Feminist and post-colonialist readings


Using feminist criticism and post-colonialism

You may want to apply a specific method or reading to your work with Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Here, we show you how you can use the analytical methods called feminist criticism and post-colonialism to analyze and understand the novel. Note that you do not have to use both of them at the same time.

A feminist reading of the novel

At first glance, Frankenstein seems to be a very male-dominated novel that doesn’t defend the rights of women. All the women are passive, accept whatever society or the men decide, and end up dying innocently. Also, the women are all described in terms of their beauty, which seems to suggest that they are just objects of desire in men’s eyes. This reading is consistent with how society saw women at that time; they were considered to be weaker than men and incapable of rational thinking.

However, a feminist analysis of the novel suggests that Shelley subtly criticizes this stereotype of women as passive and without importance. This is for example seen when both Justine and Elizabeth give excellent, intelligent speeches at Justine’s trial. By using logical arguments, they indirectly show that women are just as intelligent and strong as men.

The idea of women as strong individuals with a will of their own is mirrored in Frankenstein’s thoughts about the female companion he is making for the creature: “She, who in all probability was to become a thinking and reasoning animal, might refuse to comply with a compact made her creation.” (p. 170). Frankenstein is aware that this female is going to be capable of rational thinking (“thinking and reasoning”), and that she might not agree with her mate or Frankenstein.

Shelley also seems to suggest that women are an essential but overlooked stabilizing influence in society. In an important passage, Shelley suggests that if men paid more att...

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