Hideous Progeny, Hideous Parentage :
Parent / Child Relationships in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
There are few authors who are as well known for a single literary work as is Mary Shelley for Frankenstein. Although largely ignored by critics for many years, possibly because the very popularity of her novel implied a certain lack of validity or artistry in her work, Shelley is finally being recognized as a significant representative of the Romantic period, as well as a contributor to the thematic and aesthetic concerns of her own and later eras. Paul Cantor has gone so far as to characterize Frankenstein as an interpretation (and criticism) of the central myths of Romanticism, creation and identity, on par with works such as Prometheus Unbound and Keats' Hyperion.
Much of this recent scholarship has focused on the biographical and feminist aspects of the novel. The facts of Mary Shelley's life, particularly her association with the literary figures of her day, certainly lend themselves to biographical criticism, while her position as one of the first widely recognized female authors, daughter of early feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, presents itself equally well to feminist interpretation. There is, moreover, a certain extremism of characterization in the novel which lends itself equally well to both schools of criticism. A biographically inclined critic, for example, might interpret the omnipresent 'creator' figure of Victor Frankenstein as a representation of either Mary's overshadowing father, political essayist and novelist William Godwin, or her poet husband Percy, or even both at once, while the angelic, yet strangely absent characterization of Victor's fiancé, Elizabeth might be seen as Mary's idealization of her mother (Cantor 108 ; Scott, 172-6). In the same characters, feminist critics have seen Victor's creative genius and subsequent failure as a critique of the patriarchal system, while Elizabeth's empty posturing seem indicative of the Petrarchian abstraction of the female, and perhaps of Mary's sympathies for her mother's revolutionary feminist aesthetic (Ellis, 124-36, Hall 179-89 ; Knoepflmacher, 103-11).
However, I believe these critical strategies fail to completely account for one of the primary foci of the entire work, namely, Victor's rejection of his creation. Victor tells us that his over-riding ambition for a period of two years is to imbue life into dead matter, to become the father of a new race. Why then does he turn his back on his creature, from its first stirrings of life? Critics have argued that Victor's rejection is a result of the essentially flawed nature of his creation : a man, attempting to create life without recourse to the usual methods and, most significantly, without female involvement, who turns from his creation when he sees that it has soured without the 'gentling' influence that a female such as Elizabeth might bring to it (Youngquist, 347-52) . Biographically, some have also seen the episode as Mary's portrayal of the distaste which a poet feels for his own work, once the process of creation is over - there is ample evidence that Percy himself suffered from this revulsion . However, while these arguments are valid, I believe they fail to completely account for Victor's behavior, because while his rejection of his creature is, itself, central to the novel, it is also merely the most prominent example of a pattern of parental rejection which pervades the work and, indeed, Mary's entire life. Without relying upon a strictly biographical or psychological interpretation, I wish to argue that Victor's rejection of his creature is a reflection of William Godwin's rejection of his daughter Mary, and that it is this theme of dysfunctional child/parent relationships which truly drives the work. There is an overarching sense that to the many 'child' figures in the novel that there is some standard of value which is being held against them, which, pass or fail, they cannot possibly understand. Children in the work seem to be out of control of their own identities, and, while certain children in the work may be more or less obviously rejected, molded, or absorbed by their parents, there is always some moment of judgment or condemnation which creates a tension between parent and child, usually at a point when the child is first asserting itself beyond parental and familial boundaries. In effect, Frankenstein is a novel of 'teen angst', as experienced by Mary Shelley herself, and as she saw its symbolic and cultural implications.
Mary certainly seems to have had sufficient examples from her own life of the potential cruelty of parent-child relationships. Her mother died shortly after giving birth to her, and it might be expected that she suffered from some sense of responsibility and guilt for that death. She was certainly well aware of her mother's influence and notoriety ; during her childhood, Mary used to escape from her household to her mother's grave in St. Pancras churchyard, to read and study (Spark, 19), and during the early wanderings after their elopement, she and Shelley would read Mary Wollstonecraft's works, as well as those of Godwin (Spark, 29-30). Mary's consciousness of her mother's distinction can be seen not only as an inspiration for Mary's literary career, but as an example or standard which she, and those around her, often compared her to (Knoepflmacher, 92-3). In terms of Frankenstein, Paul Youngquist notes that, while her novel is not a direct extension of her mother's work in feminism, it is nevertheless a reply to that work, specifically Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Women (Youngquist, 339-56). The constant comparison, or at least association, with her mother, as well as her own literary ambitions must have created in Mary a need to live up to her mother's reputation, and it is this sense of implied competition between parent and child which is so pervasive in Frankenstein.
Mary's relationship with her father was also extremely troubled. Godwin's ideas of child-rearing seem to have been extremely pragmatic, and therefore presumably burdensome to the romantically minded Mary. In a letter to Mr. William Baxter, dated June 8th 1812, Godwin sketched out some of his conceptions:
...There can never be a perfect equality between father and child, and
if he has other objects and avocations to fill up the greater part of his
time, the ordinary resource is for him to proclaim his wishes and
commands in a way somewhat sententious and authoritative, and
occasionally to utter his censures with seriousness and emphasis.
It can, therefore, seldom happen that he is the confidant of his child,
or that the child does not feel some degree of awe or restraint in
intercourse with him. I am not, therefore, a perfect judge of Mary's
character. I believe she has nothing of what is commonly called vices,
and that she has considerable talent...
...I hope you will be aware that I do not desire that she should be treated
with extraordinary attention...I am anxious that she should be brought up
(in this respect) like a philosopher, even a cynic. It will greatly add to the
strength and worth of her character....She has occasionally great
perseverance, but occasionally, too, she shows great needs to be roused.
Clearly, Mary's decision to elope with Percy Shelley just two years later, in 1814 would hardly have fulfilled Godwin's wishes for his daughter to behave "like a philosopher, even a cynic", and the two clashed bitterly over her resolution. Although he was somewhat mollified by Mary's marriage to Shelley in 1816, Godwin's disapproval was always a source of tension in Mary's life.
Of course, Mary had another example of parental rejection and condemnation immediately available to her. Her husband Percy was the eldest son of Sir Timothy Shelley, a well-to-do squire, and therefore might have been expected to have some financial support in his writing and other activities. However, Sir Timothy instead condemned his son's lifestyle and withdrew Percy's funding, hoping that financial pressure might make him somewhat more tractable. Not until after Percy's death did Mary and Sir Timothy have any sort of reconciliation, and not until the ascendancy of Mary's son, also named Percy, would Sir Timothy's support become significant, and even then she was forbidden from bringing her husband's name and works forward into public view during Sir Timothy's lifetime (Spark, 181).
Mary was certainly in a position to sympathize with her monster over the cruelty and (at least perceived) injustice of parental rejection, and, as other critics have pointed out, there is much evidence to support an identification between Mary Shelley and the monster in her novel. In marrying Percy, Mary may have believed she was acting within the confines of Godwin's views of marriage and relationships, as expressed in some of his writings (Spark, 22). Similarly, the creature is chastised for elements in its makeup (its physical deformity and misanthropic aggressions) which are truly the result of its creator's shortsightedness. More than merely the painful separation brought about by rejection, both Mary and the creature display a sense of betrayal in their reactions to their antagonistic parents.
The sense that Mary's childhood identity may have been largely predetermined by parental inclinations is evident in one of William Godwin's letters. Asked by an acquaintance about his methods of child-raising (perhaps inspired by Mary Wollstonecraft's essay On the Education of Daughters), Godwin replied :
Of the two persons to whom your inquiries relate, my own daughter
is considerably superior to the one her mother had before. Fanny,
the eldest, is of a quiet, modest, unshowy disposition, somewhat
given to indolence, which is her greatest fault, but sober, observing,
peculiarly clear and distinct in the faculty of memory, and disposed
to exercise her own thoughts and follow her own judgment. Mary,
my daughter, is the reverse of her in many particulars. She is
singularly bold, somewhat imperious and active of mind. Her desire
of knowledge is great, and her perseverance in everything she
undertakes almost invincible. My own daughter is, I believe, very
pretty. Fanny is by no means handsome, but, in general,
As much as Mary may have exhibited these characteristics in her later life, it is difficult to believe that her personality was so fully developed in her early teens, when this letter was written. In particular, the care with which Godwin compares her to her half-sister Fanny, apparently linking the differences in the circumstances of their births to the differences in their character, indicates that Godwin's assessment is more indicative of his own wish for a literary and intellectual heir to himself and his dead wife than anything else. The pressure which such predispositions and conceptions must have put upon young Mary may be compared to Victor's creation of his own 'child'. In both cases, a single parent, attempting to mold a perfect child and heir as a tribute to their own intellectual power, is unable to successfully set the course for his offspring, and is dismayed by the result.
The detailed history of Victor's childhood provides several similar cases of early differentiation and characterization. Victor confesses that his earliest pursuits were dedicated to learning "the secrets of heaven and earth", while Clerval "occupied himself...with the moral relations of things" (Shelley, 37). While these predilections alone might have led them to their respective futures in science and poetics, Mary Shelley goes to some lengths to detail the effect of parental intrusion on these developing lives. The Frankensteins are definitely not the demanding and tyrannical parental archetypes seen in Percy Shelley's Prometheus Unbound or The Cenci; Victor declares, " We felt that they were not the tyrants to rule our lot according to their caprice, but the agents and creators of all the many delights which we enjoyed." However, Mary Shelley soon points out that a beloved parent is actually more influential on his or her children than a tyrannical one. Upon finding his son engaged in reading, the elder Frankenstein looks "carelessly" at the title of the book, and remarks, "Ah! Cornelius Agrippa! My dear Victor, do not waste your time upon this; it is sad trash." (38). Victor then explains that, had his father explained why he found Agrippa to be "sad trash", the matter might have ended there. Instead, intrigued by his father's very dismissal, Victor sets out to read not only the entire works of Agrippa, but those of Paracelsus and Albertus Magnus as well. Parental condemnation, delivered without explanation, is presented as the surest way to confirm a child in his or her behavior. Similarly, Clerval's literary and educational aspirations are repeatedly denied by his father, who, quoting The Vicar of Wakefield, maintains "I have ten thousand florins a year without Greek, I eat heartily without Greek." (59). 'Eat heartily' he may, but he also alienates his son until he eventually capitulates.
Victor's adopted sister, Elizabeth Lavenza, goes through a similar process of 'molding', although in her case, it is the influence and objectification of her fellow children which determines her character. Paul Cantor and others have pointed out the semi-incestuous affection which the young Victor showers on his "more than sister", an affection characterized primarily by possessiveness: "I...looked upon Elizabeth as mine - mine to protect, love and cherish. All praises bestowed on her I received as made to a possession of my own." (35) As a child, her purposes are primarily decorative: "The saintly soul of Elizabeth shone like a shrine-dedicated lamp in our peaceful home...She was the living spirit of love to soften and attract..." (37), and as an adult, she seems to be little more. Her primary purpose in the novel is as the victim and object of the struggles between Victor and his creation (Youngquist, 341).
However, Elizabeth is also a primary example of another element of childhood identity in Mary's novel : social class or breeding. Victor's mother, having been reduced to poverty during her own father's later years, habitually descends upon the houses of the poor to dole out money and act, as Victor puts it, as "the guardian angel to the afflicted" (33). On one of these errands of mercy, she encounters Elizabeth for the first time:
She found a peasant and his wife, hard working, bent down by care and
labour, distributing a scanty meal to five hungry babes. Among these was
one which attracted my mother far above all the rest. She appeared of a
different stock. The four others were dark-eyed, hardy little vagrants; this
child was thin and very fair. Her hair was the brightest living gold, and
despite the poverty of her clothing, seemed to set a crown of distinction
upon her head. Her brow was clear and ample, her blue eyes cloudless,
and the lips and the moldings of her face so expressive of sensibility and
sweetness that none could behold her without looking on her as of a
different species, a being heaven-sent, and bearing a celestial stamp
in all her features.
We are hardly surprised to find that this radiant creature is also an aristocrat, the orphaned child of a Milanese nobleman. It is a scene which recalls the rescue of Victor's mother herself from poverty, following her father's death in Lucerne, and underscores one of the assumptions of literature which Mary Shelley faces in her novel: that worth, particularly hereditary nobility, can be recognized by physical characteristics.
This notion that physical features are indicators of internal qualities is a pervasive element in Frankenstein and its ancestors, and relevant to the discussion of judgmentality, as it provides one of the customary bases for rejection or acceptance. Greek mythology, the foundation of the Prometheus myth, is rife with characters such as Pan and Medusa, whose grotesque bodies accommodate equally grotesque natures. However, in Frankenstein's most influential precursor, Paradise Lost, Milton reverses the traditional mirroring of internal and external ugliness. Northrop Frye has suggested that the romantic era may be typified by a reversal of the traditional distinction between Augustine's angelic heights and Dante's hellish depths ; heights and airy creatures become sources of misery, while caverns and caves become sources of solace. Prometheus Unbound, or Blake's Urizen, with their sky-dwelling tyrants and cavern-born saviors provide perfect examples of this reversal. It might be suggested that Romance, particularly in the context of the gothic, is typified by a similar reversal of ugliness and beauty, & the sympathy due to each. In Frankenstein, as in Paradise Lost, there is not necessarily a direct correspondence between external and internal beauty - in the case of Milton's Satan, quite the reverse is true. Therefore, while Mary is striking a familiar chord in her readers with Victor's protestations of his monster's hideousness, she is also aware that there is room for, even a necessity for, re-interpretation of this traditional device. In short, Mary is denying her protagonist's primary excuse for his behavior: physical repulsion at the hideousness of his 'child'.
By dividing the child-figures in the novel (and, as much as possible, those in Mary's life) into inner and outer aspects, we may begin to see some of Mary's purpose in her presentation of child-parent relationships. The easiest case to examine with this model is that in which the exterior and the interior follow the traditional pattern of direct correlation. Elizabeth is both physically and spiritually beautiful, and as we have seen, Mary Shelley takes care to stress the association between these two aspects: it is her "angelic" features which distinguish her, not her angelic behavior. However, there is some suggestion, even in this most traditional of cases, that the association between inner and outer beauty is more a function of the viewer's expectations and needs than a quality inherent in Elizabeth herself. When Victor aborts his plans to create a bride for the monster, the creature revenges itself upon Henry Clerval. When the stricken scientist returns to Geneva for his marriage to Elizabeth, he describes her in terms completely unlike those in which she has heretofore been portrayed:
The sweet girl welcomed me with warm affection, yet tears were in her
eyes as she beheld my emaciated frame and feverish cheeks. I saw a
change in her also. She was thinner and had lost much of that heavenly
vivacity that had before charmed me; but her gentleness and soft looks
of compassion made her a more fit companion for one blasted and
miserable as I was.
It is significant that Victor finds the cause of Elizabeth's morbidity in his own emotions, rather than seeing it as her own reaction to Clerval's death. As much as Godwin may have projected his own desires for a successor onto his daughter, Elizabeth is molded by Victor's need for a perfect companion to complement his own moods. In a way, Victor has already become Elizabeth's surrogate parent, in his possessive, protective position towards her, a role which we can only assume would become even more apparent with the consummation of their marriage, with all its patriarchal associations of the husband as his wife's protector and supervisor. His application of the pathetic fallacy stresses his own over-internalization of the world around him, but also calls all judgmentality into question - particularly the judgmentality applied by parents to their children, and what this may reveal about parental motivations, rather than children's shortcomings.
The reader is already aware that, as a parent figure, Victor leaves much to be desired. His abandonment of his creation is, he protests, a result of his extreme horror at the creature's physical form: "...now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart. Unable to endure the aspect of the being I had created, I rushed out of the room..."(56). However, he has also asserted that while composing his creature, he had "selected his features as beautiful" ; only after the creation is complete, is he able to recognize the monstrosity of his creation. As with so much that Victor asserts, the reader must try to see past a screen of Victor's own preconceptions - the monster offers no violence, and, in fact, slips quietly off somewhere, presumably to die. Only later cruelties, we discover, serve to fashion a monstrous interior to match the hideous exterior of the creature, whose beginnings are positively pastoral. The only excuses we can make for Victor's abandonment of his 'child' are the same short-sighted ones which must be offered for the death of the innocent Justine in the next chapter: shortsightedness, and the lazy inability of parents (or society in general) to look beyond the most convenient course of action, or the most self-serving judgment.
By the time the creature does decide to live up to its fearsome exterior, the reader is in a position to doubt any assessment made by Victor, or any other authority, as to the validity of judging another creature. For example, all of the adults concerned protest loudly about the innocence of the child William, and the disastrous unfairness of his death - yet they are willing to see Justine committed to death without raising more than a few token protestations. William himself, furthermore, is not the innocent and angelic creature we have been led to expect. Rather, upon encountering the monster for the first time, his reactions mirror those of his brother Victor : "He struggled violently. 'Let me go,' he cried; 'monster! Ugly wretch! You wish to eat me and tear me to pieces. You are an ogre. Let me go or I will tell my papa.'" Unable to flee as Victor did, William promptly resorts to the other standard he has been taught to judge people with, his social class: "'Hideous monster! Let me go. My papa is a syndic - he is M. Frankenstein - he will punish you. You dare not keep me.'" (136). If not justified in his murder, the monster at least confirms what Mary Shelley maintains throughout the novel : the urge to judge and condemn is too easily come by, and almost always for the wrong reasons.
Since Mary Shelley has pointed out that traditional methods of judging characters in literature, such as external appearance and social status, are unreliable, we must begin to question on what basis all of the child characters in this novel are being judged, and why. There is a consistent pattern of judgment, condemnation and subsequent rejection or destruction which parents direct against their children: Henry's father's denial of his son's education, the elder Frankenstein's summary condemnation of Justine, who lives as a child under his protection, and, of course, Victor's denial and rejection of his creation.
As mentioned before, some critics see this pattern of parental judgmentality as Mary's reply to the condemnations of her own father. While it is certainly probable that Mary identified with the creature's fate, the pattern seems too pervasive to be explained solely in such personal terms. It is also possible to argue that this removal of children from their parents sphere, whether through rejection or through death, may have been Mary's way of dealing with the death of her own children, and her subsequent fears for her later children. The most telling argument for this position is the fact that, at the time of the composition of Frankenstein, Mary's own son William was undergoing a difficult infancy. The notion that she could have introduced a child character with the same name as her own son and then had him savagely murdered without some measure of self-torture or misgiving is ridiculous (Knoepflmacher, 93) . However, while Mary may indeed have been fearfully anticipating the death of her own child in this scene, such an interpretation does not account for the repeated theme of judgment and condemnation which surrounds William's death. Not only does William denounce the monster for his ugliness, but the monster then returns the favor, condemning William to death on the basis of his relationship with Victor, which leads to the trial and unjust death of Justine. While the incident must have held particularly personal resonance for Mary Shelley and her fears for her child, it seems most significant in its relationship to the broader themes of the novel.
However, while children may be at the mercy of their parents, the reverse is also often true - there are many instances where the child figure holds the power of life and death over their parents' heads. It has already been mentioned that Mary's mother died in childbirth, for which Mary might have felt some responsibility. In similar circumstances, the young Elizabeth Lavenza is responsible for the death of her adopted mother when she lies sick with scarlet fever. Unwilling to stand off while the child recuperates, Caroline rushes to the child's bedside and contracts the illness which kills her (42-3). The young Elizabeth is abjured to take Caroline's place regarding the younger children, usurping the parental role - a substitution which is underscored by Victor's dream, in which he sees Elizabeth transformed into the image of his dead mother. The power which children hold over their parents is not always so negatively portrayed, however: the elder De Lacey, blind as he is, is completely dependent upon the assistance of his children for his survival, and the young Caroline Beaufort is certainly instrumental in prolonging and preserving the life of her father, before he succumbs to poverty.
Nor are the children in the novel unaware of the power they can wield over their parents. The monster, for instance, is quite well aware of the fact that the traditional hierarchy of parent and child has been reversed:
"Slave, I before reasoned with you, but you have proved yourself
unworthy of my condescension. Remember that I have power; you
believe yourself miserable, but I can make you so wretched that the
light of day will be hateful to you. You are my creator, but I am your
Mary's own father was similarly 'at the mercy' of his children. Godwin was often financially embarrassed, and relied upon support from Percy and Mary, even as he condemned them for their lifestyle. Muriel Spark points out that Percy and Godwin were merely bringing into effect a social and economic plan of which they both approved, in which the son of the wealthy squire Sir Timothy supported the works of the statesman and essayist Godwin ; a relationship between a patron and his supported artist, rather than between a man and his father-in-law (Spark, 9,48). It is unknown whether Mary believed in the actualization of this system, however, and based on letters in which she repeatedly lamented Godwin's effect upon the young couple's rather weak finances, it seems unlikely she could have approved.
This seems to imply that Mary had a rather dim view of parent-child relationships, which so often in her novel, as in her life, are predicated upon antagonistic power struggles. However, she was also aware that children are introduced to their most positive relationships through their parents. Victor and Clerval are introduced to the angelic Elizabeth through the agency of Mrs. Frankenstein, and Victor often notes her salubrious effect upon himself and his comrade. As has been noted, Victor interprets this introduction to Elizabeth as a preset made to himself, and his eventual intention to wed her provides the culmination of this idyll. The monster is similarly dependent upon his parental figure for a mate:
..."You must create a female for me with whom I can live in the
interchange of those sympathies necessary for my being. This you
alone can do, and I demand it of you as a right which you must not
refuse to concede."
The fact that Victor 'alone' can fulfill the monster's need for love is significant. The creature is not asking for a reconciliation with his creator, instead promising to flee into the wilderness if this wish is granted. The monster has, in effect, gone beyond the need for parental affection, having rejected those bonds with the murder of William. Yet he still relies upon his unreliable father for anything like romantic fulfillment, and Victor agrees that it is 'within his power' to bestow that fulfillment.
This dependence upon the parental figure for romantic fulfillment may also be said to be true of Mary's relationship with Percy, since she was introduced to the poet through his association with her father. Like Victor being chastised for reading Cornelius Agrippa, Mary may have perversely found the censure of her father to actually be a spur for her actions.
It is the denial of these introductions to mature relationships which is destructive to the parent. Victor's creation is furious when he is denied his bride, and swears that if his wish is not satisfied, Victor will be destroyed (160-1). Mary was not able, and perhaps not willing, to destroy Godwin for his condemnation of her relationship with Percy in so direct a fashion, but she was responsible for something which he actually may have feared far worse: notoriety. "What I have most of all in horror is the public papers," he confessed in his letter to Mary on the event of Fanny's suicide, and it was just this horror which she aggravated, directly or inadvertently, by eloping with Percy and fleeing her parents' home. The monster takes his revenge by inserting himself into Victor's most private relationship, the marriage bed, claiming "I shall be with you on your wedding night" - in effect, taking from Victor that which the creature himself desires, a mate. Mary's revenge was to insert herself into Godwin's public existence, creating the scandal he always sought to avoid.
However, if the parent indulges the child's need for positive, loving relationships, there must be a consequent weakening or destruction of the parent/child bond. In a way, Frankenstein is a story of parental 'empty nest' syndrome ; and an argument for parental release of their children's affections. It would be reading too much into the text to assume that this latter message is directed explicitly at William Godwin - but it is not too much to assume that this is part of the intent. Godwin is reported as having 'doted' upon his daughter, and his letters certainly indicate that he held her in a higher regard than any of his other children.
This is also in some ways a reinforcement of the idea that children come to their ideas of love and relationships through their parents: if they are given good examples, and given the freedom to develop on their own when necessary, they develop consequently positive romantic relationships. The Frankensteins allow Victor and Elizabeth to develop and mature at their own pace, sending Victor off to college when he chooses to go, and their relationship (Victor and Elizabeth's) is consequently positive, or at least positive within the traditional strictures of nineteenth-century marriages, however short-lived. The monster, by contrast is provided with no positive 'role-model' for his relationships with others, and consequently, against his own best efforts, develops into a beast (Moers, 104-5). Years before the connection would be made in the popular consciousness, Mary Shelley is pointing out that the children of child-abusers become themselves child-abusers...and that further, children given no example of positive romantic relations find it impossible to develop romantic relations.
The perfect child development story in Mary Shelley's view is one of repetitive cycles, in which parents assist their child in development, then progressively release their authority as the child develops external bonds and relationships to replace those of the parents. The most positive family group in the novel is the De Lacey's, with its elder generation passively supported by younger generations which have taken over the active, productive, and providing roles. Older generations provide wisdom and guidance without interference in the relationships of their children. For Mary Shelley, who had so much difficulty with her own childhood, and so much disappointment in the deaths of her own children, the conception of herself passing on her role to a new generation must have seemed ideal. In this light, Frankenstein displays not so much the revolutionary aesthetic of Percy Shelley, typified by the destruction of parental authority figures in Prometheus Unbound, as the evolutionary aesthetic of an idealistic young mother-to-be, who wants nothing more than for the natural cycle to be consummated.