The Subjectivity of the Character "Safie" in Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Essay by Anonymous UserCollege, UndergraduateA+, October 1996

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Even though she is only mentioned in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein for a relatively brief period, the character, Safie, is very interesting as she is unique from the other characters in that her subjectivity is more clearly dependent on her religion and the culture of her nation. Contrasts can be made between the Orient and the European society which attempts to interpret it. Often, this creates stereotypes such as western feminists that have viewed 'third-world' women as 'ignorant, poor, uneducated, tradition-bound, religious, domesticated, family oriented, (and) victimized'(Mohanty 290). Of course, some of these things could also have said of European women of the time period, although noone would argue the point since Oriental women were viewed as being more oppressed. Strong contrasts can also be made in relation to the differences between Safie's development as a foreign character and her subjectivity as a female character in relation to those of the other female characters of the book.

While the other female characters lack depth into how their religion and culture affect them, Safie's religion and Arabian culture sculpt her into a subject with feminist qualities juxtaposed against her fulfillment of European domestic ideology.

Many theorists, such as Benveniste who said, 'Consciousness of self [or subjectivity] is only possible if it is experienced by contrast,' argue that one's subjectivity can only exist in their relation to the Other(85). The subject's relation this 'Other' depends on which aspect is being examined. For example, when dealing with gender, it would be the relationship between Man and Woman and when dealing with nationality it would be the relationship between Native and Foreigner. Thus, the character of Safie was defined in terms of her relationship to those around her. In the Turkish society, her role would have been to fulfill positions of lesser rank, such...