The Character Of Safie In Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

1795 words - 7 pages

The Character of Safie in Frankenstein

 
     Even though she is only mentioned in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein for a

relatively brief period, the character, Safie, is very interesting as she is

unique from the other characters in that her subjectivity is more clearly

dependent on her religion and the culture of her nation. Contrasts can be made

between the Orient and the European society which attempts to interpret it.

Often, this creates stereotypes such as western feminists that have viewed

"third-world" women as "ignorant, poor, uneducated, tradition-bound, religious,

domesticated, family oriented, (and) victimized"(Mohanty 290). Of course, some

of these things could also have said of European women of the time period,

although no one would argue the point since Oriental women were viewed as being

more oppressed. Strong contrasts can also be made in relation to the differences

between Safie's development as a foreign character and her subjectivity as a

female character in relation to those of the other female characters of the book.

While the other female characters lack depth into how their religion and culture

affect them, Safie's religion and Arabian culture sculpt her into a subject with

feminist qualities juxtaposed against her fulfillment of European domestic

ideology.

 

        Many theorists, such as Benveniste who said, "Consciousness of self [or

subjectivity] is only possible if it is experienced by contrast," argue that

one's subjectivity can only exist in their relation to the Other(85). The

subject's relation this "Other" depends on which aspect is being examined. For

example, when dealing with gender, it would be the relationship between Man and

Woman and when dealing with nationality it would be the relationship between

Native and Foreigner. Thus, the character of Safie was defined in terms of her

relationship to those around her. In the Turkish society, her role would have

been to fulfill positions of lesser rank, such as a daughter to her father or a

woman in relation to the dominant men, and when in Europe, as a foreign Turk in

relation to native Europeans. These relationships, however, were significantly

affected by the teachings her Christian Arab mother instilled in her. Her mother

"taught her to aspire to higher powers of intellect, and an independence of

spirit" which in either Turkish or European society, though more so in Turkish

society, were in discord with the standard position and femininity of women.

Both societies viewed women as having a "natural" tendency to be unassuming and

docile and, in addition, it would be considered unfeminine to seek something

more than their domestic role. Safie does not go to the extent of wishing for

something more than a prescribed domestic role, she merely preferred the

European version of that role. This role apparently differs from the Arabian

role primarily in...

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