The feminism in Frankenstein is seen through the roles of women and men. The novel shows that feminism has evolved immensely, but it still has a way to go. Many people may not notice feminism in this book because it appears more subtly than one might expect.
Mary Shelley is the younger daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft, who was perhaps the first feminist to push back against it. Mary Wollstonecraft clearly expresses her position in favor of women’s rights in her novel A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, but her daughter is hesitant to take up a cause that has been dominated by males for hundreds of years; The Modern Prometheus.
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Is there any connection between Mary Wollstonecraft and her daughter’s work, Frankenstein? Is there the same zeal in Mary Shelley as in her mother when it comes to women’s rights in the novel? “Men, in general, appear to use their intellect to defend preconceived ideas (Wollstonecraft p. 7).” Her mother’s feminism is outspoken. Feminism is defined as equality for women and similar standing with men in social status, economic status, and financially. To emphasize this point, I want to stress that Frankenstein, The Modern Prometheus is not a feminist novel.
Female Characters in Frankenstein
The study of the female characters and the way they are depicted in the novel is required for a complete analysis of feminism in the work. Victor Frankenstein’s mother, who died, had an impact on him to such an extent that he tried to devise a creation that would violate natural laws like death.
Justine is accused of murdering William, and she confesses to the crime. As a result, she is sentenced to death. She does not attempt to prove that she did not kill William, which makes her appear feeble to the reader. Elizabeth, on the other hand, is killed by the monster; unlike Justine, she does not claim that her husband will protect her from it.
This is an indication that women did not have many of the rights in this culture, and they were reliant on men to portray a highly patriarchal society. Elizabeth’s decision to wait for Victor to save her from the monster indicates how women are regarded in our society, with Elizabeth only seeing Victor as her saviour and doing nothing to defend herself against the beast. The feminism theme may also be discovered in Frankenstein’s treatment of his female companion, who he had agreed to create for the monster. This indicates that women are passive in society, as if women have no rights in society.
To reinforce my argument, I might point out that Frankenstein effortlessly destroys the female companion even before he brought life to her, but he is unable to destroy the monster as easily as the female one after the monster has murdered all of his loved ones (Shelley 42). “I strove to go where nature led.” (Shelley 60) In Shelley’s work, nature is compared to women, and the qualities that women have are also found in nature.
The woman in this painting is beautiful, and Frankenstein used to find comfort in the natural world. Frankenstein flees from the monster, and what could be a better location than nature’s heart, the woodland, to unwind and reflect on his actions? Mother Nature also offers food, water, and other essentials to the monster so that he may survive. It is also in the woods where the creature learns himself. This indicates that women are compassionate in the same way as nature itself.
Although Victor Frankenstein created the monster (Shelley 56), he is unable to meet the needs of the creature as a mother would do with her infant from birth until the child achieves self-reliance. Mary Shelley emphasized that, whether science takes away a woman’s right and intuition to give birth, it is only she who possesses motherly instincts and not science.
The monster’s demand for a female companion indicates that women are compassionate and loving, because the beast desired a lady companion so that it would be forgotten by humanity. Here, one can see that women were accepted as companions to men, and perhaps Shelley committed suicide by destroying the monster’s female companion in order to refute popularly held beliefs about gender roles.
Although the novel is not feminist, Victor’s anguish over his friend Clerval’s death by the monster is genuine (Shelley 45). Frankenstein; The Modern Prometheus is not a feminist book. Mary Shelley does not explicitly promote women’s equality to men as evidenced by her silence on the subject.
Even though Mary Shelley was a child when her mother wrote about feminism, she nevertheless distinguishes as a shining feminist even at a time when women were naturally seen as inferior. When we compare Mary’s work to that of her mother’s, she doesn’t stand out as calling for women to be on the same level as men. This might be forgiven by considering how passive her female figures are throughout the novel and how many of them die before the tale is over.
Mary Shelley’s The Last Man stands as a major counterpoint to the work of Mary Wollstonecraft, in which women are treated fairly. She emphasizes that all people have worth in God’s eyes and holds her characters to high moral standards. While she has written about gender equality in previous works, this does not appear to be her main concern when it comes to writing.
There is no clear evidence that she supports the rights of women to equal standing with men or that she uses her female figures just to illustrate how females were regarded in 18th-century society. If Frankenstein, Modern Prometheus, was a feminist novel, we would expect Mary Shelley to put forth his position through his female characters; however, this is not the case in the book.
In conclusion, she does not appear to have a clear and definitive view on the equality of men and women. Mary Wollstonecraft’s feminist activism is remarkable in comparison to her daughter’s in her work. For example, one does not need to be an expert to see that she was calling for women to have the same rights as men; the topic is apparent even to the layperson.
To Mary Shelley, writing in narrative form was a metaphor for a society where women are passive and no woman in the novel speaks out. Shelley attempted to demonstrate that women were compelled to follow behind men’s shadows and had no say in 18th-century culture. Women do not speak openly through the text, and their subordination in society is demonstrated further by this.
Shelley’s narrative did not recognize the rights of women, and this is obvious in how she quickly introduces her key figures in the story and leaves the ladies out of it, even though Margaret to whom the letters are addressed may be considered a beneficiary. Women are characterized in the novel as if they would not exist without the influence of males in their lives.
Even when Frankenstein asks for his creation’s companion because he wants her (Shelley 37), a monster female friend only comes under question when the monster demands to have her from her creator (Shelley 37). Another factor that contributes to Mary Shelley’s lack of feminist reputation in comparison to her mother is the novel’s narrative style. It does not force the reader to accept the author’s argument, but it also allows them to construct their own ideas about the book.
Feminism as Frankenstein’s Theme
The book’s title, feminism, is an issue that generates debate. Do you think Mary Shelley truly wanted women to be equated to men in her story? Was she attempting to convey a feminist message via the use of narrative? The technique used by the author in expressing the feminist message leaves much for the reader to answer; it is only through close analysis of the novel that one can expose the theme of feminism in it.
Through telling, it is clear that women do not have as much control over society as men. The opportunity to be the main character implies that females were superior to males, which enhances the argument for why Mary Shelley refused to discuss the female characters in her novel despite their importance to its narrative.
Why would an author omit important female characters from his or her narrative, such as Elizabeth and Clarissa, if not to demonstrate their subordination/oppression in society? The use of narration clearly depicts Mary Shelley’s childhood home. Perhaps the reason why Shelley chooses to tell her tale through the eyes of Captain Walton and Frankenstein is because she was raised in an era when women were oppressed. Men were generally heard over women because Mary Shelley’s narrator would have been a woman, for example, Margate to whom the letters were sent.
This is because women were regarded as untrustworthy, thus their implicit personalities in the book. “… I obtained bones from charnel – dwellings and disturbed with profane hands the huge secrets of the human body….” (Shelley 12). Frankenstein created a monster using science, defying nature’s natural process of giving birth to a kid. Frankenstein has no regard for women since it is a woman’s pride when she gives birth to a child.
In Frankenstein, Mary Shelley exposes the society in which she was living to us. His creation takes away the pleasure of women in giving birth through technology to the extent that they have no value. He think he can obtain similar powers as those possessed by women during childbirth. It serves as another illustration of how ladies were demeaned in the 18th century. Feminism is one of several themes addressed in Frankenstein; The Modern Prometheus, although it isn’t as prevalent as other themes such as man’s continuous quest for power.
Did Wollstonecraft’s experiences influence her daughter’s ideas on feminism? Wollstonecraft’s background sheds light on why she has been dubbed the world’s first known feminist. Shelley’s mother was raised in a culture that was dominated by men, and women were very submissive. However, despite the fact that her society was patriarchal, Wollstonecraft defied societal norms and became an anti-feminist activist for women’ rights, stating in her book A Vindication of the Rights of Woman that women are not inferior to men and only require equal opportunities in education, which were given to males.
“What does it mean to be ‘exalted’?” (p. 3). Mary Shelley, as the daughter of a great feminist, should express similar concerns as her mother, but this is not the case; all of her female characters are passive. In contrast, Mary Shelley claims that reproductive difficulties among women can be solved utilizing science. Women who have been identified as non-givers of children may benefit from these remedies. For example, by applying scientific techniques, women who have previously been assessed as non-givers of kids may now be helped.
Mary Shelley seems to want science to solve women’s reproduction problems because of what her mother went through when she was delivering her. Perhaps, as with her mother’s death a few days after giving birth owing to someomplications with the placenta, Frankenstein’s creation of a monster (the monster) that would violate natural laws was looking for a solution to women’
This might be interpreted as follows: by the death of the lady monster’s companion, Shelley intended to demonstrate that nature could not allow a creature produced through science to reproduce and populate the world; this represents an indication that society cannot do without women, that women are essential, and that men do not have the right to take away women’s pride in giving birth.
The beast wreaks havoc on the ladies. However, Mary Shelley’s negative view of female characters who are passive might have been done to emphasize that women should be strong and not rely only on men, for when they rely on men, they end up suffering. She wanted to highlight how women in society were weaker than men and frequently sought help from them to solve their difficulties.
Shelley wanted to emphasize that women should abandon the custom of conforming to societal norms that define men as the only ones who may fix problems. The characters that are Justine and Elizabeth would have survived if Shelley had not decided to put this point across. Justine would have fought the beast, and Elizabeth would have fought the baddie, demonstrating that Mary Shelley wanted to warn female readers about their excessive reliance on males.
When looking at a piece of literature from a feminist perspective, it’s also critical to understand the misogynistic culture and society in which the female characters exist. Perhaps what makes feminist literary movement so fascinating is the political issues that it addresses. It’s exciting to be part of the feminist literary movement since most literary canon members are male authors and thinkers.
The themes of gender identity are prevalent throughout Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which explores them through the terrible creation of the monster. The three central characters in Frankenstein represent the dominant Victorian era gender stereotypes. The abnormality of the creature’s creation and his experiences are used to illustrate how society devalues women outside their relationship to men.
The male characters in this book are characterized as the typical British male archetypes of that era. They have a sort of detachment from their personal lives and possess obsessive features, allowing them to reach their objectives. Victor Frankenstein is described as a calm and analytical guy who enjoys “examining the foundations” (Shelley, 22) of reality. With his bright and cool demeanor, he seems to exemplify the era’s masculine ideals perfectly.
The notion that Victor’s rejection of his creation is an illusion caused by the child’s sense of abandonment and betrayal by his dead mother has been accepted since time immemorial. He blames Elizabeth for spreading the disease that took his mother away, while also blaming his younger brother and Justine for taking away his mother’s love. Victor’s making of the monster is frequently presented as an attempt to repair the loss of his beloved mother.
Another important moment in the text for feminist critics is the creature’s creation and subsequent demolition of their physical body (the “mate” that Victor had promised them in return for their expulsion from humanity). In “Frankenstein, Feminism, and Literary Theory,” Diane Hoeveler points out that Victor builds the body and then tears it apart when he understands the gruesome reality of sexuality, desire, and procreation.
In the essay “Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, and the Spectacle of Masculinity,” Bette London argues that Victor’s image of cutting up the female monster he creates is also explained: “Moreover, Frankenstein’s description of creating monstrosity maintains the visible contradiction that supports male identity. It is only when Frankenstein considers female monstrosity (“she might become ten thousand times more malignant than her mate”) that he considers the frightening presence of the monster’s male sexuality (“a race of devils would be propagated upon the earth ).”
The female characters in Frankenstein are sympathetic and delicate, contrary to the blustering male figures. They also match well with traditional victorian images of females as caretakers. Elizabeth Lavenza is characterized as “a creature who radiated light from her features and whose form and motions were lighter than the chamois of the mountains” (Shelley, 20). This line depicts her has having a calm and “radiant” disposition overall.
Throughout the book, Elizabeth’s selfless behavior is demonstrated through her willingness to contribute to others’ happiness without considering herself. Elizabeth’s selfless and loving qualities further illustrate her motherly traits and accept her position as head of the family’s caretaker. Safie De Lacey exemplifies these characteristics in chapter 14 when she manages to flee in order to pursue her own freedom.
She spares her riches and money for an exit and turns down great luxury in order to be with her beloved, Felix De Lacey. Safie takes care of her subordinate on the journey, showing yet more evidence that Safie’s motherly caring extends beyond both rank and position. The word “affection” is repeated several times throughout the poem, emphasizing the common theme of a kind and loving heart that runs through all of Frankenstein’s female characters.
All of the women in Frankenstein, from Mary Shelley’s creation to Helen Korn mania who stalks an ex-boyfriend into a nightmare existence, encapsulate selfless and motherly qualities that mimic those of a caretaker. While Frankenstein emphasizes its female characters as loving mother figures in a family setting, the book also considers gender roles and expectations as the basis of society.
In Victor’s case, mental health and femininity are linked. The lack of female sensibility at the end of Frankenstein’s life reflects his inability to rationalize his inhospitality through feminine sensibility. Because there is no lady companion in their life to mediate their methods of resolving disputes, the absence of the lovely female in Creature’s existence contributes to the prolonged game of cat-and-mouse between him and Victor.
Because the lack of female influences is the “prey of feelings unsatisfied, yet unquenched” (Shelley, 197), this is an important element of the tale. At its core, Frankenstein’s emphasis is on humanity breaching nature’s boundaries since time began. However, by placing his characters with defined and unchanging gender roles and characteristics, Frankenstein demonstrates that female characters in the 19th century should not be viewed as appendages to males.
The maternal qualities of women are essential to the structure of society, according to Shelley, because of their role in its foundation. Her male characters’ social stability is enhanced by her depiction of female characters with complex and vital maternal roles. Many people feel that Shelley is repeating the ideas of her own mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, in Frankenstein. Wollstonecraft was a strong advocate for girls’ education and still has resonance within contemporary human rights and feminism.
Wollstonecraft reportedly wrote the book in only six weeks. Wollstonecraft’s disposition is shown in her novel, which is filled with rage (with humor) at the gender roles that most women were forced into during this period. When Wollstonecraft states, “My own sex, I trust, will forgive me if I treat them as rational beings rather than pandering to their charming charms and regarding them as though they were children incapable of standing alone,” she implies that Shelley shared her views.
Even if Frankenstein may be regarded as the polar opposite of a “feminist” novel, Shelley emphasized the complexity of female gender roles in her time. Shelley was well aware of women’s true duties and identities, and she subtly illustrated them while also making them more apparent through Frankenstein. In the nineteenth century, Shelley imagined women to be more than simply mothers to their own families; she predicted that they would become mothers to society.
When reading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, one cannot help but notice that the female characters are lacking when compared to the men. This may have been caused by when she wrote it: at a time when women were considered to be less than males. There are numerous factors in this narrative which reflect feminism’s depiction.
The three aspects that have a significant impact are as follows: the characters are only used to represent the males, women are seen as possessions to be protected by men, and lastly, women in the novel are depicted as typical females at that time. Mary Shelley’s work is a feminist text since it reflects feminist ideals.
To begin with, the novel’s female characters are there simply to represent the male figures. The novel has three primary narrators: Robert Walton, Victor Frankenstein, and Frankenstein’s monster. Elizabeth is an example of a weak female character in this book, especially after Victor’s mother, Caroline passes away. She is seen as the ideal woman, particularly following Victor’s mother Caroline’s death.
Elizabeth serves as the primary caregiver in the family. Elizabeth’s character, like that of all the other female characters in the tale, is superficial. Victor’s personality is described extensively, as is that of the monster, and Henry Clerval. When Henry dies during The Last Man, sympathy for Victor runs deep because he has just lost his lifelong buddy. Because Elizabeth is murdered, it is difficult for readers to sympathize with what Frankenstein goes through.
The characters in this novel all embody certain male stereotypes and archetypes, and the women (as well as the other main female characters: Justine and Caroline) are there to represent them. Finally, women play a supporting role in men’s interactions with other men. This is especially apparent when the monster murders Elizabeth on their wedding night. Victor is upset with the creature.