In this novel, the human female is often portrayed as passive and compliant. Frankenstein does not appear to be attracted to women and even when he marries Elizabeth he shows little of the passionate interest that he displays towards his science experiments. Although all of the females roles are small it may be argued that the novel explores Frankensteins fear of sexuality through his attempt to create a World that excludes women. It has been suggested that, through the novel, Shelly is trying to show that, if men continue to exclude women society will be less successful. Thus, despite writing about meek, subservient women Shelly is actually exploring radical, distinctly feminist ideas. Interestingly the only two females who are bestowed with independent behaviour are Safie and the unfinished female creature.
When pages 29 and 30 are examined in detail the reader realises that from a young age Frankenstein was obsessed by Elizabeths delicate beauty describing her as having been a child fairer than pictured cherub-creature who seemed to shed radiance from her looks, and whose form was lighter than the chamois of the hills. This description reveals Frankensteins view of Elizabeth as a perfect, angel-like being. Frankenstein enjoys the fact that she is delicate looking and suggests she is delicate and needs protecting. Frankenstein describes Elizabeth as being calmer and more concentrated than himself.
He explains that Elizabeth busied herself with following the aerial creations of poets. Here, it almost seems that Frankenstein is mocking Elizabeth for being so nave as to enjoy something that is not based on facts and science. This emphasizes the image of women as being ideal, harmless creatures. From the beginning Frankenstein views Elizabeth as little more than a pretty present to, protect, love and cherish. It is interesting to notice that Safie too was presented as a gift to a man (Felix).
This idea of the ma protecting the female was the stereotypical belief of the time with women being expected to stay at home, have children and raise them. Frankenstein takes this limited female role to an extreme by eradicating the need for a female in the reproduction of life. However, it is interesting to notice that even though he succeeds in creating life, Frankenstein rejects his child and therefore, undeniably fails in bringing up his child. By showing the hideous man made creature as a result of women being obliterated Shelly is suggesting that women are essential to society, since they are more apt at certain jobs and that, until men realise this society will be brutal and dangerous.
Having seen in the previous passage that Frankenstein delights in Elizabeths passive, gentle behaviour it is interesting to contrast this with his behaviour at the beginning of Chapter 20 when he destroys the female mate that he was creating to provide the Creature with love and companionship. In this passage we can learn exactly how women scare Frankenstein by examining the thoughts and feelings that Frankenstein projects upon the female creature. This is particularly significant if you take the female monster as being an epitome of a primitive and unconstrained human female just like the male creature is often thought to symbolism unsuppressed human feelings. Frankenstein justifies destroying the female by realising that she, in all probability was to become a thinking and reasoning animal who might refuse to comply with a compact made before her creation. It is interesting to notice that Frankenstein attributes freewill to this female Creature yet not to Elizabeth.
This could explain the contrast in his reactions and suggests that he is afraid of independent, freethinking women and hence he destroys them. Here Shelly is investigating fundamental feminist ideas. Shelly recognises that men are fearful of women with free will and will try to suppress them. Frankenstein attributes cruel, evil, in-humane characteristics to the beast when he worries that she might become ten thousand times more malignant than her mate, and delight, for its own sake, in murder and wretchedness.
This suggests that he views the creature as wicked and has failed to realise, despite the creatures explanation that he is only driven to such grotesque behaviour due to his unhappiness. Frankenstein attributes similar characteristics to the male creature as to the female. Thus Shelly implies that females are not all that different from men and that the helpless compliance that Elizabeth shows is not an inevitable female trait but rather she is like this because, unlike the creature she suppresses her passionate feelings. However, more importantly, Frankenstein denounces the male by suggesting that the female could become more mighty and powerful than men. Throughout the novel there are suggestions that Frankenstein is fearful of his own sexuality. Frankenstein worries that the female creature might turn with disgust from him (the creature) to the superior beauty of man.
It seems that Frankenstein is afraid of the females unsuppressed desire and hence her sexual liberation. This fear causes Frankenstein to destroy the creature. Frankensteins describes how, trembling with passion, tore to pieces the thing on which I was engaged. It has been suggested that there are hints of rape in his passionate destruction of the female but even if this is not the case the description shows his desperate need to assert power over the female being. Again, here Shelly touches upon feminist ideas, by accepting that females are capable of sexual desires and free thought as well as men. By making Frankenstein destroy the female creature Shelly is showing that, men are scared by independent women and hence will try to assert their power over them; both psychologically but also sexually.
In pages 112 to 114 the creature suggests a different role for the female as a companion to love, respect and care for. This contrasts starkly with Frankensteins views of females as submissive beings whom he feels little passion for. Notice that, whilst the creature wants a partner so as he can, feel the affections of a sensitive being and whom it seems he will view as an equal, Frankenstein wants a female to protect, love and cherish as if she is a lesser object or possession. Although Frankenstein agrees to the creatures demands he does not appear to fully appreciate this desire for a female partner as he feels no remorse when he destroys the creatures potential mate. The creature asks that Frankenstein create him a partner whom he can love explaining how, with the companion that you bestow my evil passions will have fled for I shall meet with sympathy. This echoes the Godwinian argument that individuals can only learn to be good and virtuous if they are included in society and have the opportunity to share feelings of empathy with others of their own kind.
Here Shelly suggests that one importance of females is to provide comfort and companionship and that without females, society would be unhappy and so people would become cruel and monstrous like the Creature. Similarly, later Frankenstein elucidates the Godwinian theory when he clearly describes his desire to, feel the affections of a sensitive being, and become linked to the chain of existence and events for which I am now excluded. It has been suggested that, by Frankenstein producing life without the help of a female he is effectively attempting to obliterate the need for a female in Society. However, It could be argued that through Shelly making the Creature violent and destructive she is trying to show that, without females humanity will suffer and dangerous. Later, Shelly again suggests a similar idea when she puts the Creatures harmful behaviour down to his unhappiness that she, in turn connects to the loneliness that he experiences without a partner to love. In the novel there appear to be two different types of female; the majority are those who Frankenstein describes as being meek and nave beings such as Elizabeth but there are also the independent ones.
Both Safie and the unfinished female creature are described as being self-determining and possessing free will, thus Shelly explores revolutionary feminist ideas by showing that females do not have to be subservient.