“Frankenstein and Critique of Imperialism” by Gayatri Spivak Essay (Critical Writing)

August 17, 2021 by Essay Writer

Imperialism has for a long time been associated with the British colonial government. Imperialism policy entailed the acquisition of colonies directly by the use of military actions. This was a strategic measure that Britain had adopted to bargain more political and economic dominance.

Summary and Review

Frankenstein, the book has a lot of controversies surrounding it. People perceive that Victor Frankenstein wrote it. Little is known about the original author, Mary Shelley. In 1816, while engaged in literacy and philosophy class, the author is compelled to write a ghost story that later formed the basis of the book. Since it is a ghost story, it is bewildering literature discussing supernatural power.

The book may have many topics, but the main topic of the article is “imperialism.” Spivak affirms that the story tries to explain the origin and the evolution of man in society. He, however, refutes this claim and argues “imperialism surfaces in a curiously powerful way in the novel” (263).

What the author sets out to do is to expound on the intensity of imperialism in the story. The author explicitly points out that there are rampant cases of what he terms as “incidental imperialist” feeling in the novel (Spivak 263). He argues that the novel is evident on the axiomatic of imperialism, and he feels compelled to explain it openly.

There are several themes in the novel, but the central questions that the article seeks to addresses are the roles of male and female individualism in the creation of a society. The author remains skeptical whether the axioms of male and female individualism will address the two perspectives of “subject-production” and “sexual reproduction” respectively.

The novel is not about gender individualization. Spivak iterated this point when he claimed that the “binary” misconception about male and female individualism is undone in Frankenstein’s experiment. He argues that if the experiment is anything to go by then the decision to give or deny the woman a phallus squarely lies on the man. On the contrary, the decision to give or deny the male a womb is the female’s fate. In saying this, the author seems to suggest that God is the unrivaled creator (Spivak 264).

Personal Engagement

My engagement with the text is that the book seems more of a metaphor. As the story unfolds, every piece of information appears to points out the colonization and conquest process that were witnessed in the mid 18th century. For instance, Shelley mentions the conquest of the Americas. Part of her text seems to insinuate the discovery of the landmass and the imminent colonization and slavery. She laments that (the monster) “heard of the discovery of the American hemisphere and wept with Safie (the Muslim-Christian character) over the helpless fate of its original inhabitants” (Spivak 266).

Henry Clerval emphasized the colonization process when he gave an analogy about India. He points out the economic exploitation that the subjects (Indians) witnessed in the colonial era. Spivak warns that the reason for the aggression of India by the European powers was purely for entrepreneurial purposes rather than for missionary activities.

My position towards the article is not far from the imperialism policy that was adopted by the master to colonize the subjects. The colonization process started through softer means like missionary activities. But later own it turns out to be exploitative and deleterious trading activities such as slavery.

The above argument makes sense because, in some parts of the text, Spivak mentions that the colonial master “turned his eyes” to the East as a potential market (265). Persians were well known for long-distance trading activities that involved slavery along the African coast.

On reading the book, one may not fail to realize that it has some contradictions, problems, and loopholes. The terms used in the creation story through the synthetic womb do not come out clearly. There is another contradiction; the story seems to suggest that man is the sole creator of society. Women are given a lesser role in the procreation process. The problem with the book is that the Frankenstein laboratory reduces God to a mere antagonist rather than a creator. As it was seen later, this created a standoff between the Muslims and Christians. For Christians, such arguments amount to dogmatic misconception.


Spivak, Gayatri. Frankenstein and Critique of Imperialism. 1st ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 1996. 263-266. Print.

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