In most 18th century stories, men portray to be the more dominate figure in the story or family. Women in the stories tend to be less important than the males. In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus, women are mention that much and even if they are, they end up being killed or dying. Feminist interpreters tend to think Shelley has patriarchal man-centered views regarding gender roles. The idea of inactive women in a patriarchal society tremendously impacts the scheme of the novel.
This is a complicated topic because most of her women characters are quiet, content women who, at first, share little similarities with self-confident women. Women did not have many rights as men and they could not stand up for themselves. If a woman were to do so they would be label as impertinent and unthankful. Shelley’s approach on women is more complex than what we know it. She reveals to us that women are ambiguous and conflicting people, without a vast amount of control.
Shelley reveals the injustice discreetly all through the book. All through the novel, Mary Shelley suggests that women are victims in a patriarchal world. In Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus, Caroline Beaufort Frankenstein, Justine Moritz, and Elizabeth Lavenza are examples victims of a patriarchal world, dominated by men
Caroline Beaufort Frankenstein, Victor’s mother is a victim in a patriarchal world. After her father’s death, Caroline is taken in by, and later marries, Alphonse Frankenstein. She ends up marrying Alphonse, a friend of her father. Alphonse later became her protector, “he came like a protecting spirit to the poor girl, who committed herself to his care; and after the interment of his friend he conducted her to Geneva and placed her under the protection of a relation. Two years after this event Caroline became his wife” (18). Alphonse is the dominate figure over Caroline, he is her protector. This shows women, like Caroline are not capable of taking care of themselves. In chapter 1, Shelley portrayal of Alphonse’s care for Caroline sounds as if she is in charge, “Everything was made to yield to her wishes and her convenience” (19). This short description shows that Caroline is cherished by Alphonse, making her more dominate. Shelley tells how Alphonse, “strove to shelter her, as a fair exotic is sheltered by the gardener, from every rougher wind and to surround her with all that could tend to excite pleasurable emotion in her soft and benevolent mind” (19). Shelley seems to portray women as a delicate person they needs to be care for by a man. Women, like Caroline appears to being incapable of taking care of themselves. This implies that women are victims in a patriarchal society, dominated by men.
Justine Moritz lives with the Frankenstein family as their servant after her mother pass 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 trepidation of going to Hell. Victor did not believe that she has murder William saying, “Justine Moritz! Poor, poor girl, is she the accused? But it is wrongfully; everyone knows that; no one believes it surely, Ernest?” (62). 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 murdered 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 men, 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.
Elizabeth Lavenza is an example of women being victims in a male dominated world. Elizabeth is an orphan taken in by Victor’s parents. She is passive, waiting for Victor’s return. She is a victim is a man’s whole because all she does majority of the time in the novel is wait for him to return. After receiving the news that Victor has fallen deeply ill she immediately writes him a letter, “My dear Friend, It gave me the greatest please to receive a letter from my uncleâ€¦my poor cousin, how much you must have suffered! I expect to see you looking even more ill than when you quitted Genevaâ€¦My uncle will send me news of your health, and if I see but one smile on your lips when we meet, occasioned by this or any other excretion of mine, I shall need no other happiness” (165-166). Elizabeth seems obsess with Victor, Shelley’s portrayal of her seems to be as if she is in need of Victor, as if she would die without him. Elizabeth models the Victorian “angel in the house.” Victor describes her as “a being heaven-sent.” “bearing a celestial stamp in all her features,” “fairer than pictured cherub” (20). Victor’s description of Elizabeth makes us think that she is an angel. Victor is very fond of her, this show that Victor treasures her greatly, hence her being dominate over Victor for a moment. Victor’s action is the cause of Elizabeth’s death, because of the promise Victor broke to the creature he vows to take revenge on Victor. The creature ends up murdering Elizabeth on her honeymoon night with Victor. Even though at times Elizabeth appears to be dominating over Victor, he still surpasses and controls her, thus Elizabeth being a victim of a patriarchal world.
Throughout the story Shelley suggests that women are victims in a patriarchal world, dominated by men. Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus is an embodiment of Shelley’s concern for feminine position and importance in the 18th century patriarchal society. Shelley’s approach on women tells us that women are ambiguous and contradictory, lacking power. Shelley reveals the inequality inconspicuously all through the story. Throughout the novel, Mary Shelley suggests that women are victims in a patriarchal world. Caroline Beaufort Frankenstein, Justine Moritz, and Elizabeth Lavenza are victims of a patriarchal world, dominated by men. Men are the reasons why these women were punished. The novel exemplifies the unfairness of women in the 18th century and in the novel.