The subject of feminism is among one of the subtle and underlying themes of Frankenstein. Mary Shelley, the author of the story, primarily emphasizes the issues of male oppression and patriarchy through the use of subordinate women imagery. In addition, the fear of femininity and the power of womanhood can be seen in the main character’s concerns in regards to creating a female version of a monster. Therefore, Mary Shelley utilizes a dual approach in regards to the subject of feminism, where she portrays the state of women as a subjugated group and reveals an attitude of men towards an idea of female power.
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One of the most open and explicit messages on the given topic can be seen throughout the story, where Victor narrates his feelings and attitude towards Elizabeth. For example, he states: “she was docile and good tempered, yet gay and playful as a summer’s insect” (Shelley 20). In other words, the entire description demonstrates the power dynamics between a man and a woman, where the former looks down at the latter. It is evident that Victor utilizes the words, such as docile and good-tempered, as positive characteristics of an appealing female. As a man, he seeks someone highly subordinate and powerless, who cannot be his equal. In addition, Victor makes her minute and insignificant by comparing her to an insect, which is usually unnoticed, unseen, and unheard. It is a typical manifestation of patriarchy, where males aim to possess women rather than focusing on constructive and humane gender equality.
Moreover, Shelley uses symbolic descriptions and analogous examples to reveal the true strength of women alongside men’s inherent fear of such power. Victor contemplates in regards to creating a female version of a monster and states: “she who, in all probability, was to become a thinking and reasoning animal, might refuse to comply with a compact made before her creation.” (Shelley 118). In other words, there is legitimate and symbolic fear of women rising to the level of men and becoming equal to them by gaining female autonomy. Mary cleverly utilizes the fact that the female monster becoming reasonable and thinking is a concern for men.
In addition, Victor fears the notion of initiating something that would completely change the landscape of patriarchy and humanity. He states: “a race of devils would be propagated upon the earth” (Shelley 119). Although the main character is describing monsters becoming a separate race, it can also be applied towards women’s liberation and the feminist movement. There is a fear of females uniting under a single idea of gender equality, which would result in a global shift in society. Feminism is not solely and mainly based on one’s gender because it is an idea of freedom and equality. Such statements can spread quickly and lead to action, especially among the group, who has been subjugated for ages and throughout the very beginnings of humanity.
In conclusion, Mary Shelley has cleverly and effectively integrated feminist connotations within the story of Frankenstein. She shows the men’s attitude towards women by showing that positive imagery of a woman is linked with her being subordinate, docile, and insect-like. The author also reveals the inner fear of men and the patriarchic system in general, which is afraid of female autonomy and the feminist movement becoming a strong social force.
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. Dover Publications, 1994.