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Stereotypes as used in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein


 Introduction

Mary Shelley life can be viewed as not all that smooth as a writer. Her life was filled with tragic and dramatic experiences as seen in most of her works. Frankenstein is her famous novel in which the main character is in search for his creator. She was born out of wedlock as an illegitimate child to William Godwin who was a radical theorist on French revolution and Mary Wollstonecraft the writer of ‘Vindication of the Rights of women’. Her mother is considered the pioneer of women rights. She was pregnant with Mary when she married Godwin. Mary Shelley never met her mother as she died after ten days of giving birth to her. This early loss is seen by many literary theorists as Mary’s first search for identity which reflects in her works especially in the creatures found in Frankenstein which she began to write at the age of eighteen.  She got romantically involved with to Percy Bysshe Shelley the poet. The couple faced constant debts, death of their prematurely born daughter, and social ostracism. They later got married in 1819 after Percy Shelley’s wife Harriet committed suicide.


 Frankenstein

This is a gothic novel published in 1818 when Mary was twenty. The novel is also referred to as the Modern Prometheus. Victor Frankenstein is the scientist in the novel who imitates God by learning to create a being with life but lager and more powerful than the normal man. The novel has aspects of romanticisms movement and Gothic. This exaggeration of human aspects acts as warning to man during the era of industrialization in Europe as alluded in the subtitle; the Modern Prometheus (Dunn, 1974, pp 408-417).

 This work has been adopted into movies and horror stories in modern literatures and popular culture.


 Stereotypes

 These are the public believes held about specific individuals or social groups. They are the simplified and standardized concepts concerning a person or group based on presumptions.  Early stereotypes majored on racial aspects in which the blacks were viewed as primitive, uncivilized and smelly among other aspects. These are the aspects that justified slavery and imperialism to keep black people in a lower socio-economic position. This aspect has however changed in modern society. 0ther stereotypes experienced today deal with the class, ethnic background, age, gender, sexual preferences and the concept of beauty. 


 The theme of stereotype

 Mary Shelley’s has portrayed the image of the dark Other through the use of stereotype. The Victorian stage views her turning of the monster to be more of a caricature as and imagery of sinister and avidity of a corpse of Otherness. It is important to study the characters and their experiences as class politics as seen in the artificial body and figure of the creature. The creature is a potential scientist to be universally acknowledged but environmental factors are oppressing this potential. This shows the oppression of the working class who have the potential of becoming the new working class. Rituals of cleanliness and the support of natural diet depict Shelley’s perspective of the social change according to Marxist arguments that depicts the barbarities of the aristocrats and the indiscipline of the laborers.


 The creature’s destiny is that of becoming a mock to the upper-class reformists the habitus. All these shows Shelley, view of class stereotypical perception that existed at that period. The otherness is portrayed by the terrifying figure and the behavior of the monster that eats meals of the workers both raw and cooked. He hides in kennels to drink water and bread.  His voice is likened to that of an ass or dog.


 However the creature has humane nature for is he is not savage by refusing to kill Felix. This aspect needs s to be natured for establishing sustainability.  During this period the upper class passed this message for societal reforms as seen through the use of diet discourse. The creature is alike a social observer who views the naturalistic methodologies of a family near him. He judges the feeling that they go through and is affected as he watches them weep.


  The discourse of imperialism is seen in Shelley’s novel in which the Other is seen in sexual difference. This is a racial issue in which the feeling of superiority becomes a stereotype that has to be deconstructed in the novel. This deconstruction happens in Frankenstein’s laboratory in the form of a male womb. In which an unfinished creatures becomes very much disturbed as she is in the verge of life and death. Frankenstein’s shows his racists perspective as he fears what creature the female creature may give birth to; ‘ a race of devils’ (p 158). the other characters Elizabeth, Clerval and Victor represent the Kantian  philosophy of aesthetic as seen in Elizabeth’s judgmental attitudes, ethical as seen in Clerval practical reason critique and cognitive in Victors critique of pure reason. These are aspects of Western imperialism as part of ideological frame. It is important to note that during the age of romanticism, Europe was extending it territories to the rest of the world into Asia and Africa through trade and exerting political control. Social anxieties during this period are seen through the character Victor over utilitarian and advances of dominating the world (Morton , 2002. p 104)


  The sexual reproduction of using artificial male womb is therefore not a battle between male and female but a blind vacancy that shows man competition with God and women in child production. This was a dynamic aspect during the nineteenth century in which sexual reproduction and social subject-production of feminism in imperialism.


 Just like ‘Paradise lost’ in which Adam accuses God as the source of his physical challenge, Frankenstein constantly accuses Victor of his metaphysical dilemma in which the society has isolated away from him due to his figure that has lead him to leading a life of sin loneliness and despair (Harwood, 2002 pp 105). This is how the modern day judgers a person which is through physical beauty rather than what a person possesses inside him/her.


 Mary Shelley’s life can also be interpreted in this context. Though not knowing her biological parents, she appreciated the care and love provided by her step father who was intellectual. He did not discriminate against her as how the society judged her for being born out of wedlock (Toumey, 1992 p 8)


 Another aspect of is political stereotype which Mary Shelley goes into the mind  of the monster and questions how it feels  like to be defined and labeled  and much more to be dictated physically through this type of stereotype. The monster is a victim under the circumstances of Burkean and a victim of republican circumstances, who ha resurrected from the grave. The social orders above him are the source of his misuse and oppression of politics of the later ninetieth centaury. This was at a period of the climax of Chartisam in 1848-49 when the image of Frankenstein Monster immerged. This period was characterized by the enfranchisement of the working classes and troubles with the Irish. The monster according to the author has many qualities associated with human qualities. The monster is a symbol of revolutionary ideas. This aspect is also seen when the monster tries to befriend the family he has been living with but the family is afraid of him. This rejection makes him to seek vengeance against his creator.


 How to stop stereotypes

 Stereotyping as an act of assuming things about people which are aspects carried from previous historical events. These aspects have no place in modern day society because a civilized society overcomes stereotypical judgments. People have to consider that modern day stereotyping adds no value to people. As an individual one has to look at the comments people have said about him or her that were not true. Based on these comments one can assume that they are how stereotypes are formed.


 One also has to adopt logic and critical thinking one on every stereotypical comment that comes along.  It will be important to realize it better to let people define themselves and not to be defined by others.Third step is to determine the cause of that stereotype by the criterion that has been used to develop a certain stereotype. For instance, aspects such as do all liberals want increased taxes or not all conservatives are religious. These can be the empirical facts that prove stereotypes to be wrong.Finally, it is important to talk to people whom you have been for a long time stereotyped and find whether the aspect that have been stereotyped were really true.


 What will happen if stereotypes continue?

Stereotyping causes major psychological damages to the society though they may seem humorous. Many have so much internalized stereotypical issues that they believe they are true facts. Many cross cultural stereotypes have lead to less communication between   people of different cultural background. There will be continued isolation of people due to how each group perceives the other group.


 Major impact of this isolation has major implication on social, political and economic impacts. Currently the world is becoming a global village in which interactions of different countries with different cultures have come together to trade, negotiate and help each other in improving the general growth of developing countries. This shows that stereotypes and isolation have no room in today’s world. A country which isolates it self will automatically remain behind in its development. This aspect applies to a community and also to an individual ( Bright Hub, 2010)


 The older generation has been the source of modern stereotypes. They have breed their children to believe in superiority of their own, religion, culture, skin color, political view, country and continent as being the best compared to others. If this does not stop, then the society is headed for trouble whereby the child will find it hard to interact with other child from a different ethical, political and social background.


 Conclusion

It is important to acknowledge the presence of stereotypes which have existed in the community and the negative impact it has brought since the old times. Shelley Mary being an observant writer was able to acknowledgers the presence of these aspects that existed in the seventeenth century in Europe. Stereotypes concerning class issues, political issue, gender, physical appearance are dominant in her work the Frankenstein. There are ways which the society can use to avoid being controlled by stereotypical perceptions thorough the four steps provided in this paper. Finally the society is warned on long-term consequences if stereotypical perception still controls our minds which will affect our social political and economic well being.


 Reference

Bright Hub (2010) dangers of Stereotyping. Retrieved from

http://www.brighthub.com/education/

on 8th March 2010

Morton , T (2002)A Rutledge literary sourcebook on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Publisher Routledge,pp 102
Sheelley, M (1979)Frankenstein, Publisher Pearson Education pp 54
Harwood, B (2002)Mary Shelley: Frankenstein, Colombia university press, pp 105
Dunn, R (1974) Narrative distance in Frankenstein. Studies in the novel 6, pp 408–417.

Toumey, C (1992) the moral character of mad scientists: a cultural critique of science,  p  8


 

 
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