In the book Frankenstein which was written by Mary Shelley based and published in 1818, the themes of orphan hood and alienation seem to be highly emphasized. In my opinion, Mary Shelley uses the lives of Frankenstein's close relations to illustrate how vital companionship is even in the lives of the very young. Shelley depicts orphan hood as a painful predicament from the very first page of the first chapter of the book. She begins by telling the story of Beaufort and his daughter who takes care of him when he is ill and shows how miserable Caroline Beaufort becomes when her father passes on. Caroline is then left as an "orphan and a beggar" and the grief of it all overtakes her and she weeps bitterly by her father's grave. However Frankenstein's father finds her and eventually makes her his wife, giving her a life full of care, compassion, abundance and love. Orphan hood is again portrayed as a bitter thing in the story of Elizabeth Lavenza Shelley who is depicted in the book as so beautiful that she could be sent from heaven. Elizabeth however being an orphan lives with her foster parents in a life of poverty. Caroline, probably knowing just how hard being an orphan can be from her own experience reaches out to Elizabeth and adopts her giving her a full life.
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Shelley seems to juxtapose the theme of orphan hood with that of alienation. While orphan hood is a sad thing, it is brought out as bringing a sadness that can be solved if one is adopted by a well to do loving family. Alienation on the other hand is brought out in Frankenstein as a lifetime curse. The story of the monster that was created by Frankenstein is used to depict the theme of alienation. The monster is alienated due to no fault of its own, its creator (Frankenstein) made it different and did not create for it a companion. It is in this search for companionship that the monster even worsens its situation of alienation. The monster accidentally murders Wilson (Frankenstein's younger brother) and causes Justine to be executed for the crime. It then murder Elizabeth and causes Frankenstein's father to die due to the pain of all those loss. This series of misfortunes depict the predicament of the alienated in society whose every attempt to seek companionship and acceptance only causes more alienation to befall them. However Robert Wilson who goes off to the North Pole to further his scientific knowledge is shown to bring out alienation as a positive thing. He goes away to better himself scientifically in the hope that this will eventually make him famous and win him friends. He is used to illustrate the fact that people can alienate themselves for a while so that they can receive more acceptance and companionship in the end.
Jane Eyre on the other hand brings out a more extreme side of the difficulties brought about by orphanhood. Inasmuch as Jane's story seems to have a common theme with the stories of orphanhood in Frankenstein, the orphan in Jane Eyre - Jane- seems to suffer a lifetime of rejection and alienation, something that the orphans in Frankenstein seem to experience for only a short part of their lives. While Mary Shelley seems to give a comparison of orphanhood and alienation in Frankenstein, showing alienation to be worse than orphanhood, the story of Jane in Jane Eyre likens orphanhood to alienation. Jane, the main character in Jane Eyre suffers rejection from an early age when she loses her family, through all of her childhood and school life, even to a time when she is of age. Many people blame her for the misfortunes that befall them, something that only worsens her predicament. An example is Edward Rochester, a horseman who calls Jane a witch because his horse tripped when she looked at it. Jane only gets lucky for the first time in her life when she receives a huge inheritance. While Frankenstein and Jane Eyre seem to have a similar view of orphanhood as a difficult thing, Frankenstein seems to portray it as a blessing in disguise because the lives of the orphans in this book eventually turn out well, while Jane Eyre portrays orphanhood as a life sentence to a life of alienation.
Harriet Wilson's autobiographical novel, Our Nig portrays the difficulties facing the black slave in South America. Harriet also uses the experience of racism in North America to bring out the concept of alienation of the nominally free black man in a white society. She says in the preface of her novel that as she tells her story of racism she does not want to imply that she is facing slavery. But in all of her story she seems to be living a life no different from those going through bondage in the south though she is made to believe that she is free. Our Nig is approaches the theme of alienation in the way that most societies do today. It portrays a situation where an alienated person is made to believe that they are free but the kind of treatment they face from those who claim that they have given them freedom is similar to that which they would have received were they not free. This book shows that slavery is one thing while alienation is another. Even when one is no longer bound as a slave, if they are still alienated, the condition tends to feel the same as the situation of slavery itself.
While orphanhood is a bad and painful thing and is so depicted in Frankenstein and Jane Eyre, its effects on those who suffer the struggles of it is far from negative. Caroline Beaufort, after her experience as an orphan and the love and support she received form Frankenstein's father, she develops compassion for Elizabeth who is going through a similar situation as she did when she lost her father. Jane on the other hand, even after she had gotten little love despite her being an orphan remains loving and eventually marries a handicapped man who she has loved for a longtime. Alienation however seems to have a worse effect on humans than does orphanhood. The monster in Frankenstein is even used to symbolize alienated people who seek vengeance for their state of alienation, leading to even worse forms of alienation. Alienation of the black by the white is likened to slavery which can often lead to revolts and a fight for freedom and equality as was the case in the United States.
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