The Role of Women in Mary Shelley’s FrankensteinWhether an author is conscious of the fact or not, a fictional work cannot avoid reflecting the political, social, economic, and religious background of the author. Therefore, regardless of Frankenstein’s categorization being that of science fiction, Mary Shelley reveals her own fears and thoughts, and, as a result, reveals a great deal about the time and place in which she wrote. She mentions specific geographical locations throughout Europe, she raises ethical questions concerning the synthesis of life, and she writes in the context of popular contemporary philosophy and the importance of environment vs. experiences. Most importantly to this essay, however, is the manner in which Shelley reflects the characteristics of the Romantic period in which it was written and its attitudes toward women.
In an article that discusses female authors during this time period, we find that Romanticism was a male-dominated movement. The same article states that this dominance prevented female authors from being given the same consideration as males (Behrendt 147). Moreover, women who crossed this “culturally-imposed boundary” were routinely charged with “unnaturalness” or “monstrosity” (Ibid.). This is clearly portrayed through the author herself, particularly in the introduction of the novel where her introduction is full of apologies for her work. Despite the self-proclaimed pressure to become a writer in the expectation of continuation of her parents’ writing, the story is wrought with marks of difficulties of having been taken less than seriously.
One place where it is particularly evident is in the preface of the book, although parts were writte…
…ely, in the representation of Shelley herself in the monster.
Works Cited and Consulted:
Behrendt, Stephen C. “New Romanticisms for Old: Displacing Our Expectations and Our Models.” Midwest Quarterly. Winter 2000: 145-159.
Kelly, G. “Unbecoming a Heroine.” Nineteenth Century Literature. September 1990: 220-242.
Lowe-Evans, Mary. Frankenstein: Mary Shelly’s Wedding Guest. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1993.
Oates, Joyce Carol. “Frankenstein: Creation as Catastrophe.” Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1987.
Seymour, Miranda. Mary Shelley. Savannah, Georgia: Grove/Atlantic Publishers, August 2001.
Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. Frankenstein. Edited by Johann Smith. Boston: St. Martin’s Press, 1992.
Tropp, Martin. Mary Shelly’s Monster. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1976.