The Character of Safie in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

Powerful Essays
The Character of Safie in Frankenstein

Even though she is only mentioned in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein for a

relatively brief period, the character, Safie, is very interesting as she is

unique from the other characters in that her subjectivity is more clearly

dependent on her religion and the culture of her nation. Contrasts can be made

between the Orient and the European society which attempts to interpret it.

Often, this creates stereotypes such as western feminists that have viewed

"third-world" women as "ignorant, poor, uneducated, tradition-bound, religious,

domesticated, family oriented, (and) victimized"(Mohanty 290). Of course, some

of these things could also have said of European women of the time period,

although no one would argue the point since Oriental women were viewed as being

more oppressed. Strong contrasts can also be made in relation to the differences

between Safie's development as a foreign character and her subjectivity as a

female character in relation to those of the other female characters of the book.

While the other female characters lack depth into how their religion and culture

affect them, Safie's religion and Arabian culture sculpt her into a subject with

feminist qualities juxtaposed against her fulfillment of European domestic


Many theorists, such as Benveniste who said, "Consciousness of self [or

subjectivity] is only possible if it is experienced by contrast," argue that

one's subjectivity can only exist in their relation to the Other(85). The

subject's relation this "Other" depends on which aspect is being examined. For

example, when dealing with gender, it would be the relationship between Man and...

... middle of paper ... fulfilled the domestic ideology of the European society. The

society itself was phallogocentric and, by nature, riddled with its own

subjectivity, such as the Orientalism inherent in Europe, which attempted to

examine the Orient which had "a brute reality obviously greater than anything

that could be said about them in the West"(Said 304).

Works Cited

Beneviste, Emile. "Subjectivity in Language." Course Reader. 83-88

Mohanty, Chandra Talpade. "Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and

Colonial Discourses." Course Reader. 289-300

Said, Edward W. "Introduction to Orientalism." Course Reader. 303-312

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. Ed. Johanna M. Smith. Boston: Bedford Books,


Smith, Johanna M. "'Cooped Up': Feminine Domesticity in Frankenstein." Bedford

Books, 1992 270-285
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