Women in Frankenstein
Sylvia Bowerbank specifies that she searches in vain for “outrage against social oppression in the women of Frankenstein,” however discovers nothing (421 ). The females in Frankenstein (1818) embody the idealized female picture of the 19th century– “the Angel in the house”: they are passive, docile and generous. Someone may question why Mary Shelley, the child of an essential feminist, composes an unique which is devoid of strong female characters. Gilbert and Gubar might be able to supply the response.
They propose in The Madwoman in the Attic (1979) that in order to go beyond the “anxiety of authorship,” the 19th century female writers use duplicity and subversion to tape-record their own dreams and their own stories in disguise (73 ). Therefore, in order to argue that Mary Shelley tries to utilize the angel women to indicate her critique of the oppression versus women in the patriarchal society of the 19th century, I am going to examine the 3 female characters in Frankenstein, Caroline Frankenstein, Elizabeth Lavenza and Safie.
To start with, Caroline Frankenstein stands as an ideal daughter, wife and mother in Frankenstein; however, her impact on Justine and Elizabeth shows that Shelly doesn’t consider her as a role model. Self-sacrifice is evident on Caroline: she dedicates her entire life to look after her hubby and children, and passes away due to the fact that of looking after ill Elizabeth. On the other hand, she has different ethical standards for male and female. Although she embraced Elizabeth whose parents both died and deals with Elizabeth like her child, she doesn’t recognize the uniqueness of Elizabeth.
Rather, she thinks about Elizabeth as “a pretty present for my Victor– tomorrow he will have it” (Shelly). Therefore, Victor receives her “as made to a belongings of my own” and thinks “because till death she was to be my own only” (Shelly). Influenced by Caroline, Victor thinks about Elizabeth only as his belongings, not a complete person. This plot likewise foreshadows Elizabeth’s awful end. In addition, the other female in Frankenstein’s family, Justine Moritz, is hugely influenced by Caroline as well.
Justine was a basic and pleased lady, but she “undertakings to imitate Caroline’s phraseology and manners” due to the fact that of her gratefulness to Caroline for accepting her as a servant to live in your house (Shelly). It is notable that the “moral” manners that Justine learns from Caroline are the qualities of “Angel in the House” which Shelly tries to slam. As a result, Shelly organizes the plot that when she is accused of murdering William, the photo of Caroline that she found with becomes the strong evidence of her crime.
To sum up, seemingly Shelly praises Caroline as a perfect woman, however in reality Shelley sets her as the indirect cause of Elizabeth’s and Justine’s disaster. Furthermore, another angelic female, Elizabeth Lavenza, appears to be extremely inconsistent in the text. She is talented, enjoys nature and poetry, however wants to be restricted to the private realm; she desires freedom, however is incapable of fighting for herself. Initially, Elizabeth guarantees to Caroline on her deathbed that she would take care of the Frankenstein family.
Therefore, there is no other option provided to her: although she loves poetry and can compose beautifully (shown from her letters to Victor), she is destined be a woman remaining at house and looking after all the household chores. Second, she has a weak struggle against fate when she finds Victor’s distance from her, but it doesn’t have much effect. In her second letter to Victor, she thoroughly asks if Victor has fallen love with someone else and proposes to call of engagement if that was not according to his personal will: “… Inform me, dearest Victor.
Answer me, I conjure you by our mutual happiness, with simple fact– Do you not love another? … I confess to you, my pal, that I enjoy you and that in my airy dreams of futurity you have been my consistent pal and buddy. But it is your joy I want in addition to my own when I declare to you that our marital relationship would render me forever unpleasant unless it were the dictate of your own free choice.” Elizabeth is considering her own situation in this letter. Instead of some cliche expressions like “your joy is my happiness,” Elizabeth says “it is your happiness I desire as well as my own” (Shelly).
She puts herself in an equal position as Victor. However, the letter doesn’t wake Victor as much as the reality. He demands marrying and fails to safeguard Elizabeth from being murdered by the monster. Shelly may want to use Elizabeth to point out the incapability and weakness of “the Angel in your house”: even Elizabeth is a kind, gorgeous, and gifted female, her life and death are controlled by others. As the only rebellious and independent woman, Safie serves as the core of feminism in the novel.
Compared to Elizabeth who is influenced by Caroline and becomes an Angel in your home, Safie inherits the defiant spirit from her mother who was taken since of her Christianity background. To start with, Safie leaves from her father, which can be understood as an escape from patriarchy. Her possibility is clear: “weding a Christian and staying in a country where women were permitted to take a rank in society was enchanting to her” (Shelly). Then she goes on the journey to Germany to discover her fan. It is tough to think of how a female, considered reliant and weak in Shelly’s period, could travel alone.
Therefore, it appears that Safie is the character who embodies Shelly’s feminist ideology: a strong recognition of womanhood and a rejection of patriarchy. In conclusion, the criticism of Frankenstein as a novel loaded with passive women is insufficient. Mary Shelly is a feminist writer who intentionally produces the three females Caroline Frankenstein, Elizabeth Lavenza and Safie in Frankenstein. She uses Caroline and Elizabeth to criticize “the Angel in your house” as an objectification of female, and uses Saphie to imply her feminist ideology.