This website uses cookies to ensure you have the best experience. Learn more

Passivity And Impotence In Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

1706 words - 7 pages

Passivity and Impotence in Frankenstein

    There are many ways to interpret a literary text, especially one as laden with ethical questions and literary allegory as Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Shelley's complex family dynamic - her conflicted relationship with her father, her need to please her mentor/husband with literary success, her infants' deaths - enhances the intrigue of the novel and suggests multiple themes and layered meanings. One discernible theme in Frankenstein is illuminated by the bold line that separates male character from female: The men inevitably fail the women whom they claim to love, but the women are maddeningly passive, seemingly blind to the men's inadequacies. Here, however, this passivity is a defense mechanism. Because the women's place in society depends on the patriarchal system, their choices to be passive are the only way they can assert control.

 

Frankenstein revolves around the relationships between its characters. Aside from Safie and Felix, the romantic male-female relationships are tinged with an incestual element. Also, the males idealize femininity and take the women's adoration of them for granted. Victor's parents, Alfonse and Caroline, have an age disparity that echoes father and daughter; he rescues her from poverty by coming, "...like a protective spirit to the poor girl" and then after their marriage "strove to shelter her, as a fair exotic is sheltered by the gardener...with all that could tend to excite pleasurable emotion in her soft and benevolent mind" (32).

 

But before Caroline meets Alfonse, her personal strength is described as "...possessing a mind of an uncommon mould, and her courage rose to support her in her adversity" (32). When necessary, Caroline is capable of tending her sick father and supporting herself financially, but after her marriage to the patriarchal Alfonse, she yields to his expectation that she be "soft." This is where purposeful passivity works as a foil for Alfonse's patronizing ineptitude, for Caroline's adaptability to adversity shows her strength. When she exposes herself to smallpox to nurse Elizabeth, she chooses the means of her death. Shelley critic U.C. Knoepflmacher sees a tie between Caroline's death and Shelley's real life, "The demise of Caroline...suggests that Shelley could endorse this escape from a world of fathers, brothers, husbands, and male justices and identify it with the repose found by her own mother" (Levine 110). Whether or not Shelley sees a panacea in her own mother's death, her narrative does allow Caroline to take control through a seemingly sacrificial act.

 

Conversely, Alfonse has little inner strength and fails all of those whom he is supposed to lead. Had he paid more attention to Victor's studies, Victor may not have created the Monster. Had he given Elizabeth the freedom and confidence to look outside the family for happiness instead of awarding her to Victor as a ...

Find Another Essay On Passivity and Impotence in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

Revenge in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein Essay

795 words - 3 pages PAGE 2 Corra English 11 Period 2Revenge in Mary Shelley's FrankensteinRevenge, some say, is a "dish best served cold". In Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley, the main character, Victor, creates a monster that terrorizes his life. Victor and the monster go at it the entire novel, with the monster winning almost every time. Throughout the book, the monster kills mostly everyone close to Victor. He kills his brother, wife, best friend, and indirectly

Sympathy in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein Essay

3050 words - 12 pages Sympathy in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein Mary Shelley was born in 1797. She had a difficult life with many family upsets’, miscarriages and suffered personal depression; she died aged 53. Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein firstly as a short ghost story but it was published as a novel in 1816. Frankenstein is a Gothic novel and it deals with two genres, Gothicism and science fiction. Gothicism is part of the Romantic Movement that

Sympathy in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

2696 words - 11 pages Sympathy in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein In her novel, 'Frankenstein', Mary Shelley employs many innovative literary techniques to invoke feelings of sympathy for the monster. Sympathy is created by the author both by making the readers pity the monster’s loathsome existence and by leading them to understand his violent and cruel actions. We pity the creature because of the way he is treated by mankind and we can identify with his

Friendship in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

1114 words - 4 pages Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein';      Through the exploration of value attached to friendship in Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein';, it is found that Victor, Walton, and the monster each desire a companion to either fall back on during times of misery, to console with, or to learn from. During various periods throughout the novel, it is found that Victor depends heavily on friendship

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Structuralism

2052 words - 8 pages application of the theory to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. The second segment of this essay aims to outline some structuralist approaches to the text. Firstly it serves to heed Vladimir Propp's ideas on the seven spheres of action, as described in his book 'The morphology of folk-tales'. Propp's approach suggested that the whole corpus of stories is constructed around limited archetypal narratives, which links back to Barthes and Frye's ideas on

Role of Women in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and in Society

1548 words - 7 pages In “Frankenstein” penned by Mary Shelley, the author depicts the roles of Caroline, Elizabeth, and Justine as passive women by taking action only through the men around them. During the 1820s, when Elizabeth Blackwell saw the deaths of many people on ships being thrown overboard, she became inspired to become a doctor. However, during her time period, women were not allowed to get an education. Finally, Mulan, takes the place of her old father

Prejudice and Pride Illustrated in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

1450 words - 6 pages thematic core of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus” (Austen). This tormented narrative explores the destructive powers of these two isolating traits. Pride, an unreasonable and inordinate self-esteem and ego, and prejudice, a lack of empathy and negative bias against an individual, both prevent the human characters in “Frankenstein” from exercising objectivity and openness towards the monster. Pride by the monster’s creator, and

Absence of Heroes and Villains in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

1316 words - 5 pages Absence of Heroes and Villains in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein Frankenstein is a gothic novel which was published in the 19th century, and was written by Mary Shelley. In the 19th century the most popular types of novels were horror. This novel was an early example of a thriller. One of the main reasons why Mary Shelley wrote a book about science, horror and

Ideas of Philosophy, Religion and Psychology in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

1860 words - 7 pages Ideas of Philosophy, Religion and Psychology in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein One of the most prominent themes of Frankenstein is that of philosophy and in as I will explain in particular the need for companionship. There are indeed many passages that describe "domestic affection"; for example, Victor's description of his childhood: No human being could have passed a happier childhood than myself. My parents were

Science, Morality and Responsibility in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

2026 words - 8 pages Science vs. Morality and Responsibility in Frankenstein The most frightening horror story can only be called such if it is believable. Nothing is so unnerving as lying awake at night with very real fears. No monster can harm you, unless the monster was genetically engineered by a mad scientist. The theme of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein - scientific investigation without consideration of morality and responsibility - is a very relevant topic

The Themes of Good and Evil in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

1234 words - 5 pages How are the themes of good and evil explored in Chapters 16 and 17 of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein? Not only does the idea of ‘good vs. evil’ have relevance in today’s society, but some of the ideas behind the medical advances shown in ‘Frankenstein’ and the moral issues of creating new life in unnatural ways such as cloning, should we really be making life for scientific advances or should we be leaving to nature? During Chapters 16

Similar Essays

In Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" Essay

1117 words - 4 pages 1"Frankenstein"Through the exploration of value attached to friendship in Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein", it is found that Victor, Walton, and the monster each desire a companion to either fall back on during times of misery, to console with, or to learn from. During various periods throughout the novel, it is found that Victor depends heavily on friendship when tragedy occurs to keep him from going insane. Walton desires the friendship of a man

Good And Evil In Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

1418 words - 6 pages Good and Evil in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein "Frankenstein" was written by Mary Shelley. She was born in 1797 and died in 1851. Her parents were also progressive writers, and their work would have influenced Shelley's work. "Frankenstein" is written in the gothic horror genre. The idea of Frankenstein actually came to Mary Shelley in a half waking nightmare. She herself said, "When I placed my head on the pillow

Romanticism In Mary Shelley's Frankenstein Essay

2514 words - 10 pages Mary Shelley, with her brilliant tale of mankind's obsession with two opposing forces: creation and science, continues to draw readers with Frankenstein's many meanings and effect on society. Frankenstein has had a major influence across literature and pop culture and was one of the major contributors to a completely new genre of horror. Frankenstein is most famous for being arguably considered the first fully-realized science fiction novel. In

Sympathy In Mary Shelley's Frankenstein Essay

1526 words - 6 pages Sympathy in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein Frankenstein for many people is a huge fiendish monster, a brainless oaf with a couple of neck bolts, who is a horrible murderer. This image has been created by Boris Karloff and other television/film images. I also thought like that, believing Frankenstein to be a monstrous murderer, so when I was met with the text I was surprised to find as a mad scientist who creates a monster