The Social Effects of Men
Throughout the history of society, men and women have procured their own particular gender roles. Though it is true that in modern times, men and women are accepted as equals with generally impartial opportunities, there have been past eras that reflect the ultimate separation of gender. At the turn of the nineteenth century, women took on a more supportive and sympathetic role in the intimate privacy of personal life, while men went out into the working world as dominant forces in society. This distinct polarity between the roles of men and women distributed them into their separate social spheres, with men residing publicly and women in privacy. Over time, these gender roles grew increasingly polarized; women began to feel the social constraints being placed upon them as they conveyed the characteristics of being emotional and passive, while men were characterized by being rational, active, and aggressive.
These gender roles influenced many feminist writers, including Mary Shelley. Since women were expected to remain passive in a society dominated by men, writers such as Shelley used literature to represent the message of social female suppression as women attempted to emerge into the public sphere and make a feminine mark on society. For Shelley, this pertains to the struggle of establishing herself as a respected author in society and the repercussions posed by her audaciousness. In her novel Frankenstein, Shelley portrays the distinction between gender roles in society by personifying the creatures in the novel to illustrate the effects of a male-dominated world upon feminine interaction.
Throughout the story, it is evident that nearly all of the female characters encountered are depicted as passive and powerless. These females are all in relation to Victor Frankenstein, a controlling, self-centered male who desires to become the creator of a living being through scientific endeavors. While Victor is away pursuing opportunities and studying at a university, the women in his family are left to tend to one another and passively remain in the privacy of their home. His mother, Caroline, dies as she nurses her sweet Elizabeth, Victor’s cousin, back to health. Elizabeth, though equally bright and promising, is not offered the opportunities that Victor receives simply because of her gender. Justine Moritz, the family servant, is accused of murder and executed despite her innocence. As these women remain submissive and defenseless at home, Victor reaches the climax of his studies and ultimately gives life to an inanimate collaboration of previously living parts. After this creation is brought to life, he is faced with the realization of the pain, loneliness, and deformity he has bestowed upon it. The creature is eloquent and persuasive, and requests that Victor creates a female being to be his counterpart and grace him with a companion of his own species. He offers the compromise to vacate human society with his mate and never to face mankind again. Victor’s unease and apprehension toward the creature, as well as the established passiveness of the other female characters, foreshadows the unfortunate outcome for the new female creation.
Victor initially obliges to the request and embarks on the same process in which he originally constructed the creature. He takes a moment to reflect on the production of this female duplication of his original misfortune: “I was now about to form another being, of whose dispositions I was alike ignorant; she might become ten thousand times more malignant than her mate, and delight, for its own sake, in murder and wretchedness. He had sworn to quit the neighbourhood of man, and hide himself in deserts; but she had not; and she, who in all probability was to become a thinking and reasoning animal, might refuse to comply with a compact made before her creation. They might even hate each other; the creature who already lived loathed his own deformity, and might...
Cited: Cross, Ashley J. " 'Indelible Impressions ': Gender and Language in Mary Shelley 's Frankenstein." Women 's Studies 27.6 (1998): 547. University Libraries. University of Arizona. Web. 2 Mar. 2010. .
Mellor, Anne K. “Possessing Nature: The Female in Frankenstein.” Frankenstein: A Norton Critical Edition. Ed. J. Paul Hunter. New York: W.W. Norton, 1996. Print.
Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. Frankenstein: A Norton Critical Edition. Ed. J. Paul Hunter. New York: W.W. Norton, 1996. 274-86. Print.
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