“The words induced me to turn towards myself”: The politics of inheritance in Mary Shelley's “Frankenstein”

Patricia Peek, Fordham University


Mary Shelley's Frankenstein explores the domestic and socio-political structure of Britain in the bourgeoning age of empire through the lens of the family and its relationship to the nation's system of laws, in particular, the laws of inheritance. This dissertation argues that previous critical approaches have merely identified elements of a larger scheme. In this scheme, the complex relationships of the characters attempt to comment on specific social and political injustices of the world, particularly those brought about by the concept of inherited rather than meritorious worth. My analysis also demonstrates how law imbeds itself in the domestic space and shapes both the family and the individual. Frankenstein is an articulation of the anxieties of those marginalized by race, gender and socioeconomic status under laws governing the distribution of property in England. The novel speaks, if cautiously, about social reform, early feminism and racism in the colonial era, as well as the family as the domestic metaphor for the state as viewed through the legal framework of society. The novel is a powerful political site capable of exposing the social injustices of a society (Britain in the age of empire) driven by laws and mores that promote marginalization of the female, the colonial Other, the freed slave and the disenfranchised.

Subject Area

British and Irish literature

Recommended Citation

Peek, Patricia, "“The words induced me to turn towards myself”: The politics of inheritance in Mary Shelley's “Frankenstein”" (2007). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3271272.