Without a doubt, Percy Shelley’s poetry influenced Mary Shelley’s writing of Frankenstein. Once you read Percy’s poetry, it seems to be everywhere in Frankenstein. It is not unsurprising to me, though, that such a literary couple had influence over one another’s works; they must have often shared ideas or passages for critique, and with Mary’s wish for Percy’s approval of her writing, it follows easily that she might use his work to her advantage. This is particularly evident in a reading of Percy’s “Mutability” in conjunction with Victor’s description of his return to Geneva in the first paragraph on page 74 of Frankenstein. Mary Shelley uses “Mutability” to focus the passage on Victor, rather than on the place and situation he describes.

In the passage, Mary Shelley has taken “Mutability,” assigned it a character (Victor), and converted it to prose. The poem has a very polar tone: one minute excited, the next morose. Quick changing feelings abound in the use of adjectives: forgotten, dissonant, frail, wandering, fond, free. Mary takes these feelings and transplants them onto Victor in the entire novel, but specifically this passage. As he returns to Geneva, “at first [he] wished to hurry on” but soon “slackened [his] progress” because he “could hardly sustain the multitude of feelings” (74). The subject of the paragraph becomes the idea that everything in a place that should be familiar could be drastically changed in the time Victor has been away. One of the more striking lines in the passage is “How altered every thing might be during that time” (74), “that time” being the six years Victor was gone. Reading “Mutability” in this passage, though, begs the reader to ask the question, is it the place that Victor is worried has changed, or is it himself? The poem is all about the changes and contradictions that exist inside people, not places. The last lines of the poem are “Man’s yesterday may ne’er be like his morrow;/ Nought may endure but Mutability.” “Man’s yesterday” the poem reads, not the place he was yesterday, or where he will be tomorrow. His experience of it is different because, in the end, he is different. As I read the poem again, this time as if Mary had written it, I feel myself sneaking in a few words: “Nought may endure [in man] but Mutability.” Mary takes Percy’s extremely accessible poem and converts it to prose; she allows the ideas of changeability and the difference between a changed place and a changed person to sit with the reader, and ultimately, to lead to new questions about Victor’s experience.

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