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Gender Roles In Frankenstein

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Frankenstein: Gender and Sexuality
Mary Shelley explores gender and sexuality as societal constructs in her haunting, gothic novel, Frankenstein. The protagonist, Victor Frankenstein, is a brilliant scientist who creates an intimidating, powerful monster. However, Victor’s homoerotic relationship with his childhood friend, Clerval, and his disinterest in Elizabeth, his fiance and adopted sister, complicate this creation story with sexually charged undertones. Throughout the novel, Victor struggles to reconcile his homosexual tendencies and feminine traits with the society’s strict gender expectations. Victor, who is too self-conscious about his societal standing and image as an acclaimed scientist to reject traditional gender roles, allows
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Victor recalls that, upon seeing Clerval, he “forgot [his] horror and misfortune; [he] felt suddenly, and for the first time during many months calm and serene joy”(37). Clerval’s transformative effect on Victor sharply contrasts with his changes in Elizabeth’s presence. While Elizabeth inspires pity and condescension in Victor, Clerval’s mere appearance releases Victor from his emotional and mental burdens. Although Victor describes Clerval’s influence as nothing more than that of a familiar friend, the disparity in effects between his supposedly platonic friend and his fiance is so clear that it alludes to a possible homoerotic relationship between Clerval and Victor. In addition, Victor later describes Clerval as “a being formed in the ‘very poetry of nature,’” who possessed a “form so divinely wrought and beaming with beauty” (112, 113). Even though Victor dismisses these statements as only a friend’s observations, the description’s passion and enthusiasm barely conceal Victor’s homoerotic desire. Victor also embraces the depth of Clerval’s character with the words “divine” and “beauty,” while he reduces and simplifies his fiancee into an “insect” and “animal.” The stark contrast between his glowing depiction of Clerval and his condescending caricature of Elizabeth points unequivocally to a homoerotic relationship between Victor and Clerval. …show more content…
After the monster warns Victor that he will “be with [him] on [his] wedding night,” Victor laments that “the daemon [would] employ every art to destroy me” and “regard[ed] the threatened fate as unavoidable”(121, 137). If Victor believed that his own life was endangered, this oddly submissive reaction would make little sense. However, the monster’s threat to appear specifically on his wedding night suggests that the monster’s intended target is not Victor himself, but Elizabeth. Victor also understood the subtext of the monster’s message and recognized that his fiancee’s death and rape would free him from his impending emotional and sexual union. Furthermore, Victor left Elizabeth alone during their wedding night and, when he heard her scream, he recalled that “the whole truth rushed into [his] mind, [his] arms dropped, the motion of every muscle and fibre was suspended; [he] could feel the blood trickling in [his] veins, and tingling in the extremities of [his] limbs”(140). Shelley’s vivid description of this moment suggests that Victor’s visceral repulsion to an eternal heterosexual marriage forced his body to revolt and allow Elizabeth to die. Undoubtedly, Victor’s lengthy hesitation to rescue his fiancee reveals his reluctance to consummate an uncomfortable relationship. However, the fact that Victor finds her corpse “thrown across the bed, her

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