Feminism Represented through Frankenstein Characters
Frankenstein is known all over for being about a monster that loses control and kills people, but no one talks about some of the topics that Mary Shelley portrays in the novel. This book seems male dominant. The females play a big role, but not in the way that big roles are usually played. Women seem to hide from playing a part in Frankenstein, but Mary Shelley finds a way to display feminism in the book and that is how most of the female characters roles are portrayed in the book. Although it cannot be said that there is a shortage of women in the novel, the female characters who are in the story are often passive and do not take an active role within Shelley’s narrative. The female characters of Elizabeth, and Caroline help showcase the feminism that Shelley put into this novel. I will use how Shelley used feminism in the book and how it impacted others in the world in society today.
In this book, Victor’s mother, Caroline, kind of lost her way after her father died and married one of his best friends. That being Alphonse Frankenstein. That shows how much of a patriarchal world she was living in. Alphonse ends up being somewhat good for Caroline, though, because he takes care of her. Alphonse is the dominate figure over Caroline, he is her protector. This shows women, like Caroline are not capable of taking care of themselves. In the book it says, “Everything was made to yield to her wishes and her convenience” (Frankenstein 31). That sentenced shows that Alphonse does indeed admire and appreciate Caroline, so that shows that she shows dominance there. Alphonse respected Caroline in a way that Mary Shelley showed in the line that states, “strove to shelter her, as a fair exotic is sheltered by the gardener, from every rougher wind and to surround her with all that could tend to excite pleasurable emotion in her soft and benevolent mind” (Frankenstein 31). Mary Shelley is telling us in that line that she seems women as being fragile and that they need men to help them take care of others and even themselves. All of this is showing how Caroline was lower to a patriarchal world.
Elizabeth is a woman who was highly a victim of a man dominant world that she struggled to control it and it affected her every day. She is an orphan that was taken in by Victor’s family. Victor’s mom kind of pushes for them to become a couple and it does happen since they are not technically related to each other, so it is all legal. She shows how passive she is because she waits for Victor to return when he is constantly leaving. That is what she does the majority of the novel so that itself shows how much of a victim she is of this male world. She finds out that Victor has become very ill at one point and writes this letter to him. Overall, it says that she has heard of how sick he has gotten and how little he can do and that she wants him to get better and return to her. She exactly said at one point, “Get well- and return to us” (Frankenstein 65). Elizabeth seems very obsessed with Victor and like she needs him more than anything. It is almost like she would even die for him. Victor saw her as his “guardian angel” (Frankenstein 32). He described Elizabeth as “being heaven-sent’ (Frankenstein 33). With how Victor is describing Elizabeth it is like she is an angel sent from God. Victor is actually very indulgent when it comes to Elizabeth and that is where her dominance shows. The creature ends up murdering Elizabeth on her honeymoon night with Victor. Even though at times Elizabeth appears to be dominating over Victor, he still exceeds her and controls her, therefore making Elizabeth a victim of a patriarchal world.
Feminism has been a frequent topic for years and years now. Even Diane Hoeveler thinks so, too. Diane wrote a paper called, “Frankenstein, Feminism, and Literary Theory.” In the beginning of her paper she talks about feminist readings from the 1970’s and 1980’s. That shows how frequent of topic feminism has been that it has been talked about for nearly 50 years. There is a quote from her writing that states, ‘Young woman who is simultaneously persecuted victim and courageous heroine.’ I think that that quote is similar to the story Mary Shelley is trying to portray with the female characters in Frankenstein. Also, in this section of her writing it talks about how feminism can do with sexuality. How men let women think they have dominance, but in all absoluteness the men have complete dominance over them (Hoeveler 2003). Especially in Frankenstein it shows a lot. How Elizabeth is always waiting around for Victor. How Caroline married one of her father’s best friends and he makes it seem like she can’t even take care of herself. How Justine had no say for being framed for a crime she did not do. Another topic Hoeveler talked about was recent reviews a different kinds of studies that were done. The question that was asked was, “So what is the difference that gender makes?” This question was based off of Mary Shelley and Frankenstein. There was anything published in the 1980’s, but in the 1990’s, Stephen Behrendt’s Approaches to Teaching Shelley’s “Frankenstein” came out. It talked about the insights of post-colonial theory, queer theory, cultural studies, and disability studies (Hoeveler 2003). There were many other novels, articles, and essays that were written based off of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein over the years and Diane Hoeveler’s paper was one that showed her comparing other writings to Shelley’s and the feminism displayed.
Feminism is characterized throughout all of Frankenstein with characters like Caroline and Elizabeth. Those women are victims of a patriarchal world that is dominated by men like Victor, Alphonse, and even the creature at times. The dominance of the men over powers the women and shows their lack of power and self-worth. Mary Shelley reveals the inequality modestly all throughout the novel. Men are the reason why these women were punished in the end. The women were huge victims in more than one way. From Caroline letting Alphonse do everything for her to Elizabeth always waiting around for Victor, Shelley shows how male dominance is in place in this book.