Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is generally acknowledged to be one of the most remarkable readings of Paradise Lost to issue from the Romantic period, and Shelley openly signals the epic’s importance as an interpretative key to her work. It is frequently noted that, while Frankenstein and his Creature identify themselves openly with both Adam and Satan, there is, surprisingly, no mention of Milton’s Eve. Feminist readings of the novel in the seventies and eighties, especially the brilliant, provocative essay by Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar, found it difficult to look past ‘Milton’s Bogey’, and from that partial perspective Frankenstein becomes a ‘despairingly acquiescent’ retelling of the misogynistic story at the core of the epic in which ‘femaleness and fallenness’ are ‘essentially synonymous’ (TS : Please link all unlinked citations to the respective references in the book-end bibliography.2020: 189; 234). The foregrounding of conversation, together with the establishment of the domestic sphere as the vital stage of human activity in Milton’s epic, allows for a more richly complex insight into its place at the heart of Frankenstein and a more nuanced understanding of the absent presence of Eve in the novel. Shelley emerges as a more critically responsive reader of Paradise Lost than had been previously recognised: by evoking repressed alternatives through a controlled use of Miltonic allusion, Shelley, like Milton, offers the reader insights into how things could and should have been.
Green, M. (2021). ‘Two Great Sexes Animate the World’: Looking Past ‘Milton’s Bogey’ in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein’. In M. Green, & S. Al-Akhras (Eds.), Women (Re)Writing Milton (49-70). Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780367760205