Mary Shelley’s Life

          Feminism is “the advocacy of women's rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men”. When reading Frankenstein through a feminist lens, we get a closer insight into Mary Shelley’s personal life, and the way it shapes the novel overall.
          In “The Motherless Child” by Steven Lehman, he does some background research into Shelley’s life in order to critically think about which aspects of it was included in Frankenstein. Through the detailed researched in Shelley’s life, it is now apparent that she had many fertility issues with becoming a mother, which caused her to feel as unwomanly as possible. Shelley also lost her mother at a very young age, so there is that detachment between her and her mother, much like Victor Frankenstein and his creature. The abandonment felt when losing her mother at such a young age, comes to life when Victor abandons his creature right after creating it. Victor takes on that motherly role by birthing his creation. (49) 
          The use of a male character is intentional because that was the way Shelley felt physically by not being able to carry a child of her own. In some ways, it seems as though Shelley believed that male characters were in fact superior to the female characters, and that her story would hold a lot more value if the main character was a man. Again, these actions presented within the novel are direct depictions of Shelley’s thoughts and life. The fact that Victor’s creature didn’t come out as planned brings forth the topic of deformation, sometimes common with babies when born. Instantly there is a hate and scorn for bringing this “thing” into the world, much like Shelley would have some sort of hate or disgust for herself by not being able to be “normal”.
          I have found my own feminist view on the novel. Previously, it was stated that feminism is equality between both men and women, and that to be is exactly what this novel suggests. Throughout the novel, Shelley someone tricks us into believing that by creating a male character would somehow make her story stronger, when in fact
it has down quite the opposite. Just as Shelley could not bear a child, neither could a man. By using science as a cheat to creation, Victor ends up creating a huge mess that he cannot undo. Victor realizes in the novel that he cannot go against nature because it will only end badly for
him, much like Shelley cannot control her nature of not being fertile to carry a child. The creature lacking the female presence is a clear parallel to Shelley to both her not being able to conceive, and her not being able to share that mother daughter companionship. “The endurance of Frankenstein and its amplification to truly mythic status results from its articulating, “perhaps for the first time in Western literature, the most powerfully felt anxieties of pregnancy” (Mellor 
41)” (50). This is fascinating because it points readers in a direction that they probably wouldn’t even have noticed, had it not been pointed out. Readers will feel compassion for this monster because he has not started off with the intentions of hurting anyone, but rather society has
tortured him into being that way, and thus transforming him into someone who isn’t well liked. (50)
          This is a very fascinating approach to reading Frankenstein because at first read, it is not quite apparent that so much of her personal life is intertwined within the novel. Feminism was a key factor in this novel and I enjoyed reading Frankenstein through that specific lens.

Creation of Life Without a Woman

Possible Reasons Why Shelley Makes Frankenstein a Hidden Autobiography

  • Mary Shelley wants to create this novel as a way to cope with her infertility.
  • Feeling down on herself, she creates male characters to emphasize and make her point that she feels less womanly for not being able to bring forth life.
  • Shelley also makes a clear comparison to "Paradise Lost" by John Milton in this novel as well, once again creating emphasis that she feels as though she can find a place of belonging. Much like Satan is kicked out of heaven for not living up to God's standards, she too creates a monster in the novel that feels as though he is shunned away from society for being different, to the point where it's own creator wants nothing to do with him.


Throughout the years,  Frankenstein has been considered a classic. Although it may have been inspired by Mary Shelley's inability to conceive, it has grown into one of the most recognized stories of all time. It has now fallen under the category of horror, which seems to fit the way Shelley may have felt about her situation. “the horror and retribution attached to the procreative act in the novel make plain the conflicted dimensions of her identification with her mother and with her being a mother. (The Motherless Child pg 49)

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It's Alive!

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