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Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, written in the 19th century tells the story of a monster created by Victor Frankenstein who is abandoned at birth. When examining this novel from the lens of a feminist literary perspective, we can clearly read how the novel shows us the problems that would beset a Patriarchal society.
To read this lens first we must examine this concept in these passages by first setting the scene of traditional gender roles, and representing a monster as a female. This symbolism allows feelings that the females would usually repress to come out in darker and more malignant forms and shows us how repression of the power of females can lead to negative consequences.
From the very first passage it is clear that there is a scene set for a traditional gender stereotypical setting, seen throughout many other scenes in the book. It shows how the “young women arranged the cottage and prepared the food” and then talks of how the “young man was constantly employed out of doors.” Outlining the scene in this way shows us traditional gender roles about what the women did and the man did, and the idea that the girl was occupied with “various laborious occupations” accentuates this idea. The description with the word laborious emphasizes that the man does easier jobs while the women are forced to work. This traditional patriarchal society is also emphasized throughout the passage in which it shows “the old man” who “employed his leisure hours .. in contemplation.” This man is the very symbol of a patriarchal society and the fact that the women must perform towards him “every little office of affection and duty” first shows us a patriarchal society.
First if we read the monster as a representation of women, we see how the patriarchy can ultimately be full of problems. In Chapter 16, we see the monster as a representation of females act like “a wild beast” as he “bore a hell” and started “destroying the objects” around him. The monster becomes an “arch-fiend” and as a women states that he finds himself “sympathized.” Having a mother who was a key feminist author who encouraged women to think for themselves would have influenced Shelley to show that the repression of women in a patriarchal society, ultimately leads to an “arch-fiend” with the females anger which comes out in more malignant forms. Throughout Frankenstein we can see that this is the same message throughout the novel. In this era there was a celebration of nature and Frankenstein’s usurpation of the female rights by not creating a female monster, leads to deaths of many including Henry Clerval, Victor’s best friend.
Furthermore, we as an audience can see that through religious analogies that a patriarchal society, will ultimately lead to a degradation of female morality in a society. If we continue to read the monster as a representation of females in a Patriarchy, then we can see that a problem in a patriarchy is the resulting nature of females as “bitter.” We see that the monster begins to favor Satan, as he states that he “considered Satan as the fitter emblem” and through this we see that a patriarchal society allows those to relate to the darker parts of their soul rather than their morals. He also talks of how God “was a perfect creature” due to “the especial care of his Creator.” A prominent theme throughout the novel is the idea that Frankenstein is the lack of maternal feelings that males have for their offspring and their subsequent abandonment and this monster talking of how his father abandoned him while God is unrelatable and cared for shows us that a patriarchal society pushes women to darker sides of their conscience.
“Frankenstein’s monster can be read as representation of the experience of marginalisation and oppression of women in the 19C. The identification of the monster with Satan from Paradise Lost’ can be interpreted as women’s desire for a political voice and social change.”
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