In the novel “Frankenstein”, the role of the family and especially the women in the family is explained clearly. Use of realism as well as various aspects of romanticism portrays the objectives and stereotypes associated with the family. Romanticism is presented through artistic features such as the use of imagery and metaphors while realism is clearly depicted through characterization (Thakar 3). In particular, the book purposes to bring out the perception that women play a passive role in the family and they need the support and approval of the men in the family. At the same time, it also poses the intriguing question of the role played by social ties in bringing sanity to individuals. From the themes developed in the book, family ties can help in developing individuality, sense of self-esteem as well as ensuring that health and wellbeing are maintained.
In the life of Victor Frankenstein, the family initially played a crucial role in developing character and a sense of happiness and wellbeing. Through the early years and during his pursuance of science and alchemy, Victor knew all along that his ambitions would only bring him pain and suffering. The relationships created between the men and women in the family from the onset of the novel indicate distinctive role -play in the social settings (Mayer 1-6). There are those whose objective is to foster academic growth such as the professors and the teachers. On the other hand, the family members have the role of fostering social growth and care within the community. It is these roles that women such as Caroline, Elizabeth and Justine play in the life of Victor Frankenstein. In particular, his mother manages to clearly influence how the narrator of the story relates to others.
The role of women in the book is depicted as being passive. Using feelings, plot, and metaphors, the narrator manages to clearly give the women this passive character through their depiction as helpless and in need of care. For instance, Caroline, the mother of the narrator, is not described as an important person from the beginning. The narrator clearly says that his mother has been taken in only following the death of her father who was her caregiver and protector (Shelley 2-4). The objective of Alphonse in taking in Caroline was not initially to consider her as a wife but to protect her as his friend had done before his death. This only means that Caroline was considered to be incapable of taking care of herself even though she was already of marriageable age. This proves to be a twist to the expectations of the reader since a wife has to take care of her family as well as her husband. This cannot be accomplished if the wife cannot even take care of herself.
Although the dilemmas passed through by women in the book sometimes indicate their inability to make decisions, the characteristics of different women in the life of the narrator are confirmed that they have high value in the society. For instance, it takes Elizabeth as well as Henry to create peace and a feeling of fulfillment in the life of the narrator (Shelley). This gives the impression that women have greater influence on the men’s lives and that they have the same value as the men in spite of the passive image portrayed. It also takes Elizabeth’s letter to convince Victor to go back to Geneva after his failed experiments. This supersedes even the efforts made by Henry who only brings back feelings of nostalgia but does not succeed in convincing Victor to go back home. From the roles of Victor and Elizabeth in trying to hack the murder of William, it is clear that women are also crucial in guiding men towards making effective decisions when it comes to family matters. The women beg the men not to make the wrong decisions although they know the right ones.
On the other hand, the book portrays the men in the family as strong and capable of making decisions. They are to be the protectors of the women in the family as well as in the society, hence the incessant desire to offer assistance to those seemingly abandoned. However, the author clearly uses the juxtaposition of realism and romanticism in the novel to indicate the helplessness of men in certain situations. From the correlationism represented through romanticism in literature, it can be deduced that the challenge faced by Victor is synonymous to the challenges of loneliness (Washington 448). This is based on his creation of the monster and his inability to deal with it satisfactorily. It indicates that despite strong and protective appearances portrayed by men, they may at times be haunted by monsters which they are incapable of overcoming. In the case of Frankenstein, the monster may have been used to represent the challenges of depression and paranoia that may result due to loneliness and estrangement from family ties. Consequently, while the author uses imagery to depict such occurrences in the family life, he also perfectly weaves it in realism since such occurrences are common and inevitable where social ties are involved. The professors, school and experimental apparatus serve the purpose of indicating that occurrences such as depression have triggers that one may not easily understand.
Mayer, Laura Leis. A teacher’s guide to the signet classics edition of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. London: Penguin Books, 2009.
Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft and Maurice Hindle. Frankenstein. London: Penguin Books, 2003.
Thakar, Shreya. A current study and comparison of realism and romanticism. St. John Fisher College press, 2013.
Washington, Chris. Romanticism and Speculative Realism. Literature Compass Journal 12, 9(2015): 448- 460.