Last Updated 11 Nov 2022

An Analysis of Struggles in Frankenstein, Anna Karenina and Pride and Prejudice

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In society, citizens are expected to confirm to certain ideals; a set of assumptions, concepts, values, and practices that constitutes their way of viewing reality. The nineteenth century was a pivotal period in European history that included key changes in social classes, the 'Industrial Revolution', extensive urbanization and both religious enlightenment and rebellion. The protagonists in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Mary Shelly's Frankenstein and Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina are each an example of iconoclastic individuals struggling in their society's expectations. The BBC production of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, directed by Simon Langton is a carefully replicated period love story for a contemporary audience. The dialogue and repartee, is thoroughly crafted, to evoke tension, wit and flirtation in the two main characters while still remaining accessible to a modern viewers.

Authentic Regency costumes, settings, and a prosaic musical score provide necessary atmospheric conditions for contemporary viewing. Actors' striking impertinent poses substitute the display of any real emotion; Elizabeth Bennet is demure in a mischievous, yet calmly desperate performance. The subplots are illuminating without dominating. Characters in the form of Mrs. Bennet (her vicarious need to be successful through her daughter's marriages, intended for wealth and social status, portrays the false impression that she cares about them.), Lydia and Collins are emphatically caricatured to elucidate social satire.

The institution of marriage, and economic insecurity for women is contrasted by Jane and Elizabeth's resolves to marry for love with Charlotte's choice to wed for stability. Representations of social behaviours and aristocratic pretension are well suited for the medium, portrayed artistically with camera shots that allow the viewer to engage with Austen's characters. The production negotiates the intricacies of Regency society that threaten the individual in society. A woman in Regency times was excluded from all professions and higher public offices. Most could not earn money unless marrying for it or inheriting it. Indeed "patriarchal control of women depended on women being denied the right to earn or even inherit their own money". Elizabeth Bennet does not conform to the behaviour and standards of her microcosm, but is educated in the workings of the game.

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By resisting the existing social norms she faces the danger of never finding happiness or her place in life. Because she doesn't adhere to the standards set by society where the family and the community predetermine the aspirations of the individual, she's self-sufficient and independent, contemptuous of the conventions that restrict individuality. This causes her proud disposition as she regards herself as above customary society. Elizabeth finds happiness when she learns to recognize her faults, and learn from experience, accepting Mr. Darcy's second and her altogether third proposal. After realising her prejudices against her family and community She states: "Had I been in love, I could not have been more wretchedly blind...till this moment, I never knew myself". 'Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way These opening lines, which most writers wish they themselves had written, underscore the central themes and issues of marriage, love, and family life in Leo Tolstoy's Russian epic, Anna Karenina.

Set in the backdrop of 1860's revolutionary Russia, the novel is an unashamed attack on familial institutions, freedom, individuality, and social conventions. Described by many critics as a Russian 'Scarlet Letter', the central plot line is adultery and Anna's betrayal of her husband. An idealised aristocratic wife, Anna is trapped in an unfulfilling marriage to a man she never loved. Upon her arrival 100 pages into the novel to save her brothers marriage, she is besotted by the roguish Vronsky. What follows is a dangerous liaison that tests Anna's veracity and integrity. The book portrays marriage as a social constraint. Anna's husband is willing to ignore her actions as long as she doesn't seek a divorce, caring only of her appearance as a dutiful wife. However her strength of character is evident in her reply to him regarding Vronsky: "I love him, I am his mistress, I cannot endure you. I am afraid of you, and I hate you...

Do what you like to me". Hypocritically, her brother Stiva is not chastised for his adulterations, as it is more acceptable for men to be unfaithful than women, whereas Anna is sentenced to social exile and driven to a tragic end. Anna fears pregnancy, worried it will take away her sexuality. This dependence on attractiveness for social success is characteristic of Russian women of this time who had no independent role. Marred by her insecurities and branded by her adultery Anna evolves from near flawlessness to suicidal collapse In Tolstoy's novel, trains appear as an insidious symbol of advancement versus tradition.

It is in the midst of trains that Anna meets her lover, and it is at this time where they witness the death of a railway worker-a frightening omen that climaxes when the stifling forces of society lead Anna to end her life by jumping in front of an on-coming train. Unlike Pride and Prejudice's Elizabeth Bennet, Anna Karenina does not triumph in marriage or acceptance but in death. Tolstoy tells us: "the position she held in Society was dear to her, and that she would not have the strength to change it for the degraded position of a woman who had forsaken husband and child and formed a union with her lover; that, however much she tried, she could not become stronger than herself". Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus is the greatest literary achievement of Romanticist writer Mary Shelly. Published in 1818, Frankenstein highlights the issue of an individual discarded by society and what happens as a result.

The dark tale of student Victor Frankenstein's un-dead creation is a chilling look at the Individual in Society. Narrated in fatalistic past tense, Victor Frankenstein recounts his story to ship-captain Robert Walton. Victor is himself a kind of monster, alienated from society by his ambition, secrecy, and selfishness. After realizing his dream of reanimating a corpse, Victor's life turns into a horrendous nightmare. While 20th century pop culture has misinterpretedly christened The Monster Frankenstein, it is Victors rejection of his creation and denying it of a name, and thus an identity, that causes The Monsters bloodthirsty revenge, 'now ... the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart'. Attacked again and again by humankind because of his gruesome appearance, The Monster, alienated and alone develops a deadly hatred against his creator and all mankind.

In his attempts at gaining Victor's attention and adoration, the Monster resorts to manipulation and murder climaxing in the strangulation of Victor's bride on their wedding night. Subsequently Victor chases the monster north where he is rescued by Walton, before one last confrontation with the Monster. Science and technology, as in Anna Karenina, challenged traditional perceptions about religion and creation. The alternate title: The Modern Prometheus relates to Frankenstein and his illicit, otherworldly knowledge of resurrection. Prometheus, a figure in Greek mythology, took fire from the gods to give to man and consequently suffered everlasting punishment. Likewise, Frankenstein's obsessive pursuit of knowledge is disastrous, but his realisation of thus comes only after the murders of his father, brother, best friend, wife and her maidservant.

He pleads with the reader: "Learn from me ... how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge, and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow." Frankenstein's nature causes his emotional and physical peril since he cannot balance his intellectual and social relations. Immersed in his research he alienates himself from society. Mary Shelly may well be telling us that Ignorance really is bliss. Contrastingly, human injustice towards outsiders is expressed in the experiences of The Monster. Throughout his narrative, the monster laments over man's cruelty to those who are different: "You, my creator, abhor me, what hope can I gather from your fellow creatures, who owe me nothing? They spurn and hate me". In the course of the novel, Frankenstein becomes progressively more like The Monster; both are alienated from society, yearn for a female companion and are suffering from their transgressions.

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