The Victorian Women of Shelley's Frankenstein Essay

The Victorian Women of Shelley's Frankenstein Essay

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The Victorian Women of Shelley's Frankenstein

      She is a daughter, a wife, and a mother who faithfully carries out her domestic duty in subservience and passivity. She's a willing sacrifice to her father, her husband, and her children. She's sentimental, meek, and docile in nature. She's also flawless in every physical aspect. She's her superior man's play-thing and possession--she's his to protect and cherish. She is a typical nineteenth-century Victorian woman of England. Such typical images of the Victorian women are clearly and accurately depicted in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein through one of the female characters, Elizabeth.


Subservience is one of the main characteristics of Victorian English women. They were "taught to be submissive and manipulative" (Kanner 305). Qualities of "selflessness, patience, and outward obedience" were also "required" in women (Prior 96). In contrast to men's "masculine energy," women were thought to possess "feminine passivity" that made them incapable of actively venturing into the world with curiosity (Kanner 208). Such false belief on the men's part, not women's "feminine passivity," is what hindered the women from venturing into the world and confined them to the home. Such confinement is evident in the following woman's diary:



All this time my Lord was in London where he had all and infinite great resort coming to him. He went much abroa...

... middle of paper ...

...ence, through the images of Elizabeth, Mary Shelley clearly and accurately depicts attitudes toward Victorian women of nineteenth-century England. Elizabeth lives, and dies, the role both Shelley and society had written for her and her real-life sisters.


Works Cited

Kanner, Barbara, ed. The Women of England: From Anglo-Saxon Times to the Present. Hamden: Archon Books, 1979.

Prior, Mary, ed. Women in English Society, 1500-1900. New York: Methuen, 1985.

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. Ed. Johanna M. Smith. Boston: Bedford Books, 1992.

Wollstonecraft, Mary. A Vindication of the Rights of Women: An Authoritative Text, Backgrounds, Criticism. Ed. Carol H. Poston. New York: W.W. Norton, 1975.

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