Analysis Pages

Themes in The Mortal Immortal

Immortality as Blessing and Curse: After drinking the mysterious elixir, Winzy’s life dramatically improves. He wins Bertha’s love and hand in marriage, and the two enjoy some years of happiness together. However, soon after the unfortunate effects of his eternal youth become apparent: the couple has to relocate to new countries to avoid suspicion, Bertha continues to age and her Winzy declines, and she eventually dies. Although Winzy wishes to die as well, having lost his family and loved ones, he has not succeeded in doing so. Thus, what began as a pathway to happiness morphs into a curse, which he is forced to endure forever.

Themes Examples in The Mortal Immortal:

The Mortal Immortal

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"Yes, the fear of age and death often creeps coldly into my heart; and the more I live, the more I dread death, even while I abhor life. Such an enigma is man--born to perish--when he wars, as I do, against the established laws of his nature...."   (The Mortal Immortal)

Here, Shelley is able to comment on the human condition through Winzy’s words. His life is a paradox with no easy solution: while he does continue to somewhat fear death, he finds no enjoyment in continued life. Since goes against the established laws of nature—all men must die at one time or another—he is accordingly miserable.

"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.

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