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Yu 1Esther Yu 12(4)Mr. NikolichEnglish 12 H2018/1/2What does The portrayal of passive women in Frankenstein imply about the position ofwomen in society?(chosen passage: page 21, chapter 1)In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, women are generally portrayed as chaste, innocent, butpassive characters who depend on dominant male characters. From Victor’s portrayal ofElizabeth, It is obvious that he sees her as his belonging instead of a human that’s capable ofthinking independently. Their relationship reveals the role and position of women in thecontemporary society and how women were objectified during that time.To Victor, Elizabeth is just a beautiful piece of property. According to his story,Elizabeth Lavenza not only became the “inmate of (his) parents’ house”, but also became “thebeautiful and adored companion” of his “occupations and pleasures” (Shelley, 21). Victor’sdescription of Elizabeth reveals the power that lies between them: Victor completelydominates Elizabeth, and she is expected to be a compliant companion who needs to obey her”brother”. Furthermore, the passage shows that Victor’s mother presents Elizabeth as a”pretty present”, which further reinforces the portrayal of Elizabeth as Victor’s propertyinstead of his sister. Finally, Victor’s possessiveness of Elizabeth is revealed when hedescribes her as his “more than sister, since till death she was to be (his) only.” (Shelley, 21)Yu 2The relationship between Elizabeth and Victor is an accurate miniature of thecontemporary society Shelley used to live in. During that time, women’s obedience towardmen was a widely accepted social standard. Although the unequal treatments of men andwomen seem unreasonable and inhuman in our time, it was actually very normal duringShelley’s time. To men, women were the companions that provide comfort and acceptance,but they were never given the opportunity to act on their own (History of Feminism).Although there are a few exceptions in Shelley’s Frankenstein, such as Safie who insiststo find her lover regardless of society’s opposition, women are generally seen as kind butpowerless. There are many other examples that indicate women as subordinate to men. Thefact that Caroline and Alphonse arrange Victor’s marriage without asking Elizabeth’s opinionimplies that women are never given opportunities to make decision on their own during thattime (Shelley, 140). Albeit Elizabeth stands up for Justine’s innocence, she, like Justine, iseventually unable to stop the execution (Shelley, 74). Victor is the only person who knowsthe truth about the murder, and it is him who can really save Justine. Regarding where thepower lies between Victor and Elizabeth, It is clear that Elizabeth is the one who prays Victorto make the right decision. This implies that Victor is the actual dominant character that hasthe power to make the right judgment.In Frankenstein, the image of passive women frequently appears both in the stories toldby the Victor as well as the monster. In Victor’s version of the story, Justine is incapable ofescaping from execution, while Elizabeth is simply his compliant companion who stays atYu 3home, waiting for him to write her letters everyday. In the monster’s version of the story,Agatha is a girl who is always weeping and waiting for her brother to placate her. Althoughthe descriptions of female characters are provided by different narrators, the consistency oftheir powerless image implies how the representative portion of the men at that time viewwomen.Mary Shelley’s inclusion of the powerless female characters makes us notice theunreason of this social standard. From Victor’s description of his emotion toward Elizabeth,it can be inferred that most of the relations between men and women during Shelley’s timewere alike: men dominate women and women were seen as inferior and subordinate to men.Although Shelley’s true intention to include these female characters in Frankenstein isunknown, these characters that she portrays definitely reveals women’s difficult situation inthe society.Yu 4Works CitedWikipedia contributors. “History of feminism.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 6 Jan. 2018. Web. 10 Jan. 2018.


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