How feminism portrayed in Frankenstein
When the term feminism appears in regards to literary works, people often think that the lead character is a female, but in this case, the novel Frankenstein Application is male dominated with supporting characters as females. The female characters help in shaping the novel to a great extent. These characters include Elizabeth, the love interest of Victor Frankenstein, Safie and the Monster’s female companion among others.
Shelley uses male narration to depict how the male characters treat the females in the novel and what they think of them. She puts the characters in situations that can give us a vivid picture of her ideologies about feminism. She outlines the different problems experienced by women by purposely depicting them as weak subservient to men and somewhat disposable.
The first female character, the most prominent introduced to the reader is Elizabeth, who was romantically involved with Victor. Shelly uses Victor to portray Elizabeth as the weaker sex and the more submissive one through the way he treated her. Even though it is indisputable that he is very fond of Elizabeth, he still degrades her and undermines her entire existence by insinuating that she belongs to him to the extent that Victor’s mothers started referring to Elizabeth as Victor’s future wife while they were still very young for such titles. Gilbert and Gubar explain this kind of “ownership” of Elizabeth by comparing Frankenstein to Milton’s Paradise Lost, saying that “When cherubic Elizabeth joins the family, she seems as ‘heaven-sent’ as Milton’s Eve, as much Victor’s ‘possession’ as Adam’s rib is Adam’s.”
Elizabeth was viewed merely as Victor’s possession that should protect the way someone would protect their favorite animal. Comparing Elizabeth to an animal is outright dehumanizing. Shelley uses Elizabeth as a prop in the play called Monster’s foul to further illustrate the dehumanization. Elizabeth’s main role in the novel as a tool to expose how women are usually viewed and treated by their male counterparts and society in general in day-to-day life.
Elizabeth’s sudden death on her wedding day is metaphorical. It shows that the writer views marriage as a death sentence. It shows that the relationship between Elizabeth and Victor was very toxic. The only way to end it was through death. To give the reader the other side of the coin, Shelly introduces Safie and Felix who appear to have a more positive relationship than that of Victor and Elizabeth. They show loyalty and deep emotion towards each other which even makes the Monster to desire a companion. Shelley, through her narration, depicts Safie as an ideal woman, who is determined, self-governing, brave and not in need of male validation.
Safie gives priority to her desire over the expectations and wants of others. This kind of attitude was unheard of among her peers. Shelly succeeds in painting her as the ideal woman, but her glory is short-lived as her presence in the novel lasts only a few pages; this is symbolic in that it indicates that such kind of women are only imagination and do not exist.
Shelly then introduces another female figure who is the female monster that was to be created to be a partner for the Monster. Victor was the one that created the female Monster and soon after he began to doubt his decisions. He was not sure how the creature would turn out and whether it would be submissive like how other females are expected to be. As Williams stated, “he’s afraid that she might have her way of thinking. Female autonomy, in Victor’s eyes, becomes a terrible threat” (Williams). Victor could not stand the thought of a free-thinking female.
Victors fear of not being able to control how the female Monster led him into destroying it, which made him feel more in control over females. His actions are a representation of the fear of women power and autonomy as well as the strong need of men to be validated by women. Shelly, through her novel, Frankenstein, succeeds in bringing to light the patriarchal desires of our society and how it affects women. She made all the female characters inferior to the men to pass across the nature of the society in which we live.
Braid, Barbara. “The Frankenstein Meme: Penny Dreadful and The Frankenstein Chronicles as adaptations.” Open Cultural Studies 1.1 (2017): 232-243.
Creed, Barbara. The monstrous-feminine: Film, feminism, psychoanalysis. Routledge, 2015.
Halpern, Megan K., et al. “Stitching together creativity and responsibility: Interpreting Frankenstein across disciplines.” Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society 36.1 (2016): 49-57.