A Feministic Undertone?

From our last reading, Bellocq’s Ophelia, we saw the importance in knowing someone’s background, ranging from the author to his or her characters. Once one acknowledged the characters backstory, new ideas arose from the characters interactions and the author’s intentions. Considering this fact, one must acknowledge Mary Shelly’s background, most importantly the mother that raised her. Mary Shelly’s mother was Mary Wollstonecraft, whom of which is one of the most important feminist philosophers in history. With this in mind, innocent remarks to the female gender are now weighed with more importance, since they are more than likely to have feministic intentions.

The most pivotal scene where this is seen is when Victor makes the triumphant remark that “no father could claim the gratitude of his child so completely as I should deserve their’s” (80-81 Shelly). This idea that the conception of this “child” is greater than that of a normal one reveals a very misogynistic undertone. Unlike a normal child, this being is a creation made by man and only man, untainted by the imperfections of a woman. Furthermore, Victor’s comment comes out as a condescending statement, since he feels that a man could not truly be proud of an offspring, because a female was required to make it. Not only that, but Victor’s act strips away a blessed trait of the female gender, the making of life. With all these notions brewed together, Victor “unintentionally” seems to be trying to do away with the female gender in general. Although the argument may seem too extreme, Victor still seems to see his creature with more respect than a regular infant, since “no other father could claim … his child so completely” (Shelly 80).

Retrospectively, had Shelly’s background gone untouched, Victor’s statement would be nothing more than a joyful remark. Still, there are other scenes of old sexist beliefs “I desired to discover… she sought to people with imaginations of her own” (Shelly 66) and “but she did not interest in the subjects [natural philosophies]” (Shelly 69), both of which show women’s apathy toward the complicated arts, but interest in simplistic duties. Though these are important, Victor’s joyous remark highlights, what I believe to be, Shelly’ feministic undertone.

1 comment
  1. I agree that there are feminist undertones and I like what you brought up about the elimination of the female gender with Victor’s ability to create life. I think that by the creature turning into a destructive monster, Shelly may be saying that it is wrong to try and create life without the female, the one who carries the child in order for it to develop naturally.

    On the other hand, I also noticed the stereotypical gender roles being played out within the novel. For instance Elizabeth is said to have an imagination and no interest in the sciences, when Victor says, “I disclosed my discoveries to Elizabeth…but she did not interest herself in the subject” (69). This idea that a female has no interest in science but instead its a field dominated by men is somewhat played out. Throughout these initial chapters Victor always refers to people in the sciences as the “wisest men” and “the men of science”. This may be a stretch, but this is another gender undertone I noticed that was contrary to the feminist perspective.

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