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Hausarbeit (Hauptseminar), 2016
13 Seiten, Note: 1,0
Romanticism and the Gothic Novel
Gender Roles and Dominions
Education of the Creature
Since its publication in 1818, Mary Shelley’s magnum opus Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus has given rise to a wide range of readings and interpretations. A vast majority of these focus on the genre of the Gothic horror novel and the age of Romanticism, the evolution of modern science, or the correlation between creator and creation. Other renditions are preoccupied with more concise subject matters such as the underlying feminist structure, or the relevance of Milton’s Paradise Lost, which is frequently alluded to in the original text by Shelley. This paper serves as partial fulfilment for the completion of the seminar Figures of Frankenstein – Mary Shelley’s novel and its afterlife, and is designed to explore the failure of education in the upbringing of Frankenstein’s monster, determining to which extent these shortcomings in education relate to the lack of female nurture. The second chapter will establish the foundation for the exploration of the subject of education in Frankenstein by setting a framework of Romanticism and the Gothic novel as an originating genre of literature. Gender roles and emerging dominions in Romantic European societies will be surveyed in the subsequent chapter, thus providing a focused analysis of the absence of female attendance. The third chapter will contain research on educational responsibilities in the 19th century and provide an in-depth analysis of educational failure taking place in Frankenstein, both by male and female teachers. Herein, the central literary source is the novel by Mary Shelley in the original text of 1818, edited by Marilyn Butler (Oxford World’s Classics).
Mary Shelley’s central work Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus contains elements of both Romantic and Gothic prose (Encyclopædia Britannica). Alluding to medieval architecture, as it was often referred to in such novels for the sake of scenery and setting, and to create a certain atmosphere of mystery and horror, “the term ‘Gothic’ signified a rather arbitrary borrowing of motifs from what was perceived as a desirable medieval and feudal way of life” (Heath 2014: 17). The prevailing Canon suggests Horace Walpole’s Castle of Otranto (1765) as the defining piece of the newly emerging genre. Most respected in Walpole’s Gothic literary tradition is Ann Radcliffe, whose work Mysteries of Udolpho (1794) ranks among the approved specimen of the genre. Several instances of subgenres subsist to Gothic fiction, such as Matthew Gregory Lewis’s The Monk (1796), which proves more sensational and focalises horror and violence, and Charles Robert Maturin’s romance Melmoth the Wanderer, displaying a scholar reminiscent of Goethe’s Faust. Though the Gothic novel is widely connoted with the classic horror stories, e.g. Bram Stoker’s Dracula, these novelists introduce the additional perspective of the existential nature of humankind. Romanticism as a newly originating genre “was seen by some as a revival of Elizabethan literature and its ‘Gothic’ tendencies [and] has been described as a ‘renaissance of the Renaissance’” (Heath 2014: 4). The role of women during the Romantic era (1789-1837) ranged between intricate to downtrodden conditions: In the common sense of that period women had few to no rights, and were considered inferior to men in every aspect of daily life, except for their capability to bear children. John Ruskin (quoted in Heath, 2014: 43) refers to the Romantic notion that “the woman's power is for rule, not for battle – and her intellect is not for invention or creation”. Her first prerogative is to be “enduringly, incorruptibly good; instinctively, infallibly wise”. Her intended goodness and wisdom are still “not for self-development […], not that she may set herself above her husband, but that she may never fail from his side.” The male dominion is alternatively characterised as “active, progressive, defensive” and man himself as “eminently the doer, the creator, the discoverer, the defender. His intellect is for speculation and invention; his energy for adventure, for war, and for conquest” (ibid.). Thus, a woman’s first responsibility is confined to the borders of her family’s household. British life of the late 18th century proved to be tied to rigid regulations, and “people knew where they belonged, and law and custom kept them there” (ibid.). Following the publication of Mary Wollstonecraft’s feminist pamphlet A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), the restrictions of diurnal life began to be ardently debated; the public discussion as to this topic pursued up to Victorian times. Wollstonecraft’s writing inspires deeper considerations on a society which is ruled by male dominance: Men are granted superiority in life, even in the fictional life Shelley creates in Frankenstein’s 19th century society of contemporary Geneva. A distinct pattern of gender affiliation emerges, in which men assume the public sphere and women are restrained to the familiar household. All principal male characters in Frankenstein take on business outside of the home, whereas female protagonists are not granted the opportunity to leave the confines of their own houses. Elizabeth addresses this delimiting circumstance when she is denied to travel with Victor and expresses her “regret […] that she had not the same opportunities of enlarging her experience and cultivating her understanding” (Shelley 2009: 127). It is noteworthy how Victor Frankenstein strips women of their responsibility to bear children and thereby “eliminate[s] the female’s primary biological function and source of cultural power” (Mellor 1988: 115), namely to create new life.
During Romanticism it was reserved to the female domain to undertake domestic work and childcare, as well as supervising and delegating tasks to the servants. Educational obligation traditionally devolved on women. Mellor (1990: 115) opts for a “gendered construction of the universe” in Romantic times and thus, the issues addressed by female authors of that time differ greatly “from those which concerned the canonical male Romantic poets” (Mellor 2013: 2). This is owed to the strict division of literary genres by socially accepted gender barriers, which confined female discourse to the prosaic form and excluded female writers from poetic aspirations. Mellor (ibid.: 6-9) ascribes such a “feminization of discourse” to that firm gender barrier between literary forms, as the novel would be assigned to the realm of female writing and domestic authority of women, whereas the ‘higher’ forms of poetry and drama are considered adjunct to the domain of men. Male poets are hence blamed of “effectively [stealing] from women their primary cultural authority as the experts in delicate, tender feelings and, by extension, moral purity and goodness” (ibid.: 23). Women suffered a rather singular perception (by men) during the Romantic era. Heath stipulates that Mary Shelley’s “generation grew up burdened by a Romantic male ideology that fantasized ‘Woman’ as an irrational creature of ‘feeling’ and a source of domestic affection”. Wollstonecraft argues how women are “doomed like Frankenstein’s monster, struggling for identity and yet constructed by a man” (2014: 116). Still, Romanticism favours a certain duality in this respect: Sensibility is not the foremost prerogative of the era, it is rather “seen as rational for feelings to be invoked, such [is] the emotional importance of the objective” (ibid.: 10).
The assumption of 19th-century-specific gender roles and according liabilities strongly influenced the purposefulness of nurturing and education. In Vol. I Ch. I of Frankenstein, Victor recollects his first memories of meeting Elizabeth, who his mother in a “desire to bind as closely as possible the ties of domestic love” chooses as his wife. Victor’s narration of his playmate exposes her character and conduct, mirroring temperamental notions of the time. Elizabeth’s features contradict to a great extent, she “enjoy[s] liberty, yet no one [can] submit with more grace […] to constraint and caprice”. Victor praises Elizabeth’s “capability of application” (Shelley 2009: 20), a trait socially highly acknowledged in the upper class to which the Frankenstein family appertains. Victor testifies how he “loved to tend on her, as […] on a favourite animal” (ibid.: 20-21), bearing a subtle tone of condescension towards Elizabeth as a fully-valued person of equal importance to Victor or men in general. Gender-specific disparities become increasingly apparent when Victor outlines the contrast between his own and Elizabeth’s nature: “The world was to me a secret, which I desired to discover; to her it was a vacancy, which she sought to people with imaginations of her own” (ibid.: 21). Victor’s youth is assessed as idyllic and quaint in his narration of his time in Geneva. His “domestic circle” (ibid.: 22) stretches beyond the members of the Frankenstein family, who later encompasses Elizabeth and their childhood friend Clerval. His parents, who he considers forbearing and indulgent (cf. Shelley 2009: 21), pursue an educational model which does not meet the contemporary standard of learning: “Perhaps we did not read so many books, or learn languages so quickly, as those who are disciplined according to the ordinary methods; but what we learned was impressed the more deeply on our memories” (ibid.: 22). Victor appreciates “the many opportunities instructors possess of directing the attention of their pupils to useful knowledge” although Alphonse perceives his son’s favourite readings of Agrippa as “sad trash” (ibid.: 22-23). Thus, Victor’s apprehension appears unduly favourable and idolising of his education, as he “attributed […] failure rather to [his] own inexperience and mistake, than to a want of skill or fidelity in [his] instructors” (ibid.: 24). An incident from Victor’s youth demonstrates the educational realm of science pertaining to male educators: He witnesses lightning striking an oak by the house and turns to his father for information as to the episode: “I eagerly inquired of my father the nature and origin of thunder and lightning. […] He constructed a small electrical machine, and exhibited a few experiments” (ibid.: 24-25).
Due to social and contemporaneous conventions, the children of the family are imposed additional tasks on at a fairly young age: Victor “became the instructor of [his] brothers” at only seventeen, whereas Elizabeth assumes the role of Ernest’s nurse, who “had been afflicted with ill health from his infancy”. Within the familiar bonds, the educational responsibilities are distinctly divided out: “My father directed our studies, and my mother partook of our enjoyments” (ibid.: 25). Despite his familial duties it is arranged for Victor to leave his native town and commence his studies at the University of Ingolstadt, “for the completion of [his] education, [and] that [he] should be made acquainted with other customs than those of [his] native country”. This endeavour is delayed when Elizabeth catches the scarlet fever and Victor’s mother “could no longer debar herself from her society”; when she falls ill herself, “[on] her death-bed [her] fortitude and benignity […] did not desert her” and her prevalent preoccupation is the abandonment of her family. Victor’s remembrance of his mother is equally beneficial and ideal as his memories of his infant instruction: According to his testimonial, “[she] died calmly; and her countenance expressed affection even in death” (ibid.: 26). After Caroline’s premature demise her duties are passed on to Elizabeth, who “endeavoured to renew the spirit of cheerfulness in [the Frankensteins’] little society. [...] She determined to fulfil her duties with the greatest exactness; and she felt that that most imperious duty, of rendering her uncle and cousins happy [...], continually endeavouring to contribute to the happiness of others, entirely forgetful of herself” (ibid.).
The constraints of Victor’s life are “remarkably secluded and domestic” (ibid.: 28) prior to his departure for Ingolstadt. After Victor successfully reanimates the creature (Vol. I Ch. IV), he becomes immerged in guilt-ridden dreams, creating images of “the corpse of [his] dead mother” (ibid.: 39). When Clerval arrives to keep him company, Victor expresses relief, stating that “his presence brought back to [his] thoughts [his] father, Elizabeth, and all those scenes of home so dear to [his] recollection” (ibid.: 41). Clerval exhibits a kind and attentive behaviour towards his friend and assumes the role as his “only nurse”, a position that at the time used to be filled by female members of a family. Clerval hands over to Victor a letter from Elizabeth, who expresses her unease about regular notice from her cousin: She ascribes such a negligence to an illness on his part which “makes [them] all very wretched, […] as after the death of [his] dead mother” (ibid.: 43). The bonds that tie together the Frankenstein family have remained close even during Victor’s absence and his father “could hardly be restrained from undertaking a journey to Ingolstadt” (ibid.: 45), reminiscent of Victor’s mother, who did not refrain from exposing herself to the peril of seeking Elizabeth’s company during her illness. Elizabeth’s account of Justine Moritz, accepted by the Frankensteins after “her mother could not endure her, and […] treated her very ill”, offers a strong contrast to the Frankenstein family’s attachment. She grows to “[adore] her protectress” who becomes a “model of all excellence” for the girl and “endeavour[s] to imitate her phraseology and manners” (ibid.: 46). When Caroline contracts scarlet fever, Justine “attend[s] her during her illness with the most anxious affection” (ibid.: 47). A letter from his father informs Victor of the murder of his youngest brother. The strong family ties emerge frequently in the novel: Elizabeth exclaims to having “murdered [her] darling infant!” (ibid.: 53) upon discovering William’s dead body; Victor is summoned home by his father to fulfil his brotherly duty to console Elizabeth (cf. ibid.). When Victor arrives in Geneva, he beholds a painting of his mother which conjures up memories of his childhood: “Beloved and respectable parent! He still remained to me”. The current events reflect on Elizabeth’s nature, who now, “sad and desponding […] no longer took delight in her ordinary occupations” (ibid.: 58) imputed on her by social convention. The joyfulness bounded to the Frankenstein mansion has been crossed and “misery has come home” (ibid.: 71).
Frankenstein is strikingly rich in female characters but at the same time devoid of mothers. Though the absence of a mother for the creature is most apparent, the novel exhibits a vast range of characters who are missing mother figures: Caroline Frankenstein takes over her mother’s role and takes care of her indigent father by herself prior to her marriage to Alphonse; Elizabeth is taken in by her uncle after her mother’s demise, as is Justine after the loss of her mother; the whereabouts of Clerval and Felix’s mothers are either left completely unmentioned or have little to no significance for the remaining events. Mrs Frankenstein succumbs to scarlet fever in the first volume of Frankenstein and is thus excluded from educational duties in her children’s youth. Her character and conduct are idolised and idealised in Victor’s rendering of the story. Susan Magarey stresses in her publication Dangerous Ideas (2014: 108-111) Victor’s plot-altering realisation of his creation early in the novel (Vol. I Ch. IV) and his ensuing “revulsion when faced with the product of his presumption in usurping the powers of nature.” Magarey observes how Victor “usurped not [only] the powers of nature, but rather the single greatest power of the female sex, that of bringing forth new life”, proposing the interpretation of “vengeance taken by the feminine upon his overweening, masculine appropriation of the painfully held power of women.” Bienstock (2003: 25-26) coins the term of abjection: “Although all Gothic women are threatened, no woman is in greater peril in the world of the Gothic than is the mother. The typical Gothic mother is absent: dead, imprisoned or somehow abjected.” Gothic mothers who are alive are usually “effaced by their husbands or other representatives of the patriarchy”. Virginia Woolf (quoted in Bienstock 2013: 30) declares “the figure of the benevolent mother […] must be killed before the female author can write, hence the absence of the mother in the fiction of female writers.” The mothers’ absence (or abjection) is turned into a symbol for the social phenomenon of denying “women to create and to sustain a female tradition within the patriarchy” and thus forced them into “lives of privacy, reticence, [and] domesticity” (Bienstock 2003: 30). This “separation of gender spheres” (Hill 1999: 212) is not confined to the era of Romanticism, Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem The Princess, thought as representative of the Victorian age, advocates exactly those separate dominions which are to be adhered to:
“Man for the field and woman for the hearth; / Man for the sword, and for the needle she; / Man with the head, and woman with the heart; / Man to command, and woman to obey; / All else confusion” (ll.437-441).
Magarey (2014: 110) claims that “[it] is not the unnamed, un-mothered, abandoned creature […] who is the monster in Mary Shelley’s story [but] Frankenstein himself.” The creature’s upbringing bears great contrast to the lovey nurturing Victor and Elizabeth experience throughout their infancy. After achieving the sole endeavour of his studies in Ingolstadt, assembling and animating his creature, “which he does not name and from then on refers to only as ‘the monster’, Frankenstein flees in revulsion, leaving his creation to look after itself” (Magarey 2014: 108). This mirrors “Frankenstein’s total failure as a parent”: The creature’s outward appearance and the realisation of his work tempt Victor to “[reject his ‘child’] in disgust, […] completely abandoning him” (Mellor 1990: 10) and forsaking him parental guidance. Other than liabilities towards a biological child, Victor’s “own responsibilities toward such creature” remain vague in both in anticipation and retrospect of its creation. The implications of “such parental abandonment” are abundantly conveyed in the novel: Victor’s ‘child’ does not only not encounter and receive love and nurture from his ‘father’, his attempts to offer affection to others are harshly hindered and rejected, both “with the De Laceys and, later, with a mate”. Through this constant rejection “the abused child [...] becomes an abusive, battering adult and parent” (ibid.: 11). Although Victor remains unclear as to his duties towards his creation, the creature himself puts their relation in concise terms, and insinuates the outcome of the novel: “Yet you, my creator, detest and spurn me, thy creature, to whom thou art bound by ties only dissoluble by the annihilation of one of us”. He requests of Victor to fulfil his duty but still pledges to be “mild and docile to [his] natural lord and king” (Shelley 2009: 77). Victor reacts harshly and denies any possible attachment between them, although towards the end of Vol. II Ch. II, he reflects and “[feels] what the duties of a creator towards his creature [are]” (ibid.: 79). After a change of perspective, the creature narrates the incidents that follow his escape from Victor’s premises. From an “agreeable asylum” (ibid.: 83) in the woods (after being scared away by the inhabitants of the first village he entered) he befalls the De Lacey family, who lives secludedly in a cottage and (though unaware of their role, which is bestowed on them by the creature) greatly shares in the creature’s education. He soon grows fond of his new companions, referring to them as “friends” (ibid.: 89) and takes delight in watching them from afar. Until then, the creature had been oblivious to interpersonal attachments and sentiments. The De Laceys portray his first human contact unfettered by rejection and fear; his encounter with the cottagers conveys “kindness and affection […] of a peculiar and overpowering nature” (ibid.: 85). The creature draws “pleasure [from] watching [his] human neighbours”, though no actual contact has yet occurred. Whereas the reader perceives humility and indigence from the creature’s description of the cottagers, he in turn apprehends them as the epitome of beauty (cf. ibid.: 86). For the most part, the educational endeavours take place by self-motivation and via the creature’s sense of hearing: He appreciates the “harmony of the old man’s instrument or the song of the birds” and Felix’ “read[ing] aloud, but at that time […] knew nothing of the science of words or letters” (ibid.: 86). The creature’s desire to acquire knowledge becomes overwhelming and he spends a vast period of time “watching, and endeavouring to discover the motives which influenced their actions”. The creature is mystified by the bearing presented to him by the cottagers, witnessing the young “[perform] towards [the old man] every little office of affection and duty with gentleness; and he rewarded them by his benevolent smiles”. Still, human emotions and conduct remain a mystery to the creature, who, when he witnesses Agatha and Felix crying on departing, “saw no cause for their unhappiness; but [...] was deeply affected by it”. Not only the creature’s assessment of the De Laceys’ wealth does not meet reality, he is likewise unable to classify Felix and Agatha’s tears other than as a manifestation of anguish and distress: “What did their tears imply? Did they really express pain?” It is foreshadowed that the creature will, through “perpetual attention and time”, be able to “solve those questions […] which were at first enigmatic” (ibid.: 87) to him on their first encounter. Felix and Agatha’s kind and ... conduct towards their father triggers a subsequent reaction in the creature when they “[place] food before the old man, when they reserved none for themselves”. He thus refrains from stealing from the cottagers when he “[finds] that in doing this [he] inflicted pain on [them] and satisfied [him]self with berries, nuts, and roots”. Leaving Felix and Agatha clueless as to their faceless benefactor, he takes over their daily tasks. The creature applies a vast period of time to the acquisition of language: He discovers that his neighbours “possessed a method of communicating their experience and feelings [...] by articulate sounds” with the effect of “produc[ing] pleasure or pain [...] in the minds and countenances of the hearers” and makes it his predominant goal to acquire that “godlike science” (ibid.: 88) In the course of several months, the creature manages to identify recurring “names that were given to some of the most familiar objects of discourse [and] learned also the names of the cottagers themselves” (ibid.: 89); he also grasps the concepts connected with “of these sounds, and was able to pronounce them”. After attaining the skill not only to imitate and comprehend speech but also to identify tone and register (“He would talk in a cheerful accent”, ibid.). The creature further observes Felix reading (“found on the paper signs for speech which he understood”, ibid.: 90) and endeavours to master this discipline accordingly. He develops the desire to make his presence known to the cottagers, but does not intend to “make the attempt until I had first become master of their language” in order to “make them overlook the deformity of [his] figure” (ibid.). The cottagers are “looked upon [...] as superior beings” and the creature longs to “first win their favour, and afterwards their love”: This serves as a major force of motivation for him “to apply with fresh ardour to the acquiring the art of language” (ibid.: 91). Various occurrences continue to stun the creature, who cannot draw the adequate conclusions (e.g. “I conjectured”, 92, “the cause of which I did not comprehend”, 94, “I ardently desired”, ibid.). The arrival of Safie, Felix’ “sweet Arabian” (ibid.: 93) presents an essential impetus for the creature’s cognitive endeavours. He first notices that “although the stranger uttered articulate sounds, and appeared to have a language of her own” and attempts to make herself understood by sign language. The creature notices “frequent recurrence of one sound which the stranger repeated after them, that she was endeavouring to learn their language” and following this discovery to imitate her endeavours. By means of mimesis and imitation the creature “improved rapidly in the knowledge of language, so that in two months [he] began to comprehend most of the words uttered by [his] protectors” (ibid.: 94). Close attention and imitation of what the creature perceives from Safie’s education by Felix constitute the major pillars of his own educational efforts: He attempts to accelerate and optimise his learning curve and prides himself that he “improved more rapidly than the Arabian, who understood very little, and conversed in broken accents, whilst I comprehended and could imitate almost every word that was spoken”, bearing parallels to instinctive and unguided first language acquisition. The “science of letters […] opened before [the creature] a wide field for wonder and delight” and marks a crucial turning-point in his autodidactic education and his prospective deeds. He happens upon a volume of John Milton’s Paradise Lost, which finally engages him in reflections about his creator, of whom he had been “absolutely ignorant” so far. This produces significant doubt in the creature as to his own existence (“I cannot describe to you the agony that these reflections inflicted upon me”, ibid.: 96) and deteriorates the spatial separation between him and the cottagers. His studies of the “various relationships which bind one human being to another in mutual bonds” reinforce the creature’s apprehension of Victor’s parental neglect. He laments that “no father had watched [his] infant days, no mother had blessed [him] with smiles and caresses” (ibid.: 97) and ascertains the cottagers’ protection as a substitute for parental love and nurturing. The story about an “omnipotent God warring with his creatures” (ibid.: 104) creates feelings of envy in the creature: Adam is the “perfect creature, […] guarded by the especial care of his Creator” who directly interacts with supernatural beings (as he views the cottagers) and is educated by them personally. The creature likewise curses Victor, who thoughtlessly created him, and his increased knowledge, which makes him realise his status as a “wretched outcast” (ibid.: 106). He grows increasingly ambitious to “be known and loved by these amiable creatures to see their sweet looks turned towards me with affection” (ibid.: 107). He approaches De Lacey in the absence of his children and, taking advantage of the man’s blindness, deliberately deceiving him in order to gain his trust. When he unveils his true identity and motives to the family and is violently driven out by Felix, his emotions are governed by “rage and revenge” (ibid.: 110). Upon losing the reverence of his psychological parents the creature experiences an actual loss of speech: He expresses his “anguish in fearful howlings [...] like a wild beast” (ibid.: 111). The creature witnesses the departure of the cottagers, again being “spurned and deserted” (ibid.: 113), and, omitting his prevailing sentiment of hatred towards his creator, intends to find out Victor’s whereabouts. Using his knowledge of geography and the diary pages he took possession of , he makes his way to Geneva to force the promise to create him a female “with whom [he] can live in the interchange of those sympathies necessary for [his] being” (ibid.: 118). Remarkably, Victor, who in Vol. I praises the amicability of his own parents and fellows, denies his own ‘child’ the opportunity of a companion; after he is approached by the creature and, in an attempt to free himself from all bounds to his flawed creation, “trembling with passion, [he] tore to pieces the thing on which [he] was engaged” (ibid.: 139) by mischievously destroying the body before it can be reanimated.
 Faust and Frankenstein are frequently paralleled in regard to striving for scientific superiority in their respective fields.
 The beginning of the Romantic era is commonly retrospectively equated with the wake of the French Revolution, and ends with Queen Victoria’s assumption of reign in 1837.
 In Nick Dear’s interpretation (2011: 67) it is claimed that Frankenstein has taken control over nature herself as a new force of creation – “I followed nature into her lair, and stripped her of her secrets” – it is Elizabeth who starts to reason with Victor, assailing his refusal to create life in the established way of biological procreation: “[If] you wanted to create life – […] Why not just give me a child? […] Because that is how we create life, Victor – that is the usual way!”
 Elizabeth and Victor mainly refer to each other as cousins, seldom as fiancés.
 This is partly due to the multi-layered construction of the narration: The narrative is framed by Walton’s letters to his sister, which include Victor’s account of events (1st person), which in return contain reports by both the creature (1st person) and De Lacey (3rd person). Accordingly, Walton offers the only portion of objectivity in the novel, though his report is strongly based on Victor’s subjective testimony.
 The subject of usurpation is alluded to by several scholars, e.g. Mellor, Mitchell, and Gilbert and Gubar.
 Butler (2009: 257) ascribes alternations in spelling between De Lacey and De Lacy to misinterpretations of Percy B. Shelley’s handwritten notes by the 1818 typesetter.
 In Dear’s dramatic adaption (2011: 71) his self-acquired ability of mimicking the words and actions of others proves as tactics to kill Elizabeth on her wedding night: “I am good at the art of assimilation. […] And at the feet of my master, I learnt the highest of human skills […]: I finally learnt how to lie.”
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