Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, born in 1797, was the daughter of William Godwin and influential feminist Mary Wollstonecraft. Mary Shelley grew up in an intellectual household and eloped with renowned Romantic poet Percey Bysshe Shelley when she was sixteen. Mary Shelley published her best-known novel Frankenstein in 1823, which became a cultural phenomenon that remains influential to this day. Although best known for Frankenstein, Mary Shelley completed many other works, such as her short story “The Mortal Immortal,” published in 1833. The short story depicts a young man cursed with eternal life: he must watch his loved ones grow old without him, and his body evade the bliss of death he desires.

Plot Summary

The short story “The Mortal Immortal” begins with the main character, Winzy, who has reached his 323rd birthday on July 16, 1833. He explains his predicament in a flashback. As a young man, Winzy is asked to be the apprentice of the infamous and brilliant philosopher Cornelius Agrippa. Winzy at first declines out of fear. However, Winzy is young and very poor, and his love interest, Bertha, is of the noble class. Bertha was adopted into a noble family as a child but kept her friendship with Winzy. Despite their friendship and his love, Bertha refuses to marry him if he does not have money. In an effort to win Bertha, Winzy returns to Cornelius Agrippa, who previously offered him gold in an effort to recruit him as an apprentice. Winzy takes on the apprenticeship and by doing so comes into more money.

Winzy continues courting Bertha. However, his duties as an apprentice take up much of his time. When Winzy is unable to meet with Bertha one night, she becomes angry and spiteful. She blames Winzy and claims that he does not truly love her. Bertha begins to court another suitor, Albert Hoffer, who is of similar wealth and status to her. Bertha goes so far as to pass...

(The entire section is 981 words.)