Compare how the writers present the subjugation of women in accordance to Victorian social value in the three texts.
Over the ages, the roles of women have changed and evolved in accordance to the social norms of the particular time period. In the 19th century, women were canonised in literature as objects of beauty and of reverence; an idea which was carried into the very height of the age of enlightenment. From the very first gothic novel, Horace Walpole’s ‘The Castle of Otranto’, women have been nothing but gothic elements, simply there to support and bolster the plot. Thereby, Victorian literature was highly influenced to incorporate this notion. This concept of submission is shown in Mina’s character whereby she wants to “keep up with Jonathan's studies” whilst she is studying “shorthand very assiduously” in order to be “useful” to him. The use of the word “assiduous” has the effect where the reader understands how she shows “great care and perseverance” and dedicates her entire being to helping Jonathan. Furthermore “useful” reiterates the concept of complete servitude to the male. Elizabeth’s behaviour in Shelley’s Frankenstein echoes this as she waits for years for news of Victor. The extent of her patience, to be able to wait for so long is admirable however, considering that in Victorian times courtship lasted for an exorbitant amount of time, mostly due to the intercession of the male, it can be assumed as to why Elizabeth has the ability to wait. “I had worked hard for nearly two years, for the sole purpose of infusing life into an inanimate body. For this I had deprived myself of rest and health” By Victor “depriving” himself of the warmth and comfort of Elizabeth’s apparent love, to pursue his twisted dreams, Shelley, with the aid of this essential gothic element, is indicating the lengths males go in order to fulfil a self-imposed quest. Given this interpretation, the image of Victor trying to impregnate a woman is created with the reader. Of course such behaviour was expected of a man in Victorian times as women were not expected to be “lecherous and voluptuous” but men had a “natural disposition” to be unfaithful and commit adultery. This use of “voluptuous” is reiterated by Stoker in his description of Lucy. He uses the word; an example of onomatopoeia, in order for the reader to understand the change of Lucy into the ‘New Woman’: An entity with unacceptable forward thinking and sexuality. Such an obvious disregard for the social norms was to be punished which is seen in Lucy’s downfall and eventual ‘deliverance’. However, Poe seems to be against this as he seems to place women above the act of fornication and possibly that it is the men that cause fornication. An idea of this is seen in ‘Annabel Lee’ where the envious and presumably male angels cause the narrator’s love to “dissever” and “came and bore her away”. This view is dismissed by Tannahill as he suggests that women were “sweet, untouchable guardians of morality whose distaste for sex led to an explosive increase in prostitution…” Thereby meaning that women were not the “passionless, sexless individuals” that is told by history. On the other hand, Shelley also supports Stoker as she portrays the consequences of undergoing the adventure that Victor embarked on; particularly in the case of leaving their women behind. The situation of women’s subjugation and blatant disregard for the female form is reflected in Horace Walpole’s ‘The Castle of Otranto’ where Hippolita is portrayed as the obedient wife to a tyrannical royal whom “she would not only acquiesce…to a divorce but would obey,…in endeavouring to persuade Isabella to give him her hand” By doing this, it showed how women were seen at the time, they were expected to obey and submit fully to their husbands. This overpowering air of passivity present in the 19th Century is carried on in Shelley’s Frankenstein where each female character is objectified in a demeaning manner. Considering Mary...
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