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Frankenstein by Mary Shelley - Femal Characters Who Challeng The Gender Stereotype

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Introduction

Year 11 English Literature Prose Fiction Assessment Frankenstein Mary Shelley has constructed her gothic novel, Frankenstein, to include an array of passive female leads. This would not be unheard of in 1818, however Shelley was the daughter of an important feminist, and she herself possessed many of these same values and perspectives. With that in mind it can easily been understood that Shelley has constructed her novel to purposely be almost devoid of strong female leads in order criticise the social stereotypes of her time and the women who conformed to these, while the men in their lives dominated them. Shelley directly contrasts her passive characters to that of Safie, who is a relative success story compared with the fate of the other female characters. Safie embodies the life that women can have if they challenge their inferior role in society and this can be shown through analyses and comparisons of and between her and characters such as Justine, Caroline, Elizabeth and the female creature. Safie is used to highlight the passivity of the other female characters. She contradicts the stereotype that women should adopt a mother-like role as a carer and guardian. ...read more.

Middle

This contrasts with the assertive nature of Safie, who does not allow herself to be oppressed by the men in her life, mainly her father, and instead chooses to create a fate of her own choosing. Even less significant, but still present is the female monster, so passive it does not even achieve life, thus supporting that women have little, if any, outstanding role in Frankenstein. The creation of the female monster is absorbed by Victor in fear of being unable to control her actions. This signifies that women are oppressed in the fear that the will be uncontrollable. This is supported when Victor states, "she might become ten thousand times more malignant than her mate..." signifying his fear of being unable to control her. The importance and expectations of feminine beauty are also impressed upon readers through the female monster. Shelley is conveying the importance that appearance plays in determining our roles and status in society and showing that if a woman should lack this quality then they will face the harsh reality of how truly cruel society can be in its rejection of the ugly. This is also supported when Victor is thinking about his female creation and says, "the creature...already...loathed his deformity, and might he not conceive a greater abhorrence for it when it came before his eyes in the female form". ...read more.

Conclusion

The character of Safie can again be seen to challenge the expectation that her own wants, needs and opinions can be ignored because she is female, when she pursues the life she chooses for herself, rather than allowing her father to dictate to her the life she will live. It is again obvious that Mary Shelley's intent in creating submissive characters such as Elizabeth is to highlight the assertive nature of Safie and her embodiment as the positive consequences that can be achieved by women who break free of their social restraints. Shelley uses Frankenstein to provide readers with her feminist critique of the role of women and how if women do not fight for a place of standing and importance in society then their fate will always be the same - that they remain inferior to their male counterparts and forever place their fate in the hands of the men who control them. This is shown through Safie, who represents the lifestyle that women can achieve if they dare to challenge the social restraints placed upon them, and through the submissive characters of Justine, Caroline, the female monster and Elizabeth, who embody the consequences that result from doing nothing to change the stereotypical role of women in society. Natalie Hind Miss Perks 1 ...read more.

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