Explore how Shelley presents the role of women.
In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the role of the two genders, especially women, in society are being explored through. Whilst Victor and Elizabeth do serves as the stereotypical male and female, respectively, in the 19th century society, the unusual birth of the monster in Chapter 5 and his subsequent experiences poses earnest questions about the role of women that they are not mere companions of males of the time but are the central stability of social order in society.
In this extract, Shelley presents Elizabeth as an objectified property. Upon seeing her, Victor claims Elizabeth as his, as seen through the use of possessive pronouns, ‘mine’ and ‘my’ from the beginning. This gives the reader that Elizabeth will always be with Victor and that she would never get the opportunity to ‘seek [her] education’ as Victor does later in the novel, as she is tied to her family. Victor also refers to Elizabeth as a ‘creature’, where this noun dehumanizes her and seem less important to Victor and seems like a mere pet or toy to play with. Similarly, the monster also is referred to as a ‘creature’ too: while Elizabeth is ‘adored’ by Victor, he ‘detests’ the monster. Having said that, Victor does seem to not empathise with the two with an emotional appeal as he judges both by their appearance. Elizabeth is depicted to ‘shed radiance from her looks’ and to be ‘a child fairer than pictured cherub’ – she accepted into the Frankenstein family due to her looks, which are linked to heaven and benevolence using semantic field of religion (‘cherub’ and ‘radiance’). However, the monster is abandoned in Chapter 5 by Victor after being terrified by the monster’s ‘dun white eyes’ and ‘shrivelled complexion’. Both the monster and Elizabeth are being degraded by Victor but in different ways due to their appearances: whilst Elizabeth is claimed, the monster is abandoned.
Shelley presents the marked importance of women as maternal figures in the novel. Frankenstein himself professes that “no creature could have more tender parents than [he did]”, implying a childhood filled with parental care and attention; in contrast, his monster’s first experiences are characterized by him being “poor, helpless and miserable”, which conveys a marked poverty of maternal nourishment and nurture. Though...