Psychological Evaluation: Mary Wollstonecraft

This is a fictional psychological evaluation of Mary Wollstonecraft, written by Catherine Atkinson, a student at Texas A&M University. 


The Report


Firstly I will be taking note that this psychological profiling of Mary Wollstonecraft is purely based off of her husband’s, William Godwin, memoir and an interpretation from Mary’s text Mary, A Fiction. This profile is completely fiction and only based off an analysis of two texts and the characters in Godwin’s memoir will be interviewed as if talking in present day time to reflect on Mary’s behavior. Below will be listed several interviews put together based on the details given to me on the relationship these people shared with Mary. They will be interviewed in the order they came into her life. Following the interviews I will be concluding a diagnosis and reasons for that decision. A prognosis will then be made to at least attempt to provide a solution.


Referral Question

Mary was referred by her husband, William Godwin. Godwin is concerned by Mary’s actions and believes she may be mentally unwell. Mary seems to have issues expressing herself through which is shown in how she writes her novels and with that it is seen that she struggles creating relationships with others especially when they all seem to fail. Godwin believes the nature of Mary’s problem has stemmed from her childhood with her abusive dad and has then gotten worse from other ended relationships.


Assessment Procedure

Interview with: Elizabeth Wollstonecraft, Mary’s mother

Mary was the second of seven children and was born in the Spitalfields of London. Their family moved around a lot because Elizabeth’s husband John was unable to keep a job, but with every move they only got poorer. This lead to their household being a very hostile one, John was abusive when he got angry about money. Mary saw early on that being a women wasn’t the most favorable of positions, she especially saw this through how she saw her dad treat Elizabeth. For a while she had even believed that she did not want to be married ever. “The conduct he held towards the members of his family, was of the same kind as that he observed towards animals,” he sometimes would even show this cruelty to his own dogs (Godwin, Ch. I). Mary would typically try to get involved in the crossfire and attempt to stop her dad from hurting her mom. Many nights she would sleep outside Elizabeth’s door just in case her dad was angered in the middle of the night.

At age 17 they moved by a neighbor Mary would frequently stay at to avoid the troubles at home. This describes the situation of how “witnessing a parent victimized is often more psychologically damaging to children than injuries from direct child abuse” (Steven Stosny, Par. 10). This explains where Mary’s personality had begun to shift and reasons for it.


Interview with: Frances Blood, Mary’s best friend

Frances met Mary during one of the moves her father had to make for a new job. Frances was introduced to Mary by Mr. and Mrs. Clare, Mary’s neighbors. In Mary’s novel she changes Frances’ name to Ann and states that they met through a clergyman. Frances is very much like Mary in the sense that they both like to read and enjoy the idea of seeking out an education, especially as a women. Mary’s parents did not really support the idea of allowing women to gain education so this was of much interest to her. Mary and Godwin both describe this passion toward Frances excessively in their fictions and as Mary loving her “better than any one in the world to snatch her from the very jaws of destruction she would have encountered a lion” (Wollstonecraft, Pg. 9). This intimacy increased further through helping Mary practice writing to develop her passion in the craft and was something she described as being unable to be without.

Both Frances and Mary’s character Ann fall ill, because of this there creates distance between the two of them. In reality this is because Frances had moved away to Portugal to be married and in Mary’s book it was to hide herself from her illness. Mary describes that she “forgot everything but the fear of losing her, and even imagine that her recovery would have made her happy,” (Wollstonecraft, 10). Fear was consuming her because this had been the only friend she had ever had. Her departure clearly affected Mary as the absence of a friend when she surely would have needed her most. She was so overwhelmed in her novel she wrote as if Ann was the one who needed support but in reality it was her, she yelled at the physicians, “I am her only support, she leans on me. Could I forsake the forsaken, and break the bruised reed? No, I would die first! I must, I will go!” (Wollstonecraft, 11).

When Mary finally had enough money to visit Frances, she had gone into premature labor and died on November 29, 1785. In Mary’s novel she draws out Ann’s death, travelling to see her and spending time with her during her last days and then got distracted by all the people she was meeting in Lisbon. This reflects her feeling guilty not being able to make it in time to see Frances die through Ann, not spending enough time with her also filling her with guilt. Her distraught bled on the pages of her novel, “I cannot live without her! I have no other friend; if I lose her, what a desert will the world be to me” (Wollstonecraft, 15). This was then followed by Mary’s first attempt at suicide.


Interview with: Mr. Imlay, Mary’s lover

Mr. Imlay can best be seen through Mary’s image drawn of Henry in her fiction. Mr. Imlay had first encountered Mary at Mr Christie’s house, an author of a volume of the French Revolution. At first they had disliked each other but soon grew very fond of each other’s company. They decided not to get married due to Mr. Imlay’s current financial situation, not wanting to embarrass him in front of Mary’s parents. They moved in together and eventually Mary became pregnant; for the majority of her pregnancy Mr. Imlay was moving around a lot for work and Mary became lonely, she missed him. She had described their love to Godwin as “her confidence [being] entire; her love was unbounded. Now, for the first time in her life she gave a loose to all the sensibilities of her nature” (Godwin, Ch. VII). She decided to follow him out and discovered he had been having an affair. This broke her, and she expressed this loss in her novel as a death to her character. She expressed his absence as “a heart in which there was a void, that even benevolence and religion could not fill. The latter taught her to struggle for resignation; and the former rendered life supportable,” (Wollstonecraft, 36). She was empty and life seemed unbearable without him. This would last with her until the day she dies.

She at first used Henry’s character as a replacement for the depressing thoughts she had of
Ann being so sick. She used him as a distractor so she wouldn’t have to consider the fact that she
had lost her only friend. When Mr. Imlay went away to travel it left Mary with a void, as did the
loss of Ann. She needed to seek him back because she felt that “in his company her mind
expanded,” she was not whole without having her person (Wollstonecraft, 15). A person that
reminded her of how Franny was with her, always pushing her to think and do better for herself.
Finding out he had betrayed her made her lose it. She was alone again even “after all the
uncertainties and anguish she had endured, to trust to the suggestions of hope” (Godwin, Ch.
VIII). Shortly after this, Mary took part in a second attempt at suicide.


Interview with: William Godwin, Mary’s husband

Mr. Godwin married Mary shortly after her relationship fell through with Mr. Imlay. They had a daughter and shortly after giving birth, Mary died. Their marriage was short lived but held great significance in Mary’s case. Mary portrays Godwin through her character Charles, whom she originally meets and they immediately are not to each others liking. Godwin describes a similar meeting and that they were “mutually displeased with each other. [He] had not read her Rights of Woman. [He] had barely looked into her Answer to Burke, and been displeased, as literary men are apt to be, with a few offences, against grammar and other minute points of composition. [He] had therefore little curiosity to see Mrs. Wollstonecraft” again (Godwin, Ch. VI). In Mary’s novel she describes the thought of being with him would be “extreme horror at being forced to take such a hasty step” (Wollstonecraft, 9). When she lost Mr. Imlay it may have seemed like the only chance at happiness would be settling for Godwin.

Mary writes of them meeting again and recalls immediate disgust, but feels obligated to stay with him. It seemed to be more than she could handle and at times when love was mentioned “she would instantly feel sickness, a faintness at her heart, and wish, involuntarily, that the earth would open and swallow her” (Wollstonecraft, 35). In her last lines she even predicted her short lived life after losing the love of her life, “her delicate state of health did not promise long life,” which is exactly where her fate lied after her giving birth to Godwin’s baby (Wollstonecraft, 36).



After analyzing Mary through the relationships she has with others I am diagnosing her with attachment disorder. This is when an individual has difficulty creating long-lasting relationships or even obtaining relationships at all. I can see a low level of ability to develop trust, especially after Mr. Imlay had an affair. Losing multiple people at once causes lasting trust issues which is a reasonable explanation for her insufficient relationship with Godwin. Another symptom of attachment disorder is inability to show any affection or genuine care for another person, which could explain the sickness she feels being with someone she does not love. That being an inability to develop a kindness toward Godwin.

Lastly, her multiple attempts at suicide are most likely causes of being destructive to self, another symptom of attachment disorder. Possible causes that could have led to this disorder are issues she’s had with her mother like neglect and emotional abuse. It is extremely traumatic for a child to have to watch her mom be abused and entire family implode while not being able to do anything about it. This in addition to her several failed relationships are all very traumatic and can lead to problems forming relationships at all down the road.



As far as treatment goes, I do not think being in a relationship that makes her unhappy is wise. She probably should seek counseling and discuss her internalized thoughts about her relationships and develop some coping mechanisms to prevent those feelings from resurfacing.



Mary does seem to have gotten her thoughts out through her writing which we can see as a type of coping mechanism. She does struggle in verbally expressing how she feels and tends to bottle it up inside and save it for when she writes. This is not healthy as it would lead her to persistently doing this and being unable to ever communicate problems openly to the people around her. The inability to form lasting relationships is problematic and could lead to chronic depression or worse a successful attempt at suicide if it persists. Overall, I do not think Mary is incurable and with a little work she seems be capable of making progress once she starts to open up more verbally and accepts others trust.


Works Cited

  1. debrajean333 Follow. “Full Psychological Report.Sample.” inkedIn SlideShar, 28 Jan. 2012,
  2. “Emotional Abuse in Committed Relationships: Effects on Children.” sychology Toda, Sussex Publishers,
  3. “MEMOIRS of the AUTHOR of a VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMAN.” he Project Gutenberg EBook of Memoirs Of The Author Of A Vindication Of The Rights Of Woman, by William Godwin., “Reactive Attachment Disorder.” ancy Thomas Parenting |
  4. Wollstonecraft, Mary, and Mary Wollstonecraft. ary, a Fiction and the Wrongs of Woman Oxford University Press, 1976.


Copyright 2018 Catherine Atkinson

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