"Let me but give her an education" : Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley, and the monstrous, motherless daughter
The works of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley have long been analyzed and dissected from a literary point of view. Close readings of their novels, however, provide an important picture within the context of history into the lives of two women, whose feminist ideas were very ahead of their time. Lesser-known works such as Wollstonecraft's Maria, or the Wrongs of Woman (1798) and Shelley's Mathilda (1959) exhibit some of these ideas, particularly the harmful effects of living through escapism (a habit criticized by Wollstonecraft) and of daughters growing up without their mothers. Both works criticize patriarchal society, blatantly in The Wrongs of Woman and subtly in Mathilda, by undermining conventional purpose of the novel, which in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries was typically considered a "silly genre" written largely for women, a genre that would never challenge them intellectually. Both Wollstonecraft and Shelley intended revolutionize this genre with these two novels; unfortunately, circumstance prevented them from doing so. By closely reading these two novels and taking into consideration the lives of Wollstonecraft and Shelley, I analyze the historical importance of their mother-daughter relationship, a relationship that was clearly very strong even though Wollstonecraft died ten days after Shelley's birth.