Comparing Women's and Men's Fears in Frankenstein and Pet Sematary
Childbirth and the resulting mother/child relationship are realities for women that leave plenty of room for anxiety. It is no wonder, then, that these themes of birth and motherhood should be featured prominently in women's horror. In contrast, men's horror tends not to focus on these fears, but, instead, focuses on the act of intercourse (the nuts and bolts of making a baby) and the man's fear of the woman's strange childbearing power. In comparing women's and men's fears on these subjects, one can see what fuels resulting horror texts.
In Frankenstein by Mary Shelly a man gives birth which is very curious when considering Frankenstein as a feminist text. The male mother in this text can be read in different ways. One reading of the phenomena could be man's attempt to control nature can have dire consequences. Upon closer reading, however, one can see that by having a male protagonist in the situation of life-giver, Shelly was allowed to make her fears known to her male contemporaries and at the same time explore her own fears concerning birthing and raising a healthy, productive child.
Mary's focus on the birth process allowed men to understand female fears about pregnancy and reassured women that they were not alone with their anxieties. The story expresses Mary's deepest fears; What of my child is born deformed? Could I still love it or would I wish it were dead? What if I can't love my child? Am I capable of raising a healthy, normal child? Will my child die? Could I wish my own child to die? Will my child kill me in childbirth? Mary was expressing her fears related to the death of her first child, her ability to nurture, and the fact that her mother died having her. All of this is expressed in Victor Frankenstein's complete failure in parenting (Woodbridge).
The reader sees the fears described above expressed throughout Frankenstein. At first Frankenstein is "unable to endure the aspect of the being [he] had created"(Shelly 42) He "rushe[es] out of the room and continue[s] a long time traversing in [his] bedchamber, unable to compose [his] mind to sleep"(Shelly 42). The psychology between "mother" and "child" is further expressed when Frankenstein feels responsible for the monster he created and the resulting deaths in his household: "Thus spoke my prophetic soul, as, torn by remorse, horror, and despair, I beheld those I loved spend vain sorrow upon the graves of William and Justine, the first victims to my unhallowed arts"(Shelly 73). The use of the word "unhallowed" seems curious here. It is "unhallowed" for a man to give birth, but for a woman, like Shelly, who places her fear of childbirth on the character of Frankenstein. The act of childbirth itself would not seem "unhallowed" from the perspective of a woman. It seems what she is doing here is speaking to the dominant male society of the...