19th Century’s Family Values in Frankenstein by Mary Shelly and Michael by William Wordsworth
In the nineteenth century, tradition family was being lost to the industrial economy. Machines were being invented like the steam engine which helped start the industrialization of manufacturing, the loss of manual labor, as well as the spread of literacy. Since people were losing their jobs to machines, it required them to move away from farm life into the city to work in factories. While this was happening, the industrial economy helped inspired writers like Mary Shelly and William Word worth to explore the importance of family relationships in their writings such as Mary Shelly’s novel Frankenstein and Michael by William Wordsworth. All the characters in Frankenstein by Mary Shelly and all the characters in Michael are connected to family in some way. Even the creature from Frankenstein by Mary Shelly, who was isolated from the world had a family, and that family was his creator Victor. One can see from these works that hard work and compassion can develop from a domestic life. However, it also shows that even though family is important, sometimes family means sacrifice.
By analyzing the poem, Michael by William Wordsworth, the central character Michael has a wife and only one son. Michael and even his wife Isabel works hard for her family because she cares for them. For example, Isabel works by using two spinning wheels even if Michael and Luke are out working ”Whose heart was in her house: two wheels she had/ of antique form; this large for spinning wool” (82-83). Michael’s wife would not work so hard if she did not love her family. The same can be said about Michael and Luke, when they got home for the day, “Their labor did not cease” (98). In Mary Shelly’s novel Frankenstein, the monster reflects that the Delacy family was unhappy because, “it was poverty, and they suffered that evil in a very distressing degree.” (77). The Delacy family had to work for their food by taking care of the vegetables in their garden; they had to milk the only cow they had and collect firewood so they would not freeze in the winter. The monster also talks about one of the members of the Delacy family by saying “In the day, I believe, he worked sometimes for a neighboring farmer, because he often went forth and did not return until dinner, yet brought no wood with him” (79). Felix and the rest of his family’s hard work to survive shows that hard work is a key value in domestic life and that it is a necessary trait to have to survive.
Although hard work is an important value people should have, people also learn compassion from having a domestic life. For example, in the poem, Michael written by William Wordsworth Michael and his family did not just work hard, but they worked hard because they loved and were compassionate towards each other. Michael loved his son more than anything in the world; Wordsworth says, “The Shepherd, if he loved himself, must needs/ Have loved his Helpmate; but to Michael’s heart/ This son of his old age was yet more dear” (141-143). His love and compassion for his son helped Luke to be a hardworking young man. Michael also demonstrates his compassion for Luke by keeping him “under the large old oak, that near his door Stood single, and, from matchless depth of shade/Chosen for the Shearer’s covert from the sun” (165-167). Michael would keep his son safe from the burning sun because his love for him. Michael is also shown giving Luke “a perfect shepherd’s staff” at the age of five years old (183). By doing this, Michael shows the readers how important his family and family traditions is to him. In Mary Shelly’s novel Frankenstein, Mary Shelly presents one of the main characters known as Victor as a man who has a loving family or as Victor would put it, “My parents were possessed by the very spirit of kindness and indulgence.” (19). Victor’s family also end up taking up an orphan or Victor’s cousin Elizabeth and raising her as well. However even though his family was very loving and compassionate towards him and his cousin/future wife Elizabeth he was not very compassionate towards his creature. His monster was born into the world without any love and compassion like how Luke was in William Wordsworth Michael. However even though the monster did not receive it from anyone he saw how the Delacy family was loving and compassionate towards each other. That when he saw them work hard because they cared about one another and they had to so they could survive; he decided to show compassion towards them.
The monster tells Victor on how he shows compassion towards the cottagers: “I discovered also another means through which I was enabled to assist their labours. I found that the youth spent a great part of each day in collecting wood for the family fire; and, during the night, I often took his tools, the use of which I quickly discovered, and brought home firing sufficient for the consumption of several days (78).” Unfortunately, even though the monster learns that he needs to be compassionate and kind and saves a drowning girl, he is shot. The world failed to show him compassion. So the monster turns towards revenge because how Victor and the world mistreat him. Mary Shelly and William Wordsworth displays that it is important for a family to give compassion and love to one another. That it is necessary for domestic life and without it a person cannot function properly. If Michael and Isabel did not show Luke compassion in William Wordsworth poem Michael, then he probably would not have been Michael’s “comfort and daily hope “(206). He might have ended up like the monster in Mary Shelly’s novel Frankenstein vengeful and isolated, but Luke did not he had a compassionate and hardworking family.
Although hard work and compassion is important in domestic life and family life, Mary Shelly and William Wordsworth show that families must make sacrifices. In Mary Shelly’s novel Frankenstein, Victor isolates himself from his family and friends to create his monster. In doing this, he ends up sacrificing his loved ones little does he know because he fails to show compassion to his creation. In doing this, his loved ones are murdered by the monster because of his revenge. The monster tells Victor that “It is well. I go; but remember I shall be with you on your wedding night (123).” Little does Victor know that the monster is not after him, he is after his future wife, Elizabeth. When the night comes, Elizabeth is killed, and his best friend Henry is murdered the night before. Before the monster kills Elizabeth and Henry, he kills Victor’s little brother William. In doing so, the Frankenstein’s family maid is framed for the murder of William and is sentenced to death. All of this happened solely because Victor created this monster and doing so he sacrificed everyone he cared about. The Delacy family also had to sacrifice everything they had to save Safie’s father. Felix loved Safie and her family, and he renounced his family’s wealth and social position for them. Felix’s sacrifice was selfless unlike Victor who sacrificed his family for his creation was selfish.
In Michael by William’s Wordsworth, Michael has a loan he has to pay because his nephew. At first, they are excited that Luke is going into the city to work, Michael says to Isabel “Our Luke shall leave us, Isabel; the land/ Shall not go from us, and it shall be free/ He shall possess it, free as the wind” (244-246). They are willing to sacrifice their only son Luke by sending him to the city so he can pay the debt and keep the land. However, when the day comes, Isabel tells Luke that “Thou must not go: We have no other Child but thee to lose/None to remember do not go away” (296-297). In the end, Luke ends up going to the city, at first, he writes “loving letters, full of wondrous news” (433). After awhile, he stops writing letters and gives in “to evil courses: ignominy and shame” (445). The son never returns to his family and Michael and his wife die. Luke was lost to the industrial economy, and the estate and cottage are then lost forever the author writes that “In all the neighborhood: yet the oak is left” (479). Mary Shelly and Wordsworth show the industrial economy did ruin family traditions however even though it did people did what they thought was best for their family even if that meant that they had to sacrifice everything they cared about.
Mary Shelly and William Wordsworth works were written a long time ago but even though it is the values that they bring up can still be used today. Compassion and hard work are important values in our society especially when it is dealing with family. People learn about compassion and hard work from the family that raised them. The world would be a pretty horrible place without compassion in general. It is needed in all types of relationships, not just family, and if no one knew the value of hard work, society would not be where it is today. Sometimes sacrifices have to be made for the greater good to progress, yes family traditions were lost to the industrial economy but in the end, if those families did not make those sacrifices then society might have never progressed to where it is now. Compassion, hard work, and sacrifice will always be significant value until the end of the age.