It is quite ironic that Mary Shelley, a woman who grew up daughter to the important Victorian feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, portrayed women in her most notable novel, Frankenstein, as passive beings inferior to their male counterparts. However, this farcical viewpoint is direct in pointing out the flawed treatment of women in society. Through her pessimistic portrayal of women, Shelley exhibits the typical attitude of women of the Victorian era in the nineteenth century. These characteristics of woman are exemplified through Caroline's motherly self-sacrifice, Justine's unjustified execution, and the murder of Elizabeth by the monster.
The women in Frankenstein play no roles that directly influence the plot of the novel. The main action exclusively follows male figures; Walton, Victor, and the monster. The only roles women play are that which accompany men. Margaret is the target of Walton's letters, Caroline is Victor's loving mother, and Elizabeth is Victor's companion and arranged wife. Caroline fulfills the role of mother. When Justine becomes seriously ill, Caroline assumes the role of nurse and caretaker. Through this, Shelley shows the reader that it is believed in society that it is the mother's duty to be primary caretaker of her children, not the father. After nursing Justine back to health, Caroline eventually dies. Again, Shelley shows us society's insignificant outlook of women, after Caroline's duty is done, she is discarded and looses her life.
Another negative outlook on women revealed in Frankenstein is the idea that women fill the role of scapegoats. Women are eventually blamed for things that go wrong and can not be placed upon anyone in particular. An example of this in Frankenstein is when Justine is put on trial for the murder of William. She is not defended and is quickly and wrongfully executed. The idea of subjectively blaming women dates all the way back to the story of Adam and Eve. According to that story, Eve is...
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