Most stories in the 18th century portray men as the more dominant figures in a story while women tend to be given less importance. In "Frankenstein," Mary Shelley strays from the stereotype of the predominately male-oriented stories and includes secondary female characters in abundance which shaped the novel into a feminist text. Mary Shelley's female characters range from Elizabeth who is Victor's soft-spoken love interest to Safie, who is a strong-willed female character in the story, and the near creation of a female companion for the monster. Shelley uses a male narration to describe how the women in the novel are treated and viewed by the male characters and deliberately puts them in situations that finely frame her opinions that pertain to feminist beliefs. Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" makes evident the problems that women face by consciously portraying females as weak and disposable as well as submissive to men.
Caroline Beaufort: Depicted Vulnerability and Reliance on Men
Caroline Beaufort is one of the women in the novel who suffer from feminist ideals. After the death of her father, Caroline is taken in by Alphonse Frankenstein who she later marries and relies on for protection (Shelley & Hunter 58). It is evident that Alphonse becomes a dominant figure in Caroline's life which shows that women need the men for protection and to feel safe. However, Shelley portrays the care as if Caroline is in charge especially since everything is made in her wishes and to her convenience (Shelley & Hunter 59). Shelley describes Caroline as one cherished by Alphonse which makes her more dominant in the marriage. However, it appears that women are incapable of protecting themselves which implies that they are victims in the male-dominated society.
Justine Moritz: Unjust Treatment and the Lack of Defense
Justine Moritz also experiences the same fate ion the male-dominated world as Caroline. She is wrongfully blamed for William's murder after which she is executed. She is found guilty in spite of being innocent for the death of William which was actually carried out by the creature. She, however, wrongly confesses to the crime to avoid being excommunicated by the church. Besides, since Justine was a female, she did not have anyone to defend her in the trial, but when Victor is accused of Henry Clerval's death, many people come forward to protect him yet he was much more corrupt and evil. Hence, Justine is also portrayed as weak and disposable by men in the male-dominated society.
Elizabeth: Love Interest or Submissive Possession?
Elizabeth, on the other hand, is the most discussed female character in "Frankenstein". She is Victor's wife to be and his love interest in the story. However, she might be the most prominent in the novel, but her importance is seen behind male characters in her life such as Victor and Henry Clerval. Victor is genuinely fond of Elizabeth, but it is indisputable that he surpasses and controls her sexually. The sex, however, is done without any offence to Elizabeth, but it negligibly degrades her into something that belongs to Victor. Besides, Victor's mum even predetermines Elizabeth as Victor's future wife when she is still merely a child (Shelley & Hunter 20).
Dehumanization of Women in a Male-Dominated Society
Furthermore, the illustration of Victor's perception of Elizabeth clearly shows the feminist side of the story as he was speaking of her as a child and comparing her to docile animals. Shelley uses Elizabeth's presence to show the extent of dehumanisation that women face in a male-dominated society. This is especially evident when the monster uses her to seek revenge on Victor which shows that she was mere possession of the men in her life. Elizabeth's character exposes the way women are regarded and treated by men and the society at large.
The Female Monster: Symbolizing Female Autonomy and Threat
Moreover, the most vigorous representation of feminism in "Frankenstein" is evident in the female companion that Victor was to create for the monster. After beginning the experiment, Victor doubts the decision and jumps to conclusions about the non-existent creature arguing that it might have the ability to think and reason (Shelley and Hunter 118). It is evident that the fear in Victor is not for the female monster but because she would have female autonomy which includes a sense of self, rationality, and exhibit human-like needs which is a significant threat in Victor's eyes (Mellor 360). Victor is afraid that the male creature will be unable to control the male one. This perception of a sexually liberated female and one that can think and act freely does not match with Victor's obvious notion of women which characterises them as docile and submissive. Hence, Victor opts to destroy the female creation to avoid creating something that is not in the jurisdiction of an ideal woman.
Therefore, Shelley perfectly represents feminism in the novel through the female characters suggesting that they are victims in the .male dominated the world. Moreover, the deliberate inclusion of minor female characters and focusing on their inferiority to men shows a patriarchal desire and its effects on the need for power. Hence, Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" shapes feminism and the female desire to be free from the male-dominated world.
Mellor, Anne K. "Possessing Nature: The Female in Frankenstein." Frankenstein: The 1818 Text, Contexts, Criticism. By Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. Ed. J. Paul Hunter. New York: W.W. Norton, 2012. pp. 355-368.
Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft, and J. Paul Hunter.Frankenstein: The 1818 Text, Contexts, Criticism. New York: W.W. Norton, 2012.
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