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Frankenstein: The 1818 Text
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Role of Women

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Mark Ueber | 255 comments Mod
Dr. Frankenstein finds himself unable to "mother" the being he creates. Why does Shelley characterize Victor in this way? What does this choice say about the role of women during Shelley’s era? Discuss the significance of parent-child relationships and birth references throughout the novel.
(Questions from A Teachers Guide issued by Signet Classics.)


message 2: by Mark (last edited Jul 16, 2018 04:56PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mark Ueber | 255 comments Mod
From the beginning of the narrative, Dr. Frankenstein rejects the “monster” he created. We know the monster just wants to be loved and it seems Frankenstein could have turned the book into an entirely different story if he had just listened to what the creature was saying. Never does Frankenstein change his initial opinion or feel any sympathy for the creature.

Given the amount of male bonding in this book (Frankenstein's father and Beufort, Frankenstein and Henry Clerval, M. Waldman and Frankenstein, Robert Walton and Frankenstein), you’d think Frankenstein might like another guy to pal around with. The book makes it clear men in the 19th century have a hard time developing relationships with women. For example, they delay marriage for as long as possible so they can circle the globe and form male friendships.

Frankenstein’s love for Elizabeth is portrayed as legitimate, but he has the advantage of knowing her, protecting her, and loving her from childhood. Even then he can’t tell her about the monster until they are married because, as a wife, she cannot testify against him. Marriage, it seems, is about a partnership rather than a love affair.

From the beginning Frankenstein sees the creature as a nonhuman (Gosh, thanks, Dad). To say that he has no maternal skills seems obvious. Shelley may have been commenting on the division of labor between men and women. Women are in charge of child-rearing. Men are in charge of adventures and conquering.


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