Content Category

Literary Criticism

Abstract/Description

Mary Shelley’s novel "The Last Man" explores two types of isolation over the course of the story: voluntary isolation and involuntary isolation. Voluntary isolation occurs when a person chooses to sever their ties to society, for example, when many of the rich families secluded themselves when the plague first entered England, and involuntary isolation occurs with forced solitude, as when Verney became the sole survivor at the end of the novel. Most people tend to focus on Verney’s involuntary isolation, but I believe that the voluntary isolation may play a larger role than his final state.The plague that wipes out the human race represents a universal crisis that could be dealt with in two ways: universal cooperation or complete isolation. I believe Mary Shelley is advocating for people to reach out and unite for a greater cause because it promotes cooperation and hope in the face of a crisis, and also condemns isolation on the grounds that human beings are all connected and are not immune to universal dangers. Thus, those that isolate themselves become lost as they cut themselves off from all contact from others, fatally restricting any help they might have received.

Origin of Submission

as part of a class

Faculty Involvement

Dr. Paul Westover

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Voluntary and Involuntary Isolation in Mary Shelley's "The Last Man"

Mary Shelley’s novel "The Last Man" explores two types of isolation over the course of the story: voluntary isolation and involuntary isolation. Voluntary isolation occurs when a person chooses to sever their ties to society, for example, when many of the rich families secluded themselves when the plague first entered England, and involuntary isolation occurs with forced solitude, as when Verney became the sole survivor at the end of the novel. Most people tend to focus on Verney’s involuntary isolation, but I believe that the voluntary isolation may play a larger role than his final state.The plague that wipes out the human race represents a universal crisis that could be dealt with in two ways: universal cooperation or complete isolation. I believe Mary Shelley is advocating for people to reach out and unite for a greater cause because it promotes cooperation and hope in the face of a crisis, and also condemns isolation on the grounds that human beings are all connected and are not immune to universal dangers. Thus, those that isolate themselves become lost as they cut themselves off from all contact from others, fatally restricting any help they might have received.