Women as Submissive Commodity: An Irony in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

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Women as Submissive Commodity: An Irony in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

By – Kamana Aryal (introduction at the end of the paper), Vol.III, Issue.XXIX, June 2017


In this paper, there was an attempt to explore how Mary Shelly attacked the then patriarchal society by representing her female characters in a very ironical way because that time did not allow her to rebel openly. Being a daughter of a revolutionary feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, she had positioned herself as a feminist author in order to rebel against the women’s discrimination in the society and in the literature but in a very sardonic way.  The paper, even, tried to prove how Shelly had indirectly connected the monster with the plight of female. Shelly’s use of monster was her rage to patriarchy for the loss of her own child. The protagonist of the novel, Victor Frankenstein tried to go against the law of nature parodying himself as a pregnant mother to give birth to the monster. He devalued the significance of women and the rules and norms that usher the world. Shelly presented Victor as a representative figure of patriarchy, mockingly, to bout her so-called male-oriented society. There was an endeavour to justify, in this discussion paper, the effort of portraying the biased nature of the then patriarchal society by catching, especially, the female characters of Shelly, through the feminist lens, to prove how the novel spoke  louder in favour of the suppressed women of the contemporary time.

Key words: Feministic perspective, ironical representation, submissive women, patriarchy, women’s voice


The novel Frankenstein presents irony in several ways. The title of the novel itself is entitled after a male figure in sardonic way which carries the deep meaning that Shelley is attempting to give a reversal load upon the title. The combination of a complex novel and the mass of biographical information that circumscribes her life generates an plethora of possible feeling and intentions that the author may have possessed. Frankenstein is also presumed to reveal, or betray, many different and opposing attitudes she may have held towards those around her. [Sic] (Botting, 1991: 75). In 1792, Mary Shelley’s mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, published the first great feminist treatise, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. The text provides an excellent picture of the patriarchal society into which Frankenstein’s author was born, detailing the lack of rights, property, and respect afforded females in the late 18th century (Mayer, 2009). Being a daughter of such rebellious, daring and independent woman we can assume that she must have the impression of her mother who is the first renowned feminists to build her place in the literary arena. Cudd and Andreasen state that, “Feminist theory is the attempt to make intellectual sense of, and then to critique, the subordination of women to men” (1). When feminists examine late eighteenth and early nineteenth century female writers, they notice the difficulties these women had to face in “a predominantly male tradition” (Richardson 13). The only place for these women within the literary world was the novel, since most of the public sphere was dominated by the “male hegemony” (Richardson 13). Shelly learns from her mother to be sturdy and independent in a patriarchal society and she is teaching the same to all the women in a sarcastic way. More than this, she even learns to tackle with patriarchal society in matters that disheartens women to participate in activities through her writings. Due to Shelley’s painful life she is obliquely attacking this male dominated society.

Through the Frankenstein Shelley is trying to display the greatness of the women. She showed her courage to ironically revolt against the stereotypical society in such period when women were kept inside the four walls of the house. It is a very relevant question why Shelly felt necessary to write Frankenstein. Badalamenti notes that, “At the same time, these aspects point to an explanation of why she felt a need to write Frankenstein: “The present view is that the story she chose to write is the story she needed to write” (438). She was familiar to her society and Frankenstein became a mean of scriptotherapy to come out of her traumas as well as a source to fight against patriarchy. While reading Frankenstein one cannot help but notice that the women characters seem to have little substance as compared to male characters. This may have been caused by the time in which a woman “was conditioned to think she needed a man’s help.” It was supposed that women could get overcome from their poor condition only by the support of men. It cynically attacks such poor male thought which considers female as spire rib of men. In the novel itself no woman speaks directly. The novel opens and ends with male characters. The book has three basic male narrators: Robert Walton, Victor Frankenstein, and Frankenstein’s monster. Shelley ironically characterizes each woman as submissive, disposable and serving a utilitarian function. Female characters provide nothing more but a channel of action for the male characters in the novel. They are presented in the novel only to reflect the male characters. Male characters like Alphonse, Victor, Henry, monster are described in detail but female characters have very little substance role. Most of the female characters are presented as poor, orphan, helpless whereas male characters are described in detail way giving high class respectable personality. So, the novel roams within the periphery of feministic approach to criticize the patriarchal society ironically presenting female characters subordinate to male characters in which Shelley, on the one hand, sardonically criticizing the society where women are treated as second sex and cause of fall, on the other hand, she is articulating the women’s value.


According to Sebastian Urbina, “In a wide sense, we can say that any procedure to reach a given end would be a method” (1). This research paper uses literature based discussion method. The novel, Frankenstein is the complete source of data for the author to write this paper. The author discusses about ironical representation of submissive women in the novel, Frankenstein through the feministic lens. The researcher carries mainly the female characters and tries to justify how their passivity and submissiveness are the means to assist the novelist to ironically attack the then patriarchal society. In every female characters, the author tries to prove her claim how Mary Shelly uses feministic approach to empower the women through their poor representation. The paper attempts to prove that poor representation of female characters is the tactic of Shelly to rebel against patriarchy for its discrimination against the female. Shelly could not attack directly to patriarchy because during her time women were kept inside the four walls of the house. Women were not allowed to speak openly in the public area. To speak in public by a woman meant taking risk to lose one’s own life. Thus, Shelly shows her courage to rebel, indirectly, speaking against patriarchy through her words in Frankenstein. She is trying to show the mirror to patriarchal society so that it can see its face to know how it is murdering the lives of women by its brutal hands. The same thing, the author tries to justify in this research paper.

            The author makes the connection between Mary Shelly and the Monster to prove how Shelly is attacking the so called male dominated society of her time by using the character called monster. Shelly challenges the patriarchal society that it is not easy job to be a mother and giving birth to a child and raising the child are beyond the capability of a male. Shelly stands Victor Frankenstein as a patriarchal figure and through him she slaps the males who impregnate women and suffer them from miscarriage. By bringing Victor Frankenstein, Shelly rebukes patriarchy for its mistreatment to women. It is so because it mistreats women but without them it cannot exist even for a second. That is why, Victor fails to raise monster as a good parent. The author in this paper attempts to justify how Shelly lost her three child and birth of a monster in this novel is her anger to patriarchy to teach a bitter lesson that giving birth to a child and raising it is just like sacrificing one’s life. The author tries to prove this statement with the image of Victor Frankenstein as a representative figure of patriarchy.

The author also uses the philosophical lens of interpretivism for the contextual meaning making process of Mary Shelly’s agendas about women empowerment of her time. According to interpretivism, the study of social phenomena requires an understanding of the social world that people have constructed and which they reproduce through their continuing activities. However, people are constantly involved in interpreting and reinterpreting their world- social situations, other people’s actions, their own action, and natural and humanly created objects. They develop meaning for their activities together, and they have ideas about what is relevant for making sense of these activities (Blaikie, 124). Shelly portrays the picture of her society in Frankenstein interpreting the plight of the female characters due to patriarchy. Her novel is the mirror reflection of 19th Century and it develops the meaning of her feministic approach through which she is taking her action to rebel against patriarchy by the means of words.



Caroline Beaufort

Caroline Beaufort is the major milestone of the novel because without her victor would not come in earth and the story would not get birth under his name. But she is presented as very passive, week, poor and helpless woman despite being the major source for the creation of novel. She marries to a man who is the age of her father because at that time woman was conditioned to think that her life could not move ahead without a man’s assistance. The brutal condition and injustice towards female in this patriarchal society is epitomized by Caroline. There is no match of age, thought, mind and level but she marries him. She is very benevolent, kind hearted, loving daughter, wife and sacrificing mother. These are the typical and expected roles for woman to play. In this context Anne Mellor suggests that “[…] Shelley presents these rather passive characters as if, through their secondary status, she could express her frustration with and resentment of the bourgeois, patriarchal family model so prevalent in her own day” (Mellor qtd. in Morrison in Fisher and Silber, 112). She is like Florence nightingale figure. Her passivity is not only the mirror of contemporary society but also a critique of it. She gives up her life while treating the Elizabeth. She does not even care that the scarlet fever might catch her. Finally it catches her and she falls down in the death bed. Even being in death bed she worries for her children. She joins the hands of Elizabeth and victor and says:

 “My Children, my firmest hopes of future happiness were placed on the prospect of your union. This expectation will now be the consolation of your father. Elizabeth, my love, you must supply my place to my younger children. Alas! I regret than I am taken from you….in another world.”(32-33)

She dies calmly and her countenance expressed affection in death. She gives life to Elizabeth and death to herself. She is presented as a sacrificing great mother with the message that there is nothing greater than Mother in the world. Though she plays very utilitarian role she is the pillar of the novel. Catherine Kevin holds that “Frankenstein reflects Mary Shelley’s experience of the trauma of parturition and postpartum depression may tell us about women’s lives, but it reduces the text to monstrous symptom” (132). Shelly could not get the love of her mother because her mother died after the eleven days of her birth, and second she lost her own three children within the four years. Her melancholic situation made her to realize the value of mother in life and through Caroline she is trying give the clear picture of greatness of mother. It’s an irony to this society which degrades the women without considering that it is breathing only because females have given life to it. That’s why Shelley attacks the stereotypical male minded thought which measured the female as a commodity. Actually the female are those creatures from whom males get life to enter in this world. Though Caroline is sacrificing mother, her sacrifice is a deep inner satire to this male dominated society.

Elizabeth Lavenza

Perhaps the most important emotional channel in the novel is Frankenstein’s bothered Elizabeth Lavenza. She is orphaned daughter of Milanese nobleman and German mother. Caroline has sympathy and concerns for the orphan child because she had already suffered being an orphan child. Elizabeth has been presented as orphan, poor, helpless girl who is later adopted by Frankenstein family.  In this regard Catherin Kevin again argues that:

The women in Frankenstein hardly exist in more substantial form than the most cardboard stereotypes of submissive gentleness. The only exception is Elizabeth’s apparently brief venture into disillusionment. It is arguable that the female character’s very vapidity and helplessness is a comment on gender: that their appearance in the novel as more or less passive victims, deliberately displays the marginal status of women at the time. (32)

Though Elizabeth has very week and substance role in the novel as like other female characters, she is the epitome of virtue and love that wins over victor’s indifferent and ignorant behavior. Elizabeth has become like the citadel of the family after the death of the Caroline. Here, Shelley attempts to show the picture of female stereotype-‘passive angel in the house’ when Elizabeth takes over the place of Caroline. Women make the men to realize the essentiality of love, family and relationship but those men consider them submissive and passive creatures. In the same way Elizabeth is described as submissive, gentle character from the beginning and she has always been a soft spot for her fiancée. Despite victor’s indifference towards her, she awaits him for six years. But victor views her as his possession: “I looked upon Elizabeth as mine- mine to protect, love and cherish. All praises bestowed on her I received made to possession of my own” (25). His possession eludes male’s perception towards women as a puppet which they can use in anyway what they want. Monster murders Elizabeth in order to hurt his creator as deeply as possible. She becomes a tool to measure the relationship between victor and monster. John Stuart Mill notes that men “turned the whole force of education to effect their purpose” (132). Mill means to say that women and their education should, always stand to serve the needs of men. Even when her life is threatened, however, Frankenstein still holds the game of reasons between himself and his monster above protecting Elizabeth.  Instead of staying with her and guarding her on his wedding night, he guards the principles:

“She left me, and I continued some time walking up and down the passages of the house, and inspecting every corner that might afford a retreat to my adversary. But I discovered no trace of him, and was beginning to conjecture that some fortunate chance had intervened to prevent the execution of his menaces; when suddenly I heard a shrill and dreadful scream.”(176)

She has become another indolent victim in this game of insanity and male centered bedlam. She has been demeaned and reduced to simple tool of revenge, along with the other female characters appearing in Frankenstein. Victor doesn’t once think that monster can kill his wife instead of killing him. Instead he sends her away and worries for her how she will live without him but does not think that if anything happens to her how he will live in the absence of her. Shelley ironically presents the so called male superiority which considers female as abandoned and impassive creature. In the same way, Elizabeth has proven that women are judged in terms of their beauty and appearance in this patriarchal society. In this regard Wollstonecraft views that:

Women are told from their infancy, and taught by the example of their mothers, that a little knowledge of human weakness, justly termed cunning, softness of temper, outward obedience, and a scrupulous attention to a puerile kind of propriety, will obtain for them the protection of man; and should they be beautiful, everything else is needless, for, at least, twenty years of their lives. 13 [Sic]

Caroline chooses Elizabeth among five children because she is very beautiful attractive with fair face blue eyes and golden hair. Her angelic beauty and motion is emphasized much. These traits are like tool to women to recognize themselves as “women” in this patriarchal society.

Justine Mortiz          

Submissive and passive role is reflected by the Justine Mortiz too. She is very weak, disposable, seldom vocal character in the novel. She is tossed back and forth between her family and Frankenstein’s. Her mother dislikes her due to her closeness towards her father. Is it a crime for the daughter to be closed to her father? Remorseful condition compels her to work as a servant in Frankenstein’s family. She is presented as very enduring girl. She withstands the curses of her mother who blames her for the death of her brother and sister. She even does not get peace and rest in victor’s house because she falls in the conspiracy of monster and is accused of murdering William Frankenstein. She accepts the crime despite being innocent because she does not want to destroy the tranquility of Frankenstein family. In her own words she explains:

“God knows how entirely I am innocent. But I do not pretend that my protestations should acquit me: I rest my innocence on a plain and simple explanation of the facts which have been adduced against me; and I hope the character I have always borne will incline my judges to favorable interpretation, where any circumstance appears doubtful of suspicious.”(69)

Not only her speech and actions are passive rather she has given a very minor role. She is the main person who saves the life of victor Frankenstein and protects the serene life of Frankenstein’s family. She sacrificed her life due to the male pride and egotism and the executor is society and its law enforcement. Even after such sacrifice she is presented as minor character.


Agatha is the daughter of De Lacy, blind violinist, lives in the cottage whom the monster studies. She is very kind and gentle, embodies all the virtues and sensibility. These are the first lessons that the monster learns from her, he has never seen such tenderness before now. He mostly moves by her when she interacts with her blind father: ‘Agatha listened with respect, her eyes sometimes filled with tears, which she endeavored to wipe away unperceived’ (98). Here, Agatha’s love for her father is contrast to victor’s indifference towards his family. She represents that daughters are very loveable and understanding. Though she plays passive role, her kind and love get won over dreadful monster. Agatha’s female character, through its inactive and tender nature, serves to teach monster his first lesson on human relationships and love. Here woman again is presented as commodity. She does not go outside the territory of her house. She finishes her daily domestic deeds and her brother uses to go to the jungle to collect firewood. Typical domestic life of woman is reflected by Agatha but symbolically again gives the message that without woman there can’t be fire in the hearth and male cannot be fed.


The monster’s next lesson comes from another female, close to Agatha, Safie. She is he lover of Alex, Agatha’s brother. When she arrives at cottage she does not know much about English language. Safie’s learning of English from Agatha and Felix becomes the source of monster’s learning. Though she is presented as passive female she becomes the educational end of the monster. The monster’s first academic education results:

“My days were spent in close attention that I might more speedily master the language; and I may boast that I improved more rapidly than the Arabian, who understood very little and conversed in broken accents, whilst I comprehended and could imitate almost every word that was spoken.” (103)

Monster as a child learns language from Safie who becomes mother figure for him. It is great symbol because Safie here represents those mothers who teach protect, nurse and beget the child. She is a mean to his academic success. It symbolizes that man needs woman to move forward their life then why they always try to be superior and count the female less than human being? After observing Safie monster gets realized that he needs a female partner in his life. Need and support of the woman for man is symbolically suggested by monster. Though Safie is yet another passive female figure she contributes for the improvement of the monster as action directing female character. How woman are morally good, though they are treated as passive figure, is presented by Safie. She does not curse her father even after his cruelty towards her but she leaves him and catches the hands of her lover. In a way, she breaks the stereotypical conventions and presents herself as independent, strong, and courageous girl. In this regard Morrison states: “Only with Arabian Safie does Shelley step outside those societal boundaries which ensured female submission to parental direction and to dutiful, retiring domesticity” (Morrison qtd. in Fisher and Silber, 112). It is also a satire to this society which assigns weak and domestic kind of duties to female. Shelley has presented Safie to slap the so called male dominated society to make it aware that women are not what it perceives all the time. Her father breaks his promise after fulfilling his selfish desire. She chooses her love in front of her father’s cruelty. It shows that males are heartless, fake, egoistic, and misanthropic but females know how to keep the faith upon the love. She might have got good moral values from her mother who endures the slavery for long time.

Margaret Saville      

Margaret Saville is perhaps the most passive character of all. She does not speak in the novel which symbolizes the ‘female silence’. We hear only her name not her role. Whatever, she is useful to us as an audience because without her there is no reason in Walton to convey his story. Yet, we never meet this character nor do we know is she really exists, if she never reads the story ad gets the letters, or if she has anything to say about it. Walton needs his sister to confess his story. See, women are the parallel to men but they are considered as second sex. Why Robert Walton sends letter to his sister? There might be other to whom he can send but he does not do so it is because women are really understanding, matured, and sensible with soft and kind heart. It is also a bitter satire to so called patriarchal society which disregards female but cannot live without female as well. She is the most distant and passive female character in the novel and also the most necessary to the novel as a whole.


Shelly’s main aim, in this novel, is to release her sunk anger towards so called male dominated society. When we dig about her history, she could not get her mother’s love due to her mother’s death after eleven days of her birth. Helem Buss et al. forward the view of Syndy Conger, “Syndy Conger, for example, persuasively argues that Mary Wollstonecraft can be seen in many of the characters in Frankenstein and that the number of motherless daughters (and sons) in Frankenstein recalls Shelley’s birth and Mary Wollstonecraft’s death” (132). Shelly as well lost her three child with in four years. She became widow very early. Johnson argues that Shelley gives “birth to herself on paper” (8). That’s why, on the on hand, she is trying to show the greatness of mother by showing the abandon monster who is shunned by everyone. On the other hand, creating monster may be her rebel against the patriarchy which made her pregnant many times but snatched her motherhood before facing the face of her child. Moers argues that, “Frankenstein is a “birth myth, and one that was lodged in the novelist’s imagination” (92). It is so because she already lost her one of her children before writing the Frankenstein that is why she is, in a way, showing her rage to the males. Therefore, she makes Victor a pathetic creator of the monster. She is mocking to the males to teach that it is not easy to give birth to the child and play the role of a mother.  The Monster said to Victor with immense rage filled by agony:

All men hate the wretched; how, then, must I be hated, who am miserable beyond all living things! Yet you, my creator, detest and spurn me, thy creature, to whom thou art bound by ties only dissoluble by the annihilation of one of us. You purpose to kill me. How dare you sport thus with life? Do your duty towards me, and I will do mine towards you and the rest of mankind. If you will comply with my conditions, I will leave them and you at peace; but if you refuse, I will glut the maw of death, until it be satiated with the blood of your remaining friends. (113)

He is starved for the love of his master, whom he regards as his creator (mother) but Victor eschewed him. Due to which the monster takes revenge with Victor by killing his family members and friend, Henry Clerval. Shelly, in this way expresses her rage to this so called patriarchal society, particularly to her husband who made her pregnant many times only to hold the happiness for a while. She faced dead faces of her three child, with no break, within four years. So, presenting monster as a shunned child is her indirect indignant to so called patriarchal society where female is considered as a second sex to whom male can do anything. Giving birth is like facing a death and she took the risk to face the death for three times. In this regard, Anne K. Mellor forwards that the personal catastrophes and the circumstances of Shelly’s life assured her that “human beings are … mere puppets in the hands of destiny” (173) which finally led her to beget her novel. So, indirectly, she is displaying her deep anger to so called male oriented society who aggrieved her a lot. Mother is a god for her child but this society considers her contribution as naught. Giving birth to child is very easy matter for males. Shelly shows what complications a mother has to bear while giving birth to a child. She also sacrifices her all desires and dreams while nurturing a child. Barbara Johnson views that, “The story of Frankenstein is, after all, the story of a man who usurps the female role by physically giving birth to a child” (23).Though, Victor does not give birth to monster but he creates it spending nine months. He acts as its mother. But he runs away from his responsibilities to raise his creation. So, Shelly shows giving birth is not only enough rather to raise and nourish the child is a bigger responsibility. In this regard, J. Paul Hunter argues that, “ Victor can also be understood as an abusive or criminally negligent parent of either gender- a father- creator in some sense rivalling God (and therefore a stand- in for Satan or a monstrous mother and then abandoning it” (CH. The Reading Monster). Victor makes the monster an orphan due to which Victor suffers a lot.  This way, she is trying to show the importance of woman without whom the society cannot subsist.


Presenting the monster as a major character of her novel, Shelly proves that the Gothic fiction is particularly a sphere of women. Anne k. Mellor views that in Frankenstein Shelly has “powerfully reinforced the tradition of the Gothic novel as a peculiarly female domain” (55). Again she forwards that, Shelly’s use of gothic in her novel is to display the “repressed female desire” (56) which is a keen rage to patriarchy. In this case, Mellor again argues that, “In a patriarchal culture which assigns linguistic and social authority to men, the very act of woman’s speaking in public is a trespass on male domains” (56).  The novel is the proof that begins the women’s era with worth and prestige in literature. Thus, the monster is the vital portrayal of Shelly’s wrath against patriarchy.

On the other hand, she presents a male monster abandoned and alienated, satirizing to males to show what women feel when they are rejected by this society. She is indirectly comparing the monster with the plight of the women in the patriarchal society. I think she has presented monster as abandoned and isolated creature to symbolize the marginalized, alienated and repressed situation of female in the patriarchal society. Devon Hodges argues that, “Like the monster, woman in a patriarchal society is defined as an absence, an enigma, mystery, or crime, or she is allowed to be a presence only so that she can be defined as a lack, a mutilated body that must be repressed to enable men to join the symbolic order and maintain their mastery” (162). Women are given place in the society so that the men can suppress them and prove themselves as superior being. They try to be superior not through other activities but by dominating women. Monster want to be the part of society but his hideous figure and lack of knowledge and language make the society to spurn him. He does not have his own language. In this regard, Noel Carroll views that, “one thing that Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is about illustrating the notion that a person is not innately evil but rather is driven to what we know call anti- social behaviour as a result of the way he or she is treated by society “ (197). Monster learns to speak only after listening and reading human language and words. Similarly, females are also called second sex who have not their own language rather they are surviving on male’s language. That is why they are relegated in this patriarchal society. They are not born as “women” instead they are made women by the language i.e. created by the so called male society. Monster is not born instead it is human creation. He does not have his own identity because of which he is rebelling. Laurence M. Porter views that, “In Frankenstein, the monster’s self- education gradually convinces it that it has no chance of being accepted into society” (89). Monster does not desire to be a rebel; he wants to be assimilated into society. But people’s odium and disgusting attitude towards him make him a vengeful creature. In the same way, in today’s time female are asking for their right and raising their voice because of the domination of the patriarchal society.


Male’s indifference towards family is represented by Victor. He has not meet his family members from last six years. His goal, desire and over ambition make him solitude person. He is far away from his family and even in Ingolstadt he is not social because he does not have any connection with anyone, lives in an isolated apartment that is in very secluded area. In contrast to him Elizabeth is presented as domestic, caring, nurturing typical house girl. But however in this case female’s passivity and affection towards her family wins over Victor’s unresponsive and ignorant behavior. Victor is so cruel, unsocial, inhuman, and uncaring towards his family and society because of being deprived from the love of the mother in very early age. He does not get mother’s love affection. In this regard Chariene Bunell argues that, “Victor is not satisfied with merely the possessing of endowing life; he must enact it abandoning home and family to do so. However, he finds that his self-created role mirrors the familial relationship that he has rejected” (48). That’s why he fails to understand that Elizabeth is waiting for him from so many years. Mother, who teaches the real value of life to children, is lacking in Victor’s life. The creature is, therefore, the product of overconfident, glory-based science, but he is also the result of bad, and insufficient parenting caused by the fact that there was only one parent (and he did not possess the’ inherent nurturing qualities usually accredited to women’ wherefore he failed as a ‘mother’ (Morrison in Fisher and Silber, 2003: 113)). That’s why he encloses himself with the machines and chemicals. Victor, during fulfilling his dream work of creating monster, disregards everyone but when he collapses in problem he needs Elizabeth to comfort him. See, how the females are thought to be puppet/ commodity/marionette which can be used in any way that male wants. Victor is also a symbol because when man deprives from the love and affection of woman he becomes evil minded. It means man’s life becomes desert and even like hell if he does not get love, affection and support of woman. Even after such fact men do not cease to dominate and quash women but in fact indirectly they are suppressing their own life; their “Gardner” of life.

            Woman as a marionette and commodity is symbolically presented in the novel with deep inner satire. Dying to get the love of someone, Monster demanded to victor to manage a female partner for him, “You must create a female for me with whom I can live in the interchange of those sympathies necessary for my being. This you alone can do, and I demand it of you as a right which you must not refuse to concede” (174).  Monster’s demand to victor to create female partner for him symbolizes male’s degrade thought towards female who takes the female as a means to please him. In fact, victor himself is a kind of monster because without having malicious mind a devil cannot be created. Hume argues that “a passion may be called unreasonable when it is directed at the wrong object, or it has the wrong means to satisfy it” (Mounce 70). Victor’s ceasing to create female monster reflects what he thinks about female. Victor fears that if he creates female monster she might emerge ten thousands more malignant than her mate in murder and wretchedness. She might give birth to many children if they re-unite. To further the irony, Victor explains his refusal by calling the potential completion of the female and act of “atrocious selfishness” (Shelley 148). Why he roams his mind around the dangers possible through the female monster but he did not think in such way while creating male monster. Not only is Victor’s creation unnecessary, the implications for society are obvious and dangerous: “Artificial creations call upon [humanity] to come forth with an alien, artificial quasi wisdom or quasi intelligence to deal with them” (Heatherly 75). Victor tries to go against the law of natural reproduction instead he tries to take the place of a woman to give birth to the Monster. Victor, therefore, is punished by the nature. In a sense, Victor takes the power he has acquired through knowledge and attempted to reproduce it to the point where it treads on the laws of nature. Gary Westfahl argues that:

Despite its lack of empowered female characters, Frankenstein can be interpreted as a fantasy of “womb envy” (male desire to usurp female reproductive power), a cautionary tale against irresponsible and unethical (masculine) science, and/or a story about a man-made creature whose disempowerment mirrors women’s social status, all of which establish the novel as an important originality text for feminist concerns in science fiction and fantasy. (290)

It clearly presents the partiality, tendentious and male ego of patriarchal society that considers the woman as a cause of fall. David Del Principe argues that, “When Victor Frankenstein experiments with the “vital spark” he imperiously usurps women’s sexual and reproductive organs and “mothers” a child all on his own, sending a clear message of women’s dispensability in every realm of society right down to their exclusive right to generation” (95).  Is woman really dreadful being from whom the society needs to fear?  How deeply Shelley has created a deep satire to so called patriarchal society who has made the female silence like scarecrow and puppet placing them in marginalized position. She is very tactful because she knows how to attack this derogative and tapered minded male oriented society. She presents the female characters very docile and suppressive, even she doesn’t give the prime roles to them. She does so not to accept her position handed by male but to revolt the old age suppressive roles given to female.


While observing the novel through the feministic lens we must adore the dare of Mary shelly to write such rebellious novel mocking her patriarchal society. During her period women were not thought to be capable of sharing their feelings and ideas in a public sphere which was predominantly the male’s arena. The women were tutored to keep their ideas and notions within the four walls of their habitants. They were commodified as objects and means to comfort the men’s life. Shelly portrays the deranged relationship between men and women. Victor Frankenstein, the protagonist of the novel, takes his fiancé Elizabeth as “being for nothing”. It is so because he neglects her for at least six years. When the tumultuous time veils his life he needs her for the warmth and comfy. Elizabeth efforts to persuade Victor for returning to Geneva. But it is like her plead before him, with empty words and praise authorial words of Victor. Justine Mortiz, even being a significant person who saves Frankenstein family from the ruin, her innocence counts nothing in front of the townsmen and her life ends with unjustifiable execution. Though Victor knows everything about the virtuousness of Justine he speaks nothing in her defense. He wobbles, again, to take decision whether to create female monster or not. He silences the voice of the women be refusing to create female monster.  He underestimates the value of women that’s why he fears to create female monster because he assumes that it will destroy the universe. “A little gossip concerning the good people of Geneva” (41) that Elizabeth shares to victor, in her letter written to convince Victor to Geneva, is defined as idle talk or rumor. She is pictured as fool who does not have anything to do except making idle talks. Being a female, Shelly marks the weaknesses of Elizabeth to film how women during 19th century were snared by the web of patriarchy. Irony means difference between appearance and reality and by showing the pathetic side of female characters Shelly actually throwing arrows to patriarchal society. She is not presenting herself rebellious directly rather she places the female characters in a very pitiable situation in order to reflect the mirror to show how her society is treating the females. For instance, Elizabeth describes women commenting about their looks but she disregards appearances rather focuses on profession while describing the men. It reflects how Elizabeth has the biased notion, because of living in patriarchal society that the worth of women lies in their beauty. The contrast in Elizabeth’s manner of describing men and women is a sharp critique of patriarchal culture where women are considered as paltry thing or marginalized and impassive. Simone de Beauvoir states that the women are “the Other” (xxii) Beauvoir also forwards that woman is “defined and differentiated with reference to man and not he with reference to her” (xxii). Elizabeth writes a long letter, though it is full of “gossip”, she begs Victor if he can’t write long, his one word of reply will be a blessing for her. The one word of Victor has given much weigh rather than the long letter of Elizabeth. It shows how the men overpowers women creating their authority over the use of words and language.

            Similarly, despite having power over words Victor does not help Justine. When he hears about his brother’s murder and Justine is accused of it he is shocked because he knows that the real culprit his own creation, Monster. Justine’s appeal of innocence is not counted as worthy only because of her status as a female. Justine “sometimes struggled with her tears, but when she was desired to plead, she collected her powers and spoke in an audible although variable voice” (53).  She stays strong to prove herself innocent but she loses her hope and dare to speak out when she talks to Victor, “And do you believe that I am so very, very wicked? Do you also join with my enemies to crush me, to condemn me as a murderer?” Her voice was suffocated with sobs” (56). She can’t get the justice because her real enemies are the men who doom her as a murderer simply with words. She speaks to prove her as naïve but her voice is no longer audible to anyone.  Wollstonecraft states that “as blind obedience is ever sought for by power, tyrants and sensualists are in the right when they endeavor to keep women in the dark, because the former only want slaves, and [the] latter a play-thing” (90). This strongly suggests that if women continually accepts, blindly, the rules the patriarchal society they will not get the equality and justice ever rather they will be oppressed forever. Victor, rather, becomes one of Justine’s enemies who chooses to be blind to Justine’s sufferings. He closes his ears and blinds his eyes from seeing the truth and reality. He is lost in his own emotions, “the horrid anguish”.  He tries to escape away from his feelings of guilt but cannot find the place to hide. James Kozubek quoted Miller that, “Victor found he could not confide the truth about what had caused his breakdown” (204).  How far he tries to run away from his crime, he cannot find any place to save himself. He does not save Justine because he fears townspeople will know about his creation. It shows how Victor, one after another, tries to mute the voice of Elizabeth and Justine.

            Victor refuses the plea of Monster in order to create a female monster. The monster requests to Victor to make a female partner for him, “No Eve soothed my sorrows nor shared my thoughts; I was alone. I remembered Adam’s supplication to his Creator. But where was mine? He had abandoned me, and in the bitterness of my heart I cursed him” (91).  Victor fears if the female monster will become very intellectual and reasoning animal then everything will be collapsed. Just as how eve tempted Adam to eat the apple of the “Tree of Knowledge”, Victor fears that the female monster “might refuse to comply with a compact before her creation”.  Here, the compact refers to the monster’s promise to live in South America in isolation being contactless with all humans. In this regard, Esther Schor argues that, “The fact that Victor constructs the body and then, when contemplating the realities of sexuality, desire, and reproduction, rips that body apart, suggests that the female body is for Victor infinitely more threatening and “monstrous” than was the creature’s male body” (52).  With markedly unheroic self-pity, Frankenstein neglects his responsibility for his creature, rejecting it as ugly and grotesque (36, Korte and Lethbridge). Victor doubts that if he creates female monster she might surely break the compact and destroys the universe. However, he is the first who ruined the balance of nature by creating monster and becoming a god. According to Annette R. Federico, “Victor disrupts the natural ecological cycle as he usurps the processes of decomposition in order to create life (83). So, it is not about the destruction of nature and world that he fears rather, he is afraid whether his status as a god will be exposed. He regrets because he cannot control over his own creation. For Victor, the female creature is a “thing” because he does not consider her as a fellow being. He regards himself as a more elevated being than the female monster. He elevates himself above Adam’s creator because he not only creates life but also destructs life by preventing the idea of making female monster. He murders female creature in order to silence the female creature’s voice.

Victor projects this overwhelming fear onto Elizabeth Frankenstein, Justine Moritz, and the female creature with the influence of his words. Throughout the novel, Victor tries to maintain his unbalanced power relationship with these women and he struggles with all these women to be the master of them. He considers Elizabeth’s letter as worthless gossip and does not counter her sexiest statement about the value of women lies in their physical beauty, nor does he reply to the town gossip. Rather, he prides himself in the heavy weight of his one word of blessing carries. He also neglects to help Justine to establish justice with his words. He ignores her plea even after knowing that she is innocent. He refuses to create female monster. He runs away from his responsibility once he breaks his promise to create female monster.  He fears whether the female monster will disrupts the nature. In fact he is the one who at first breaks the law of nature.  These all consequences brings his own ultimate downfall.



The author made a hypothesis that Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein is the ironical representation of submissive women. To prove this hypothesis or claim she provided reasons with evidences. These reasons and evidences provided the result that Shelly, actually, wrote the novel based on her own life. The author’s presentation of female characters of the novel with an irony made the reader to focus on the difference between appearance and reality. It is so because the author claim that Shelly’s representation of her female characters as impassive, minor and submissive is not her acceptance of the roles handed over by patriarchy. Rather it is her revolt, through the mirror reflection of her time, to aware and empower the women. The author made nexus between monster and Shelly, is also convincing because monster is portrayal of Shelly’s own child and means to express wrath to patriarchy to teach a lesson: ‘being a mother is a tough job which is beyond the capability of males’. The comparison between monster and female provided the result that ironical representation is highly embedded in the novel. It is so because monster is representative figure of all the women of the 19th century who were alienated and loathed by the patriarchal society. The protagonist, Victor Frankenstein, tries to dominate the voice of women and tries to be the god, breaks the law of nature and universe, by creating the monster. According to Susan Leigh Star Frankenstein is, “the paradigmatic tale of male appropriation of reproduction and creativity and the terror of masculinized inquiry” (73). Whatever, finally he gets the result of his own bad deeds. The author’s claim got proved here because so called vain superiority of males broken down when Victor invites his own doom due to the underestimation of females’ value. Though, in a surface novel displays male’s domination over females, but at the level of irony it shows the degradation of males due to their so called falls superiority and over confidence. For instance, Victor Frankenstein invites his own death due to his so called rationality and male supremacy.



Thus, women are presented as passive figure with the deep moral message: greatness of women upon which males are standing their personality – ‘woman makes man’. Though a female author created all of the female characters mentioned, each of them has a very demeaning characterization. Shelley’s women are objectified, used, abused and easily discarded. All the female characters live their fictional life to serve a very specific function and impact on man’s life. The major female characters, directly presented, die except Safie, Agatha and Margaret, the most passive characters. Though they are the mainstream of the novel to expose the male characters, they are presented as passive and side figure. Finally, Shelley has become successful to present her revolt against this patriarchal society presenting her female characters as subservient and inert. Shelly indirectly compares the women with monster and significantly argues over the patriarchal structure with the portray of Victor Frankenstein. She showed her courage to ironically criticize the stereotypical male minded society in such harsh patriarchal time in which women were kept in detention. Though her female characters are characterized as disposable, docile and timid they are the iron rods of Shelley to alert and change the stereotypical concept of this society towards women.




Introduction to the Author:

Kamana AryalKamana Aryal received the bachelor’s degree from Tribhuvan University, Nepal in 2014 and running in 4th semester of M.A. at the Central Department English (CDE) in Tribhuvan University, Kirtipur, Kathmandu. Though there are possibilities of numerous critical studies on Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein while Kamana Aryal used the Feministic perspective as a critical tool to develop her research paper. She is pursuing her carrier in English literature that encouraged her to dig out the histories about the Frankenstein. Kamana Aryal, as one of talented students, is securing very good marks in her study up to the present time. Her fond of playing with words in the field of literature makes her different from the mass of the other students. In the same way, here in this paper, she is trying to justify her idea bringing lots references on Frankenstein.






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