Change is a continuous cycle encountered by man. Percy Bysshe Shelley writes in his poem “Mutability” about the change of a man’s yesterday and his tomorrow. Mary Shelley parallels this by developing a scene that highlights change in her book Frankenstein. In chapter ten of Frankenstein, the monster brought to life, in consequence to Victor Frankenstein’s studies of natural philosophy and chemistry, had caused great despair upon Victor, so he set off to find peace. Amongst his journey, Victor becomes a prime example of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s concept of “Mutability.”
In chapter seven, Victor learned from his father’s letter that his brother William has been murdered, and Victor knows his monster committed the malicious act. The family’s servant, Justine Moritz who was loved, cherished, and trusted, was wrongly condemned for the murder, and later died under false accusation. Victor, knowing the truth, said there was “a weight of despair and remorse” pressed on his heart, “which nothing could remove” (80). He felt that he “has been the author of unalterable evils” (81), so he sought to find relief amongst a place he has cherished; the Alpine valleys.
Upon his arrival, Victor wandered through the serene mountains to find composure. Victor found the mountains to be “sublime” and “magnificent”, and they tranquilized his remorseful thoughts (86). After getting the relief he needed, Victor resigned to his quarters to attain some rest. Conversely, that is not what happened. Victor awoke with a loss of all happiness and a “dark melancholy that clouded every thought” (86). In one night’s time, he went from serene to uneasy. This scene creates a plot that depicts what Percy Blysshe Shelley is attempting to convey to readers in his poem.
In his poem, Percy states, “[w]e rest.–A dream has power to poison sleep; [w]e rise.–One wandering thought pollutes the day” (766). This means that one might not wake up the way they laid down. Emotions can change in the blink of an eye. A dream can affect the way you think and feel the next day. You could go to sleep blissful and wake up remorseful. Furthermore, Percy continues to write “[m]an’s yesterday may ne’er be like his morrow” (766). Life is constantly changing. The only thing that is constant is the aspect of change.
Victor Frankenstein is a suitable example of the constant change elaborated by Percy Shelley because he was in great despair, so he sought peace and found it. Though he found peace, it didn’t stay. He dreamt of the horrendous monster he created, which caused great revulsion upon his rouse. His mood morphed due to the aspects of life.
In summary, “mutability” is the tendency to change. According to Percy Shelley, it is the only thing consistent in life. Victor Frankenstein compares because his life throughout the book is always evolving. The last two stanzas of Percy’s poem are referenced in Frankenstein because Victor displays how life can change in the blink of an eye or in one night’s time.
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. Introduction and Notes by Karen Karbiener. Barnes and Noble,
Shelley, Percy Bysshe. “Mutability.” The Norton Anthology of British Literature: The Romantic
Period. 10th ed. Stephen Greenblatt, General Editor. W. W. Norton, 2017. pp. 766