Imprisonment in Patriarchal Societies
In Mary Shelley's gothic novel Frankenstein and Charlotte Gilman's short story “The Yellow Wallpaper,” imprisonment is a reoccurring theme. The main characters in both stories seek to break free of the confinements imposed upon them by hierarchical societies. These strictly stratified societies prosecute the characters;who respond with immediate action in order to achieve that freedom which their societies have purged from them. Victor Frankenstein, Frankenstein's monster, and John's wife all suffer the indignities of both literal and metaphorical imprisonment founded on racism, classism, and sexism. In “Frankenstein,” Victor endures several types of imprisonment. His workshop is much like a prison cell, in that he stays in the room for months at a time and leaves only for brief stretches. Victor admits that, “My cheek had grown pale with study, and my person had become emaciated with confinement” (Shelly 32). Victor is literally imprisoned by the authorities for the murder of his best friend, Henry Clerval. He is metaphorically imprisoned by his inability to protect his loved ones, including his future wife, from his monster. He reveals the dread created by his powerlessness when he says, “And then I thought again of his words- I will be with you on your wedding-night” (Shelly 117). Victor’s fear of social ostracism, which would be the likely outcome if anyone of his class were to discover that he had created the repulsive monster that had killed so many innocent people, also impairs his actions. It is only after he decides to hunt down the monster and vanquish him in order to ease his conscience that Victor breaks free from the prison that his fears create for him. Although Victor dies before avenging his loved ones, his death is what ultimately releases him from this prison. Frankenstein's monster also suffers both literal and metaphoric imprisonment. Because his hideous appearance prevents him from developing...
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