Mathilda Novel Summary by Mary Shelley

 Mathilda Novel Summary by Mary Shelley

 Mathilda Novel Summary by Mary Shelley - Mary Shelley, the renowned author of the classic novel "Frankenstein," wrote another compelling work titled "Mathilda" in 1820. This lesser-known novel follows the tragic story of a young woman named Mathilda who experiences profound emotional turmoil throughout her life. Shelley's novel explores themes of love, loss, and tragedy, providing a fascinating look into the human condition. This article provides a summary of "Mathilda" by Mary Shelley, including its plot, characters, and themes.

Mathilda Novel Summary

"Mathilda" is a novel written by Mary Shelley, the author of the famous novel "Frankenstein". It is a Gothic novel that was written in 1819 but was not published until 1959. The novel revolves around the life of a young girl named Mathilda who has lost her mother at a very young age and is left alone with her father. The story is set in the 18th century and is a tragic tale of love, guilt, and grief.

Mathilda is a beautiful and intelligent young woman who lives with her father, Sir Walter. After the death of her mother, Mathilda becomes her father's sole source of companionship, and they form an unusually close bond. However, their relationship takes a dark turn when Sir Walter confesses his incestuous love for Mathilda. Shocked and horrified, Mathilda flees from her father and takes refuge in a remote cottage in Scotland.  Mathilda Novel Summary by Mary Shelley

While in Scotland, Mathilda meets a young man named Woodville, with whom she falls in love. However, Woodville is engaged to another woman, and Mathilda's love goes unrequited. Mathilda eventually returns to England and reunites with her father, who is dying from grief and guilt over their relationship. Sir Walter confesses his sins to a priest, and Mathilda is left alone and desolate once again.  Mathilda Novel Summary by Mary Shelley

In the final act of the novel, Mathilda takes a boat out to sea, intending to end her life. However, she is saved by Woodville, who has followed her from Scotland. They profess their love for each other, but Mathilda is still tormented by the guilt and shame of her past. In the end, Mathilda dies in Woodville's arms, finally finding peace in death.


The novel's main character, Mathilda, is a complex and tragic figure. She is intelligent, sensitive, and capable of deep love, but she is also plagued by the trauma of her past. Sir Walter, Mathilda's father, is a deeply flawed and disturbed man who is unable to control his incestuous desires. Woodville is a kind and honorable young man who represents a ray of hope in Mathilda's otherwise bleak life.

Mathilda's Early Life

Mathilda's father is a wealthy man who is deeply affected by the death of his wife. He becomes distant from Mathilda and spends most of his time traveling. Mathilda, on the other hand, is left alone to cope with her grief. She is a sensitive and intelligent girl who loves to read and write.

The Arrival of Woodville

One day, Mathilda's father returns with a young man named Woodville. Woodville is a poet who is visiting Mathilda's father to seek his patronage. Mathilda and Woodville fall in love with each other, but they are hesitant to express their feelings due to the age difference between them. Mathilda is only 17 years old while Woodville is in his thirties.  Mathilda Novel Summary by Mary Shelley

The Tragic Turn of Events

Mathilda's father soon learns about their love for each other and becomes jealous. He confronts Woodville and accuses him of seducing his daughter. Woodville denies the accusation and leaves, promising to return for Mathilda. However, Mathilda's father becomes ill and dies before Woodville returns. Mathilda is left alone, grieving for both her father and her lover.

Mathilda's Confession

Years later, Mathilda meets Woodville again, and they confess their love for each other. However, Mathilda reveals a dark secret that has been haunting her for years. She tells Woodville that she had developed an unhealthy obsession with her father, which she now recognizes as incestuous love. She confesses that she had even contemplated suicide at one point. Woodville is horrified by her confession and leaves her alone once again.



"Mathilda" explores several themes, including the damaging effects of incest and the consequences of repressed emotions. The novel also highlights the importance of companionship and human connection, as Mathilda's life becomes increasingly isolated and lonely. Additionally, "Mathilda" examines the role of guilt and shame in human relationships, as Mathilda and her father are both tormented by the knowledge of their incestuous love.


In "Mathilda," Mary Shelley weaves a tragic tale of love and loss, exploring the complexities of human emotion and the consequences of unchecked desire. The novel's compelling characters and vivid descriptions make it a captivating read, and its themes are as relevant today as they were when the book was first published in 1820.



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