Frankenstein Questions and Answers
by Mary Shelley

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In the novel Frankenstein, why does Safie want to marry Felix? I'm having trouble writing my essay because I want to write about how passive women contribute to the theme of gratitude and obligation. For instance, when Safie's father let Felix marry her because he attempted to free him, that would be an example of gratitude (Felix's attempt to rescue him) and obligation (Her father giving Safie up to Felix as thanks for what he did). So why does Safie marry Felix? Is it because she feels obligated to do so? If so, why? and if not why does she marry him?

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Felicita Burton eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Issues of female agency are complicated in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, in part because she includes few female characters. Shelley herself was quite familiar with the 19th-century constraints on women’s actions, and her female characters often seem to struggle against the social confines that class and other aspects of status, as well as gender, imposed on them. Thinking about the range of actions encompassed in “agency” might diversify the options for a paper topic. “Passivity” seems more a quality of a person’s character than a definite step a person could take—consider what Shelley says about what people do as well as how the way they are.

In Frankenstein, Safie is the only woman who is allowed to tell her own story, notes Sauleha Kamal” (2018). Safie exercises considerable agency in writing to Felix, not just once but numerous times. She defies her father and travels to the De Laceys’ cottage so she can be with Felix. Her mother, along with Christian religion, had “taught her to aspire to higher powers of intellect, and an independence of spirit . . .” She meets Felix in the context of his efforts on her father’s behalf, but Shelley portrays their relationship as an instant attraction between two young people; love at first sight was explanation enough in Romantic fiction.

The fact that Shelley tells us the young woman and her father are “Mahometans,” an archaic word for “Muslims,” may indicate more than one attitude toward their religious beliefs. The Orientalism in vogue in England at this time put forth a largely positive, albeit stereotypically romantic view of Muslims that seems to apply to Shelley’s Turkish characters, who were wrongfully imprisoned, even though the father himself turns out to be duplicitous. Recent analyses of Safie’s character have also drawn attention to her relationship to the creature, as she has also a hybrid identity, and the creature himself praises her superiority to the Europeans.

Kamal, Sauleha. 2018. Picturing “Female Followers of Mahomet” as “Veiled Maids”: Muslim Women and the Victim/Seductress Binary in Frankenstein and “Alastor.” Postcolonial Text, 13(1).

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Lorna Stowers eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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One could suggest that Safie, a character in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, does not wish to marry Felix out of either obligation or gratitude. Instead, Safie's desire to marry Felix comes from her dislike of her father's religion and her love for Felix. Instead of embracing the Muslim religion (her father's), Safie embraces Christianity (a religion introduced to her by her mother).

Not only is Safie enamored with the idea of leading a less restrictive life as a Christian, as opposed to Muslim, she truly loves Felix. The conversation between the two is limited to broken language and pure emotions. This, alone, speaks to the honesty behind Safie's love of Felix. Safie has risked everything to be with Felix. Therefore, I would suggest that it is not about obligation or gratitude at all. Instead, one could suggest that their love contrasts the love between Victor and Elizabeth (one which does seem to stem from obligation and gratitude).

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