Female Void In Frankenstein Essay

2394 words - 10 pages

Frankenstein was published in 1818 anonymously it was not until 1831 that it was revealed that the author was in fact a female Mary Shelley1. There has been much debate on the issue of femininity in Frankenstein in that the main characters are male and the women play a passive role. In this essay I will argue that at the centre of Frankenstein there is not a void where a feminine understanding should be but rather there is a void of absent mothers and the novel depicts the condition of women in it's era and is a critique of a patriarchal society.

In the novel there are many strong women depicted, Caroline Beaufort Frankenstein's mother is described as the ideal domestic mother. Even before her marriage we are given the impression that she was a strong resilient woman, who looked after her father with care and a compassion and overcame poverty and isolation. Unlike the other characters in the novel such as Henry Clerval, Elizabeth and the De Lacey's, Victor's mother had been present and had an influence in his life. We see that Victor had a happy childhood “No youth could have passed more happily than mine”2. Victor also has another positive female influence in Elizabeth his cousin and future wife. Elizabeth seems to be the aesthetic counterpart of Victor. His cousin Elizabeth lost her mother at a young age, Justine's mother in a sense abandoned her and Clerval's mother is not mentioned at all. So here we can see perhaps that Victor was in a unique vantage point in that he had experienced domesticity in his life through the efforts of his mother. Caroline Beaufort even in death is portrayed as self sacrificing, rather than see her adopted daughter suffer alone she wished to comfort and ease her pain even at the risk of getting infected herself. So we can see that Victor's happy childhood and his loving family had a lot to do with the presence of his mother so where she may not have been a central character she was by no means a passive female. It is only in Victor's childhood we see the role that a mother has in creating a happy, loving family.

It can also be argued that Victor's downfall begins with the death of his mother. Her death is hard on Victor “dearest ties are rent by that most irreparable evil, that void that presents itself to the soul”3. In order to fill that void Victor seems to throw himself into his studies which ultimately lead to the creation of the monster. However Victor's reasons for creating another being are ultimately selfish reasons, he has no wish to nurture and nourish the being he is creating but rather he craves acknowledgement and wants to be worshipped “ a new species would bless me as its creator....no father could claim the gratitude of his child so completely as I should”4. However beneath this underlying goal to manufacture life and to perhaps gain a love that only his mother could give him he also has a desire to reunite with his dead mother “renew life where death had apparently devoted the body to...

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