Example Of Essay On Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Women, Frankenstein, Literature, Novel, Men, Mary Shelley, Monster, Life

Pages: 5

Words: 1375

Published: 2021/02/23

The essay represents feminist criticism of Frankenstein, discussing roles and functions of women – addressing Caroline Frankenstein, Justine Moritz, Elizabeth Lavenza, and the monster’s companion – and the ways they are treated and represented in the novel to analyse one of the main themes of the story – the theme of women as the driving force of the life of a society.
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is the story of a scientist who attempts to bring life to a dead body creating eventually an ugly monster. This novel became one of the most iconic and famous novels of the centuries. Although the story is about monster and science fiction, there are the issues of woman representation and its expression of romantic and attitudes which arouse through the plot.
It can be said that Mary Shelley had been indoctrinated with the study she conducted into the sciences and the ideology of males from a patriarchal society. Most likely because it was extraordinary for a woman to refuse to moralize, many critics mechanically assumed the author of the novel to be a man (Poovey). The appearance of the female author behind the male-dominated text often involves a voyeuristic mechanism leaving criticism fixed on a woman’s self-display (London). In such a way Frankenstein – with a male being a central character – draws attention to the stereotypes that women and men had been associated with by tradition.
In the novel the women are portrayed in the two main ways. Firstly, in their behavior and physical appearance. Thus, women are presented in Frankenstein as being spiritually ideal. The second means of portraying the women in the story is through the type of work they usually do. Agatha de Lacey, for example, typifies a house-keeper’s role.
Frankenstein is a novel dealing extensively with issues of oppression and presenting strong women living in the face of brutality, adversity and humiliation. Feminist critics viewed the monster of Frankenstein as an image that represents the suppression of women. They also claim that the novel is likely to express Shelley's own feelings and experience towards her self-identity and her anxiety as a female writer (Bomarito 129).
In spite of being depicted as submissive and passive creatures, the women in the text all play significant and powerful roles. Even such seemingly peripheral figures as Justine Moritz (the Frankensteins’ servant), Elizabeth Lavenza (Victor’s betrothed) and Caroline Frankenstein (Victor’s Mother) force us to reconsider our expectations. Shelley’s presentation of them is far from straightforward or conventional.
Usually in Gothic fiction, women are seen as passive and helpless victims, while men are strong and self-reliant. On the cultural level, the scientific project of Frankenstein in the story — to become the sole human being’s creator — supports a patriarchal denial of women’s value and their sexuality. Mary Shelley exclusively portrays the consequences of a gender social construction that values the man above the woman. The 19th century Genevan society in which Shelley’s Frankenstein lives is founded on a strict division of sex roles: men inhabit a public sphere, while women are relegated to a domestic (private) sphere. In Frankenstein’s world all the men work outside their homes, while the women are all confined to the homes, working there either as servants, nurses, childcare providers, and house wives or are kept as pets (Mellor): Victor “loved to tend” on Elizabeth as he “should on a favorite animal (Shelley)”.
The majority of Shelley’s female characters draw on some elements of a traditional Gothic woman. However, they are not stereotypically weak women, as in the works of Radcliffe, Lewis and others. Shelley’s women often exert influence over the male characters.
Although women are often depicted as ultimately passive characters, they are a powerful driving force in the lives of Frankenstein and other males, often demonstrating restraint and wisdom.
Thus, Justine Moritz demonstrates not only passiveness, but also a great determination and moral strength in the face of extreme difficulties and injustice. Being imprisoned for the murder of William Frankenstein, Justine is associated with a person wrongfully accused of man’s laughter. She becomes a docile, inactive victim of circumstance. Her actions and speech demonstrate an extreme passivity: she has “no power of explaining it (Shelley)”, she is “only left to conjecture (Ibid.)”. On the other hand, Justin’s strength is observed in her tranquility and peacefulness in such a deadlock situation: “God knows how entirely I am innocent (Ibid.)”, she says. “But I do not pretend that my protestations Should acquit me (Ibid.).”
The most important expressive channel in the novel is likely to be Elizabeth, Frankenstein’s betrothed. Though depicted as a submissive character from the beginning of the novel, viewed by Frankenstein as a possession:“I looked upon Elizabeth as mine a possession of my own (Shelley)”, Elizabeth has always been a kind of a light for her beloved in his gloomy, harsh “man’s” world.
Elizabeth Lavenza spends much time waiting at home for Frankenstein’s correspondence. As he does with the rest of his family, Frankenstein leaves Elizabeth helpless in the face of his desertion. She is not, however, generally passive; she takes an active, if unfruitful, part in trying to save Justine Moritz when she is wrongly imprisoned for the murder of William. She is a strong character, coping with the repeated griefs inflicted on her by Frankenstein.
After dying of scarlet fever, Caroline Frankenstein is present only in a good memory of Victor in the story: she had a “soft and benevolent mind”, she “possessed a mind of an uncommon mould", she was a “guardian angel to the afflicted”, she was full of “fortitude and benignity” and “tender caresses (Shelley)”. Frankenstein idealizes her as the perfection of womanly domestic virtue. She is a strong presence in the Frankenstein household and exercises a profound influence on Frankenstein’s behavior and decisions. The power she exerts is exemplified when she (alongside Elizabeth) appears to the haunted Frankenstein in his midnight wanderings in the streets of Ingolstadt.
The monster's companion plays a highly significant role within the novel, even though she never actually comes into being. During her creation, Frankenstein reflects upon what the nature of the beast might be. And the way Victor imagines the new monster reveals males’ greatest fears of female’s actual abilities – those of being thinking, independent beings, capable of making their own decisions and sticking by them in the face of the promises of men. Being envisaged as possessing strength and determination of “character which may threaten and override the ‘authority’ of the male (Shelley)” the monster’s companion makes Frankenstein horrified. Frankenstein’s desire in the novel to create the world without women in it by stealing the female’s control over reproduction, in such a way eliminating the woman’s main biological function, reveals his great fear as well.
So, in her novel, on the surface Mary Shelley seems to endorse the fact that females are inferior to males. However, on farther reading, as we peer “between the lines”, reflect and analyze, it becomes clear that the author used Caroline, Elizabeth, Justine, and her other female characters to uphold the idea that women and men are equal in fact and must be treated as such so that the world might continue to evolve. Shelley’s representation of males and females therefore moves towards an equalization of the genders, recognizing the need for balance.
In fact, the primary plot of this story starts from the creation of a monstrous, inhuman and ugly illustration of a dead man living who makes Frankenstein run away from the monstrosity he has created. As it can be seen from the novel that Shelley doesn’t really blames the very act of creation but rather the lack of readiness of Frankenstein to take responsibility for what he had made.
What Shelley makes us get from the story is that erasing or even reducing the function or the nature of woman will lead into a total disaster. Until the end of the 19th century women were regarded as quasi-natural, passive objects made a kind of a belonging by the male subject. In literature, women were depicted as sensible beings with a sense for nature and intuition. Though it has taken hundreds of years, women have at last made great strides in winning their equality to men, owing to the literary masterpiece of Mary Shelley and other outstanding feminist writers.

Works cited

Bomarito, Jessica and Hunter, Jeffrey, W. Feminism in Literature. Detroit: Gale, 2005, Print
London, Bette. "Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, and the Spectacle of Masculinity." Bookshelf. Norton & Co. Web. 12 Apr. 2015. <http://online.vitalsource.eom/#/books/9780393920703/epubcfi/6/54l/4/2/36 /1:0?locs[]=151 -8&locs[]=597-8&q=feminism>.
Mellor, Anne, K. "Mary Shelley Frankenstein." Bookshelf. Ed. Hunter J.Paul. Norton & Co. Web. 10 Apr. 2015. <http://online.vitalsource.com/#/books/9780393920703/epubcfi/6/50[;vnd.vst.idref=part03ch05]!/4/2[part03ch05]
Poovey, Mary. "My Hideous Progeny." Bookshelf. Norton & Co. Web. 12 Apr. 2015. <http://online.vitalsource.com/#/books/9780393920703/epubcfi/6/48!/4/2/8/1:0?locs[]=1127-12&locs[]=1729-12&q=frankenstein>
Shelley, Wollstonecraft, Mary. "Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus." Project Gutenberg. 2008. Web. 9 Apr. 2015. <https://www.gutenberg.org/files/84/84-h/84-h.htm>

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