Although Elizabeth Lavenza is not present for most of the novel, she is a very pivotal character. Elizabeth is a prime example of how women were viewed as minor characters in a man’s story for the time period in which the book was written. The novel Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley, includes many instances where women are inferior compared to men. The main example that the novel displays this is through the character, Elizabeth. She represents a woman who cannot seem to gain any power over her life, and once she gets that opportunity, a man takes it away.
Victor, the oldest child of the Frankenstein family, was very possessive of Elizabeth at a young age. He became obsessed with just the thought of her, starting the moment Elizabeth was brought into the family. “And when, on the morrow, she presented Elizabeth to me as her promised gift, I, with childish seriousness, interpreted her words literally, and looked upon Elizabeth as mine- mine to protect, love, and cherish” (Shelley 19). When Elizabeth was first introduced to the Frankenstein family, Victor saw her as his possession, just as a kitten would be to a child.
He had no understanding of what could possibly happen if he pursued his feelings at the time, he just knew he felt something for her and could not ignore it. She was presented to him as a sister figure, which was a concept that he could not seem to grasp. “No word, no expression could body forth the kind of relation in which she stood to my- my more than sister, since till death she was to be mine only” (Shelley 19). The moment Victor and Elizabeth were introduced, Victor expressed the need to protect her as if she were his lover, his more than sister.
Elizabeth not being able to gain control of her life all started here, with Victor making her his prized possession. Victor’s mother found Elizabeth in the slums and adopts her from a family who lives in poverty. This could have been an early indication that Elizabeth would never have complete control over her life. The slums never let Elizabeth take the reins of her own life by not presenting her with any opportunities to become an independent woman. Growing up poor meant that her family would have to rely on others to give her the lifestyle where she could reach goals and not be so dependent on others.
Elizabeth being brought in and raised by the Frankensteins could have been her opportunity to start taking control of her life as she was provided with a better lifestyle than she previously had. She was transferring lifestyles, going from being poor and unable to do anything for herself because of her family living in poverty, to being brought into a new family and presented with the opportunity to take charge of herself. Moving into a wealthier, more suitable home for Elizabeth gives her more of the necessities she needs to be able to grow more as a person.
The weight of fending for herself can now be lifted off of her shoulders, she does not have to worry about raising herself. Moving in with the Frankenstiens could have been a door of opportunities, such as schooling and independence, opening up for Elizabeth after having to grow up in the slums. This was her moment to become independent and self-controlled. Unfortunately for Elizabeth, as soon as she entered Victor’s life, he began to take the control away from her and into his own hands.
They consulted their village priest, and the result was that Elizabeth Lavenza became the inmate of my parents’ house- my more than sister- the beautiful and adored companion of all my occupations and my pleasures” (Shelley 19). When Elizabeth became a factor in Victor’s life, Victor made the decision that she would now become his responsibility and would be a part of every aspect of life from there on out. Although Elizabeth was presented with the liberty of taking control of her life, she was never able to act upon it as Victor immediately stepped in front of her and took matters into his own hands.
To England, therefore, I was bound, and it was understood that my union with Elizabeth should take place immediately on my return” (Shelley 112). As time went on, Victor took it upon himself to set the date of his and Elizabeth’s wedding without consulting her. Traditionally, a wedding is a larger deal to the bride rather than the groom. This is an example of how Victor would make decisions for Elizabeth prior to her even knowing about it. Victor saw himself as Elizabeth’s protector and would devote his life to her from there on out.
The events that have occurred in Elizabeth’s life are all examples of how women were looked upon in that time period, not being able to gain the same amount of respect that men were given. Between never being given the chance to make decisions for herself, and having Victor constantly over her shoulder, Elizabeth never got the shot she could have had at living an independent life. From the moment Elizabeth was taken from her impoverished family, to the moment that she is killed, she is looked upon just as any woman was back then, a possession not a person.