Safie is an adopted member of the De Lacey family who came to be in a rather peculiar way. She is the daughter of a once enslaved Christian Arab woman and a Turkish merchant. Through a long journey, involving De Lacey, Agatha, and Felix, Safie ends up in Germany at their cottage in hopes of seeing Felix again, whom she has feelings for. While she is at the De Lacey cottage, they teach her language and speech, among other things. The creature is able to watch Safie's education take place and forms an indirect connection with her. Safie stays with the family, and the family goes on with their usual routine of gardening and maintaining their cottage. The creature gains the confidence to go meet De Lacey when the rest of the family is out, knowing that he is blind and cannot judge him by his physical appearance. When the creature is still at the cottage talking to De Lacey, the family comes home and they are horrified. Safie runs out of the cottage leaving Agatha who has fainted and Felix who is trying to defeat the creature. Shortly after, the family leaves their cottage and the creature burns it down. Even though Safie holds a rather short space in Frankenstein, she plays an important role in the formation of other characters in the novel. Without the introduction of Safie, the themes of education, relatable "otherness," and the idea of a character used as a pawn would be nonexistent. Safie serves as an outsider when she arrives at the De Lacey household, even though she is quickly well received. Safie also forms an indirect connection with the creature as he learns by listening in on her lessons with the De Lacey family.
Safie as a Pawn
In volume two, chapter six of Mary Shelley’s, Frankenstein, the history of Safie is given where readers see how she becomes a part of the De Lacey household. Safie’s dad, the Turk as he is called, has been put in prison the day that she arrived to see him in Constantinople. Felix sees the injustice during his trial and wants to help him escape from prison and the death penalty that he faces. On page 92, the creature highlights the Turk’s intentions with his daughter stating, “The Turk quickly perceived the impression that his daughter had made on the heart of Felix, and endeavored to secure him more entirely in his interests by the promise of her hand in marriage, so soon as he should be conveyed to a place of safety” (Shelley 92). This shows the way that Safie was simply the means to an end. The Turk wants to get out of his punishment by the French government and Safie is just what he needs to do this. She is beautiful enough and charming enough to keep Felix on board with helping until the Turk could get what he needs from the relationship: to be free. Safie is invested in Felix and leaves him letters where she “deplored her own fate” (Shelley 93). When Safie leaves Felix intimate letters pertaining to her family, it shows that she does trust and value him. Later on the in the chapter, Felix helps the Turk escape from prison and they are all together. The creature tells us that “[the Turk] loathed the idea that his daughter should be united to a Christian; but he feared the resentment of Felix if he should appear lukewarm” (Shelley 94). Once again, the Turk is simply using Safie as a way of securing his safety and freedom. The Turk is faking his feelings towards Felix so that he will remain loyal to the plan that they have devised and almost completely carried out. The Turk's lack of caring towards Safie's feelings show his true motives which are everything but kind and fatherly. Lastly, when Safie’s dad thinks that the government knows where he is, he decides that he has to leave so the French government will not find him. The creature narrates this saying, “He intended to leave his daughter under the care of a confidential servant, to follow at her leisure with the greater part of his property” (Shelley 95). So now that he is afraid of being found, he is ready to get out of dodge and leave his daughter where she might be questioned or get into trouble with French authorities. Safie is along for the ride with her dad, the Turk, but he simply wants her around because of the advancement and security she would provide for him. After he thinks he will be able to leave safely and secretively, he leaves her without any reservations. Safie is used by her father as a pawn throughout his questionable travels.
When Safie arrives at the De Lacey cottage in chapter five of Frankenstein, she is welcomed in the way that an actual family member would have been. While living with the De Lacey family, they begin to teach her their language, which, in turn, promotes learning with the creature. On page 88, the creature says it occurs to him that “[he] should make use of the same instructions to the same end” (Shelley 88). This is the first example that is given where the creature is provided a more formal way of learning what the cottagers know. It is more formal in the sense that he is not simply overhearing their day-to-day conversations, but getting second hand lessons through Safie. If it were not for Safie, these lessons would not have taken place and the creature would not have had this kind of teaching. The creature even mentions that they are learning together, which solidifies the way that Safie is affecting his education and bringing him a remote form of companionship (Shelley 88). Not only is the creature picking up on the lessons, but the indirect friendship and bond that is made helps the creature too. On page 89 the creature states, “While I improved in speech, I also learned the science of letters, as it was taught to the stranger; and this opened before me a wide field for wonder and delight (Shelley 89). The creature is learning with Safie, as well as learning through her. Safie, the outsider, is learning the language of the De Lacey family, and the creature is benefitting from her arrival and desire to learn. Had the creature never happened upon the De Lacey cottage and Safie not struck out on her own to find Felix, the creature might not have ever known a more formal, structured kind of education. Lastly, the creature says, “While I listened to the instructions which Felix bestowed upon the Arabian, the strange system of human society was explained to me” (Shelley 90). The creature is learning much more than the letters, sounds they made, and what they mean. He is learning the way that the human society, of which he is made, functions. The kind of learning that Safie inspires means much more to the creature than merely overhearing the De Lacey's conversations because he is able to build his education while becoming more like the cottagers: normal humans.
Safie as the Relatable "Other"
Although Safie could not be defined as the only “other” in Frankenstein, she forms many similarities with the creature, who is a definite “other.” In chapter ten, the creature states, “I soon perceived, that although the stranger uttered articulate sounds, and appeared to have a language of her own, she was neither understood by, or herself understood, the cottagers” (Shelley 87). This example highlights the way that the creature observes barriers between the cottagers and Safie. Safie, although completely and naturally human, like the De Lacey family, is still having the same kind of communication problems with the cottagers that the creature knew he would have if he were to meet the De Lacey's. Safie is in the “other” category because of her inability to communicate effectively in the beginning. As “the other,” Safie wants to be well received upon arriving at the De Lacey cottage, which is one of the creature's only wishes. On page 88, the creature says, “the Arabian sat at the feet of the old man, and, taking his guitar, played some airs so beautiful, that they at once drew tears of sorrow and delight from my eyes” (Shelley 88). This excerpt illustrates the way in which Safie wanted to please the people that she was living with and to become less “otherly” to them. Safie may not have been able to communicate verbally to the cottagers, but playing De Lacey’s guitar is a way of communication and connection for her. This short passage also shows Safie’s connection to the creature. They both desire to be close and intimate to De Lacey, Agatha, and Felix, but are having trouble due to their “otherness.”
Impact for/in Frankenstein
Safie plays a brief, but nevertheless important role in Frankenstein when she enters the book in chapter five and leaves in chapter eight. Safie is important to Frankenstein because she is what spurs the Monster to want an education. The creature is content with the knowledge that he is learning, just by observing and listening to the De Lacey’s, and seeing their relationships. But when Safie arrives she becomes his means for a more formal education. Not only does she serve as an educator, but she is there learning with the creature in an indirect way. Had Safie never made the journey to Germany after her father left her, she would not have had this kind of an impact or maybe any impact at all on the creature. Safie holds another important role in Frankenstein. Safie provides the creature with hope. She begins as an outsider that cannot communicate and later transitions nicely into the De Lacey household, bringing much happiness. The creature, after seeing her interactions, desires that kind of connection. The creature sees that she, too, is an “other” which sparks his confidence and keeps him going even though he is living in complete solitude. Safie serves as an outsider that echoes the creature’s struggle with language, and need to belong.
In film adaptations such as Frankenstein (1931), The Bride of Frankenstein, and The Curse of Frankenstein, Safie is completely absent. The closest mention of the De Lacey household is in The Bride of Frankenstein. De Lacey is present, but only for a brief moment where we see the blind man playing an instrument with great joy. Very shortly after, his cottage is burned down.
The Bride of Frankenstein. Dir. James Whale. Universal Pictures, 1935.
The Curse of Frankenstein. Dir. Terence Fisher. Hammer Film Productions, 1957.
Frankenstein. Dir. James Whale. Universal Pictures, 1931.
Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. Ed. Susan J. Wolfson. 2nd ed. New York: Longman, 2007. Print.