Student Name Professor: English 212 Date: A Discussion of the Power of the Single Human Mind vs. the Power of Society In Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus The first edition of Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley was published in 1918. It is the premise of this paper that Shelley was strongly influenced at the time she wrote her novel by the emerging philosophies characteristic of the period of Romanticism. It is the further premise of this paper that Frankenstein remains a literary example of the central values associated with Romanticism and its' emphasis on the importance and power of the single human mind in comparison to the power of society. This paper will initially present a brief overview of the core ideals of the periods of Romanticism and Enlightenment in order to provide a basis for understanding the influences that led Shelley to emphasize the power of the individual as she wrote Frankenstein. Subsequently, quotes from the text will be used to demonstrate evidence of Shelley's focus on the power of the individual mind in her development of two of the main characters within the novel.As Patterson suggests in his response to the genre best describing Frankenstein, Shelley's novel was representative of gothic novels popular during the late 18th and early 19th centuries and influenced by the literary movement of Romanticism. As he further explains in his discussion of the sources which influenced Shelley in her writing of Frankenstein, romanticism emerged in Britain and Europe in fierce response to the intellectual period of Enlightenment as well as the revolutions in America and France and the wars for independence in Greece, Poland and Spain that were occurring at that time.In order to understand the degree to which Shelley emphasized the power of the individual human mind versus the power of society within Frankenstein, a brief comparison of the central values of the Romanticism and Enlightenment periods is necessary. As described by Patterson in his frequently asked question section, the romanticism movement as a period in which there was an over-riding concern with the individual and the assertion of self. Societal change was closely linked with the efforts of the individual. When such efforts failed, a strong sense of emotionality was experienced in relation to the defeat of the individual rather than the experience of loss in relation to the potential good society may have obtained as a consequence of the desired change. According to Brians in his study guide on romanticism, the period of romanticism was also strongly reflected in its' focus on nature and the individuals desire to be at one and a part of nature. As Patterson suggested in his frequently asked question section, there was immense concern for the fate of the individual as the Industrial Revolution sprung forth drastically changing society, the social order and nature itself.In comparison, Brians, within his study guide on the Enlightenment period, describes the Enlightenment period as a movement in which it was believed that society would be perfected through the application of human reason and rationality. As Brians suggests further in his study guide on the Enlightenment Period, it was believed that each of these factors would operate in unison to undermine the authority of the Church and the power of the ruling aristocracies at that time, both of which were perceived as the primary obstacles to societal change. Rather than valuing nature for esthetic reasons, it was perceived as providing society with a sense of natural law which helped to insure routine and civil obedience.The influence of romanticism and its' emphasis on the importance of the individual mind, the individuals desire to bring about societal change ultimately for his/her own acclaim, and the individuals desire for a sense of connectedness with nature are clearly evidenced in the writing of Shelley within her book Frankenstein. A review of two of the primary characters, their aspirations, and their pursuits, as revealed through Shelley's text, presents an obvious basis for the argument that the single human mind was a central theme within her writing. As will be presented, while the individual characters present themselves as motivated to achieve their desired goals for the advancement and good of society, the driving force behind their pursuits was for their own growth and development as well as the acclamations such achievements might bring. To demonstrate the importance which Shelley associated with the overall power of the single human mind, the quotes of two primary characters, Robert Walton and Victor Frankenstein, will be presented and discussed.The first character introduced to the reader is Robert Walton, the captain of a ship, who is pursuing his life long dream of discovering a passage to the North Pacific Ocean. As Walton writes his sister, he provides the reader with an understanding of the motivations which drive him.Do I not deserve to accomplish some great purpose? My life might have been passed in ease and luxury; but I preferred glory to every enticement that wealth placed in my path. Oh, that some encouraging voice would answer in the affirmative! ... you cannot contest the inestimable benefit which I shall confer on all mankind to the last generation, by discovering a passage near the pole to those countries, to reach which at present so many months are requisite; or by ascertaining the secret of the magnet, which, if at all possible, can only be effected by an undertaking such as mine.(2) While Walton suggests that his success would be of benefit to society, he seems to place greater emphasis on the reward his efforts would bring to him in the form of glory and fame. He has willingly sacrificed and devoted the majority of his years to gain access to that which would raise him above his fellow men and bring him power and distinction. Clearly, the power of the single human mind rather than the power of society has guided Walton in his efforts to succeed.Victor Frankenstein, similar to Walton, found himself driven even in his early years to seek recognition for his efforts to serve the common good of man through scientific discovery. Expressing sentiments similar to those of Walton, Frankenstein provides the reader with a further understanding of his self-aspiring goals.Wealth was an inferior object; but what glory would attend the discovery, if I could banish disease from the human frame, and render man invulnerable to any but a violent death! No one can conceive the variety of feelings which bore me onwards, like a hurricane, in the first enthusiasm of success. Life and death appeared to me ideal bounds, which I should first break through, and pour a torrent of light into our dark world. A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me. No father could claim the gratitude of his child so completely as I should deserve theirs. Pursuing these reflections, I thought, that if I could bestow animation upon lifeless matter, I might in process of time (although I now found it impossible) renew life where death had apparently devoted the body to corruption.(25) Frankenstein, committed to contributing to society by providing the opportunity for eternal life, was lured to remain true to his task by his belief that he would receive notoriety and gratitude for the creation and re-creation of life. That which would bring glory and praise for the power of his single human mind emerged as the impetus for his all consuming efforts to obtain and utilize the knowledge necessary to create life from the remains of the dead.Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley was true to the influences of her time and the form they took as products of the period of Romanticism. Her most acclaimed novel, Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus, was a clear attempt on her part to create fiction in which the power of the individual and the single human mind were more paramount than the power of society. When the individual failed to reach his/her goals, the individual was rightfully left to experience emotions of over-powering gloom in relation to his/her failure. Ultimately, society was responsible for continuing to seek solutions to the problems confronting it. The power of society was only as strong as its' successful efforts to challenge individuals to continue to utilize the power of the single human mind in finding answers to societal ailments with the promise of glory and fame as rewards for their work.Works Cited A Frankenstein FAQ, Frankenstein Study: An Anatomy of A Story, Watershed Online, Arthur Paul Patterson, 1996 .Romanticism, 18th and 19th Century European Classics (Humanities 303), Course Materials, Including Study Guides to Various Works. Paul Brians, Department of English, Washington State University, 1999 .Shelly, Mary Wollstonecraft. Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus. Lackington, Allan and Company, 1819.The Enlightenment, 18th and 19th Century European Classics (Humanities 303), Course Materials, Including Study Guides to Various Works. Paul Brians, Department of English, Washington State University, 1999 .