In19th century Europe, the roles of men and women were sharplydefined. Women married early and werewithout a formal education past high school, and men worked day and nightsolely providing for the home. Several authors explore this idea of feminismthrough their work. One example of this is through Marry Shelly’s novelFrankenstein. Shelley unveils this idea of feminism through not only societalmeans, but through science as well. InFrankenstein, Marry Shelley critiques the conception of science by mentioningpotential consequences of arrogance in the 19th century scientificrevolution all through al feminist lens.
In the article ” Possessing Nature:The Female in Frankenstein,” Anne K. Mellor executes a feminist lens to analyzeShelly’s use of cultural and scientific roles of women. Anne K.
Mellor’s critical essay”Possessing Nature: The Female in Frankenstein,” is an mind-altering essayabout the role of females in Frankenstein’s patriarchal society. Mellor beginsby stating the societal norm where men are associated with the public sectorand women are apart of the domestic lifestyle. Men such as Victor venture outin quests in search of knowledge and personal fulfillment. Mellor believes thatit is the separation of public man from private women that leads to Victor’sdownfall as well as many of the leading women in the novel. In Victor’s case,he lacks the ability to love and work at the same time, therefore the reasonbehind showing no empathy nor parental responsibility towards the created. Mellor states, ” And he remains so fixated onhimself that he cannot imagine his monster might threaten someone else when heswears to be with Victor on his wedding night.” (page 3 Possessing Nature: TheFemale in Frankenstein).
Anne K. Melloris suggesting that because Victor is caught up in his own pursuit of knowledgeand obsession of science, that he does not realize the danger and consequencesof the monster he has created. Victor is blind sited by this creature andultimately has to face consequences. The division from masculine powerfrom feminine affection leads to the downfall of many of the women inFrankenstein. Caroline Beaufort dies unnecessarily because she feels obligatedto nurse her niece Elizabeth when she was faced with an epidemic of small pox.Caroline makes a self-sacrifice to tend to her loved ones.
The division betweenmale and female roles also means that women cannot participate effectively inthe political realm. Mellor demonstrates this through the role of JustineMortez. She explains that despite her innocence of the crime she was accused of,she is executed even with Elizabeth’s defense to help. Throughout Justine’strial, Victor had known it was in fact his creature that had murdered hisbrother William and framed Justine, however, he couldn’t bring himself to admithis actions because he was afraid of being labeled as a madman and insteadthought it would be better to let Justine take the fall while he saves hisreputation.
However, ultimately the guilt that Victor faces, leads to hispersonal downfall. Another technique that Mellorutilizes to demonstrate the idea of feminism is through her synthesis ofShelley’s portrayal of societal construction and the De Lacey Family. Shebelieves that the De Lacey family is Mary Shelly’s way of showcasing analternative social construction-one more favorable and embodying of equalityand love. Shelley demonstrates these qualities through the son of De Lacy,Felix. Felix aides his loves father in a plot to go against the French justicesystem and free him from death. He ultimately sacrificed his own life to ensurethat justice was given to the Turkish merchant. The De Lacey family demonstrates theimportance of seeking knowledge and theydefy the societal norm of limits tofemale education.
It is mentioned that Safie (Felix’s love), was told by hermother, ” to aspire to higher powers of intellect, and an independence ofspirit, forbidden to the female powers of Mahomet.” (Chapter 14) Safie’s motherwas giving advice to her daughter that was unheard of. Advising her to seekknowledge and attain self independence. Afterher mother’s passing, Safie takes this advice to mind and when she moves inwith the De Lacey family she was taught how to read and write. The De Laceyfamily demonstrate a united front,sexual equality, and relationships that disregard the separation of male andfemale roles.
Anne K. Mellor’s critical essayallows us to analyze Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein through a feminist lens. Sheimplies that due to Frankenstein’s 19th century patriarchal society,the divide from masculine power from female affection is the cause of thedownfall of Victor as well as many of the leading female characters within thenovel. The division of roles is endorsed by Victor, and becomes clear in hisattitude towards the monster’s request for a counterpart.
Victor refuses tocreate an “Eve” because he is afraid of the unknown. Due to the male dominantmindset, he is afraid of the independent female will alongside with the fearthat she will not comply with social contract and assert her own integrity.Once again, Victor feeds into the 19th century mindset that womenare constricted to the home and should lack free will. He fears what a womancan do with her assertion of independence.