Professor Jonathan Luftig
Women of Frankenstein: Impact Based on Influence
The novel Frankenstein touches on many controversial themes such as, solitude, the division of “good” evil, rejection, debate about Nature vs. Nurture, manipulation and etc. Among the many controversial themes, the one that is constantly mentioned is the rather passive, “supporting” female roles in the novel. Despite her mother’s feminist and independent legacy, Mary Shelley seemed to have written from a more societal perspective in the roles of her characters as opposed to a rebellious, un-relatable perspective. Examples of this can be found in the relationships between the characters, as well as backgrounds of each. In Mary Shelley’s novel, her female characters seem to reflect women of her time, including herself, in supporting their male counterparts even when socially invisible. As the author, Mary Shelley used her personal experiences and bias’s of her time to write her novel. Mary Shelley’s mother died giving birth to her, leaving her to be raised by her father who was a member of a group of radical thinkers. When growing up without a mother, it is imaginable that your influences are not necessarily limited, but shifted. Mary did not have her mother, so she may have looked to the women of her time as examples of what life was supposed to be like. Mary Wollstonecraft wrote in her “Vindication of the Rights of Women”, Women are told from their infancy, and taught by the example of their mothers, that a little knowledge of human weakness, justly termed cunning, softness of temper, outward obedience, and a scrupulous attention to a puerile kind of propriety, will obtain for them the protection of man; (Wollstonecraft Chpt II)
Women in the early 19th century era were viewed as inferior to men. The place of women was considered to be in their home, privately. Her novel can be considered a way for her to deal with questions of her own autobiography, through fiction. In being raised by just her father, in the radical atmosphere, she was exposed to advanced ideas at an early age. She then became known in the literary circle with people such as Lord Byron, the friend and neighbor of her family. In being surrounded by writers and poets, like Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley, she was able to shape and mold her ideas. The company of such men, can be described as a “writer’s dream”, a place of such intellect and creativity, sparking ideas for such novels like Frankenstein. As Mary Shelley progressed in her personal life, she ended up in an intimate relationship with Percy Bysshe Shelley, causing her to conceive. She conceived children with him over the years, only to find she was unable to support life, losing three of her four children she had given birth to. All but one child, lived a short term after they were born. Losing these children is so significant because it helped her express her feelings on birth through writing. In Ellen Moer’s, “The Female Gothic: The Monster’s Mother”, she relates Mary’s lose of her children to the creation of the monster. She states, Frankenstein seems to be distinctly a woman’s mythmaking on the subject of birth precisely because its emphasis is not upon what precedes birth, not upon birth itself, but upon what follows birth: the trauma of the afterbirth. (Shelley 321)
This supports that Mary Shelley’s feelings of guilt and sadness surrounding birth and the consequences it produces. The loss of her children can be analyzed as expression of personal fears and pains through her writing. Her experiences have made her views of childbirth, into something grotesque and wretched, this causing the creation of the creature. After being unable to reproduce and losing a quality woman of that era were expected to have, Mary not only didn’t have a mother, but also was unable to become one herself. While propping the men up, enabling them to function, the women of the novel were also...