Mary Shellys Frankenstein focuses on human nature and on the possibility ofcontrolling experience in order to shape character and cultural values.Specifically, it focuses on the influence of education and experience ineffecting behavior. In general, the characters are divided in to three groups byeducation and experience: passive rescued women, ambitious bourgeoisie men, andthe self-taught lonesome creature. Through the female character group, MaryShelly illustrates how the combination of education and experience shapeattitudes and behaviors of women to be passive objects, which leads to theirdemise. Mary Shelly spends the least time describing the education of women,repeating one version of female upbringing. The lack of time devoted to femalecharacters in general is not a blatant disregard of women; rather, it istestimony to the limited role women exercised in public sphere of society.
Caroline Beaufort is the model of virtuous femininity rescued from poverty tobourgeois passivity. Caroline, the daughter of a proud, failed businessman,follows her father into self-imposed exile to avoid the humiliation of failurewhere he falls into a terrible sickness of humiliation. Completely dedicated toher father, Caroline “attended him with the greatest tenderness; but she sawwith despair that their little fund was rapidly decreasing” (Shelly 32)Luckily Caroline “possessed a mind of uncommon mould; and her courage rose tosupport her in her adversity…
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and by various means contrived to earn apittance scarcely sufficient to support life” (Shelly 32). She not only caresfor him during his pathetic free fall from life, but she also actively procuredwork and single-handedly supported herself and her father. It is obvious thathas Caroline possesses the skills and tenacity to support not only herself, buther father as well. However, when her fathers falls victim to death sheimmediately transforms from a caring, productive women to “an orphan andbeggar” (Shelly 32). There is nothing to note any changes in the attitude oractions of Caroline to warrant such a change. Rather, the change is a directresult of the death of her father. Despite the fact that Caroline possessed theability to provide for herself, her description and social status remained tiedto her father. Even though women had the ability to act as free agents insociety, their description, status was invariably tied to a male.
Luckily, forCaroline, an associate of her fathers rescued her from her sudden sociallyimposed poverty. While mourning her fathers death, Alphonse Frankenstein”came like a protecting spirit to the poor girl, who committed herself to hiscare” (Shelly 32). Caroline translates her gratitude of being saved from atough mans world into lifelong subservience.
She immediately transfers herselfless dedication from one man, her father, to another, her new husbandAlpohnse Frankenstein demonstrating the females artificial dependence on men.Saved to the feminine life of passive servitude, Caroline similarly rescuesother girls from poverty and educates them in the virtues of bourgeoisdomesticity. Thus, she finds Elizabeth, whose seemingly innate, upper classfeminine virtue makes her shine amid a family of “dark-eyed, hardy littlevagrants” (Shelly 34). Upon being rescued, Caroline “presented Elizabeth toVictor as her promised gift” (Shelly 34). Immediately following herintroduction to bourgeois life, Elizabeth is transformed to possession of amale. Once in the Frankenstein household, Elizabeth learned to be “the livingspirit of love to soften and attract” (Shelly 38). Once under proper middleclass guidance, Elizabeth becomes the ideal female by providing comfort andsupport while becoming dependent on male energy and male provision. Thus, likeher foster mother, she is the perfect domestic woman: daughter, sister, friend,and wife-to-be.
Justine Moritz, a poor girl is also saved from her tyrant,exploitive mother by Caroline. Once introduced to the bourgeois Frankensteinfamily Justine trained to be a servant. Just like Caroline and Elizabeth beforeher, Justine quickly learns the female role of serving others. Undoubtedlythankful for Caroline saving her from her tyrannical mother, Justine idealizedher and considered her to be “the model of all excellence, and endeavored toimitate her phraseology and manners” (Shelly 65). Evidently, Justine attemptedto emulate Carolines middle class virtues making her equally passive andobedient. Justine, along with Caroline and Elizabeth, are manifestations of howwomen fulfill and are fulfilled by their servitude dominated domestic lives.
Women once guided into what Mary Shellys mother Mary Wollstonecraft describesas “gentleness, docility, and a spaniel-like affection,” are less agentsthen they are objects acted upon (6) . This theme is evident by the early deathsof Caroline, Justine, and Elizabeth,