All through history we have seen how in general, women
have always confronted their society. During centuries of male chauvinism, the
woman appears the weaker of the two sexes. They have always been faithful to
their respective male partners, bosses, tutors, fathers and others and have
never had a relevant role, due to the great pressure imposed (sometimes
reaching limits of what could be called plavery) by
male ruled societies.
In this fashion, the book seems to reflect the prevailing anti-femine ideas, but under this naive appearance exists a strong femenis indictment hidden in every noole and cranny. This will be demonstrated later on in the essay.
We can say therefore that this literary work is not only an account of a deformed character and its forerunner but a reivindicative scream of a woman against her community.
Mary Shelley was not a unique case as any cotaneous or previous writter had reflected, these concerns in their work. Shelley´s mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, was an example of the above, influencing her daughter, although not in an overwhelming manner, but leaving impregnated femine traits on her life. Therefore one could say that neither Mary Shelley was the first feminist, or that her mother didn´t influence her or her literary work. The family environment from infancy would form the base for the future life, although not necessarily would be the decisive factor.
For this, Frankenstein isn´t first a simple feminist manifestation, but we mustn´t forget the influence of her progenitor and her close circle of friends and the vision they had towards society, which gives a more critical meaning to the book.
After this preliminary context in which we have highlighted the influences in her social-cultural environment, we will now more on to describe in more detail the feminine second reading, which we can give to Frankenstein.
As we all well know, every time there has been any type of physical or mental malformation, society has always rjected it. Frankenstein suffers the exclusion from society and his creator, due to the various scars and his innatural appearance. This is one of the reasons why the creature builds up hate against his creator.
This exclusion due to his appearance makes Frankenstein hide his feelings particularly those of love and hate. If he does show any feelings they are repressed by society who can´t sme to terms with such a monster having similar sentiments to them. Any creator seeing his creature reborn is happy, although when seeing it dead the joy perhaps is greater. This exclusion hurts Frankenstein much more than any physical punishment.
Another element to highlight concerning the feminity of the book is the figure of the blind man. Although it may seem contradictory as his deformity is more common, the blind character sheds a greater human vision through his more developed senses than the rest of the characters in the book. He represents a part of the feminity of the story, aquiring the traits of a mother in relation to Frankenstein. The monster seeks someone who can give him love and affection without having in mind hid physique. Frankenstein realizes he has the same faculties, such as reading, speaking, etc and that the only difference is the scars, which will mark his existence, while he lives. All these sensations will lead him to destroy everything which has made him like that including Victor Frankenstein, his creator.
Perhaps the most feminine character in the book is the monster himself who inspite of his size shows a series of factors which without a shadow of doubt indicate this.
Included in the various reasons is the similary of the scars with those women who have given birth. The second point is the tenderness the creature shows towards the blindman and th child, using the flute with its sweet and melodious sound, similar to the tone or voice of a mother or woman when speaks to a child. Finally, the alienation that the monster suffers when confronting society, exactly as women suffered in those days. Frankenstein feels subdued to man, Man represented by society.
This gives a second reading to the text : Men are not only a unity but rather a group formed by men and women, while the monster is only one character who clearly takes the subdued character of the woman in those days.
It´s now time to discuss all the main topics reflected in the book. As we have said before, women as beings who live and die on earth have always been forced to take a submissive posture in front of the strong presence of men who pass in frot of them, making the main lines to be followed by society, establishing supremecy in all fields of knowledge including literature.
When we speak about women we always have them in mind as comparisons of men, without the same rights and feelings in relationship to society, the same thing that happened to Frankenstein who was to become the most known feminine character in Mary Shelley´s literary works.
One instance is enough to show that Frankenstein goes beyond the feminity of any of the characters depicted in the book : when he finds the little girl playing in the wood, while he plays his flute, the sibling doesn´t show any type of hatred towards him and, what´s more, he gives her his flute in a posture of lovingness and sweetness; these feelings, not revealed in men during those times Frankenstein without saying a word only implying with his gestures convinces the child that he is not to be feared, although his appearance is strange.
Perhaps this leads us on to ask ourselves if Mary Shelley´s work was only a simple femenist idea or a futuristic look into the far future, with hints of terror, trying to escape from the horror brought about by scientific investigation, and at the same time realizing a strong criticism of her society, these facts exist although not easy to discover.
All these factors indicate that not all masculine figures must be presented through manly traits mor that all scientific advancements must be well looked on by the totality of society. There's much to be said in favour on both sides always keeping in mind the historical and political society of this time where woman takes a second place, which was Frankenstein's case. In a nutshell, any progress in science or feminine rights in a male society, will always lead to a traditional way of life, present in any community which doesn't accept a minority status, maintaining the long lasting civic attitudes generation after generation.
The best way of summing up is to bring this lilterary work up to date where the ideas exposed would be valid in our present society. For this reason that is why any novel which fits in any society is read and filmed over and over again.
The inescapable conclusion which emerges is that any deformity of the accepted wether physical, mental or moral produces an ostracism due to a lack of understanding or repulsion of the community. This situation lived by Frankenstein after being reborn and alocated a new life is disowned by those who surround him including his most fervent follower, his creator.
A creator who in refusing him, hurts him more, converting Frankenstein into an individual inside the collectivity of the community. The creature lacks the father, manly figure which forces him to take cover in his own solitude, loosting his repugnance against everyone and everythibg which leads him to seek for his own personal revenge. A type of revenge which will be carried out until reaching the ultimate consequences, hurting the person he loves or hates most. Victor Frankenstein who be prived him of both a wife and a father figure. Inspite of this Frankenstein regrets his actions because he longs to show that he has feelings as everybody else, although disposed of them he'll seek recognition in any violent form. A violence which will frame Frankenstein as a monster and deprive him of entering society. In the last instance Frankenstein cries for his creator, the father figure, who gave him his identity and existence.
The lesson learnt from the feminist point of view in this literary novel is that the role of the unprotected woman in society in the XVIII's has evolutioned as well as Frankenstein has changed during the story and through the following centuries.
Socially speaking, physical or mental malformations have reased to be considered as a blight on any community and slowly these people are being integrated into society, where ever possible concerning the scientific experiment carried out by Victor Frankenstein it was considered inmoral to investigate with human corpses, although today we accept the idea than transplants have improved our quality of life.
Finally misshapen feminism, technichal and scientifical break throughs have stopped being the objective to fight against traditional and conservative societies.
© Copyright Juan Pérez Moreno
Created 23/04/99 Updated 23/04/99
Academic year 2008/2009
© a.r.e.a./Dr.Vicente Forés López
© Lorena Levy Ballester