The Gender Roles Instilled in Frankenstein and Candide

Satisfactory Essays
For centuries women have been perceived as overshadowed figures who remain in a separate sphere from men. The term “separate spheres” refers to the distinct, conventional characteristics associated with gender differences. The public sphere of men is associated with commerce whereas the domestic sphere for women is linked with the household. However, there is more than just one perspective on feminism. The feminist view is influenced by three main voices: the French, American, and British. French feminists focus their attention on language; American feminists analyze the literary aspects; and British feminists examine the historical processes (Murfin 296-299). Using these perspectives, we can see the oppression of women conveyed in many different texts throughout literature and in history. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, for instance, exhibits not only a feminist view in the text, but also in society during Shelley’s time period as displayed by her negotiations with the separate spheres. Voltaire’s Candide also conveys powerful gender differences and reveals the oppression of women throughout the novel. Therefore, a correlation can be seen between the view of women in the two novels and how it reflects the culture and time period in which the novels were written.
It is ironic that Mary Shelley, a woman who grew up as a daughter to literary celebrities, decided to publish her novel anonymously and portrayed the female characters in her novel as inferior and insignificant to the story. Shelley’s dual identity as an author and her family relations to writers represents her tensions between those two roles through her desire for confidentiality due to the “negotiations” required of a woman writer (Smith 303). Frankenstein was written du...

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...the female characters act as submissive recipients who have little importance to society.

Thus, according to Frankenstein and Candide, we can see how feminism represents the oppression of women in both the culture and time period in which the novels were written. In Frankenstein, the role of the women characters was insignificant, thus having a minimal influence on the plot. After they fulfilled their duties in their domestic sphere, they were discarded. Likewise, in Candide, Voltaire expressed the obstacles women faced and demonstrated the conditions of 18th century Europe and the dangers it was to be a woman at that time. As a result, according to both accounts of women in the two novels, we can see how the time period and culture reflects the inferiority and passivity of the roles of women in both England and Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries.
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