Frankenstein And Critique Of Education

Mary Shellys Frankenstein focuses on human nature and on the possibility of
controlling experience in order to shape character and cultural values.

Specifically, it focuses on the influence of education and experience in
effecting behavior. In general, the characters are divided in to three groups by
education and experience: passive rescued women, ambitious bourgeoisie men, and
the self-taught lonesome creature. Through the female character group, Mary
Shelly illustrates how the combination of education and experience shape
attitudes and behaviors of women to be passive objects, which leads to their
demise. Mary Shelly spends the least time describing the education of women,
repeating one version of female upbringing. The lack of time devoted to female
characters in general is not a blatant disregard of women; rather, it is
testimony to the limited role women exercised in public sphere of society.

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Caroline Beaufort is the model of virtuous femininity rescued from poverty to
bourgeois passivity. Caroline, the daughter of a proud, failed businessman,
follows her father into self-imposed exile to avoid the humiliation of failure
where he falls into a terrible sickness of humiliation. Completely dedicated to
her father, Caroline “attended him with the greatest tenderness; but she saw
with despair that their little fund was rapidly decreasing” (Shelly 32)
Luckily Caroline “possessed a mind of uncommon mould; and her courage rose to
support her in her adversity… and by various means contrived to earn a
pittance scarcely sufficient to support life” (Shelly 32). She not only cares
for him during his pathetic free fall from life, but she also actively procured
work and single-handedly supported herself and her father. It is obvious that
has Caroline possesses the skills and tenacity to support not only herself, but
her father as well. However, when her fathers falls victim to death she
immediately transforms from a caring, productive women to “an orphan and
beggar” (Shelly 32). There is nothing to note any changes in the attitude or
actions of Caroline to warrant such a change. Rather, the change is a direct
result of the death of her father. Despite the fact that Caroline possessed the
ability to provide for herself, her description and social status remained tied
to her father. Even though women had the ability to act as free agents in
society, their description, status was invariably tied to a male. Luckily, for
Caroline, an associate of her fathers rescued her from her sudden socially
imposed poverty. While mourning her fathers death, Alphonse Frankenstein”came like a protecting spirit to the poor girl, who committed herself to his
care” (Shelly 32). Caroline translates her gratitude of being saved from a
tough mans world into lifelong subservience. She immediately transfers her
selfless dedication from one man, her father, to another, her new husband
Alpohnse Frankenstein demonstrating the females artificial dependence on men.

Saved to the feminine life of passive servitude, Caroline similarly rescues
other girls from poverty and educates them in the virtues of bourgeois
domesticity. Thus, she finds Elizabeth, whose seemingly innate, upper class
feminine virtue makes her shine amid a family of “dark-eyed, hardy little
vagrants” (Shelly 34). Upon being rescued, Caroline “presented Elizabeth to
Victor as her promised gift” (Shelly 34). Immediately following her
introduction to bourgeois life, Elizabeth is transformed to possession of a
male. Once in the Frankenstein household, Elizabeth learned to be “the living
spirit of love to soften and attract” (Shelly 38). Once under proper middle
class guidance, Elizabeth becomes the ideal female by providing comfort and
support while becoming dependent on male energy and male provision. Thus, like
her foster mother, she is the perfect domestic woman: daughter, sister, friend,
and wife-to-be. Justine Moritz, a poor girl is also saved from her tyrant,
exploitive mother by Caroline. Once introduced to the bourgeois Frankenstein
family Justine trained to be a servant. Just like Caroline and Elizabeth before
her, Justine quickly learns the female role of serving others. Undoubtedly
thankful for Caroline saving her from her tyrannical mother, Justine idealized
her and considered her to be “the model of all excellence, and endeavored to
imitate her phraseology and manners” (Shelly 65). Evidently, Justine attempted
to emulate Carolines middle class virtues making her equally passive and
obedient. Justine, along with Caroline and Elizabeth, are manifestations of how
women fulfill and are fulfilled by their servitude dominated domestic lives.

Women once guided into what Mary Shellys mother Mary Wollstonecraft describes
as “gentleness, docility, and a spaniel-like affection,” are less agents
then they are objects acted upon (6) . This theme is evident by the early deaths
of Caroline, Justine, and Elizabeth,


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