The Role Of Female Characters In Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

Submitted By katiekhadhouri123
Words: 1998
Pages: 8

‘In Frankenstein, a man arrogantly takes on the responsibility of giving birth and the female characters pay for his arrogance’
To a certain extent, in Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein, the female characters are side-lined and their passivity causes them to suffer. Shelley characterizes each woman as passive, disposable and serving a utilitarian function. Female characters like Safie, Elizabeth, Justine, Margaret and Agatha provide nothing more but a channel of action for the male characters in the novel. Events and actions happen to them, usually for the sake of teaching a male character a lesson or sparking an emotion within him. However, I also believe that male characters are also affected just as much as the females by Frankenstein’s narcissism and egoism; the monster especially suffers. Frankenstein’s hubris is displayed through his selfish action of taking the responsibility of giving birth and defying the laws of both science and religion. The novel depicts the consequences of transgression – a paradox – a warning against the effects of breaking the natural order.
Frankenstein’s motives are clear right from the beginning of the novel. He desires fame, hubris, destiny, and a desire to become G-d like; through his ambition he denies acknowledging the social implications of his work. Frankenstein’s self-centeredness is expressed: “A new species that would bless me as its creator and source.” His use of personal pronouns exhibits his conceit and his aim to be placed on the same level as G-d; to exhibit G-d like characteristics and to be worshipped. Paul Cantor explains ‘Frankenstein’s urge to create life by himself shows his Titanism, his longing to do something never before been attempted by man.’ Thus, Victor is presented to us as the Promethean Rebel. Prometheus was the titan who created mankind and Titan parallels Frankenstein by creating man. Victor in a way steals the secret of creation from G-d and his sin of trying to usurp the role of G-d results in his refusal to take responsibility. This could also be interpreted through the theme of science versus religion. Victor acts as the emerging scientific society which is overshadowing religious beliefs. Mary Shelley did this because in the 19th Century people were debating between religious creation (God) and scientific creation (the Victorian Crisis of Faith). Therefore it was brave of Mary Shelley to incorporate scientific creation into her novel because it was a very controversial topic at the time. The idea that G-d did not create life is shown because Victor creates a living being with his own hands and as a result, the monster himself is a symbol of the birth of science. Shelley is aware of the capability of science to create different entities and when the monster perceives his face into the mirror, Shelley conveys the authority of science over human existence, because it has the power to create abnormal creatures: ‘at first I stepped back, unable to believe that it was indeed I who was reflected in the mirror; and when I became fully convinced that I was in reality the monster I am, I was filled with the bitterest sensations of despondence and mortification.’ Therefore, this novel portrays the fears that Romantic, such as Shelley, had about scientists and Frankenstein acts as the enemy of Romantics; she exaggerates his arrogance to highlight how dangerous scientific enlightenment can be.
Furthermore, Victor’s arrogance is portrayed through his rejection of the monster due to his physical appearance. However, it is strange that he is so shocked at his exterior because Frankenstein “collected bones from charnel houses”. This indicates his defiance of morality as his desperation to create life is displayed through his disrespecting of the remains of other people. Victor’s emphasis on the appearance of the monster demonstrates his superficial perspective leading to the selfish abandonment of his parental responsibility. Marxism is evident at this point in the