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Frankenstein consists of various literary devices and describes different qualities and social perspectives. The tale intensely rotates around various individual aspects in Mary Shelley’s life. Perusing the novel through a women’s activist lense, it’s intriguing to break down how this perspective identifies with Mary Shelley’s life and likewise influences and relates to the characters in the novel.
Frankenstein was influenced by a variety of texts. Both of her parents were writers, which means that literature was heavily involved in her childhood and daily life. Although her mother died when she was 10 days old, as stated in Was Mary Shelley a Feminist, “Her mother was none other than Mary Wollstonecraft, a pioneer of feminist thought at a time when women were considered, at best, property.” This could have been the base of Mary Shelley’s feminism, and most-likely led to the development of Mary Shelley’s own views. However, it’s interesting to see how downplayed the female characters are in Frankenstein. The female roles are very insignificant for the most part in the novel. This being said, it’s very contradictory that Mary Shelley was born into a feminist family, yet doesn’t really demonstrate that in Frankenstein.
By reading the novel through a feminist lens, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a predominantly male situated literary piece that incorporates subordinate female characters that shape the novel leading into feminism. These characters extend from the mild-mannered love enthusiasm of Victor, Elizabeth, to the solid willed Safie, to the unjustifiable death Justine, to the close making of the Monster’s female companion. Through her male portrayal, Shelley delineates how these ladies are thought of and treated by the male characters, even purposely placing them in circumstances that inconspicuously outline her own conclusion relating to women’s activist belief systems. Elizabeth is an example of a literary device making her into a metaphor. Throughout the novel, there are many instances where Frankenstein compares her to animals by stating, “she was docile and good tempered, yet gay and playful as a summer’s insect…I loved to tend on her, as I should on a favourite animal…”. This shows evidence that Elizabeth’s character shows a perspective that all women during that era represent the way they are treated and viewed by men and the rest of society therefore their characters vital role as females is to be docile, submissive, and obedient.
To add on, Justine Moritz lives with the Frankenstein family as their servant after her mother passed away. She is a victim in a patriarchal world, dominated by men. After William is murdered, the creature puts an image of Caroline, William’s mother, that William was carrying in Justine’s pocket and she is blame of murder. She later confesses wrongly to the crime out of dread and fear of going to Hell. Victor did not believe that she had murdered William saying, “Justine Moritz! Poor, poor girl, is she the accused? But it is wrongfully; everyone knows that; no one believes it surely, Ernest?”.
Even after this she is still guilty of the murder and is executed. This reveals that Justine is a victim because even though she did not actually murder William, she was found guilty. The murderer was actually a male, the creature, yet Justine was punished. She is wrongfully executed for an action of a man. Justine is an innocent girl; she would rather face the consequences of a murder conviction than be excommunicated by the church. Justine, a pure innocent soul, has no one defend her in trial. Yet, when Victor, a man accused of killing Henry Clerval, has many people to defend him, a much more corrupt soul. For this reason Justine is put to death, therefore she is also a victim of a male dominate world.
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