Are the Women in Frankenstein Passive?
Reading the first half of Frankenstein, it is almost immediately evident the passiveness of most of the female characters. Another thing that is evident is the portrayal of women as less important to the story it is almost as if they are disposable, their opinions and actions are portrayed as less important than those of the male characters. This story is filled with women who start off strong, but suffer calmly in silence till it eventually leads to their demise. I find their passiveness to be politically significant. In almost all instances, their decision to be passive led to an important change in a situation. While also being passive, they took a situation into their own hands, made a decision and impacted the results of the situation.
Take for example Victors mother Caroline Beaufort, her story starts off as her being a strong daughter, helping her ailing father to survive by working hard and earning money, however once he passes away she losses almost all her drive, allowing Alphonse Frankenstein to swoop in and relieve her of all her stress and poverty. She goes from being a strong and self-driven woman, to someone whose life only revolved about her children, and in the end she losses her own life caring for one of them. While I am not considering her actions to care for her ailing child, which in turn led to her death to be passive, I believe that she lost a fire in herself once her father passed away. Which led her to in turn loose her passion for her own life.
Another example of a female character that possesses passiveness is Justine Frantz. She also just like Caroline starts off as a strong willed woman, with drive and resistance, through all her family troubles, and tragedies, she persevered. However it only takes one incident for Mary Shelley to display her to us readers as passive When it comes to the murder of Victors brother William, she confesses to a crime that she is innocent of, which in turn leads to her death. This passiveness shows once again a woman who in previous chapter has stood up for herself, but in the most important time when she needed to be strong she takes the passive route, suffers calmly and willingly gives her life away. “I do not fear to die,” she said; “that pang is in the past. God raises my weakness, and give me courage to endure the worst… “Learn from me, dear lady, to submit in patience to the will of Heaven!”
The last female character addressed in the first half of Frankenstein who is also passive in many aspects of her life is Elizabeth. She spends the first half of the book, waiting on every word and beckoning of Victor, waiting on letters from him, waiting for his approval or waiting for his guidance in everything she did. Although her character is still developing in the few chapters we have read so far, I get a sense that as the story progresses there will be more instances of her passiveness to come.
Although female characters in Frankenstein are portrayed as passive, I sense that Mary Shelley is trying to get a point across. I feel like there is a bigger picture that she is trying to portray about women to her readers. I believe that beyond being passive, she also portrays the female characters as also being self-less. I feel like based on the era in which she wrote this book, where feminism was big, I think that she will eventually use this negative characteristic to develop something positive about the female characters, or women in general. Which brings me back to the political significance of the passiveness amongst the female characters, their passiveness is not based on their lack of knowledge, it is based on the fact that they know that their reaction or lack thereof could have drastic impacts on the situation, and they choose to decide the outcome by sacrificing their life’s in some instance.