Female Empowerment and Subjugation in "Anne of Green Gables" and "Frankenstein"

Apr 26


Andrew Sandon

Andrew Sandon

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Exploring the contrasting depictions of female characters in L.M. Montgomery's "Anne of Green Gables" and Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" reveals a profound commentary on the societal expectations and personal agency of women in literature. Montgomery presents Anne Shirley as a resilient, imaginative young woman who challenges societal norms, while Shelley portrays Elizabeth Lavenza as a passive figure shaped by the expectations around her. This analysis delves into how these characters reflect the authors' views on women's roles and individual agency during their respective periods.

Contrasting Characterizations of Anne Shirley and Elizabeth Lavenza

Anne Shirley: The Resilient Dreamer

In "Anne of Green Gables," Anne Shirley emerges as a symbol of resilience and empowerment. Montgomery crafts Anne's character as one who defies the constraints of traditional femininity through her spirited personality and intellectual ambitions. Anne's journey from an orphan to a beloved member of the Avonlea community underscores her ability to overcome adversity. Her aspirations and achievements,Female Empowerment and Subjugation in particularly in academia, highlight a significant shift towards gender equality in literature of the early 20th century. According to a study on literary heroines, characters like Anne have inspired increased educational aspirations among young women readers (Smith, 2015).

Elizabeth Lavenza: The Embodiment of Passivity

Conversely, Elizabeth Lavenza in "Frankenstein" epitomizes the passive 19th-century female ideal. Shelley's character is largely defined by her relationships with men, particularly her role as Victor Frankenstein's love interest. Elizabeth's lack of personal agency and her ultimate fate—murdered on her wedding night—serve as a critique of the limited roles available to women during Shelley's time. This portrayal reflects the broader societal norms that valued women primarily for their domestic roles and compliance, as discussed in historical analyses of gender roles (Johnson, 2018).

Societal Influence and Authorial Intent

Reflecting Social Contexts

The stark differences between Anne and Elizabeth can be attributed to the distinct societal contexts during the times the novels were written. Montgomery, writing in the early 20th century, presented a character who could embody the burgeoning feminist ideals of her time. In contrast, Shelley, writing during the early 19th century, depicted the restrictive roles women were expected to play, highlighting the need for societal change.

Authorial Backgrounds and Influences

Both Montgomery and Shelley were influenced by their personal experiences and the societal attitudes of their times. Montgomery's own experiences with education and independence are mirrored in Anne's character, who values self-expression and intellectual growth. Shelley's experiences within a circle of prominent intellectuals, yet observing the limited roles of women around her, influenced her portrayal of Elizabeth as a critique of women's subjugation.

Impact and Legacy

Educational and Psychological Impact

Characters like Anne Shirley have been shown to influence young readers' perceptions of their own potential and roles in society. Research indicates that strong female characters in literature can contribute to higher self-esteem and greater career ambitions among female readers (Taylor, 2020). In contrast, characters like Elizabeth Lavenza may evoke critical thinking about historical gender dynamics and empathy towards those who experienced such limitations.

Cultural Reflections

The enduring popularity of both "Anne of Green Gables" and "Frankenstein" reflects ongoing cultural discussions about gender roles and individual agency. Anne's character continues to inspire adaptations and new interpretations, resonating with contemporary audiences' values around female empowerment. Elizabeth's tragic story prompts reflections on how far societal attitudes towards women have come—and how certain expectations persist.

In conclusion, L.M. Montgomery's Anne Shirley and Mary Shelley's Elizabeth Lavenza serve as compelling literary figures through which to explore themes of female empowerment and subjugation. Their stories reflect not only the personal ideologies of their creators but also the evolving societal understandings of women's roles throughout history. As we continue to interpret and re-interpret these characters, they offer valuable insights into the complexities of gender, identity, and personal agency.