Feminism in Frankenstein

590 Words3 Pages
When reading Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, one cannot help but notice that the women characters seem to have little substance compared to the male characters. This may have been caused by the time period in which she wrote: one in which females were considered inferior to males. This difference between the sexes can be looked at using a variety of different perspectives. Johanna M. Smith, a professor at the University of Texas at Arlington, discusses this issue using feminist eyes in her essay entitled "'Cooped up': Feminine Domesticity in Frankenstein." The main points in Professor Smith's essay are that the female characters are there only to reflect the male characters, and that the Frankenstein family has a weird style of living, which she describes as a "bookkeeping mentality" (Smith 279). Smith begins her essay by looking at the historical factors that may have contributed to this seemingly sexist book. Shelley, writing in the first half of the 19th Century, was in a period in which a woman "was conditioned to think she needed a man's help" (Smith 275). In the novel itself, no women speak directly. The book has three basic narrators: Robert Walton, Victor Frankenstein, and Frankenstein's monster. The female characters are very weak in this novel, especially Elizabeth, Victor's cousin/fiancé (no they aren't from Arkansas). She is portrayed as the perfect woman, especially after Victor's mother, Caroline dies. She takes the place of the mother figure in the household. But just like all the female characters in the story, her character has little substance. Victor's character is described in detail, as is that of the monster, and Henry Clerval. When Henry gets killed, sympathy is really felt toward Victor, because he has just lost his lifetime friend. When Elizabeth is murdered, the reader finds it hard to connect with what Frankenstein is feeling. Elizabeth
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