Education In Frankenstein By Mary Shelley Essay

Education In Frankenstein By Mary Shelley Essay, Research Paper

Education as most people think of it today, where men and women are schooled

at the same facilities and taught the same subjects, is not the type of education that is

displayed in Frankenstein. In this novel by Mary Shelley, the reader can see the

differences in the Victorian education which each sex is privileged to. The novel also

clearly presents the main character, Frankenstein, as the most classically educated

character in the novel and displays the struggles he copes with because of his mental

acuity and desire for knowledge. The movie version, directed by Kenneth Branaugh

presents a slightly altered view of Victorian education. Although many facets of teaching

coincide directly with the novel, several instances in the film contradict the view of

education prescribed by Mary Shelley. The novel puts forth the opinion from an early

age, Frankenstein has a desire and thirst for knowledge. This coupled with the death of

his mother causes the misuse of knowledge and creation of Frankenstein’s monster. The

movie, however presents Frankenstein’s education in a somewhat different light. The

film chooses to portray Frankenstein’s education as something he can easily be pulled

away from until the untimely death of his mother. Then, his education becomes an

obsession, something he cannot be pulled away from.

Mary Shelley presents the readers with a distinction of the education of the sexes

in Chapter II of the novel, “I was capable of a more intense application, and was more

deeply smitten with the thirst for knowledge. She busied herself with following the aerial

creations of the poets; and in the majestic and wondrous scenes which surround our

Swiss home. . . she found ample scope for admiration and delight” (Shelley 18). This is

how the “education” of women is defined. Frankenstein says of his own education,

“While my companion contemplated with a serious and satisfied spirit the magnificent

appearance of things, I delighted in investigating their causes. The world was to me a

secret which I desired to divine” (Shelley 18). Shelley gives plenty of examples in this

chapter as to how the education of men and women differ. The movie, however speaks

very little about the differences.

The only markable difference we see is the scene in which Frankenstein is

conducting experiments and working in his home laboratory when his mother comes,

praises his accomplishments and rushes him away from them to come dance with the

ladies (Elizabeth does this exact thing later in the movie). The things ladies choose to

busy themselves with in the film is dance and music, while men are hard at work in the

laboratory (women are their distraction).

Another difference between the novel’s education and the film’s education is

shown in Frankenstein’s motivations for education. In the novel he seems to always have

a steady thirst for new and exciting things, the death of his mother only heightens his

interest in the creation and destruction of life. His education becomes and continues to

be his primary focus, whereas the film presents this in a different light.

The film shows Frankenstein as someone who enjoys knowledge, but also as a

person who can easily be persuaded to pay attention to other aspects of life. In a scene

mentioned previously, he is easily pulled away from his studies twice by ladies (his

mother and Elizabeth). Frankenstein changes forever, as he does in the novel, with the

death of his mother. His primary focus is to recreate life.

So, though the differences are slight, the education presented in the novel by

Mary Shelley and the film adaptation by Kenneth Branaugh are somewhat different. The

book reveals much more about the education of women in Victorian England. The film

shows them only as interrupters of study and dancing fools. The film and novel also

shows a slight difference in Frankenstein himself. His motivation in the novel appears to

always be present and is only heightened by the death of his mother. While in the film,

he enjoys his education, but does not take it quite as seriously until the death of his

mother. It could be said the timings of heights or his educational curiosity are just


Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, dir. Kenneth Branaugh, perf. Kenneth Branaugh, Helena

Bonham-Carter, TriStar, 1994.

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. New York: Dover Publications, Inc.. 1994. 18.

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