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ENG 615 Critical Analysis Paper

Professor Sodeman
Zachary C. Davis

Evaluating Ellen Moers Interpretation of Frankenstein

In her article Female Gothic: The Monsters Mother Ellen Moers ties the
relevance of the Frankenstein Monster to Mary Shelleys own maternal experience. This
can best be seen in Moers thesis which makes its appearance on the third page of her
article. Moers says, for Frankenstein is a birth myth, and one that was lodged in the
novelists imagination by the fact that she herself was a mother (Norton 319). In no
uncertain terms Moers states that maternity is the driving force behind Frankenstein;
seeing that she said Frankenstein is, not could be or is perhaps, it is assumed that
Moers claims to hold the definitive interpretation of Frankenstein. Before moving on it is
important to note that Moers claim is largely if not wholly based on Mary Shelleys
life with little support being drawn from the actual text. While Moers does cite
Frankenstein in several places the textual evidence tends to take backstage to the
biographical information that is so central to Moers article. In forming her authority as a
critic, Moers consults primarily her own self, supporting her conclusions with
biographical information pertaining to Mary Shelley and other literary historical figures.
A good example of this can be found on page 321 where Moers says Mary Shelley is
said and rightly to have based her treatment of the life of her monster on the ideas
held by her father and her mother. By saying Mary Shelley is said Moers indirectly
references past critics of Frankenstein, but ultimate places her opinion on top by voicing

her approval. By saying that people have rightly drawn parallels between Mary
Shelleys life and Frankenstein Moers places herself in a self assumed position of
authority, one that builds upon previous arguments.
One example of the primacy Moers places upon Mary Shelleys life can be found
on page 324 where she says, who can read without shuddering, and without
remembering her myth of the birth of a nameless monster, Marys journal entry
(Norton). Here Moers ties Frankenstein to Mary Shelleys life by pointing out the stark,
and tragic, similarities between the two. There are many similar examples in Moers
article that could be brought up here. What is important, however, is to note that the
argument is effective in making one particular point for Frankenstein; the similarities
Moers explicates between Mary Shelleys life and her work are both compelling and
fairly convincing, to a degree. However Moers argument is not strong enough to be
considered the definitive interpretation of Frankenstein. For one thing Moers does not
spend enough time explaining why her interpretation is the best. Her argument is based
on assumptions as much as reason; for example Moers assumes that she is correct in her
interpretation of how Mary Shelleys life influenced her writing and therefore does not
provide any explanation as to how she (Moers) reached that conclusion. This is not to say
that Moers argument is invalid or even ineffective. Her ties between Mary Shelleys life
and Frankenstein are both interesting and engaging; the way Moers ties the string of
births and deaths in Mary Shelleys life to the births and deaths in Frankenstein sparks
the imagination. Indeed it is quite believable that Mary Shelleys horrific maternal
experience greatly influenced her writing. However, not enough evidence is given by

Moers to support the claim that Frankenstein is a birth myth (319) and nothing else, or
at least more than anything else; this is, after all, Moers thesis.
Overall Moers article was an insightful interpretation of Frankenstein from a
biographical standpoint; however the arguments Moers presented fail to take the thesis
from being an interpretation to being the interpretation of Frankenstein. While the
arguments presented were plausible their authenticity was more oft assumed than
defended. Were this article to take a more central role in explicating Frankenstein it
would need to devote a great deal more time in explaining why Moers interpretation is
superior to the countless others in existence.