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August 15, 2005

Frankenstein and Slavery

Looking through this biography of Mary Shelley, found a take I hadn't seen before on where she found inspiration:

A further and intriguing possibility emerged as I was considering the summer of 1815, when Mary was temporarily on her own, staying in lodgings at Clifton. Living within strolling distance of Bristol, a town which had grown prosperous on the slave trade, Mary had read books on the subject with increasing horor and indignation. Slavery, although formally abolished in England, remained a thriving industry; in England, slaves were still being rescued from service in the mid-nineteenth century. At Bristol, the evidence was all around her. Here, surely, was the explanation for the Creature's carefully described and decidedly un-British appearance, his hair of a 'lustrous blackness', his yellow skin and teeth of a 'pearly whiteness', features which, combined with his strength and muscular build, suggest the author was deliberately evoking the African and West Indian, while his yellow skin hints at the Eastern 'lascars' whom she would have seen on her journeys form the London docks. Here, too, was a clue to why Mary, whose sympathies as an author are with the Creature, lays so much emphasis on the fact that Victor Frankenstein judges him - misjudges him - by his appearance. She was, it seems, covertly attacking a society which still believed that the physical appearance of the Africans indicated their moral inferiority to Europeans.

Interesting, not sure if I buy it, but interesting.

Posted by jsmooth995 at August 15, 2005 12:17 AM

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