It is rather surprising that a novel written by the daughter of so prominent a feminist should be so strikingly devoid of strong female characters. Many critics agree that Mary Shelley’s Gothic novel Frankenstein is littered with passive women that suffer placidly, then expire once exposed to the transgressions of the world . An initial reading of the novel might produce the notion that Shelley had very little to say on the subject of women. The entire cast of female characters appears to remain within the domestic realm, quietly performing their duties as mothers, sisters, wives and daughters for the men. Some might even say Shelley ardently agreed with the position in which they found themselves and the securely fixed roles during the Victorian era.
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.
Frankenstein wanted to recreate his mother, but instead he made a creature comprised of the socially repressed elements of Frankenstein (the monster) and his wish for his mother. Frankenstein's creature comprises all of the unacceptable traits of humans, those we usually suppress. These traits may actually be a representation of those traits that Frankenstein wishes he had. Mary Shelley tries to humanize the position of the impossible monster to imagine what it would be like for a monster to sustain personhood when everybody around him treats him as an utterly outcast to society. Shelley is trying to show that the creature is not inherently monstrous, but
“Gothic and Romanticism” – David Punter Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus and a Monster’s inevitable doom In Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein, it appears that Shelley attempts to draw an important analogy between the lone genius Prometheus, the archetypal seeker after forbidden wisdom, and her own protagonist Victor Frankenstein, who also dares to transgress boundaries in order to create life. Thus the subtitle The Modern Prometheus. However, it is crucial to note the invariable difference between both old and modern Prometheus. Whereas old Prometheus suffers alone for his sin, in the case of Shelley’s Prometheus, Frankenstein, the monster involuntarily partakes in the sin, by being its final product, and therefore has to suffer too. To the reader, it seems that Shelly consistently reminds us of the lack of responsibility on the part of Frankenstein, and the monster’s inherent innocence, who is only made evil by his circumstances.
This book is an illustration of the destruction she experienced in her life, and her inability to control any of it, just as how Frankenstein and The Creature did not have any control over their tragedies. One way in which Mary Shelly has displayed her life through Frankenstein is that her inability to give life has been shown through Victor's curiosity with life and death. Frankenstein's obsession with giving life has been clearly displayed in this quote, "Life and death appeared to me ideal bounds, which I should first break through, and pour a torrent of light into our dark world" (38). Victor's obsession with discovering the secrets of life have completely consumed him as a person. In conclusion, many people and events throughout the course of Mary Shelley’s life influenced her novel Frankenstein.
Domestic affection is the sense of belonging and love one feels when people are accepted by family and friends. Shelly believes that when people loses this affection they begin to make immoral decisions and lose their sense of humanity, and this is when they become truly monstrous. When Frankenstein is read from this perspective, the creature isn’t the only monster in the story. Robert Walton, captain of the ship, also has the potential to be monstrous, and so too do victor, the general population, and the social institutions within the world of Frankenstien. Through the actions committed in the play, Victor Frankenstein becomes one of the most monstrous characters in the story.
Ironically she is created as the inferior and less intelligent sex but she is the character who is most tested and is faced with the hardest challenge. Eventually she takes the fall for all of mankind. Before the fall Eve appears as totally dependent on Adam and she is willingly being submissive to him, she actually prefers to only get her knowledge from him. But is Eve really as naïve as she appears to be in Chapter four? Or is she simply playing the role and dumbing herself down purposefully as women throughout history (and even currently) have done to appease her man?
William Shakespeare’s famous play, Hamlet, offers detailed and often callous insights into the role of women, and men, in the Renaissance period in which the playwright lived in. Throughout this time, traditional women were often constantly criticised and treated as inferior to male counterparts. As such, Shakespeare has constructed his female characters to fulfil these traditional roles; however by taking a feminist approach these female characters appear marginalised and degraded. Ultimately, through the playwright’s representation of women, they can be see as worthless, sexual objects , both weak and inconsiderate in nature. Through a modern perception on the playwright’s female characters, women can be seen as worthless, sexually corrupt indiviudals.
Depicting women as unnatural entities, voiceless and agent less, to their male counterparts destroys any shot of redemption for the fairer sex, so Conrad aligns all the women in the narrative with unreality to evolve the importance of separate realms. By holding ignorant ideas, such as Marlow's aunt, or exotic appearances, such as Kurtz's mistress, the women are discounted as impractical, or if they hold some merit, they are viewed as eerie. Either way, they are made of none of the material found in the world of men, and so disaster befalls the men that dare breach the boundary between the worlds. The first women that Conrad's main character, Marlow, recounts are the two knitters at the Company office in Brussels. The younger one greets the men who come in for examinations before they leave for the "unknown," African wilderness, creating the illusion of a comfortable environment in what is otherwise an unsettling experience (Conrad 8).
The treatment of women is so poor that they are regarded as property and have minimal rights in comparison to the male characters. The feminist critic would find that in Frankenstein the women characters are treated like second class citizens. The three brutal murders of the innocent women are gothic elements which illustrates that women are inferior in the novel. The destruction and creation of women in the gothic novel Frankenstein depicts the unimportance of women in the novel’s society. The women in Frankenstein are forced to be submissive, a trait that illustrates their compliance towards men.