Caroline, Elizabeth and Justine

Women as victims

It could be argued that the principal women characters in Frankenstein exist largely to be rescued, to suffer and then to die:

  • Caroline, Victor's mother, is rescued as a child by his father
  • Caroline in turn rescues Elizabeth, but dies after nursing her through scarlet fever and developing the disease herself
  • Justine is rescued from a wretched childhood, only to be wrongly convicted and executed for the murder of Victor's brother William
  • Elizabeth is murdered by the monster on the night of her marriage to Victor.

Why are the women victims?

The passivity and victimisation of Justine and Elizabeth can be seen as both:

  • a function of Victor's character
  • an outcome of his obsession with the monster.


Justine dies:

  • as a direct consequence of the monster's resentment of the circumstances of his creation
  • because of the monster's despair at his creator's rejection
  • because of the monster's desire to take revenge on Victor for depriving him of the comfort and support of a normal family life.


In the case of Elizabeth, death occurs because:

  • Victor's preoccupation with his work causes him to delay their marriage
  • once again, the monster intervenes to deprive Victor of a relationship that he himself has been denied.

If we assume, as some critics have done, that in creating the monster Victor has made a second, uncontrollable version of himself, then the following points emerge:

  • the creature could be seen as acting as Victor's instrument, as acting on his behalf
  • at some level, Frankenstein wills Elizabeth's death because of his own fear of sexuality.

Summary: women as victims

Justine and Elizabeth suffer from the actions of a man with tunnel vision, who does not allow the distractions of sexual love and family obligations to divert him from a highly focused pursuit of knowledge. (See also, Themes: Absent mothers and the fear of the maternal.)

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