A Feminist Reading Of Marry Shelley’s Frankenstein
A Feminist Reading Of Marry Shelley’s Frankenstein
Feminism is a movements aimed to equal rights between men and women so in Shelley’s time it was just started and through Frankenstein’s novel she pointed out one of the most powerful work of feminism in London 1818. Shelley was 18 years old when she wrote this story. When she was in Switzerland with her lover Percy Shelley who later became her husband, they stayed at their friend Lord Byron’s castle.
They decided to compete for writing the best horror story. That night Shelley dreamed of a scientist who created a scary creature, then her dream developed to a novel that she wrote (Zeitoun).
She was from a noble rich educated family and they were interested in arts. Her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, was a writer and advocate for women’s rights and her father, William Godwin, was a political philosopher and a science fiction writer, while her husband Percy Beach Shelley, was a famous poet who had his own way of thinking which conflicted with his community and was calling for freedom and liberalism rather than religion. She managed to publish the novel in her father’s publishing house, and her name mentioned in the second edition with her husband helped. Shelley’s Frankenstein reflected different problems that were prominent in the lives of female at that time via her subordinate female characters. Elizabeth, Safie and the nearly created female monster.
The most important female character in this story is Elizabeth although she is hardly mentioned until after the interdiction of Victor Frankenstein her fianc, Shelley showed how women were not important at that time unless they had a man. An example of this, the way Victor treated Elizabeth, he never discussed with her his work or his fear from the monster that he created. He was only expecting for her loyalty and obedience. Even when Victor decided to marry, he discussed his marriage with his father and his friend Henry to locate the place and the day of the marriage.
It is strange because, it is known from antiquity that these concerns are women’s interests, not men’s, but Shelley preferred to show that men dominated women even in their most basic rights and interests. “Victor said: Elizabeth loved the wonderful sights of nature in the mountains and lakes of Switzerland while I was more interested in investigating why things in nature happened” (Shelley 17). Here Victor was outspoken about his opinion on Elizabeth’s interests, which is nothing important in life. Shelley reflects how men in her society looked at women as their mentality lacked invention or even education. “She was docile and good tempered, yet gay and playful as a summer’s insect” and ” I loved to tend on her, as I should on a favourite animal ” (Shelley 20). Victor again looked at Elizabeth as a small butterfly or a pet. Another opinion Shelley pointed out, which is men look at women as a beautiful animal or insect that they enjoy looking at, and they only expect obedience from women and they have no missions in life other than fulfilling their desires.
In addition, when the Monster tries to take revenge from Victor he decides to kill Elizabeth. Here, Elizabeth is a metaphor of something that belongs to Victor. Because when someone tries to take revenge from someone else the first thing he will do is to take or destroy something he owns. So Shelley refers to Elizabeth as an object belongs to Victor. Indeed, the beast is able to kill Elizabeth on her wedding day wearing her white dress, Shelley reflected her negative idea about marriage in her society. Because she didn’t believe in marriage, she thought a person should be with whoever he chooses without restrictions.
Second, Safie is another subordinate female character. She runs away from her father in Turkey alone to live with her fianc?© Felix in Germany. Safie and Felix showed a deep and powerful relationship by defying the rules of their societies. Her relationship with her fianc?© is strong and perfect. Shelley presents herself in Safie in the way that rebelled against her family, Shelley ran away with Percy Beach Shelley without getting married and she believed in her lover’s belief in freedom and there is no such thing as restrictions such as marriage if two people love each other she even knew that Percy had another wife. But after their long struggle with their family and society they decided to marry.
She mentions Safie in only two pages to show that it is a fictional character who seeks her personal desire something that no one dares in her society to do such a thing, it is also a message to women who want to seek their dreams and live only for their personal desires. “Felix spent the weeks following Safie’s arrival teaching her to speak and read their language” (Shelley 85). Safie does not give up on her family but she abandons her identity, language and her culture for Felix who does not even speak her language. In this novel, Shelley points out that women in her society could be this stupid and blind to forget who they are when they loved men.
Finally, the monster asks Victor to create a female monster to live in peace far away from humans. In the beginning, Victor accepts to create her, but he starts to think of consequences and feel suspicious. “Still, my work was proceeding well. Why, then, did such a sickening sense of foreboding ill my heart?… This feeling that something evil was about to happen” (Shelly 111). Victor thinks that the monster hates himself already and starts to become independent, let alone a female ugly angry monster, she will make a fuss.
” That cannot be controlled by his male creature” (Mellor 360). Victor is afraid that the female creature might become a thinker, she may refuse to live with the male monster and they will hate each other. She will have an entity and a sense of self and needs as any normal person. “He’s afraid that she might have her own way of thinking. Female autonomy, in Victor’s eyes, becomes a terrible threat” (Williams). Victor was not only afraid of an angry female monster but is also afraid she may not submit to the male monster whom Victor created hem himself and this may shake his manhood and change his principles on women who should not exceed the limits of obedience.
Victor is also afraid that the female monster may start to think of having babies, little thinkers demons such as their mother. Shelley through Victor showed how men thought of women at that time. Men through Victor, supposed that women followed men when their named were mentioned, and if women become superior over men it would be a great disaster because it was against women’ nature to be superior.
To conclude, Mary Shelley was one of the most important women who talked about the women’s movement in the nineteenth century. Her aims were to spread awareness among women through her creative writings, the most important work she wrote was Frankenstein. Despite her young age, Shelley managed to reflect men’s perspective of women successfully that time via her works. Also, she reflected her personal life through her characters and showed how she suffered that time because she was a woman.
Frankenstein Critical Analysis Evaluation Essay
Mary Shelley, an English female author, wrote the novel Frankenstein. Around the year 1818, a young scientist named Victor Frankenstein makes a creature in a scientific experiment. The novel has generated critical analysis from the date it was released till present time, thus critics arguments have been the causes of different literary approach by the authors.
This critical analysis evaluation essay aims to analyze two critiques: Sherry Ginn and Naomi Hetherington. Sherry Ginn is a professor at Wingate University. Professor Ginn wrote the article, Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein: Science, Science Fiction or Autobiography. She utilizes her article to satisfactorily prove her insight. Professor Naomi Hetherington’s, Creator and Created in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, holds a perspective on Frankenstein that is more of an autobiography.
From her misfortune and agony, Professor Gin passes on a psychological picture of the fears of society and the malice of man. There is a type of connection between portions of the book’s events and her own life. Ginn frequently mentions that Frankenstein can be referred to as an autobiography, and not science fiction, despite proof of science utilized all through the book, incorporating the progressive subject of the discovery of life, in the instance of Frankenstein’s study of life and death at Ingolstadt.
Amid the time of publication, the Industrial Revolution was occurring and numerous headways in science and innovation were being found. Shelley needed to manufacture a tale, “which would speak to the mysterious fears of our nature and awake thrilling horror” Ginn aims to demonstrate that Shelley’s Frankenstein is technically an autobiography because it portrays the author’s profound concerns resulting from the incidents in her personal life. Professor Naomi Hetherington’s major point of view of Shelly’s novel is a genesis allegory, however, her work is also more autobiographical. In the article, Shelly mirrors a portion of her struggles, which was identifiable. There are a few allusions of Shelly, the ethical qualities and manner of how she was raised in her expressions and her treatment with low class people.
Mary Shelley’s motivation came primarily from her personal encounters as a girl, as the spouse of an important literary figure in her era, and as a much-maligned daughter. As an extraordinary novelist, she elaborates these encounters with masterful ability, and in doing so, she creates a special book; a precursor of her era. Ginn translates Shelley’s work as an expanded analysis of the social and psychological events which occurs when one’s family, or more importantly, one’s fundamental parent is missing from one’s life (Ginn, S). Both the author and the creature in her novel were shorn of some sort of parental love and care in the early stages of their lives. Shelley suffered from the sudden passing of her mother and her father’s disregard for her. The creature lacked every kind of love or support from the public and his creator and parent; Victor Frankenstein.
In conclusion, Shelley’s book solely tells the story of a scientist who does not take responsibility for his creation. It is saturated with concerns and fears, similar to the author herself, such as the dread of childbirth and viable upbringing, absence of parental understanding, attention, love, and childrearing in a motherless home. Shelly experienced the rejection from her father, therefore, that’s how Victor Frankenstein’s creature experienced it. Professor Gin and Professor Naomi pinpoint on how shelly imagination and innovation on society.
- Ginn, S. (2019). Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: Science, Science Fiction, or Autobiography? [online] Clas.ufl.edu. Available at: [Accessed 7 Jan. 2019].
- Hetherington, Naomi. “Creator and Created in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.” Frankenstein — Articles, 7 Jan. 2019, knarf.english.upenn.edu/Articles/hether.html.
The Danger of Knowledge in Frankenstein
Knowledge, by definition, is the fact or condition of having information or of being learned (Merriam-Webster). Children and adults alike are always looking for more knowledge and to learn more about the world around them. It is always seen as something positive because who does not want to learn something? This point can be proven wrong.
Knowledge can be negative because a person might learn unjust or immoral things. One example of such invalidation is Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, knowledge can be seen as a source of danger because characters fall victim to the pursuit of it which in the end causes harm to themselves and people that the love.
Knowledge starts from childhood and in Frankenstein Walton and Frankenstein were brought up similarly concerning their education. According to Walton, his education was neglected, yet I was passionately fond of reading (Shelley 28). Through this, the audience knows that Walton’s education from the start was not looked upon well. In context with the rest of the letter, it is shows that his Father did not care about what he wanted and did not let him learn what he longed for. In a similar way, Frankenstein says the cursory glance of my father had taken of my volume had no means assured me that he was acquainted with its contents; and I continued to read with greatest avidity (Shelley 46). Victor, similar to Walton, was looked down upon about his learning choices. Nevertheless, he continues to just learn what he wants and pursues what he is interested in.
Unlike Frankenstein and Walton, the Creature was brought up in an unconventional education, self-education. Walton and Frankenstein had materials and family to turn to when they were children and still learning. In contrast, the Creature learned the science of letters as it was taught to the stranger (Shelley 108). He had to learn simple things like the alphabet from scratch because he never knew anything. Through this one page, the Creature learns about politics, mannerisms, and religions of many nations. Frankenstein and Walton use their knowledge in a perversely but the creature reads as a method of self-examination and definition, as a way of making sense of himself and his experience of the world. (Englert).
In her article, Englert proves the Creature has learned for different reasons. He does not try to learn more about something he is personally interested in. He learns to assimilate and become one with the surrounding people. Knowledge isn’t just something for him to learn, but it is a way to learn how to live in harmony with others. This knowledge, in the end, does him more harm than good.
Through the novel Victor’s journey progresses and slowly his pure intentions for knowledge soon turn impure and he falls to the lust of knowledge. While in Ingolstadt, Victor clung to the hope which the next day or the next hour might realise (Shelley 57). He clung to the hope that his work would succeed after countless times of failure. During his study time he became like a hermit, secluded and obsessed with his work. Slowly he grew stir-crazy and threw himself into his work hoping he would discover how life was discovered. According to Virginia Brackett in her article Frankenstein, Victor has forgotten the value of education, instead turning to his obsessions and gaining only perversion through his knowledge (Brackett, 2012). He lost the true reason to his research and instead his knowledge grew perverse. This perversion created the Creature and eventually he will be surrounded by the loss of all his loved ones.
Unlike Victor, the Creature did not fall off the path of knowledge, but knowledge is the things that caused him to start killing. He learns more about the world and himself. He says I tried to dispel them, but sorrow only increased with knowledge (Shelley 109). This quote comes after the monster reflects upon himself. His self-reflections are very negative, and his sadness grows as he sees what a wretched outcast (Shelley 117) he was. This self-loathing can drive anyone mad and indeed it turned the Creature mad. Through his new knowledge from Paradise Lost, his painful experiences force him to recognize Satan as a fitter emblem of [his] condition. The creature finds selfhood and purpose in a plan of eternal hatred and revenge (Englert 2010). The Creature reads this book and relates himself to pure evil. This relation is the one that drives his plan for revenge, which is hurting all of his creator’s loved ones. This is the purest example of a character falling off the path of knowledge and turning to a primal like thing.
With Walton, his case in similar to Victor’s in which he has isolated himself and is in pursuit of learning new things, but he does not fully fall off the path. His pursuit is to find new land and in doing so isolates himself, like Victor. He preferred glory to every enticement that wealth places in my path. In context this means that glory is above anything else someone can offer.
He is revealed to be quite ambitious like Frankenstein. In John R. Reed’s Will and Fate in Frankenstein, he points out that Walton was an example of an ordinary man possessed by a humanly extreme objective (Reed 1980). Reed points out that Walton was driven by a worldly want and did not think about his own source of suffering: isolation. On his journey he has no friend (Shelley 30). He has one want which I have never yet been able to satisfy (Shelley 30) and that one want is a friend. His crew are the only people there but they just are not enough since they will not understand his pursuit for glory.
Through the novel, Victor sees his loved ones and his life crash before him and through these tragedies he grew vengeful quite similar to the Creature. After all his loved ones have died Victor hurried away by fury; revenge alone endowed me with strength and composure (Shelley 172) goes to his loved ones graves and he is upset that they are dead and he lives.
Although Victor did degenerate into a vengeful man, he did grow as a person from the beginning of the novel. Through the loss of his loved ones, Victor shows that he has learned from his mistakes and that knowledge was his true demise.
Fictional Story About A Scientist Named
Frankenstein written by Mary Shelley is a fictional story about a scientist named Victor Frankenstein. He is an exceptionally intelligent young man, but he just needed help dealing with his inner demons. His experiment was to create a man and bring him back to life. But, his education did not work in his favor because he created a so called monster. Due to his new brain, the monster has a childlike behavior. He has to learn everything from watching others.
Victor never instructed his creation on how he should act or treat other people. Throughout his creations learning process, he ended up making some major mistakes. The mistake of killing other people. Which of course, he was never instructed on how much power he held, or that killing is wrong and permanent. This whole negative situation leads to the question of who the true monster is. The monster never asked to be created, so it is not his fault in that sense. But he was also never told to kill others. Both sides of the story have rough edges, but in reality the monster is Victor Frankenstein.
The true monster was not created within a new body, but rather he was created from the cruel mind of a man. One reason why Frankenstein is the true villain starts with his profession and the ideas that sparked from his evil mind. Though his science background called for him to be an experimentalist, it did not call for him to create such a being. They never instructed him to create something that could possibly be a disaster. During the process when things started to go awry, he should have taken that as a warning to stop creating the monster. But because he didn’t stop, he set up a horrible future for him and everyone around him. He himself even knew that once the monster came to life, it was a mistake.
How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate the wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavoured to form? His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful. (Shelley 125) As seen in that quote, he described his creation as a catastrophe. He should have never even chose to make such a creature. Or he should have consulted with his professor or someone professional who could have helped him create something else. Victor also admitted that something possessed him to do such an act. Can you wonder, that sometimes a kind of insanity possessed me, or that I saw continually about me a multitude of filthy animals inflicting on me incessant torture, that often extorted screams and bitter groans (Shelley 160) He knew that what he did was out of the norm, but he did nothing to stop himself. If he just stopped when things started to go wrong, he could have prevented so many horrible incidents from occurring.
Another reason why he is at fault is because he was not involved enough post experiment. He never taught him right from wrong, which is an essential part of parenthood. Although he did not birth him, he is still his child by nature. Even if he did not have the time to sit him down and teach him about politics and things like that, he still should have protected him knowing his size and strength. He had the brain of a child, but he could overpower any man, woman, or child that he came across. Of course he did not mean to harm anyone simply because he did not know, but he did it multiple times.
When I reflected on his crimes and malice, my hatred and revenge burst all bounds of moderation. I would have made a pilgrimage to the highest peak of the Andes, could I when there have precipitated him to their base. (Shelley 170) In that quote, he shows remorse for the monster’s actions, but from then on he does nothing to change that. If the monster was properly taken care of by his father, then maybe he would not even be nicknamed a monster. The man that should have that nickname is no one else but Frankenstein. Something that should be noted is how Frankenstein was guilty. After it was said and done, he knew he was wrong. He knew he had to escape his reality by literally escaping. As explained in the story, he had to escape from his current home.
My departure was therefore fixed at an early date, but before the day resolved upon could arrive, the first misfortune of my life occurred”an omen, as it were, of my future misery. (Shelley 56) Victor had to leave because he could not face what he was feeling and what he did wrong. As seen in this quote, he admits to being the true murderer, which in essence is a monster. I, not in deed, but in effect, was the true murderer. (Shelley 48) Frankenstein was quite content in his life. He had Elizabeth, and a good family and a quality education. As explained by another source, they talk about how Frankenstein had a nice life with no need to create a monster.
In contrast, Victor Frankenstein seems to be quite content in isolation (Traynelis) He was completely content being by himself, and if he stayed by himself, we can assume that such a tragedy would not have happened. He could have gotten the help that he needed, and he could have lived out the rest of his life peaceful. In conclusion, the fact is that the true monster is only categorized as a monster because of his looks and the actions that he did in his past.
But, if you look into the details, his looks and crimes committed are all in direct proportion to his creator, Victor Frankenstein. He is responsible and should be held accountable for everything that had happened in the story. If it was not for his ideas made in his deranged mind, nothing horrific would have ended up happening. He was a coward who had to run away from his problems because he could not handle them. He should be held accountable for everything that happened, starting with the creation of the beast.
Mary Shelley Was A Novelist
Mary Shelley was a novelist who wrote novels that are now looked at as literary concepts. Mary used life experiences to create novels that would be explained in many ways in time. Many saw these novel as enjoyable horrors while others viewed them as disgusting and freak show, only few actually understood the real meanings to the novels.
She wrote these novels to express herself and explain her life. Her mother was a writer as well but at the time they were not viewed the same. Many of her novels were later used on premises of rights for women and equal rights for others. Her novel Matilda looked at in the late 1950’s as a novel on equality, she had no intentions on it being looked at like that. Mary Shelley’s novels reflected on and drew forth the aspects of science and equality in society.To think that Mary had created her novels to convey that science and technology is something to be feared is outrageous.
Mary had a rough childhood and even harder teen years. Mary Wollstonecraft (her mother) died during childbirth. Her father after her mother’s death married Mary Jane Clairmont who is Shelley’s evil step mother forced her to leave the house at age fourteen. Shelley just like her mother became a novelist, her ideas and writings were all about her own life experiences. She was not trying to interoperate the novels as something that would happen in the future but more as putting science behind her stories to make them a different type of writing. Even though people did interoperate these novels with a sense of realty, it added to the time period where there was many scientific and technological advancements happening.
Mary read lots of books and articles which were mostly were on evolution, chemistry, and article exploration. In Frankenstein, Patricia Fara quoted a well known arctic explored named Robert Walton. The way he writes is the same ways in which Shelley writes. They are both writing about real life situations and how hard they were on their lives. Shelley tried to express herself in the ways of this quote by Robert Walton the wondrous power which attracts the needle… you cannot contest the inestimable benefit which I shall confer on all mankind to the last generation… by ascertaining the secret of the magnet. This quote was one way in which she tried to convey her opinions and her own experiences during her time period. The quote as well showed how she dealt with narrow minded people always looking down on her for thinking outside of the box.
She got this idea from when her father William Godwin was so caught up in caring about him financial situation that he didn’t even notice nor ask about Mary through her dark times in life. Mary wrote from real life experiences, whether they were the best or the worst trying to put her life into writing. Although many people took her writings into many different views and most had not understood what she was trying to convey that even the ones she held so close and thought would understand did not.Shelley wrote to look back on her life and to write about future too, in writing about the future she wanted to add in the idea of man as the creator and how it would change society.
One of her views was her Romantic aim to resuscitate organic speech and poetic utterance to overcome post enlightenment solipsism(Hyewon Shin). She believed that the best stories were when they were written or orally told and the listeners and readers felt like they were in the story and gave them the sense of realism which made it all more entertaining. The only thing during this time that was against her was the timing, it was the height of the printing era and she believed that it defied the way writing was meant to be. These beliefs were held so dearly to her contradicted society’s views with the aspects of technological advancements in printing. She believed that this took away from people being the creators themselves and them telling the story took them away from being human and more into the life of the characters.
As seen in Frankenstein man creating man can only make something new but something worse can only come from it, it also could change society for better or for worse. Some could say that Shelley was trying to warn us of this happening, but many also say that she never intended to write about the consequences of these actions, she was only trying to write about life itself. Though Shelley had many life problems she had ways of putting them into her writings in order to relate them to society.
She was also able to relate in which how money affected society. She saw how money changed her father and manipulated his life to revolve around and and took the place of loving for his family and how that being absent in his life they all drifted apart day by day.Mary did experience many life changing situations that expanded her knowledge but the one thing that stuck with her the most was her feminist views. Mary did grow up to be just like her mother; a writer and a woman’s advocate in a way.
Her writings did play a major role during the time as well. She added romanticism through some writings. One of the novels that became popular in the 1950’s was Matilda. It was a psychological analysis of the trauma rising from the juxtaposing of romanticism and feminism(Tilottama Rajan). It’s a short narrative of the trauma a girl goes through because her father has an incest love for her. The incest is the reason why her father did not publish the short novel. The trauma is supposed to relate to what Mary felt when Godwin was abandoning the family over money and Mary was dealing with the death of her own children.
Matilda is a beginning, middle, and end short novel and it is obvious that Mary was confused on where the writing was going and how it was relating to language of the monstrosity and abjection. With all the abjection and confusion it is truly unclear who is the abject thus making the no evil confusing on the actual point of it. The loss of a relationship to a masculine romanticism shows how she lost her father and her male influence. All these feelings Shelley had throughout her life made her a voice and activist for women’s rights and later in history equality for all.
Mary Shelley’s novels reflected on and drew forth the aspects of science and equality in society. Mary experienced many life changing situations that expanded her knowledge beyond others but one thing that stuck with her was her feminist views. To think that Mary had created her novel to create a fear behind science and technology is an outrage. Mary wrote to look back on her life but to also look into the future, in writing about the future she wanted to add in man creating man and how it would affect society. Mary Shelley wrote about real life situations as a way of putting her own touch on writing.
She wrote fictional novels and science fiction novels but they all had a meaning behind them that related to her real life experiences. Mary never had any intentions to make the novels something that people would read and fear what is going to come in the future, she was writing about her life experiences and with technology and science advancements during the time it was right for what was happening. Mary went through a lot in life with her father not caring about the family and only about money she bad no male model in her life which leaned her more towards fighting for women’s rights and equality for all.
Frankenstein Stereotypical Gender Analysis
Can gender stereotypes and assumptions be incorporated into literary characters? In Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein, published at first anonymously in London 1818, they are. The book tells the story of an alchemist named Victor Frankenstein and the monster he created while dabbling in occult sciences and natural philosophy. Additionally, it focuses on the interior life of Victor’s creation after his birth. Throughout the novel, Shelley depicts stereotypical gender roles through Victor, the monster, and other characters.
A place stereotypical gender thoughts can be seen is in Shelley’s portrayal of women. As the book plays out, the women are seen as weak individuals that depend on males. They are described as generous, selfless, and almost described to be saintly. Many of them are also perfect maternal figures, as many women were expected to be during that time. But, the women in this novel, although considered pure beings in the eyes of the men, are also continuously suffering for the actions and/or mistakes of men.
The first woman we encounter in Frankenstein that also shows gender stereotypes is Elizabeth Lavenza. She is described by Victor as a perfect individual but also as a thing that can be owned as she, early on, is betrothed to him by his/their parents. Frankenstein sees her as heaven-sent(Shelley, 20) and unflawed. Even when she was a small child, he describes her as,…a creature who seemed to shed radiance from her looks and whose form and motions were lighter than the chamois of hills,(20) in saying this, Victor is equating beauty with goodness. Shelley shows Elizabeth possessing maternal traits too, as quickly after Caroline passes away Elizabeth steps in and assumes the maternal figure in the household.
She begins to take on the various responsibilities Caroline once had, for instance caring for the children. Later in the story, Elizabeth suffers and dies because of Victor’s naivete and selfishness when he repeatedly believes that the monster he created is coming to get him as revenge even though there is a clear pattern in where the monster is targeting his next victim. The monster is following the pattern of hurting Victor through the sufferings of his loved ones like his brother William and Justine. If Victor had looked beyond himself, at the bigger picture, he could have noticed from the previous occurrences that Elizabeth, his future bride, would be the bigger target than himself.
Subsequently, the almost-creation of the female monster also brings forth gender stereotypes even though she was never technically born. To start, Victor decided to create a male monster, why not a female monster first? Victor must believe that the male gender is superior to the female gender. When Victor promises the monster a female companion for the male creature to be with he accepts, but when Victor is making her he is rethinking his decision.
He says,…She who, in all probability, was to become a thinking and reasoning animal, might refuse to comply with a compact made before her creation(Shelley 144). He is afraid of the free will that the female creature will have and that there is a possibility of this creature not being able to be controlled by the male monster that he previously created. He then sees he male monster looking at him work and destroys the female out of fear and enrages his first creation. In doing this he is showing how her creation was an easy thing to simply destroy because of his fear of a disobedient female.
Another occurrence of these stereotypes is the part telling the story of Justine. We are told that she is this selfless caring woman that has formed a strong relationship with the Frankenstein family after they take her in when her mother passes away. She is loved by Victor’s family as she has been with them since she was 12 and grew up with Victor. Although during her time with him and his family she acted as a servant they held her with equal respect and never treated her like she was below them. But although she was so loved by Victor she too suffered because of his actions.
Justine is accused of murder, the murder of William Frankenstein a boy whom she cared greatly for, and is found guilty and executed as a result of Victor’s selfishness and the creature’s want for revenge. The creature wanted revenge on women because he could not find love or companionship of a female because they are too frightened by his appearance. He also desperately wanted Victor’s love but is constantly denied it so if he cannot have his love, he wants his hate.
This leads him to plant framing evidence on Justine after he strangles William. The way Victor affects her is that he withholds critical information about his younger brother’s murder’s identity. Instead of telling people that it was not Justine who killed William, but the monster he created and let roam free, he keeps quiet and lets Justine die from a murder she did not commit. He acts selfishly in fear of being socially ruined. He is afraid of what the town’s people will think if he tells the truth so he stands by as Justine is executed instead of saving her.
In Shelley’s work, there are many clear examples of gender stereotypes. Throughout Frankenstein, every single female character is shown as a minor character supporting the story of a male. The way Shelley depicts each of the females present in this novel aligns with the roles that women are stereotypically expected to play. Elizabeth’s, the female creature’s, and Justine’s deaths caused by male narcissism all go to further point out these type assumptions commonly found in Shelley’s time.
The Blame Upon Victor Frankenstein
In the book Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, it is clear to lay the blame upon Victor Frankenstein. The definition of blame is the assignation of responsibility towards someone/something for a fault or wrong. Victor’s love and passion for science led to a monstrous idea and ended up killing three people.
While his pride was a driving force, abandoning the creature was not a smart move. Due to the fact that his idea was matched with the act of doing gives the right to put forth the blame. Clearly, Victor Frankenstein’s pride and hunger for recognition blinded his reasoning and abandoning the creature brought blame upon himself.
In light of the formation of the creature, Frankenstein’s pride pushed it further to existence. It all started during his childhood; natural philosophy changed the way he saw things and was purely obsessed with science. At age thirteen, Victor attended a party of pleasure to the baths near Thonon, where due to weather conditions, had to stay at an inn in which he founded the works of Cornelius Agrippa(a philosopher). He became intrigued; therefore sought to his father to show him the book, but his father turned it down calling it sad trash. Victor’s father was not scientific in the least and always turned to logic, whereas Victor thrived for science.
His father never understood Frankenstein’s passion for science, and so it drove Frankenstein’s desire for intelligence. My father was not scientific, and I was left to struggle with a child’s blindness, added to a student’s thirst for knowledge.(Shelley 36). Blind indeed Frankenstein was, but not from the lack of information given as a child; he was blinded by his own pride and the scarcity of judgement. Victor’s knowledge continued to grow as did his pride leading up to the creation of the creature. Wealth was an inferior object, but what glory would attend the discovery if I could banish disease from the human frame and render man invulnerable to any but a violent death! Nor were these my only visions.
The raising of ghosts or devils was a promise liberally accorded by my favourite authors, the fulfillment of which I most eagerly sought; and if my incantations were always unsuccessful, I attributed the failure rather to my own inexperience and mistake than to a want of skill or fidelity in my instructors. (Shelley 36). In this quote his pride shows by his obsession over the idea of the recognition from his accomplishment, not thinking of the whole picture. His focus was on him and what he could possibly bring to the table of science.
Frankenstein could be defined as a narcissist, fantasising over success, power, and brilliance, who takes advantage of others and has a hard time maintaining relationships; entitled. Since his only thoughts were on himself, it lead his pride take over, constructing a demolition. As shown above, Victor Frankenstein’s pride blinded his judgement, leaving him to blame upon the destruction.
Finally, his abandonment of the creature left it to live in fear and confusion, causing it to harm others. After fulfilling his goal (creating the creature), he was amazed by his creation at first, but when he observed all the details of its appearance he was disgusted and relentful. I had desired it with an ardour that far exceeded moderation; but now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart.(Shelley 59). It was at that moment when Frankenstein made a terrible mistake; abandoning the creature. Unable to endure the aspect of the being I had created, I rushed out of the room and continued a long time traversing my bedchamber, unable to compose my mind to sleep.(Shelley 59).
There are only two reasons thought of as to why he left it to fend for itself: pure shock and regret in his decision making, and repeating what his father did to him (cowardice). In the beginning of the book, just after his mother died his father sent Victor away to school to study his science. Instead of pushing Victor away during this depressing time, he should have kept him close and went through a time of mourning together as family. Since Victor had no understanding of what parenting is, like his father, he ran from his problem and had no intention of teaching it the ways of the world.
Due to his abandonment, the creature became angry, and scared. During this time, it led him to do bad things; kill people. Frankenstein then went to seek out the creature to be rid of him. Once he got ahold of it, the creature said, ?I expected this reception,’ said the daemon. All men hate the wretched; how, then, must I be hated, who am miserable beyond all living things! Yet you, my creator, detest and spurn me, thy creature, to whom thou art bound by ties only dissoluble by the annihilation of one of us. You purpose to kill me. How dare you sport thus with life? Do your duty towards me, and I will do mine towards you and the rest of mankind. If you will comply with my conditions, I will leave them and you at peace; but if you refuse, I will glut the maw of death, until it be satiated with the blood of your remaining friends.'(Shelley 113).
In this quote, the creature questions Frankenstein reason to why he brought him to life if all he wants to do is kill him and the rest of mankind sees it as this ratchet monster, essentially blaming him for creating him. While murdering people wasn’t the best idea, the creature didn’t know any better because it wasn’t conditioned/trained right from wrong. If Frankenstein would have taught the creature the ways of human life like polite mannerisms, basic education, and cognitive thinking, most likely the murders would not have taken place. Given these points, it is Frankenstein’s fault that his abandonment brought bitterness upon the creature, causing harm towards others.
In conclusion, Victor Frankenstein’s pride and hunger for recognition blinded his reasoning and abandoning the creature brought blame upon himself. His pride grew with the knowledge he obtained from his schooling and philosophers he read about, for example Cornelius Agrippa; therefore contributing to his narcissism and not thinking about the whole picture. Frankenstein also abandoned the creature leaving it to fester in anger and confusion towards his existence that it displaced its emotions on others, killing them. Ultimately, the blame should be laid on Frankenstein’s shoulders due to excessive pride and refusing his responsibility towards his creation, the creature.
Clerval and Frankenstein
In their formative years, Henry Clerval and Victor Frankenstein lead parallel lives; they share experiences, morals, and a love for knowledge. When Frankenstein leaves for Ingolstadt, however, their once-similar traits and values diverge. Clerval remains generous and humane while Frankenstein becomes self-absorbed and irresponsible. Throughout Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Clerval’s role as compassionate caregiver contrasts with Frankenstein’s selfish personality, enhancing Frankenstein’s negligent nature.
Clerval acts selflessly upon his arrival at Ingolstadt, choosing to care for Frankenstein instead of attending his own classes. Clerval drops everything to help Frankenstein, even after struggling for months to gain permission to attend the university. Frankenstein says, “Henry was my only nurse. I afterwards learned that, knowing my father’s advanced age and unfitness for so long a journey, and how wretched my sickness would make Elizabeth, he spared them this grief by concealing the extent of my disorder. He knew that I could not have a more kind and attentive nurse than himself; and, firm in the hope he felt of my recovery, he did not doubt that, instead of doing harm, he performed the kindest action that he could towards them.” (Shelley 64). Clerval’s attentiveness to Frankenstein juxtaposes Frankenstein’s negligence in caring for his monster. Shelley paints a picture of irony as she describes Frankenstein, ill because he failed to take care of his monster in the very way that Clerval is taking care of him. Additionally, Clerval’s choice to withhold Frankenstein’s health problems from his family plays into the theme of secrecy. Clerval keeps this secret with benign intent; his sole goal is to protect Elizabeth and Alphonse from distress. Frankenstein is also secretive, but unlike Clerval, his suppression of information is putting his loved ones into danger. Frankenstein’s and Clerval’s uses of secrecy exhibit their differing priorities and levels of compassion.
Upon meeting his professors, Clerval feigns ignorance to reduce Frankenstein’s discomfort, even though Frankenstein refuses to tell him the real reason behind his poor health and depression. Frankenstein says, “Clerval, whose eyes and feelings were always quick in discerning the sensations of others, declined the subject, alleging, in excuse, his total ignorance . . . he never attempted to draw my secret from me; and although I loved him with a mixture of affection and reverence that knew no bounds, yet I could never persuade myself to confide to him that event which was so often present to my recollection but which I feared the detail to another would only impress more deeply.” (Shelley 72-73). First, Clerval delays his schooling to take care of Frankenstein, and then, while being introduced to his professors, he tiptoes around the subject of science to minimize Frankenstein’s stress. Clerval will clearly go to great lengths to protect Frankenstein, fulfilling his role as caregiver. The dichotomy between Frankenstein and Clerval grows stronger as Frankenstein fails to reciprocate Clerval’s sensitivity, leaving him in the dark about his dilemma.
Frankenstein’s negligent nature ultimately causes the death of Clerval. By insisting that they part ways in Scotland, Frankenstein greatly increases Clerval’s chances of becoming another of the monster’s victims. Frankenstein is well aware of the danger, saying, “I feared the effects of the daemon’s disappointment. He might remain in Switzerland and wreak his vengeance on my relatives. This idea pursued me and tormented me at every moment from which I might otherwise have snatched repose and peace . . . Sometimes I thought that the fiend followed me and might expedite my remissness by murdering my companion. When these thoughts possessed me, I would not quit Henry for a moment, but followed him as his shadow, to protect him from the fancied rage of his destroyer.” (Shelley 197). Frankenstein’s self-interest outweighs his fear for Clerval’s safety. In hoping to rid himself of his own problems, he disregards the companion to whom he owes his life. Because he is ashamed of his creation, he does not warn Clerval about the monster’s presence and thirst for revenge. Though it is tragic, Clerval’s death is essential to the impact and message of the novel. It secures his role as a foil, showing how two men with near identical upbringings can end up with divergent understandings of right and wrong. At the time, Frankenstein believed he was doing the right thing by trying to deal with the monster by himself. However, after Clerval’s death, it is clear that Frankenstein’s moral compass is skewed by selfishness and shame. Clerval’s death also strengthens Frankenstein’s story to Walton, adding a layer of tragedy that further influences Walton’s decision to return home.
Clerval brings optimism, complexity, and balance to Frankenstein. He is one of the few characters who remains in good health and high spirits while he is alive, offsetting Frankenstein’s constant misery. He has a way of bringing out the best in Frankenstein; their experiences together in nature are some of the only times the reader sees Frankenstein in a good mood. That being said, for the most part, Clerval’s care and thoughtfulness are not matched by Frankenstein, thus illuminating Frankenstein’s egotistical personality.
A Science of Limitation
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley is a novel laden with comparisons and allusions to religion, folklore, and philosophy. Frankenstein’s creation of a monster showcases a man doing what only deities had done before: giving life to something dead. This obviously raises questions about morality, responsibility, and many other philosophical issues. Because the creation of life is generally considered a deific act, we cannot help but wonder what the novel says about humans creating other life. Through writings by Dion, John Locke, John Wesley, and others, we can ascertain the prevalent philosophies of the time. These would have in turn influenced the novel. However, the novel does more than simply regurgitate the perspectives offered by contemporaries. Rather, it adopts them into the plotline of the creator and created, in a synthesis of ideas which presents its own assertions about creation. Exploring the context around the novel leads us to wonder why the monster appears to possess inherently evil traits, just like mankind in Christianity, but also possesses innocence and curiosity sometimes, such as during his observation of a family living in the woods. The answer is ultimately a case for the limitations of science carried out by mankind. Because Frankenstein focuses so much on the dynamics of creation stories and the nature of human life at its beginnings in people, it is most probable that Victor Frankenstein himself plays God in his work. Similar to the Christian traditions of the time, Frankenstein as God creates a being after the image of himself. However, unlike the Christian creation story, the creator himself is a flawed being, thereby producing a repulsive creation. We see, at the moment the monster comes to life, that the scientist looks upon him with disgust, describing him as “shriveled”—a “catastrophe” (Shelley 36). This is a stark parallel to the Christian God’s assessment of His created people: “and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31 ESV).
Another major influence on Frankenstein was likely the work of John Locke, who famously advocated for the tabula rasa, or blank slate. Essentially, this view of psychology and human nature stated that people directly after birth are blank slates, without any innate behavioral characteristics. Everything about a person’s behavior comes from their experiences and interactions with their environment. This applies to moral principles, as well, as John Locke states in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. “No innate practical principles…they lie not open as natural characters engraven on the mind…” (Locke 51). Frankenstein interacts with this concept as well, as we see through the monster’s curiosity about his world, his questions for his creator, and his attempts to learn what is right and wrong throughout the plot.
Because Frankenstein bears the influences of Christianity’s creator-nature attribute inheritance alongside John Locke’s tabula rasa theory, the work is some sort of evaluation of the two, and commentary on the real workings of human nature from a post-creation standpoint. Throughout Frankenstein, we see the monster not as a complete villain, but a curious being invested in learning about the people around him and trying, at times, to be a force for good in the world of the humans (Shelley 77). At the same time, however, we see the monster endowed with inherently repulsive traits, such as his unnatural lips, sunken, milky eyes, and a behavior so easily turned to malevolence and revenge (Shelley 140). It follows therefore that the novel asserts that sentient created beings inherit an aspect of absolute good or evil from their creators, but circumstances and environment have the power to shape that product over time.
From this standpoint, the novel can go on to make further assertions about the nature of humanity through the nature of the monster and its relationship to its creator. The poet Dion, a contemporary of Shelley, published a poem on “The Progress of Life” in 1812. Firstly, this poem solidifies the parallel between the scientist and God, stating that “…science, gift of Heav’n, which lifts man up, and purifies his nature, makes him almost a God, and teaches him to wing his thoughts along the upmost verge of vast creation…” (Dion). Because of this, the monster’s early existence represents the initial state of man in the universe.
Another contemporary of Shelley’s, one of the most prominent figures in the intellectual community at the time, was John Wesley, founder of the Methodist church. In A Review of Wesley’s Notions Respecting the Primeval State of Man and the Universe, Joseph Barker summarizes Wesley’s stance that “the world in its primeval state, before the first transgression…was good. The whole surface of it was beautiful to a high degree” (Barker 2). Enamored with his monster during the creation process, Frankenstein too believed it to be perfect, beautifully proportioned, and a form of a man, perfected. When we consider this in light of the two creators and their original states as stated by the church at that time, we can see the dialogue between the novel and the greater picture of creation. According to the nineteenth-century church, the God of the Bible defines absolute perfection, while his post-transgression people have been defiled by sin, without any merit aside from the grace of Christ. In his state of total depravity then, Frankenstein can only create a creature equally depraved or more so than himself.
Seemingly, John Locke’s tabula rasa and the philosophy of the church cannot combine harmoniously with each other. If Shelley’s work were purely from Locke’s standpoint, the monster would be at most visually repulsive, and without any inclination to do anything violent or malevolent. On the other hand, from the church’s perspective, the monster should have awoken with an instant desire for self-gratification, with nothing but evil intents. The monster would not have lived beside the family for a spell, chopping wood and learning to read. The synthesis of these two points of view in Shelley’s novel seeks to establish an accurate view of creation.
Establishing a view of creation is rather pointless without a more relevant application to real-world philosophy, however. What does the monster’s initial creation ultimately say about our world? Let us return to Dion’s poem about life. His assertion that science almost makes man a God draws a comparison between science and God. As the novel establishes a perspective of God and creation, it also compares science to creation. Frankenstein makes the bigger assertion through this parallel, stating that science is limited by human nature. Science, a type of creation—perhaps that of knowledge—can only become as perfect as the people who practice it. Just like the monster, scientific findings can be incredible but will always be flawed, like the researchers who find them. Evaluating Frankenstein in relation to the writings and thoughts contemporary to its author reveals a striking commentary on the limitations of science as carried out by humans. Through a masterful use of parallels and comparisons, the novel asserts that while science can accomplish monumental tasks, the findings are only as perfect as the men who find them—and the men, while almost gods in their studies—are restrained by their depravity according to Christian beliefs. On a less absolute standpoint however, scientists remain free to develop their art and moral values according to their environments, as represented through John Locke’s influence. While Frankenstein is a fantastic novel for pleasure reading, it is also addresses the heavy parts of life. The monster’s creation serves as a stark warning to scientists who would try to play God.
Barker, Joseph. A Review of Wesley’s Notions Respecting the Primeval State of Man and the Universe. 1800. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/60202937.
Dion. “The Progress of Life.” The Belfast Monthly Magazine, vol. 9, no. 49, 1812, pp. 130–131. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/30074159.
Locke, John. An Essay Concerning Humane Understanding. 1689. Google Books, https://books.google.com/books/about/An_Essay_Concerning_Human_Understanding.html?id=J0sdAQAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=kp_read_button#v=onepage&q=blank%20slate&f=false.
Fear of Childbirth in Frankenstein
In Frankenstein, the stated purpose of Victor Frankenstein is to end death by reanimating living flesh in a way that would mean that no one ever have to die again, or at very least stay that way. Yet, throughout the book, the fear of childbirth becomes a major undercurrent in the book. In this book, I will explore the ways that Frankenstein uses childbirth as the underlying horror of the characters.
The Birth of the Creature
Victor Frankenstein could possibly be one of the most nervous characters in fiction. Even in horror fiction, which is full of characters who are running away from ghosts and trying not to get eaten by vampires, Victor is particularly nervous well before he sees his creation coming alive for the first time.
Yet, in the creation of the creature, Victor is perfectly calm up until the moment of birth. He is stealing body parts and putting them together. Yet once the monster is alive, Victor is horrified. “His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun-white sockets in which they were set, his shriveled complexion and straight black lips” (53).
One has to ask why Victor is suddenly afraid of the sewed up corpse just because it opens its eyes. Victor had months to become accustomed to the monster. Yet somehow the act of giving it life has unsettled him. This is similar to the post-partum depression experienced by mothers who cannot deal with the time after birth and resent their children. It is also underscores the fact that newborn babies at least are ugly. After a few months, they get personalities and they look cute, but right out of the womb they are screaming poop monsters.
Victor Frankenstein is so frightened of his creation that he runs away and then spends the next two years in a nervous fever. There is considerable chaos surrounding Mary Shelly at the inception of the book – somewhat romanticized in her essay to the 1834 – which included several individuals who were suffering from the same anxiety. For example, Byron’s “wife, Annabella, had fled with her newborn child from the marital home and returned to her parents in order to begin separation proceedings from Byron, whom she thought mad” (Wilson 41). Mary Shelly was also fleeing with Percy Shelly from her angry father. “It was on her mother’s grave that Shelley seduced her when she was 16” (Britton 3).
Social Implications of Childbirth
Until the late 19th century, childbirth was a death sentence for many women. Infant mortality was high and women could die of everything from bleeding to sepsis to infection from doctors who did not wash their hands in between handling dead bodies and attending to the birth. It was only with improved hygiene and medical knowledge that childbirth stopped being something that was likely to kill women and children.
Mary Shelley’s mother died 11 days after her birth and she was traveling with Lord Byron’s mistress who was pregnant with his child. Mary Shelley would give birth to an infant shortly after the writing of the book, who would also die shortly thereafter. Furthermore, Lord Byron’s bitter ex-wife was running away with his child in order to keep her away from his influence.
Another aspect of childbirth that comes through in society and life is the masculine view of childbirth. As mentioned above, Lord Byron’s wife made sure to keep her daughter away from him. While women can die and are expected to fall instantly in love with their children, men are encouraged to make children without taking care of them. A man can run away from his family and even in a social order where men are expected to stay, there is a patriarchal tradition where the father figure is a distant individual who spends all of his time working.
Thus Victor Frankenstein as a man who give birth to a fully grown individual can suffer from both an anxiety that mirrors post-partum depression and a feeling of being trapped within his own actions. “Victor Frankenstein doesn’t value life in the absolute. Instead, he places a higher worth on his reputation. He wants to join the new class of learned men that has replaced the landed gentry as the upper society in Europe.” (Lunsford 174). The class ambitions of Victor belie his nervous disposition, but it is quite telling that after the death of his brother and his servant he goes mountain climbing with his friend Henry. Victor is so individualistic that he cannot conceive of a family and his son’s move to confront him on the mountain is an appeal to meet Victor where he is at instead of expecting Victor to come to him. Infertility
The concluding chapters of Frankenstein are characterized by the end of the Frankenstein line in two very dramatic ways. In the first way, Victor is induced to create a mate for his creation, a woman this time. This is the one that would keep the creature company and make his loneliness in the world less lonely. Victor is ready to do it until he sees the creature and has a nervous breakdown. Victor destroys the monster’s intended bride under the belief that the bride could have children and he could be creating an army of monsters like his creature.
At this point, the motivation for Victor’s destruction seems cruel. A less sympathetic writer could have pushed the narrative into a consideration of the creature’s actions. The creature did murder several people by this point. Yet, his story indicts Victor and Victor’s lack of maternal and paternal feeling. Even though Victor’s fear of his creation is somewhat justified at this point, his action comes down to destroying his creature’s future and thus hope for grandchildren in this line.
In turn, the creature kills Victor’s wife on her wedding night. Victor’s response to the creature’s threat that he will see him on his wedding night is to run away from Elizabeth. A Freudian interpretation could suggest that Victor knew what the creature was talking about and left Elizabeth defenseless in order to allow his creature to kill her.
Thus, the novel ends with two men chasing each other through the arctic weather with Victor taken to pursuing his creation to end him. At this point there is enough revenge to go around, but more importantly Victor has placed a value on destroying the abandoned child that he has neglected throughout the book. In this way, the entire Frankenstein family can be destroyed with the last two members of Victor and his creation dead in the barren wasteland.
The topic of childbirth is a frightening topic for many people and for a 19th century daughter of a feminist who died shortly after she was born, it would have been an even more terrible possibility. In the novel Frankenstein, Mary Shelley depicts a man who managed to give birth to a creature without labor pains or fear of infection (which is rather ironic considering that the morgue was the source of many of the post-partum killer infections). Yet, Victor Frankenstein suffers the same fears that a new mother would experience and he responds by abandoning his son. The narrative of neglect and revenge creates a space where neither creator or creation will ever have children.
Britton, Ronald. “Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: What Made the Monster Monstrous?” Journal of Analytical Psychology. 60(1). 2015.
Lunsford, Lars. “The Devaluing of Life in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.” The Explicator. 68(3). 2010.
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein: Complete and Unabridged Classic Edition. Mnemosyne Books. (March 11, 2016).
Wilson, Frances. “How Frankenstein Became a Monster: Two Hundred Years of a Prolific and Horrible Creation.” New Statesman. (September 9-15, 2016)