Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein keeps all of the literary standards of the gothic horror novel playing . Nightmares, murder, and the monsters are just some of the tools that positions their heads within the narrative. But there is an added thing which makes it horrifying to any unsuspecting feminist who might decide to pick up this classic, and that is the strict division of gender roles that are assigned to the novel’s characters.
The close circle that the Frankenstein family represents might be more shocking to some feminists than Victor’s own monster he created in the novel. This is truly a novel of crazy gender extremes. Sexuality is repressed and very open. The women are happily considered a lower class, and the men are blindly conceited. A good feminist interpretation of this novel should be required as a tool to any first reading of the text because gender and sexual tension can be found at the middle of every major issue in this novel. Veeder put it most succinctly by stating that “the male protagonist attempts to usurp woman’s place and produce offspring parthenogenetically” . All six critics made reference to this objective in one form or another. It seemed as though the only disagreement among them was whether or not the act was consciously malicious in Victor’s mind. Again, the novel best represent the critics who answer “yes” to this question when he states that sexual conflict highlights the entire thing of the novel “Man and woman disagree in the very first sentence of Frankenstein: ‘With your leave, my sister, I will put some trust in the preceding navigators’” (pg 40).
Other critics disagree with the theory that Victor’s intent was intended to be destructive. “If Victor’s understanding of himself as a gendered being is determined on the basis of emotional control, then overpowering, extremely symptoms pleasure the condition of his gendered construction. It seems that no matter what the true motivations behind Victor’s actions were, gender identity remains a very important factor ,even more relevant when the sex of the monster he created is considered. His creation of the monster cause many ups and downs in the novel.
The terms of gender identity are even more pronounced when the novel’s female characters are examined. I will let Wolfson speak for the rest: “All the interesting, complex characters in the book are male, and their deepest attachments are to other males “ladies so apparently lack of impurity, flaw, and will, that they hardly seem important or visible” (Frankenstein ). The women in Shelley’s novel are mindlessly less important functions of the domestic circle; they have no ambitions or desires outside of wanting to pleasing the men in their lives like a normal women would do in real life. Later even with the opportunity that the narrative frame presents in offering three different men the chance to show the women in their lives with any small of significance, and meaning to it which is very bad in a way.
This male manipulation was especially scrutinized by several critics in regards to the trial of Justine, who, even though she spoke with just as much passion and conviction as any male speaker of the language, failed to project herself with the same eloquence and airtight logic that that would be expected of males with Victor’s or Walton’s oratory abilities. This is what ultimately sealed her fate. Her demise, then, came at the expense of a blind patriarchy that chose to value the male institution of logic over character.
Justine’s trial, surprisingly, was discussed by the feminist reviewers as much if not more than Elizabeth: the most Romantic of the novel’s Romantically ideal women. Literally a trophy and a piece of property, Elizabeth is described by Victor himself as a “prize” and a “possession” at intervals throughout the course of the book. She is a faithful nurturer…