Frankenstein And Critique Of Education Essay Research

Frankenstein And Critique Of Education Essay, Research Paper

Mary Shelly?s 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.

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 father?s 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 female?s 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 Caroline?s 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 Shelly?s mother Mary Wollstonecraft describes

as ?[g]entleness, 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, which Mary Shelly implies are a logical

outgrowth of the bourgeoisie ideal. This is especially evident in the death of

Caroline. Elizabeth was severely ill due to a case of scarlet fever. Although

she initially refrained from helping, Caroline attended Elizabeth who ?was

saved, but the consequences of this imprudence were fatal to her preserver?

(Shelly 42). Knowing full well the potential consequences of her actions,

Caroline choose to ignore the advice of others and choose to attend Elizabeth at

her sick bed. Caroline died because of her selfless dedication to others.

Essentially, Mary Shelly is implying that women who selflessly dedicate their

lives to others are in danger of killing themselves. The death of Justine Moritz

is an example not of women selflessly dedicating their lives to others, but

rather, of passive women being acted upon. Justine was wrongfully accused of

killing William Frankenstein due to circumstantial evidence. A family servant,

while washing clothes, found a locket that Elizabeth had given to William

shortly before his death. Once on trial, Justine is unable to effectively argue

her innocence due to a series of odd circumstances and questionable explanations

for those circumstances. Upon this, Justine declares that she ?commit[s] [her]

cause to the justices of [her] judges, yet [she] see[s] no room for hope?

(Shelly 54). Fully educated in the female bourgeois ideal of a passive female,

she neither is unable to nor even effectively attempts to prove her innocence.

Rather, she calls on people to testify on her behalf, including Elizabeth.

Elizabeth, like Justine, does not even attempt to effectively uncover the truth

regarding William?s death. Instead, she focuses on how well Justine fulfilled

the role of a bourgeois woman and had no reason to murder anybody. Elizabeth,

like Justine, lacks the ability to effectively argue against Justine being the

murderer. Instead, relying on their perceived goodness effectively making them

passive to the entire ordeal. Both Justine and Elizabeth have learned well the

lessons of submissiveness and devotion that Caroline Beaufort epitomized for

them. Similarly, their model behavoir lowers their resistance to the forces that

kill them. The death of Elizabeth is the final example of the implication of

passivity leading to the death of a female. In this case, Elizabeth is attacked

and killed by the creature due entirely to the actions of Victor. This is

another, though extreme, example of women being completely acted upon. Elizabeth

did nothing at all to warrant this death except follow bourgeois virtues. Those

virtues told her to be dedicated to a man whose actions cause her death. Thus,

she was entirely acted upon and had absolutely no agency or freedom from a man

ever in her life. Mary Shelly uses the female characters of Frankenstein to

demonstrate the ridiculous manner in which women were educated in the bourgeois

ideal. These ideals taught women to be passive and in turn were acted up instead

of being active agents. Thus, Frankenstein is a call for a method of educating

women, one that does not limit and weaken women.


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