Critical Analysis of Gender in Frankenstein

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Professor Don Mitchell

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ENG 203

24 April 2021

Critical Analysis of Gender in Frankenstein

Being the daughter of the rebellious and underrated Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, first published the book in 1818. On the other hand, female writers began to appear at this time, attempting to speak up against patriarchal culture and its masculine system. It was when a woman “was brainwashed to believe she required the assistance of a man.” Mary Shelley was expected to talk about the gender issues affecting women when she published her Introduction to Frankenstein in the 1831 issue. Still, she did not speak up for women as was expected. She seems to “fight” her gender when she fails to center her thoughts in supporting the repressed woman, as was the trend by female writers. Therefore, a critical analysis of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley’s approach on matters regarding gender roles will be discussed.

It would appear that the child of such different parents could go after their steps or at the very slightest attempt to express her mom’s values in female issues to be regarded as counterparts in culture and their validity to an education. In Frankenstein, Mary Shelley preferred to publish from three separate viewpoints, using three male characters. They are portrayed in sparse detail, which ultimately diminishes their significance in the story. As a result, they serve as resources to represent the male characters. According to Johanna M. Smith, “women act not in and of themselves, but instead as signs of and ducts for men’s relationships with other individuals” (Gubar and Gilbert 283). This can be attributed to Walton’s sister’s involvement in resolving his approval and love for Victor Frankenstein. This relationship is represented to the audience via Walton and his sister’s mail interactions, but she is only a form of communication in the novel.

The distinction between gender differences in Frankenstein is dramatic; the male personalities are presented in great characteristics. The audience is also introduced to the narrators’ mentality. Most significantly, they have characters with which to share their stories. Because of their positions as passive instruments in the portrayal of the male characters, the men of the tale are often designated luxury of adventuring and discovering the globe via real travel and experience – something that the females are denied. “The Society permitted upright male actors to be of several dispositions, bad-tempered or cheerful, homosexual or serious, overpowering or obedient – but every woman was to be reduced into a personality of accommodating effeminate and tender conformance,” writes Wollstonecraft.

The query then becomes why Mary Shelley almost completely omitted the role of women from her novel and why she preferred a standardized image of women formed by male writers to portray the small number of women who appear in the tale. In addition, Mary Shelley’s misstatement of females can be read as a submission to patriarchal literary debate and social ideals or criticism of that structure. The criticism is apparent in the story’s conclusion, which depicts the implications of Victor’s involvement with nature by pursuing procreation without the presence of a female partner. It could be suggested that Mary Shelley preferred not to depict female ordeal since the current literary debate forbade the portrayal of actual (as opposed to idealized or demonized) women. Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto is an instance of a man portraying women’s experience, in which women are fully described and given voices. When they speak, though, it is approximately exclusively in a “male accent.” This shows that they say whatever men prefer idealized, obedient daughters, wives, and mothers to say: they pledge their loyalty to their male’ guardian,’ do as he feels good and speaks about love and family. Mary Shelley made a quiet statement against discriminatory language about women in literature by diminishing the women protagonists in Frankenstein. As Gubar and Gilbert put it, “Mary Shelley produced works of literature which is in some manner palimpsestic, works that surface hide or conceal higher, less available forms of significance.” As a consequence, Mary Shelley and other women authors attained “true female poetic influence by respectively adhering to and slamming the door on greater, less available levels of representation” and as a (Gubar and Gilbert 73).

The depiction of male characters by Mary Shelley is crucial to comprehending the book as an autobiography criticism of her dad and hubby’s handling of her. Percy’s similarity to Victor in this regard encourages the understanding of the text. Badalamenti shows a graph that depicts the parallels between actual events and those depicted in Mary Shelley’s book. Ten of the twenty references in this section relate to direct comparisons among Percy and Victor. Here are a few examples: Percy wasn’t monogamous, and Elizabeth questions Victor if he loves somebody else in the novel. Victor worked with science to explore the values of life, while Percy was intrigued by the mysteries of death and burial sites. Victor’s handling of the creature seems indicative of Percy’s hostility to Mary Shelley, her emotions, and their kids in this sense. Her negative portrayal of male scientists/seafarers and their quest for glory, on the other hand, can be interpreted as a reflection on men in particular and how women are required to counteract the effects of unchecked male aggression and narcissism. In this reading, the similarity between Victor and Percy is less significant. A reader can understand Mary Shelley’s motives in her portrayal of the sexes by examining the male and female participants in greater detail.


“In its late-eighteenth-century setting, Mary Shelley’s first book embraces and opposes conventional gender tasks” (Morrison in Fisher and Silber 112). Lucy Morrison discusses the various meanings of Frankenstein and its gender representation. It’s a problematic apprehension to decipher, and like everything in the novel, Mary Shelley manages to mask her feelings about the subject. Focusing on the male protagonists’ ambitions, relationships, and acts exposed a correlation in the middle of scientific achievement and egotism, which leads to insufficient romantic relationships and irresponsible parenting. The fact that Mary Shelley chose three male protagonists for her novel and depicted women as idealized version objects restricted to the private life indicates how she embraced conventional gender roles. However, when the book portrays unwedded men as egoistic overachievers whose lack of women results in beasts, Mary Shelley can interpret it as a resistance to gender expectations. It’s crucial to consider how women are portrayed in Frankenstein, whether they’re prominent or not, since it reveals much about Mary Shelley’s goals with the story and may help decipher why she preferred male representations to female ones.

Elizabeth’s angelic beauty and gesture are also highlighted. As a result, specific characteristics can be considered the most significant for women to embrace at this period. Wollstonecraft epitomizes the evils instilled in women: Women are raised to know, by their moms’ instance, that a bit of understanding of human weakness, aptly referred to as cunning, lightness of temper, external devotion, and thorough recognition to a childish state of decorum will secure for them the security of man; and if they are attractive, anything else is unnecessary for at minimum the next two decades of their life.

Mary Wollstonecraft, despite Mary Shelley, is not as discreet in her criticism, and it is clear from above that she has been well informed of how to ‘perform’ men and culture to accomplish her goals. Men look easily manipulated and not equivalent to women when they do so. She encourages women to disrespect in other ways by emphasizing the importance of learning external compliance. On the contrary, Mary Shelley depicts what occurs to people who mindlessly follow men: they pass on. But she does so in a way that is both clear and vague. The portrayal of Elizabeth and Victor’s attitude toward and handling of her suggests that Mary Shelley attempted to satisfy the dominant picture of women in literature. Elizabeth’s demise could result in further analysis; for what good is becoming a devoted and good wife, and desires and narcissism dominate the husband.

            Finally, Frankenstein is significant since it reflected when writers were thought to be women and men just staying indoors. In the face of this, Mary Shelley published her novel, had it written, the way it had been studied and analyzed from several positions since then. Present-day feminists still can benefit from Shelley’s work, according to Mellor, because “[…] Shelley’s anecdotes influenced her to record the aspects wherein the typical middle-class family can disfigure the women’s lives” (Mellor, 217). However, Mary Shelley’s obsession with arrogant male characters at the cost of representation of women demonstrates her involvement with masculine dominance (Mellor 217). It thus supports a feminist interpretation of the book. The novel’s the nearly complete omission of women and the fact that the audience can still read it as spreading a feminist agenda makes it intriguing. “Frankenstein introduced a latest complexity to written violence, and it accomplished so lacking a victor, without even a significant female casualty,” says Ellen Moers (Moers 91).  

Surprisingly, no any Gothic novel by a woman artist, maybe no other literature work by a female of any sort, better pays back scrutiny in light of the writer’s gender .Therefore I attempted to look at the context to comprehend the story’s clean and straightforward, and discriminatory portrayal of women, taking into account the author’s sex and literary context. Hence, the goal is to figure out why Mary Shelley published Frankenstein with a lot of uncertainty, which aspects of the book can be perceived as a crucial statement on patriarchal influence in writing and the household.





















Works Cited

Fisher, Jerilyn, and Ellen S. Silber. Women in Literature: Reading through the Lens of Gender. Greenwood Press, 2003.

Mellor, Anne K. Mary Shelley: Her Life, Her Fiction, Her Monsters. Routledge, 1989.

Moers, Ellen. Literary Women. Doubleday, 1978.

Pohl, Rebecca. An Analysis of Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar’s the Madwoman in the Attic. Macat International Ltd, 2018.


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