Hypocriticisms: Double Standards in Literature No. 3

Clipart depicting two women. Left, a woman is bent double and struggling under a huge stack of books. Right, a woman stands on her tiptoes to add another book to the top of the stack.

Welcome back to Hypocritisms, the series in which we list a few double standards we find in literature!

If you’ve ever read a book, you might have noticed that sometimes there are some double standards.  All kinds. It’s not limited to gender roles or sexuality. Just like in real life, you see discrimination for aspects like age, religion, justice/law, race/nationality, nepotism, and so on.

Today we’ve got to talk about Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus, the first gothic novel, written by a teenage Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley.  Good stuff.

A big theme in this novel is revenge. So of course there’s got to be a double standard surrounding that. And it’s pretty easy to find.

You probably know the story, but Frankenstein creates a monster, which he abandons as soon as he brings it to life. On a scale of Charlemagne to Cronus, Frankenstein is probably somewhere in the middle. The poor monster runs off somewhere, and learns how to speak and read from an exiled French family who actually don’t realize they adopted him. That gets a little awkward. In the meanwhile, Frankenstein goes home to be with his own family and vapid sister figure / love interest. But once the monster realizes his own origins and where to find Frankenstein, he decides to get revenge, and ultimately murders Frankenstein’s kid brother. Understandably, this causes a bit of a ruckus in town.

So at this point, when the monster confronts Frankenstein in the woods, Frankenstein is somewhat upset and wants revenge on his creation. To which the monster replies:  

“Listen to me, Frankenstein. You accuse me of murder, and yet you would, with a satisfied conscience, destroy your own creature. Oh, praise the eternal justice of man!” (That’s sarcasm, by the way; the monster is really good at it.) 

Never mind that the monster really did murder a little boy for the sins of his brother, the monster does rightfully point out that no one would condemn Frankenstein for taking revenge against the monster. If their places had been reversed–say, Frankenstein had murdered the monster’s little brother–it would still likely considered “right” for Frankenstein to have done it, solely for the reason that the monster is just that–a monster.

What double standards have you noticed in Shelley’s Frankenstein?

-Leigh Ann

Published by modcasters

We’re a group of graduate students studying English Literature and Language on a mission to discuss literature, provide access to those on the deafness and/or blindness spectrum, and rock mustachios.

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