to turn her psychological feelings of the ultimate female tragedy into a story disguised in men and science which now exists as a psychological masterpiece.
I would, also, highly recommend reading the original 1818 version of Frankens.tein. It is quite excellent.