What are the feminist, existential, political, and social interpretations of Frankenstein?

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A feminist interpretation of Frankenstein might suggest that the female characters are presented, on the whole, as more passive than active and as idealized rather than realistic. Elizabeth, for example, is largely passive in the novel, and indeed her passivity is epitomized in the scene toward the end of the novel where Frankenstein finds her dead, murdered by the monster. She is described in this scene as "lifeless and inanimate, thrown across the bed." Elizabeth is also described, throughout the novel, in very idealized terms. When she is first introduced, for example, her hair is described as being of "the brightest living gold," as if setting "a crown of distinction on her head." Her eyes are "cloudless." She is also described as like "a distinct species," as being "heaven-sent, and bearing a celestial stamp in all her features." Thus the character of Elizabeth, arguably, never really seems convincingly real.

From an existentialist perspective, the novel seems to explore that fundamental existentialist question of human limitations. Frankenstein creates life, and in so doing seems to exceed the limitations of human power which, from a religious point of view, were regarded as sacrosanct. By creating life, Frankenstein tries to become a god, and for that reason he is punished. Indeed, Frankenstein's story, in this respect, is a common one. Lucifer was thrown out of heaven for trying to rival God's power. Prometheus was punished for giving something (fire) to mankind that belonged to the gods. Icarus' wings melted when he tried to fly too close to the heavens.

Regarding political and social issues, Frankenstein can be read as a response to the concerns of the age in which it was written. One possible reading of the novel, for example, is that the monster represents the fears, prevalent in the early nineteenth century, of the working classes. More and more workers were moving to the cities to secure work in the factories that were being built as part of the industrial revolution, and there were fears that these working classes, in such numbers, would bring with them crime, violence, disease and immorality. With this in mind, perhaps the moral of the novel is that the working classes are merely a product of the conditions which are thrust upon them. Indeed, the monster in the novel is not a monster at all to start with, but only becomes monstrous because of the treatment he receives.

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