Monday, August 19, 2019

Mary Shelleys Frankenstein as a Critique of Masculinity Essay

Introduction The idea for the novel of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein came to her one night when she was staying in the company of what has been called ‘her male coterie’, including Lord Byron and her husband, Percy Shelley. Mary Shelley’s whole life seems to have been heavily influenced by men. She idolised her father, William Godwyn, and appears to have spent a good part of her life trying very hard to impress both him and her husband. There seems to have been a distinct lack of female influence, her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, having died weeks after her birth, being replaced by a neglectful step-mother. These aspects of her life are perhaps evident in her novel. The characters and plot of Frankenstein were perhaps influenced by Shelley’s conflicting feelings about the predominately masculine circle which surrounded her, and perhaps the many masculine traits that we see in novel were based upon those of the male figures in Shelley’s own life. In th is essay I will attempt to show some of these traits. Argument Perhaps the most obvious way we can read the novel as a critique of masculinity is the very obvious way in which Shelley develops the male characters more than she does the female. She portrays the male characters as the stronger sex with the female characters seemingly completely dependant on the male, and their whole lives seem to be taken up by the males every move. The female characters in the novel ar every much idealised figures of perfection and passiveness. She portrays women as weak, beautiful, subservient beings who live only for the men in their lives. This is evident from the opening sentence of the narrator of the novel, Walton, who is writing to his sister in England while he is on an expedit... ...e life that he is creating is undeniably male, as this is the sex he views as the stronger of the two, there is never a question for a moment that he may create a female. Conclusion The theme of masculinity is strong throughout the novel, and I will finish with what may be the strongest example of masculinity of all, although it is not a favourable one. Perhaps the character of the monster represents the flaw in masculinity in the society of that day, created without the use of a woman, and is an example of the dangers of a society without woman. And I feel that Shelley was perhaps manipulating the masculine identities in the novel to show the flaws that such attitudes towards women can create, and persuade her audience that a society without women would be disastrous. Bibliography Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, (Berkshire: Penguin Popular Classics, 1994)

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