Safie is first introduced as a mysterious lady on horseback, “…dressed in a dark suit, and covered with a thick black veil”. (Shelley 87) She is referred to as a lady which suggests that she’s from the upper class and marriageable rather than of a certain age. Her language is accented and “musical” as she asks for Felix, revealing her foreign heritage. When her veil is removed, the creature beholds “a countenance of angelic beauty” and remarks that “her eyes were dark, but gentle.” (87) This unveiling is in sharp contrast to the unveiling in Radcliffe’s novel The Veiled Picture in which a horrible dead woman lies beneath. Safie’s hair is described as, the color of “a shining raven black and curiously braided;” and her complexion “wondrously fair, each cheek tinged with lovely pink.” Her physical attributes bring “ecstatic joy” to Felix. It is only when he calls her his “sweet Arabian” that the reader gets a hint of her origin. (87) It is as if Safie is a complete vision of beauty to the Creature, much in the same way that William Wordsworth envisions the woman in She Was a Phantom of Delight and considerable time is spent in his description of her.
Safie is an emotionally happy character but one whose deep emotions and empathy affect the Creature strongly. Her emotions and beauty are what captivate him and stir his first thoughts of a female counterpart to share his life. Although the creature characterizes her as “always gay and happy;” he sheds tears of “sorrow and delight” when she sings, as her voice “flowed in a rich cadence…like a nightingale of the woods” (88). Her song is filled with emotion which resonates to the Creature. Safie’s empathy is displayed as she weeps over the “hapless fate” of the American Indian, (89) and her ability to draw strong emotions from the Creature with her musical voice helps to drive him back to Victor, thus advancing the story.
Safie’s intellect is in question when first she arrives. It is apparent that she does not possess the language of French, as signs are used to communicate with the cottagers. But is this due to lack of intellect or simply the fact that she is from very far away and has never had the need to learn French? It is not until chapter VI that we find out how intelligent and clever she really is.
Chapter VI also explains Safie’s mysterious background. We learn that she is the daughter of a Turkish merchant and a Christian Arab, which is the reason she possesses such exotic beauty. We also learn of the incarceration of her father for his faith and his plan to escape by using his daughter as bait. Safie will have nothing to do with this. She wants to stay in the new world, following her mother’s Christian background. Once Safie discovers that her father has promised Felix her hand, Safie sees this as a way to stay in the freedom of Europe and avoid the bondage of her father’s land. Despite the deceit of her father’s plan, Safie takes it upon herself to take jewels and money and return to her amour Felix. This boldness shows a strength of character that was unapparent until this fact was revealed.
Safie is a pivotal character in the novel Frankenstein. Her character is the one that causes the creature to reexamine his life. She causes him to dream of becoming educated and of finding a caring mate, when before he felt alone. Her presence is strong throughout the short time she appears and she sets up the second half of the story by instilling hope. In order to do this, Shelley realized she needed a character that was much different than those the creature had come upon before; a caring person who shows love and compassion. All these things she wrote into Safie. Her power to incite an urge to learn becomes the turning point in the novel, for as the creature discovers knowledge, he becomes stronger and more powerful in his mind. He discovers this knowledge because of Safie’s desire to learn French. Once he observes her learning, he begins to learn too along with her, and this leads to a brutal discovery for him, reasoning. He then recognizes how utterly alone he is, and begins to desire a companion much like Safie.
Shelley’s mission was to introduce a female character who was not like anyone else and to inspire the creature to act. Although Safie never speaks, and communicates only through signs and emotions, these are the things the creature can understand. Without her character, or one like hers, the reader would have been hard pressed to find the creature’s inspiration.