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The Almost Active Woman: Destroying the Female Creature in Shelley’s Frankenstein

I’ve lately been worrying about the female Creature in Frankenstein. I think that Victor’s motive for destroying the female creature was rooted in his unfamiliarity with a female who does not undertake a passive role in her existence, and his fear regarding what effect that particular kind of female would have on the male-dominated, male-centered, and male-identified universe in which he lives.

Victor speculates on the female’s nature before he creates her, implying that he is having doubts about her creation, whereas he did not do so when creating the male. Victor was “engaged in the same manner” three years prior when he made the first creature, but his thirst for knowledge was so insatiable that he did not pause to contemplate how it would turn out. Only after Victor has seen the outcomes of the male creature, he pauses to “consider the effects of what [he] was doing now” in making a female (118). He admits that he is “about to form another being, of whose dispositions [he] was alike ignorant,” but it is only “now, for the first time, the wickedness of [his] promise burst upon [him]” and he hesitates in the conception of the female. Victor worries that the female creature “might not comply with a compact made before her creation” (118-19), showing that he is only fashioning a female under duress and threat from another male figure. Were it not for another man involved in this deal, the female would not be something Victor would pursue.

Victor assumes that because the new creature is a female, she will probably adhere to the purportedly inherent and somewhat shallow traits of the other females that he knows. Victor thinks that the female will leave the male, that she will “turn with disgust from him to the superior beauty of man,” because of how visually unappealing the male creature is. Victor thinks that in looking upon the female’s ugliness, the male’s ugliness would be reinforced and he would “conceive a greater abhorrence for it,” causing him to hate himself as well as Victor for further reminding him of how he does not fit in in the world (119). Victor is also under the impression that of all the things the female creature would desire, “the first results of those sympathies for which the demon thirsted would be children,” because of the socially accepted gender ideology formed around the belief that females are natural maternal figures.

When Victor realizes the female creature’s difference from other females of the world, he destroys her. Victor refers to the female creature as becoming a thinking and reasoning animal rather than a thinking and reasoning human, indicating that her nonconformity would render her an animalistic demon and therefore a threat to all those who do conform. Victor’s accustomedness to passive females who sit idly by and accept their fates—like his mother, Justine, and later on, Elizabeth—has not prepared him for a female who might refuse to comply to the negotiations and the wills of men like himself. Victor also worries that because of the female’s natural desire for children, that she and the male creature might breed and release “a race of devils [that] would be propagated upon the earth, who might make the very existence of the species of man a condition precarious and full of terror” (119). Victor’s concern for the destruction of mankind—note that he is not concerned male-creature-kind—rests on the shoulders of the female creature: her womb would bring destruction upon the world if it goes unchecked by the male creature or Victor himself.

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. Ed. J. Paul Hunter. Norton Critical Editions. W. W. Norton & Company, New York. 2012. Print.

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Author:

22. BA English, James Madison University. MA English Candidate, University of South Dakota. Poet. Playwright. Memoirist. Cat Mom.

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