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The Role of Females in Shelley's Frankenstein

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 816 words Published: 10th Aug 2021

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Written during a time where female figures seemed to symbolise nothing more than pathetic housewives and uneducated personas, the gothic romance called Frankenstein is able to clearly reveal the frail roles that female characters were given throughout the novel. Originating from a feminist mother herself, Mary Shelley used this novel as an opportunity to act against the strength of women and as a result, captured the attention of famous feminists and philosophers such as, Johanna M. Smith. Furthermore, Shelley made sure to strip the female characters of any direct speech, leaving the novel with three main narrators of whom were all males including, Robert Walton, Victor Frankenstein and the Monster. Portrayed as feeble and powerless females, characters such as, Caroline Beaufort, Margaret Saville and Elizabeth Lavenza played pathetic roles which only required them to undergo suffering eventually followed by death; only to reflect upon the dominant males in the story.

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One of the ways by which the performance of female characters is proven to have little or no say and in fact no direct importance in the story, is the role of Margaret Saville, sister of Robert Walton. Firstly, readers are not given any information about Margaret’s personal life or description to give them a better understanding of whom all these letters are being sent to. Instead, Margret is seen as the only thread connecting Robert to the world back home and the comfort he turns to for moral support. Secondly, the readers are isolated from Margret’s emotions including fear and worry for her brother. Even when her brother’s life is put at stake, readers can only infer what the deprived character might feel. “You will not hear of my destruction, and you will anxiously await my return. Years will pass, and you will have visitings of despair and yet be tortured by hope.” (Shelly, 196) Moreover, as a female in this novel, Margret was forced to stay home and do what readers can infer were house duties, while her brother seeks danger and adventure to accomplish his dream. The audience knows nothing about Margret’s life, attitude or lifestyle and can only infer so much, yet Mary Shelley still refuses to give them any intellect on this hopeless character.

For characters such as, Elizabeth, being portrayed as a weak female was much more than simply being hidden behind the text. Instead, she was inferred to as nothing more than a gift for Victor’s satisfaction. Describing the pitiful value of her role in his life, Victor states, “My mother had said playfully, ‘I have a pretty present for my Victor -tomorrow he shall have it.’ And when on the morrow, she resented Elizabeth as her promised gift.” (Shelly, 21) Furthermore, a woman who Victor saw as his only love quickly became one of his last priorities on his wedding night. When the monster stated “I shall be with you on your wedding night,” Victor could only concentrate on ways to save his own tragic life rather than realizing the monster is only intending to take what seemed most treasurable to him, Elizabeth. In addition, Victor doesn’t listen to Elizabeth’s demands, practically ignoring her existence while being eaten away by his tormenting work. Moreover, females in this novel are portrayed as naive and innocent characters. As a result, Victor refuses to trust Elizabeth with the secret of his creation, ultimately letting her die without any clue as to who her miserable murderer might have been. Lastly, Shelley uses Elizabeth’s death to describe the merciless way she was left on the bed to be found. “She was there, lifeless and inanimate, thrown across the bed, her head hanging down and her pale and distorted features half covered by her hair.” (Shelley, 179) This creates a visualise representation of how low this female character was truly seen in order to be found dead in such a violent and careless way.

Hidden behind the meaning of every line, females of this novel are seen only to provoke, encourage and strengthen the development of the male characters. Every female entrant undergoes the same storyline of calm suffering and eventually inevitable death throughout the novel. Even the Monster’s requested female creation was used only as an attempt and eventually left, unfinished and incomplete. In general, female characters are used as threads to connect the lives of the male characters to one another. Elizabeth being killed on their wedding night is surely an example of the way her death brought Victor and the Monster to their ultimate goals. Throughout the events of the story, women did not even posses a chance to describe who they truly were and interpret the story in their own view. Caroline Beaufort, Margaret Saville and Elizabeth Lavenza were all victims of a tragic yet mind-blowing novel where all three were imagined as weak and insignificant characters.


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