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The Cycle Of Oppression In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

1970 words - 8 pages

Mary Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein, tells of a manmade monster’s journey through 18th century Europe and his struggle against humanity. Throughout his life, he is constantly attacked and isolated based upon his appearance. Although he at first attempts to fit in, it is to no avail — society continues to discriminate and assault him, labeling him an “other.” Specifically in Frankenstein, an “other” is an individual completely isolated from, and attacked by, society in which every action is deemed unacceptable. They are abandoned and forced into a war against the majority, most often society itself, with no way out. This vicious Cycle of Oppression begins with escalating aggression, leading ...view middle of the document...

As the trial progresses, even Justine’s friends desert her, furthering her isolation from society. In defense of Justine, “Several witnesses were called, who had known her for many years, and they spoke well of her; but fear, and hatred of the crime of which they supposed her guilty, rendered them timorous and unwilling to come forward” (56). Shelley paints a setting in which Justine is against the world. She employs the word “supposed,” meaning general assumed or believed, to demonstrate that people went along with the majority. Those who don’t believe in her guilt are unable to come forward out of “fear” for their own reputation, afraid to be “othered” themselves. Justine is alone with little to no support from others. When the verdict was made and the ballots were thrown, “they were all black, and Justine was condemned” (57). The syntax of the sentence and the position of the punctuation stress that “they were all black.” Everyone wanted her harmed — society as a whole was oppressing her. She is helpless and “othered,” completely isolated from society with no one on her side.
Justine is already abandoned, making public shame the last step in her external “othering” and the first step toward internalized oppression. In her cell just before death, Justine cries, “I had none to support me; all looked on me as a wretch doomed to ignominy and perdition” (58). Shelley selects the word “ignominy,” meaning public shame or disgrace, as it relates to public humiliation. She also utilizes “perdition”: the state of eternal punishment in the Christian faith in which a sinful and unpenitent person passes after death. The public, or society, is aggressive, seeing Justine as an “other” and assuming God see’s her as an “other” too. Abandoned by both society and faith, she begins to believe in her own guilt — planting the seed of her internalized oppression.
With Justine’s external oppression complete, her sense of internalized oppression begins to unfold, the last step in the Cycle of Oppression and her “othering.” When she meets with a confessor, “he threatened and menaced, until I almost began to think that I was the monster that he said I was” (58). Because Justine “began to think” of herself as a monster, she is starting to see herself as an “other.” She has developed a sense of internalized oppression, thus completing the Cycle of Oppression. Because she is isolated, attacked, and oppressed internally and externally, she is an “other.” Shelley compares Justine to a “monster,” bringing to light the parallel between Frankenstein’s creation and Justine. Both of which are condemned and isolated from society. Furthermore, they feel externally “othered” and have a sense of internalized oppression. Shelley explores Frankenstein’s creations Cycle of Oppression in more depth, delving deeper into what “othering” does to people.
Shelley develops her idea of “othering” and Cycle of Oppression through the lens of Frankenstein’s creation, the monster. Similarly to...

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