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Essay: Victor Frankenstein’s view of women

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  • Published: 25 July 2022*
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  • Tags: Frankenstein essays

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Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, has written a novel about a character named Victor Frankenstein who is determined to create a source of human life. What he does not know is that his creation would soon be a huge mistake. Frankenstein’s creation turns out to be a monster and he is afraid of his creature. The monster ventures out and tries to make peace with other humans, but they are terrified of him. As a result of rejection, the monster starts killing people within the village. The monster wants Frankenstein to make him a monster that is a female so he can have a mate, but Frankenstein refuses his request because of the reproduction of more of his kind. This leads to the monster killing Frankenstein’s wife, Elizabeth, on the night of their honeymoon and killing Victor Frankenstein shortly after, so that Victor could feel alone like the monster himself. Frankenstein’s rejection of the recreation of a female monster supports his negative view of females and the transparency of women throughout the novel.

Anne K. Mellor, the writer of an anthology titled, “Possessing Nature: The Female in Frankenstein,” analyzes Victor Frankenstein’s view of females. Mellor first states, “Victor Frankenstein identifies Nature as Female” in which Frankenstein’s way of describing females as “passive and possessable” and “the willing receptacle of male desire” (355). Mellor also emphasizes Frankenstein’s desire for females to not have a role in society, by refusing to make a female creature for his monster. Frankenstein strives to be the “sole creator of a human being” directly supporting a “patriarchal denial of the value of women and female sexuality.” Frankenstein notes that females are better off confined to domestic areas rather than public areas (Mellor 356). This notation indicates that females lack the ability to impact society, because they are not male. Frankenstein fears female monsters will turnout more evil than males and that males would be unable to control them. He also fears that the females would gain more strength than the males and take advantage of them sexually, leading to the reproduction of more monsters who would be capable of taking over the world (Mellor 360). Mellor also states that Victor fears the female monster’s appearance would turn he monster away in disgust (Mellor 360). Overall, Anne K. Mellor thoroughly expresses the several ways in which Victor Frankenstein’s rejection of a female monster connects with his aspect of women.

Vanessa D. Dickerson is another writer who has pointed out the negative aspects on females in Frankenstein. In her article, “The Ghost of a Self: Female Identity in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein,” Dickerson explains how male characters treat female characters in the book as ghosts (Dickerson). Dickerson also explains how characters such as Elizabeth, Justine, and Caroline are described as powerless and nearly transparent spiritually. Heather E. Douglas also states in her article, “The Bitter Aftertaste of Technical Sweetness,” that Frankenstein’s lack of responsibility to control his creature leads to his younger brother, William Frankenstein, to be killed. Justine, a family friend, is accused of his death but has nothing to do with the murder. Victor knows the truth about the murder, but does not want to prove her innocence because he does not want to be executed like Justine (Douglas 203) – “I wished to see him again, that I might wreak the utmost extent of anger on his head, and avenge the deaths of William and Justine” (Shelley 62). After Justine was executed, Victor has guilt for not helping her before she died. “Who could arrest a creature capable of scaling the overhanging sides of Mont Salêve? These reflections determined me, and I resolved to remain silent” (Shelley 63). Therefore, male characters such as Victor eliminate the feminine power of characters that are women in the novel.

Mary Shelley’s feminist beliefs contradict with her story of women in Frankenstein during the 18th century. For a woman who strongly supports feminism, Mary Shelley describes the characterization of women in Frankenstein through individual female characters in the novel and focuses on male characters such as Victor, Walton, and the monster greatly, giving the least amount of attention to females (Davis). By presenting male characters in the novel, Shelley is “demoralizing women” and that “the women seem to matter very little” in Frankenstein. Women in the 18th century are known to be the “possessions for men” that are “protected” by them and are “only useful in order to carry out their duties of daughter, sister, mother and wife” (Danrosch). “Shelley paints men as being the passionate fender lusting for knowledge” (Dudczak).

James P. Davis explains in his article, “Frankenstein and the Subversion of the Masculine Voice,” “When he (Victor) contemplates his nearly completed female fissure, which he has agreed to construct only at the insistence of his Monster, he is repulsed by the potential reproductive and social independence of the patchwork woman, and he tears apart the female form. As we shall see, his behavior in the laboratory resembles his behavior as a story teller, revealing his fears of letting women speak. He opposes female generation of life and of text: he rends apart both the physical and the rhetorical “form” of female” creativity” (“Women’s Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal”).

Shelley did an exquisite job of depicting women of this era, however, what is ironic is that the inconspicuous appearance of the female characters in the novel are the prime focus of Frankenstein, apart from Victor Frankenstein and his monster (Danrosch).

Shelley’s personal treatment in her life relates to the disrespectful feelings of women in the novel. When Shelley first began writing, known businesses would not let her publish her stories and novels in her name because she is a woman. Therefore, she was under a shadow of her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and published Frankenstein anonymously. People would not believe that a women could right such a horrific novel like Frankenstein (Biography.com Editors).

Many publishers and journalists have the same aspect of females in the novel, Frankenstein, by pointing out the negative retrospect and transparency of female characters in the novel. Victor Frankenstein begins with denying his monster’s request to create a female mate for him because of the irrelevant need for females in society of that time period. Also, female characters such as Elizabeth, Justine, and Caroline are treated poorly in contrast to male characters such as Victor. An explanation for no extensive leading roles of females in the novel is further expressed by the fact that Victor does not explore the option of creating a female counterpart for his male monster, eliminating the possibility of reproduction from a natural standpoint. Victor Frankenstein’s refusal to grant the monster’s request for a female companionship supports the 18th century society that women were not important and transparent.

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