Mary Wollstonecraft died only eleven days after giving birth to her daughter, Mary Shelley. She was an English feminist writer, whose most famous work was A Vindication of the Rights of Woman published in 1972. Then, why is it that women are objectified in her daughter’s most famous work?
Indeed, from the very first pages of the novel, Elizabeth the main female character is being treated as an object. She is referred to by Victor’s mother as a “pretty present” (Shelley, 18) and then as a “gift” (Shelley, 18) which gives her no more value than the dining table. To add on, Victor refers to her as a “possession of his own” (Shelley, 18), which symbolises that he sees her as nothing more than an item he can discard whenever he pleases. If Shelley comes from a family of such hard advocators of women’s right, why is she objectifying the women in Frankenstein?
The answer is fairly simple. By depicting women as they were perceived in the 19th century, Shelley emphasises her revulsion towards this attitude. She demonstrates that women are not subordinate beings who have to be entirely subjected to men’s superior faculties (Wollstonecraft), just as her mother so vehemently claimed. Feminism in Frankenstein is subtler than what might be expected from the daughter of an advocator for women’s rights and equality. However, it is undeniably a part of the story.
Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. Frankenstein. New York: Dover Publications, 1994. Print.
Dover Thrift Editions.
Wollstonecraft, Mary. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. earlymoderntexts.com April
2010. Web. 7 April 2017