Roles of Women in the Nineteenth Century

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This paper examines some theories of feminist views on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. It analyzes the depictions of women in the story in relation to men. Moreover, it takes into account Mary Shelley’s life to understand the roles of women in the nineteenth century.

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The analysis draws upon Anne Mellor’s On Feminist Utopia, Ellen Moers’s Female Gothic, and Johanna M. Smith’s ?Cooped Up’ with ?Sad Trash’: Domesticity and the Sciences in Frankenstein. It also contains the introduction of Mary Shelley in the second published edition. While analyzing, the coincidence between the novel and Mary Shelley’s life is taken into consideration.


As some feminist movements, such as the Me Too movement, are going strong, there have been more and more feminist literary works. However, it is not the case two centuries ago when women were suppressed and treated worse than their male counterparts. Yes, it is true that while rich women might have had better lives than poor men. However, rich women were less respected than rich men, as poor men were more respected than poor women. One of the rare works is Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Women, which voices the need for gender equality in the society.

Her daughter, Mary Shelley, although was not publicly known for being a feminist, her book Frankenstein was considered a feminist work by some scholars. The fact that women in Britain in the nineteenth century lived in their domestic sphere, and dependent on men is demonstrated in not only the novel Frankenstein itself but also in Mary Shelley’s life.

To understand Frankenstein as a novel, I think it would be necessary to understand Mary Shelley as a person and how she came across the ideas for Frankenstein. Mary Shelley, or Mary Godwin, was the daughter of William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft, who were well-known for their writings. Since she was young, she was different from other girls in her time in that she received an education. She then had a romantic relationship with a married Percy Bysshe Shelley and became his mistress. In her teenaged time, Mary Godwin was impregnated with Percy Shelley’s daughter, who later died from premature birth. After the death of Shelley’s first wife, Godwin and Shelley got married. The couple later had three more children, two of whom also died. Her husband passed away in a boat sink, leaving her a widow. Several decades later, she was killed from illness.

During her time, she was never as well-known as her parents or her husband, yet her most famous work, which was Frankenstein, also known as The Modern Prometheus, was a phenomenon in British literature as it left a huge and lasting impact until today.
Mary Shelley came across the ideas for Frankenstein by chance.

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