Frankenstein noticeably lacks a cast of independent female characters, despite being written by Mary Shelley, the daughter of a staunch feminist pioneer. Mary Shelley’s novel is filled with submissive women who passively endure pain and eventually die. Although the women in the novel are not given a role that emphasizes direct significance, Shelley indirectly highlights that their influence among their male counterparts is critical to the advancement of the plot. In association to Frankenstein, the symbolic nature of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies is far more complex than a group of schoolboys surviving on a stranded island. Throughout the course of the novel, Golding presents the primal and civilized behaviors that mankind exhibit, while also demonstrating the loss of innocence that society has undertaken. Golding uses the absence of women to draw attention to the savagery and disarray that the boys struggle with while living on the island. In comparison, Shelley depicts the women in Frankenstein so submissive while submitting them to such mistreatment in order to emphasize the neurotic and damaging behavior that Frankenstein and the creature display.
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Throughout Frankenstein, Mary Shelley presents the reader with a different perspective of women as well as a glimpse into their social and family roles. Frankenstein declares, “I looked upon Elizabeth as mine” (20), which strongly emphasizes the male control of the female during the time period. This idea of her being “owned” creates a sense of helplessness and weakness, both of which are mental and physical perspectives. This is concept is repeated when Frankenstein discloses, “till death she was to be mine only” (21). This line carries a double meaning because it foreshadows Elizabeth’s later death. Elizabeth is very supportive of Victor. She is genuinely concerned about his health and his overall wellbeing. When Victor makes the decision to leave in order to advance his studies, she does not even object, instead she continues to offer her emotional support and physical attention. She patiently waits for his return so they can eventually wed in happiness. Elizabeth dies by the hands of the creature because she is left unprotected by the man whom she is so subservient and loving towards. Before her death, her significance is found in her psychological support of Victor. Her letters that she writes him provide him with comfort and a bastion of perseverance. Similarly, it is this same comfort that the creature longs for in the creation of his female counterpart. However, the abortion of the female creature reveals that Victor is fearful of creating something that he cannot control, unlike Elizabeth. One of Mary Shelley’s purposes in degrading women is to point out the negative effects of the masculine approach to experimentation in the sciences.
The circumstances behind Justine’s accusation and trial are a prime representation of how English society views women. Elizabeth illustrates Justine by expressing her “softness and winning mildness” (52), while Victor describes her as “frank-hearted and happy” (52). It is also important in recognizing that one woman is approving of another woman’s passiveness. This submissive quality, which is dominant in the character development of the novel’s women, is mainly prominent in Justine. When the creature cleverly kills William, everyone accuses and assumes that she is guilty. Innocent Justine proves to be a victim of circumstantial factors. Victor is completely helpless to prove her innocence and reveal the name of the true murderer. In addition to this, Victor demonstrates that he is a bit selfish in placing his own credibility in front of Justine’s. Nobody believes or makes an effort to further the investigation, and although she recognizes the injustices behind her case, Justine succumbs to the court with the phrase, “I must be condemned, although I would pledge my salvation on my innocence” (70). When Justine is falsely accused of murder, Victor places his faith in a decision that he is content with living with, while when Elizabeth argues with him, Victor ultimately establishes the final decision, establishing where the true power lies. Women are not just subject to the dominance of men, but they are also unsupported by society in general.
The way Victor explains his parents’ relationship to Walton also portrays a passive illustration. Despite being a nourishing person, his mother is unable of taking care of herself. As a result, Victor’s father “came as a protecting spirit to the poor girl, committed herself to his care” (27). Also when Elizabeth is “given” to Victor when he is a child as some sort of present, she can arguable compared to a pet. The relationship between his parents highlights the fact that the passiveness of women is not just found in social and political perception, but in family relationships as well. Robert Walton’s sister, Mrs. Saville also falls into the character traits of the other women by being the addressee of the letters which unravel Frankenstein’s story. She is passive because she is only reads the letters, instead of addressing her concerns. Saville lacks a trait that would otherwise push her to reply and reveal her opinions concerning her brother. The only character that does not conform to the submissiveness of women is Safie, who proves to be a significant symbol for the ideal role of women. She does not only disobey her religion, she also disapproves of her father’s wishes for her return to Constantinople. She is an independent person and is brave in roaming the world alone. Marry Shelley uses this dynamic in Frankenstein in order to point out what “ought to be” in English society.
A majority of males’ aggressive behavior and women’s accommodating personality can be traced to family and social institutions. As a result of this inherent quality that seemingly divides males and females; the absence of women from Lord of the Flies creates an imaginative alternative to the destruction that the boys’ have caused. If girls were left stranded on the island, they probably would have all remained together, taking a comprehensive list of names and numbers. It is unlikely that they would go pig hunting, which would keep them from dividing into hunters and non-hunters. The girls would have been more mature and taken the whole situation more seriously, unlike Jack who was “on all fours, smeared with clay to disguise his scent, he sniffed the warm, steamy pig droppings, and stalked his prey” (25). Also, the conch shell would prove to be an entirely different symbol. For the girls it would undoubtedly have been a sign of mature authority and power, while for the boys it proved to signify demise of civilized thinking of almost all the boys on the island.
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The absence of women from the island also points out a social defect that was prevalent during the time period. A female presence on the island would dissuade any attempt to kill and evoke war, thereby taking away the extent to which the island was destroyed. Jack’s tribe sought to kill people because the boys were overcome by their primordial nature, girls would restrict themselves to be sane and mature. Although the boys found themselves in a male dominated situation, the female presence was still noticeable in Simon’s care for the littluns. However, this female quality was ultimately relinquished from the island in the course of Simon’s brutal death, which can arguable symbolize the inactiveness of female roles in society. Golding uses the male dominated island to show that the roots of savagery are deeper than the roots of civilization.
Lord of the Flies and Frankenstein use the insignificance of women to emphasize the atrocities that are brought about in a male dominated society. Both authors make a point to indirectly satire a particular faction of their time periods while highlighting the overall message of their works. Mary Shelley and William Golding use the idea of women as a literary device to elevate their key elements of human nature, which ultimately evolve around the competing impulses of the mankind.
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