Sympathy in Mary Shelley's "Matilda" and Frankenstein
Teo, Wei Lin
Date of Issue2016
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
This dissertation will discuss the significance of sympathy – “our fellow-feeling” (Smith 13) – in “Matilda” and Frankenstein. In both works, characters display a range of emotional responses that reveals their sensibility: their “faculty of feeling, [their] capacity for extremely refined emotion and [their] quickness to display compassion for suffering” (Todd, Sensibility 7). These emotional responses reveal how sympathetic feelings develop in characters and their relationships with each other. By evaluating these relationships, this dissertation will show that both works emphasise the importance of sympathy. In addition, it will also reveal its problematic aspect. This dissertation will argue that sympathisers can choose whether or not to sympathise with someone. It will show that sympathy can be manipulated and exploited and so, cannot be relied upon to form judgement. As a result, the narrative suggests that characters should make informed judgements, and prevent, if not take responsibility for any misjudgements formed as a result of an overdependence on sympathy.