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Character Analysis in The Mortal Immortal

Winzy: As the immortal narrator of the story, Winzy is the subject of readers’ sympathy. Readers may initially be envious of Winzy’s immortal youth, but it soon becomes clear that immortality is not without its disadvantages. One moment of recklessness—drinking Cornelius Agrippa’s magical potion—made in a state of despair leads to many lifetimes of sorrow. Winzy is a caring and devoted man, but immortality changes him from someone who is content with life to one who is embittered, wanting only to see how eternal his suffering must be.

Character Analysis Examples in The Mortal Immortal:

The Mortal Immortal

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"set at liberty the life imprisoned within, and so cruelly prevented from soaring from this dim earth to a sphere more congenial to its immortal essence...."   (The Mortal Immortal)

A popular conception of the duality of mind and body at the time of the story’s publication was that the body was an imperfect thing that must be cast off by the divine, everlasting mind. Though the body would decay, the mind would live on forever in some form once free of its material prison. Notice how Winzy associates the separation of his mind and body as pleasant: the only thing that will grant him long-term peace.

"Death! mysterious, ill-visaged friend of weak humanity! Why alone of all mortals have you cast me from your sheltering fold? ..."   (The Mortal Immortal)

Notice the vocabulary choice Winzy uses to characterize his personification of death. To others, death is feared and avoided; to Winzy, he is a “friend” despite his unpleasant appearance. Death’s company is now something that Winzy longs for, seeing it as a refuge and a place of peace from the terrible emotions he must experience now that those he has loved are dead.

"A sailor without rudder or compass, tossed on a stormy sea--a traveller lost on a wide-spread heath, without landmark or star to him--such have I been: more lost, more hopeless than either. A nearing ship, a gleam from some far cot, may save them; but I have no beacon..."   (The Mortal Immortal)

Notice how Winzy uses similes as a point of comparison: he is like a lost ship assaulted by the elements and a directionless person who cannot find a way out of a barren wasteland. Though those two lost wanders may yet be saved—either by another ship or a shelter in which to rest—Winzy has no hope of something saving him by chance. His joy of youth has now turned to despair at his unceasing existence, which is now without purpose.

"with smiles of enchanting archness and a step like a fawn--this mincing, simpering, jealous old woman...."   (The Mortal Immortal)

Notice how the new description of aging Bertha recalls the unpleasantness Winzy associated with her previous guardian. Again, those of a certain age are portrayed as having developed negative personality traits—contrasting with Winzy’s joy in eternal youth.

"Nestors..."   (The Mortal Immortal)

This is an allusion the the classical figure of Nestor from Greek and Roman mythology. Nestor was the oldest and wisest Greek counselor involved in the Trojan War. Winzy’s comparison of the other elderly people in the village to Nestor highlights his youthful appearance in contrast to his age.

"the fate of all the children of Adam..."   (The Mortal Immortal)

In the biblical story of creation, Adam is the first man and Eve the first woman created by God. In Christian tradition, all people are descended from them. After disobeying God, they and their children begin to die rather than live forever. Winzy hopes that his fate will be the same.

"escaped from a gilt cage to nature and liberty..."   (The Mortal Immortal)

Bertha is described as having escaped a cage, implying that her time with her wealthy guardian was more prison than refuge. Having left behind the expectations of the upper class, she is able to follow her own desires and begin a live with Winzy.

"Back to your cage--hawks are abroad!"..."   (The Mortal Immortal)

Notice the abundant use of comparisons to nature that Shelley makes to characterize these people. While Bertha’s youth allows her to move like graceful deer, her guardian “hobbles.” This sets up preference for youth over age, which will be echoed in later scenes. Notice also how Winzy is viewed by Bertha’s guardians: he is a hawk, a predator from which Bertha must be protected.

"I would not remain unrevenged--she should see Albert expire at her feet--she should die beneath my vengeance...."   (The Mortal Immortal)

Probably due to lack of sleep coupled with overwork, Winzy’s emotional state is heightening, his agitation growing. The tone is becoming one of desperation rather than measured consideration.

"cavalcade..."   (The Mortal Immortal)

The noun “cavalcade” is another word for a dramatic procession. This word choice emphasizes the way Bertha is taunting Winzy, attempting to spur him to action before she marries another. This shows Bertha’s flair for manipulation, and her knowledge of Winzy’s tendency toward jealousy.

"Bertha remained true to the friend of her humbler days..."   (The Mortal Immortal)

Due to their childhood friendship, Bertha, though now semi-noble, values Winzy’s companionship enough to meet him in secret. This speaks to her character, showing that wealth has not changed her for the worse.

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