In “Frankenstein”, Mary Shelley exemplifies each woman as submissive and disposable. Three ideas that present Shelley’s point of view are that women are seen as possessions, female characters are used only to mirror the male characters, and that women in the novel are portrayed as the representative women of the time period. Female characters like Elizabeth, Justine, Margaret, Safie, and Agatha serve a specific purpose in the novel. The creation and planned destruction of the monster were surrounded by the actions of two main female characters, which strengthen the importance of their influence upon Victor Frankenstein.
Frankenstein’s father first met Caroline Beaufort while she was taking care of her dying father “with the greatest tenderness”. She is first female encountered in the novel and becomes a model around which many of the other females are based. Caroline is the exception to the other women in the novel because she is not as innocent and passive as them, she acts righteously and sacrifices her life when she aids Elizabeth to recover from a severe case of scarlet fever. Elizabeth’s submissive nature represents how she becomes like a puppet to Victor.
She is described as a possession rather than an individual and was treated as though she was not capable of making her own decisions and needed a man to guide her. Frankenstein admits, “I looked upon Elizabeth as mine” and the fact that she must be “owned” in such a way suggests her weakness and vulnerability. A key character that is seen in the novel is the Frankenstein’s servant, Justine. She has a character that is very passive and is the one who rarely speaks in the novel.
Justine is framed for the murder of William Frankenstein and even in the face of the greatest injustice, she never put up a violent struggle to fight for her life. Justine willingly took the death penalty for a crime she had nothing to do with. Her silence symbolizes how she is commanded to act quietly and shyly since she is a woman. The next female character encountered is Agatha. She is a kind and gentle female and her purpose is to exhibit compassion and righteousness.
Agatha’s female character serves to teach the monster about love and human relationships. The monster’s next lesson comes from another female close to Agatha, Safie. She arrives from Arabia and must be tutored to learn English. Safie’s lessons become his own as well; she is a tool for his education, becoming yet another passive female character. Finally, Margaret’s character has the most passive role of all. Does she really exist? Does she ever read the story or gets the letters? Does she have anything to say about it?
Margaret’s character is questionable; she is the most distant and passive female character in the novel and also the most necessary to the novel as a whole. Both Victor and the monster share the same views of women. At the beginning the woman were an object of desire but eventually they turn into objects of revenge. For them, a woman is vital since these provide comfort and acceptance. Elizabeth provides the joy that can alleviate Victor’s guilty conscience of creating such a dreadful monster, and this is similar to what the monster is looking for in a companion.
But the monster pursues a female so he will not feel guilty about his horrible existence. Having a female companion will make him feel better about himself and also, provide someone who will be at his side. Throughout Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”, various views of women and their role in society are presented. And although the female characters in Frankenstein are not given significant importance in a direct way, their influence upon Victor Frankenstein drives the entire plot.
Mary Shelley wrote from three different perspectives, using three narrators, all male. The contrast between the male and female characters in the novel is very clear; the male characters are described in great detail and they have voices, which they use to tell their stories with. All female characters are described in little detail; therefore this reduces their importance in the novel. The perception of women, especially Frankenstein’s, is a key element of the book. In short, the female characters in the play are essential to understand Frankenstein’s nature.
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