Dear Mary Shelley

Dear Mary Shelley,


You grew up in a household of writers. Even though you never knew your mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, her legacy inspired you growing up. She was famous across Europe for her feminist works, especially her push for women’s education. You were known for idolizing her works, and yet you chose a completely different form of writing. Even your father was a philosopher who was known for his radical ideas about extreme individualism. What was it like to grow up in a household where writing was a central theme of life? Did you ever feel pressured to continue the writing legacy of your mother?

Even once you became older, you still found yourself in company with writers. You fell in love with Percy Shelley, who himself was a writer. Additionally, you were close friends with Lord Byron, who supposedly inspired you to write Frankenstein. The community of writers that you surrounded yourself with encouraged writing. I wonder how your peers treatment of you varied from how they treated each other. Did they believe that you could write as well (or better) than they could, or did they look down on you because you were female?

Once you began writing, what aspects of your life inspired you to write Frankenstein, one of your most famous works? The detail is so intricate, and the characters are so fascinating, that it leads me to wonder who inspired the characters. I am aware that you had a lot of tragedy in your life, and that is reflected in your writing. Was Victor based on the men you knew in your life? He is egotistical, vain, and incredibly intelligent, and I wonder if you wanted to honor the person you based him on or point out his flaws. Was Victor’s mother based on your own, or at least what you imagined her to be? Did your father find a representation in Victor’s father? When William died, did that remind you of other losses in your life?

What was the publishing process like for you? Nothing that I have read has discussed what the publishing process was like specifically for Frankenstein. Even though you were around many writers, was the process as easy for you as it was for your male counterparts? Did you have to hide your works like Jane Austen? Or disguise your name like the Bronte sisters? Even though there were many women writers during this period of time, many of them did not write in the Gothic style with a combination of horror and science fiction. In fact, there were not many science fiction writers at all, and your work is regarded as one of the first early science fiction novels. Were you aware of the trail you were blazing? Or was writing more of an outlet for you, meant to channel the sadness in your life, not to change the world?



Katherine Hendry


Works Cited

Kuiper, Kathleen. “Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 26 Aug. 2018,

Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “William Godwin.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 31 Mar. 2018,

Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Mary Wollstonecraft.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 6 Sept. 2018,

“Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley.” Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation,


“Wide Sargasso Sea” and Second Wave Feminism

In Wide Sargasso Sea, by Jean Rhys, the author illuminates the story of an unheard voice of the classic novel Jane Eyre: Bertha Rochester, Mr. Rochester’s insane wife. Instead of showing her as a monster in the attic, Rhys changes Bertha’s name to Antoinette and gives her a new identity and story. In this novel, Rhys draws parallels between the rights of women in the 1800s (when the book takes place) and the second wave feminism movement in the 1960s and 70s (when the book was written). This comparison between the two time periods is consistent throughout the novel and influences not only the tone of the book but the way the reader reads the novel.

For contextualization, in the 1960s and 70s, the second wave feminism movement gained speed to fight for more rights for women, which culminated in Title IX being passed in 1972. Wide Sargasso Sea was published in 1966 during a time where novels challenging the normalities of the time were common (for example, Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan is credited for sparking the second wave feminist movement in 1963). Even though many improvements towards women’s rights needed to be made in this era, in the 1800s, most countries did not even give women the right to vote. This lack of rights for women is consistent in both time periods, which opened a window for Jean Rhus to write a unique novel that comments not only on the time period of the book but the time period the book was written.

In the novel Wide Sargasso Sea, the relationship between men and women is constantly seen as problematic and unfair, especially as in regards to the women’s forced dependency on men. For example, Antoinette’s mother’s life depended on the men with whom she was married. She needed Antoinette’s step father for a better life (instead of devastating poverty). However, Antoinette’s mother was unhappy for the majority of the marriage, and she ended up going insane (or being pushed to insanity) and dying tragically. When reflecting on her mother’s relationship, Antoinette seems destined to follow a similar path. Antoinette, once she marries Rochester, is unable to leave him or choose her own life. Her marriage ends unhappily as well, with a similar insanity to her mother’s being pushed on her until it was true. This shows how women were unable to escape their prescribed destinies, no matter how hard they fought. In both time periods, women’s independence was taken away, and they were stuck in a generational dependency on men through no fault of their own.

Overall, Wide Sargasso Sea reflects the progressive opinions of the time it was written through an unheard story from Jane Eyre. By depicting forced generational dependency of women during the 1800s via Antoinette and her mother, Rhys urges for the readers to recognize the similarities between then and during her time. She also pushes for the readers to alter the future in a way that they cannot change the past (even though they can try and reframe the story as best as they can).

Works Cited

Rhys, Jean. Wide Sargasso Sea. Norton Critical Editions, 1999.

Burkett, Elinor. “Women’s Movement.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 2 Aug. 2016,

Robinson Crusoe and British Imperialism

In Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe, the author narrates a story of a lone British man stranded on an island for decades and how he came to be there, as well as how he was joined by an indigenous man years later. In this long tale of solitude and reflection, Defoe frequently switches back and forth between focusing on religion and focusing on materialism. The main character, Crusoe, would often have profound bouts of religious soliloquies, but then he would not act upon his words. This contrast of words and actions shows that Defoe was using Crusoe as an allegory for the ultimate British imperialist: nominally religious, but able to recognize the value of items and conquer wild or “unfortunate” (Defoe 105) places and people.

One example of how Robinson Crusoe represents British imperialism is despite the fact the Bible states “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (The Revised English Bible, Mark 10:25), Robinson Crusoe often displays extreme greed. The British Empire was nominally Anglican, but their rush into the industrial revolution showed how eager they were to gain money, even if it was at human expense. Crusoe illustrates this on page 205 when he discovers the dead body of a boy after he witnesses a shipwreck off of the coast of his island: “… to see the corps of a drowneded Boy come on Shore…He had nothing in his Pocket, but two Pieces of Eight and a Tobacco Pipe; the last was to me of ten times more value than the first.” This one quote shows one of many instances of Crusoe’s avarice, though it is one of the more surprising examples. This is due to Crusoe’s action in and of itself: he closely inspected the remains of a dead boy with relative nonchalance, in fact finding pleasure when he found something that could be a possible comfort to him. He does not mention the boy again, nor does he appear to honor his body in the traditional Christian manner. In fact, he appears to think less of the dead boy than the footprint that he found in the sand earlier in the novel (Defoe 176). Crusoe’s gluttony for material goods presents a stark contrast against his proclaimed religion.

In order for the readers to examine how closely this passage shows Crusoe’s similarities to Great Britain during this time, one must look at historical context. Robinson Crusoe was published in 1719, at a time when Great Britain was a rising imperial power and moving towards trade and industry as it entered the Industrial Revolution. During this time, the great ideas of British Imperialism were being planted, especially since Great Britain won colonies after the War of Spanish Succession in 1713 (Britannica). Great Britain would later go on to dominate the world, and the impressions left by their combination of religion and greed can be seen even today.

Robinson Crusoe represented Great Britain by his need for material goods and his use of religion to benefit himself. Defoe lived in a time where materialism was on the rise and riches in life often meant happiness. Robinson Crusoe became Great Britain when he had a chance to build a utopia on an island, and he designed it based off of the British ways of nominal religion and persistent greed.

Works Cited

Morrill, John S., and Nicholas A. Barr. “United Kingdom.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 9 Sept. 2018,

Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Robinson Crusoe.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 6 Mar. 2018,

The Revised English Bible with Apocrypha. Oxford University Press, 1989.

Defoe, Daniel. Robinson Crusoe. Edited by Evan R. Davis, Broadview Press, 2010.