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In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, gender identity is found
through the creation of an unnatural monster’s search for a relationship with
his creator in an otherwise normal and natural society Victor Frankenstein’s
fascination with the creation of birth as well as his following experiences shows
the focus on the significance of female gender roles and therefore suggests
that instead of simply being companions to men, women instead play a major role
in contributing to the stability of stability throughout the novel.

There are multiple
examples within Frankenstein that
shows the significance of women in the novel. One of the most significant
examples I found within the text is when Victor’s monster asks Victor to create
him a companion. “I am alone, and miserable; man will not associate with me;
but one as deformed and horrible as myself would not deny herself to me. My
companion must be of the same species, and have the same defects” (Shelly 101).
The monster continues by saying that he specifically wants his companion to be
a female with “whom he can live in the interchange of those sympathies necessary
for his being” (Shelly 101).

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To begin
dissecting this particular event in the story, something that stood out to me
the most was how easily the monster was willing to put another creation through
the destruction he believed to call his life. Not only that, but the monster
wanted a female creature to endure the same hardships so that he may be the one
to comfort her. Continuing on from the idea of physically experiencing the
hardships, the monster requests that the new creation is “as deformed” as he is
(Shelley 101). This idea of a female monster brings up the idea that the ideal
partner to creation would be feminine.

Because of the
comparison between female gender roles with the ideas of love and affection,
the monster’s statement of how he is “malicious because he is miserable” and “shall
each man… find a wife for his bosom… and I be alone” further explains his
actions as reactive responses as a result of an underlying desperation at the
dearth of female tenderness and maternal figures in his life (Shelley 156). The
monster’s specific request of female companionship stresses the clear importance
of the female gender in its roles of mother and nurturer throughout the novel (Shelley
156).

In her essay
titled Nature as Female, Carolyn
Merchant writes about the fact that nature is seen as female because of both
the “nurturing and dominion” that earth has over human beings (Merchant 11).
This sense of nurturing and feminizing being related can also be found
originally during Victor’s creation of the monster and his lack of nurturing to
the monster. Because of this lack of a female-associated mother roll, the
monster began in a world of seclusion. Thus, giving him a female companion
would not only fulfill that role of motherhood in his life but also a romantic
relationship. The monster imagines that this will bring him the stability that
he needs in his life in order to live in a somewhat pleasant atmosphere in his
ugly and repulsive-believed world.

Another important
moment within Frankenstein that shows
the stability role of the female gender is when the monster kills the females
in Victor’s life, both directly and indirectly. These killings are important
because the monster believes that killing the females close to Victor will
cause him more pain and disorder than physically harming Victor himself.

The first female
kill that Victor’s monster was a part of was indirectly the killing of Justine.
Frankenstein’s monster first sees Justine passing by him. “She was young, not
indeed so beautiful as her whose portrait I held, but of an agreeable aspect,
and blooming in the loveliness of youth and health. Here, I thought, is one of
those whose smiles are bestowed on all but me; she shall not escape” (Shelly
101). After killing William, the monster places the locket with Victor’s mother
on Justine, placing evidence on her to be the killer of the young boy. This
event began Victor’s negative relationship with the monster, as Victor knows
that his creation was behind this.

One thing that
sticks out in this scene is that the monster puts so much emphasis on the
female physical appearance. Both Justine’s physical beauty and that of Victor’s
mother in the locket cause the monster pain because he knows that he will never
have such beauty in his life.  It seems
that the beauty those of these women possessed were believed by the monster to
be a source of happiness or life-completion if in their presence. This is also
a reflection of how Victor reacted to the monster’s lack of physical beauty,
showing the monster that affection begins directly with appearance.

Also within this
mindset, Merchant brings to light the idea that nature’s beauty “could be
transformed into a garden to provide both material and spiritual food to
enhance the comfort and soothe the anxiety’s of men distraught by the demands
of the world” (Merchant 12). To the monster, the “demands of the world” were
the physical looks that the monster lacked, thus causing other to be frightened
of him. Shelly and Merchant both underline this importance of the female
physical presence. In Frankenstein,
the monster craves the beauty of people, especially women, throughout his
wandering.

The second female
in this book that is killed is directly by the monster towards the end of this
novel after Elizabeth and Victor are married. The monster follows them to their
honeymoon and ends up killing Elizabeth after she has gone to bed. One of the
important factors of this scene is the fact that the monster waits until
Elizabeth and Victor are married until he ills Elizabeth. The significance
behind this is that the monster believed that this female in his life was the
central source of the happiness he managed to find in life. While he did also
kills Victor’s best friend, his main kill in this section seemed to be focused
on Elizabeth.

Finally, in the
end of the novel, the monster did end up killing Victor, another feminized
character in his life. While Victor may not have been a female based on gender,
he was a feminized father figure to the monster, as well as holding a mother
role because he was the original creator of the monster. Like Victor, nature, a
feminized sort of figure, is the creator of all life and beings. Merchant also
describes this feminized idea of nature and her importance throughout her
essay. She writes that the males in life are needed to create life, “the female
supplied the nutriment on which the qualities of the male could operate”
(Merchant 17). Merchant continues by writing how nature provides the nutrients
for life while those humans, seen as the male in the relationship, use what is
provided to survive. However,
Merchant also argues that the actions of man can be influenced by nature
because of its mother-like aspects. “The image of the earth as a living
organism and nurturing mother had served as a cultural constraint restricting
the actions of human beings,” Merchant writes (11). “One does not readily slay
a mother” (Merchant 11). Merchant’s writing enforces the idea that while man
may often view nature and earth as a supplying mother, just as the monster
views Victor, there are some restrictions that are naturally built. This can be
seen when the monster is running from Victor and rather than simply losing him,
he leaves food and clues behind as to not let Victor lose his trail.

Merchant also
discusses in her essay that men in today’s society often forget that nature and
the earth are most commonly seen as alive as a whole and considered of the
female gender and instead dull the word “mother” into an object. In centuries
past, the phrase “mother nature” was seen in high importance and the goal was
to cause little pain to something that man easily called “mother” (Merchant
19). This continues when Merchant brings up how men have surpassed the
excitement of the natural world and are more fascinated by artificially created
objects now. “A tree or a child shows growth, whereas a table had to be
produced by a builder” (Merchant 16).

On the contrary,
some may say that Frankenstein shows
an emphasis on the male gender and their characteristics and importance. From
this, it could be argued that the father figure was more important than the
mother figure throughout the book. While there were few father figures within Frankenstein, the most notable was
Victor himself as a father to his creation.

During Victor’s
research, he displays a careless disregard of his home and social commitments,
and his confession of how he “knew his silence disquieted them” underlines a
certain selfishness through his constant indifference to those closest to him (Shelley
81). While looking at Victor as a father figure, he was immediate to dismiss
his creation when it didn’t meet his expectation of both mindset and beauty.
However, while Victor is the monster’s “father,” being his male creator, the
monster still naturally looks for a mothering figure within Victor.

Frankenstein’s
monster similarly parallels his master’s obsessive nature through his own limited
fascination on acquiring a mate and subsequently, on revenge. The lines, “I
will work at your destruction, nor finish until I desolate your heart”, clearly
denote the monster’s prodigious determination and the depth of his devotion to
this aim, which he lives up to with the subsequent consecration of his life to
the lifelong torment of Frankenstein (Shelly 156). This masculine form of
obsession ultimately leads both Victor and the monster to their destruction
because of their lack of interaction with the outside world.

While I do see the
importance in recognizing the male gender throughout Frankenstein and the emphasized masculine attributes, I still find
myself leaning more towards the idea that in this novel, women are of more life
significance than men. One thing that comes to mind often in this novel is the
idea of nature versus nurture and how the effects of both vary. This can be
found early on in the novel when Victor is determined to find the way to create
life and learn the secrets that nature uses everyday. However, the importance
of this is that Victor fails to realize how this incident is a major
foreshadowing event into what will happen to his creation, being the failed
recreation of natural creation.

Victor ultimately
realizes his mistake in trying to take over the feminist characteristics that
nature has happens after he sees his creation. What he believed was going to be
an amazing discovery and work of beauty turned out to be something hideous to
the eye. “His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries
beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black and flowing; his teeth of a pearly
whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his
watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun-white sockets in
which they were set, his shriveled complexion and straight black lips” (Shelley
35). This horrifying outcome of beautiful limbs shows that while man can pick
and choose the beautiful parts of nature, their recreations will never be as
perfect and delightful as the natural creation by both women and nature.

Overall, Frankenstein
uses events throughout the novel to show that females in the novel, both in
gender and in characteristics, are not only companions but also the central
role in contributing to the stability of the prevailing social order both
physically and mentally. Shelley shows that the monster acts in relation to the
women in Victor’s life and also desires a female companion in order to find
stability in his life. Merchant reiterates this importance by discussing in her
writing how men visualizes and name nature as a female and the roles that
“she,” being nature, have on a person’s everyday life. Finally, Victor mirrors
the monster’s desire for a female when he desires to control the female gift
that nature has.  It would be easy to say
that Shelley’s use of all of these events emphasizes the importance of females
within her novel. 

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