As intended by the author, Mary Shelley, the novel Frankenstein falls under the category of fiction know as Gothic or Horror. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, Gothic Novels are defined as: "Of or relating to a style of fiction that emphasizes the grotesque, mysterious, and desolate." Therefore, Shelley's work would fit this bill. Frankenstein is very much full of the horrible elements that make up mankind and his society. In addition to conforming to the load that many gothic novels do, Mary Shelley illustrates many of the facets of Mankind that are not necessarily positive attributes. This includes such things as Mankind's oppression of certain individuals due to their looks and a few of the conflicts that have always been prevalent within the frameworks of organized society. Mary Shelley not only uses her novel Frankenstein to tell a great horror or Gothic story, but she also used it as a critique on the establishments of man and his faults due to ever-present conflict.
In the horror genre, usually there is a sense of remoteness and a sense of indefiniteness. This is also present in Frankenstein in that the reader is never told exactly where it is that Victor creates his monster. The only information as to the location is that it is somewhere in Ingolsadt. On top of that, Ingolstadt is a very unfamiliar place for most readers as well, so that most definitely adds to the mystery that the novel presents as well. Another such event that is left unexplained is that of Henry Clerval and the monster arriving at the coast of Ireland. Never was the means of getting there explained.
Also prevalent in stories of the horror genre are descriptions by the author that are "spooky" or result in the reader becoming a bit "frightened." Mary Shelley does not shy away from using descriptions to invoke fear in the reader one bit throughout this novel. She writes with real relish about the dismembered bodies and maggots. One attribute that Shelley used quite frequently was that of thunderstorms and bad weather. For example, the creation of the monster occurs during a thunderstorm late ant night, and by candle light. Shelley described it as, "it was a dreary night of November that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils... It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes, and my candle was nearly burnt out..."(p.66). Shelley used rhetoric to her advantage in setting the "spooky" mood that she wanted present in various parts of the novel. In addition to the stormy weather, the "laboratory" that Victor uses while giving the creature life is apparently located in some isolate part of an old house. That is a fact that adds to the dismal outlook that the reader inevitably faces. In other parts of the novel, it seems as though whenever something central to the theme of the monster and Victor encountering scary situations, Shelley will turn to describing the weather as being stormy.
Throughout the events of the novel the monster always to know Frankenstein's whereabouts. This brand of Extra Sensory Perception that the monster possessed actually added a scary attribute to the story. No one knows how or why the monster knows Victor's every move, but since he does the reader always is to have the fear or must brace himself to the idea that at any time the monster can jump into the picture unexpectedly. This attribute is exhibited in chapter twenty-four. Frankenstein visits the cemetery where his all of his loved ones that were killed by the monster rest. After thinking about how the killer is still of the loose, Victor made an oath to take the life away from the monster. As soon as he was through with his lengthy vow, he was "answered through the stillness of night by a loud and fiendish laugh. I felt as if all hell surrounded me with mockery and laughter"(p275). Since the laugh by the monster comes as a surprise to the reader, that in itself adds to the horror of the reader. However, the mere knowledge that the monster has Victor at his mercy due to the psychic-like phenomenon that the monster seems to possess. In other words, there is really no way for Victor Frankenstein to escape the monster and that is frightening.
In my opinion, above all of the aforementioned tools to invoke horror into the novel, I have found the very idea in the story to be the most frightening attribute of all. The "genetic engineering" or ability to give life to an inanimate object them is very scary in the very least. This was probably especially true at the time that this book hit stores because it is a forerunner of that kind of theme. In 1997, it seems like every time one is to turn around another book is written about some scientist creating a being, whether it be human-like or just by genetic engineering and everything is to go hay-wire. But back in 1831 when Frankenstein was written, there was not another story like it. This new idea in itself must have been a very scary thing to people, especially since this age-old theme is still frightening by today's standards.
There is a major conflict between civilization and its values that is central to the story in Frankenstein. Mary Shelley really wanted to make a kind of critique on society in this novel. Her critique was of people who judge people by looks. This idea is the main reason that the events precipitated as they did in the novel. The first such instance was of Victor disliking a Professor of his just due to his appearance. Victor describes his Professor, M. Krempfe as, "a little squat man, with a gruff voice and a repulsive countenance; the teacher, therefore, did not prepossess me in favour of his pursuits"(p.50). This prejudice that Victor displays here is central to the story and adds a sort of irony later on in the story.
Immediately after Victor gave the monster the final touch to spark life in it, he simply judged the monster on its looks only. Since the creature was very ugly looking, this did not bring up a very positive situation for Victor. Victor described initial contact with the monster as follows, "I had gazed on him while unfinished; he was ugly then; but when those muscles and joints were rendered capable of motion, it became a thing such as even Dante could not have conceived"(p.68). Obviously if I was to witness this take place without the prior knowledge of what was going on, I would be very frightened. However, since Victor knows exactly what is going on as he is giving the monster the final sparks of life, it is odd that he should be so frightened. Could it really be so bad that he reject the monster at the very instant of its conception? In accordance with Victor's actions towards his initial contact with the monster, Shelley kept the theme of mankind condemning an individual due to its looks by having Victor scared of the monster strictly due its ugliness. This is different than if I was the one in the laboratory, for I would be very scared as would anyone. However, due to the fact that Victor had worked on it for a couple of years and knew the situation exactly, he had no real right to be taken aghast by the mere sight of the creature. Since he was fully expecting the creature to come to life, it was kind of odd that he would disown the creature so abruptly, which goes along with the critique that the author probably intended. Therefore, as Shelley presumably wanted to emphasize, humans use vision as their primary form of acceptance in too many occasions. This particular situation would constitute a valid use of a very over-used proverb, "one should never judge a book by its cover." In this very respect, Victor "judged a book by its cover" as much of society does and did not accept the creature for its actions or any other thing of substance other than that its ugliness apparently was enough for him to be appalled. This same theme is the very reason as to why the monster goes on a killing rampage. He begins to realize after a number of years that his ugliness is enough such that no one will accept him. This is especially true to him because his very creator or "father" would not accept him on the basis of ugliness. The creature himself realizes this as well. After having read Victor's journal that he found in his pocket, the creature said, "Accursed Creator! Why did you forma monster so hideous that even you turned from me in disgust?"(p.171). Since his only contact with society, other than that with a blind man, has been people who show very much horror at the very sight of him, the monster begins to realize that he will not be able to be a part of human society based on his physical appearance. That deeply saddens him because of his need for companionship. That is probably a major part of Shelley's critique on society. Therefore, the creature begins to go on a sort of "killing rampage" until Victor is to meet his demands and create another creature as to give him a companion to live with and associate with. Since Victor cannot get himself to do just that, the creature goes on a killing rampage to people that specifically effect Victor emotionally.
The conflict between science and nature is probably the issue that is first addressed in the minds of most readers as they read the novel in this day and age. At least, that is the way that is was for me upon reading the fabled Chapter Five, where Victor gives the creature the final spark of life. In the last couple of years, the debate between science and nature has been prevalent in the newspapers and the news on television. This is largely due to the fact that scientists have figured out ways to clone genes and are increasingly getting closer to possessing the ability to clone an entire human being. The frightening implications of this technology is what has sparked many debates in recent months. The church, or those on the side of religion, argue that by no means is it up to a human being to create life. In other words it is unethical for a person to "play God" by creating another life. Those on the side of the scientific viewpoint on this matter argue that this technology can improve life. They generally charge that with the use of cloning individuals or parts of individuals, one can possibly have a liver or other transplantable organ created for use. Thus the need for donors diminishes drastically. The same debate could be had over Victor Frankenstein's attempt at and success at creating life. However, since Victor failed to make the situation that he going to attempt to give life to an inanimate object known, no one was able to confront him about it in the book. The struggle between science and religion was basically closed within the circles between the creature, Victor's conscience, and Victor's motivation. Victor had good intentions when he initially wanted to give the creature life. Victor wanted to have the knowledge to create life so that he would be able to kind of rid society of death, which can be considered another benevolent and dignified motive. In some readers' minds, this can be considered similar to the motive that modern science wants to obtain; a world that is more supportive of human life. Victor's initial motive stems from the loss of loved ones that he felt was unfair. Therefore, in the novel, he feels obligated to find and perfect a way of bringing life upon inanimate things so that he can possibly use that technology to alleviate the pain of loss due to death of individuals close to him.
In this novel, a major theme is that of society repressing the creature solely because he does not fit into the mold of a normal human being. This is not due to the creatures intentions, attitude, or habits. The reason for his being repressed is solely due to society looking upon him as a not very athstetically pleasing image. Due to this great feeling of isolation and lack of a companion, the creature gets upset. The creature illustrates the oppression that is being aimed at him by mankind and the faults of mankind in the statement that follows. "God, in pity, made man beautiful and alluring, after his own image; but my form is a filthy type of yours, more horrid even from the very resemblance"(p.171). So basically, he wants Victor to know that the society is very deceitful and bad. Since the form of the creature's repression stems from his not having any companions or friends, he says, "Satan had his companions, fellow-devils, to admire and encourage him; but I am solitary and abhorred"(p.171). The creature feels that he should be a good enough "soul" to have a companion since he is not evil like Satan. Therefore, he proceeds to request Victor to make another being, one that would befriend him so that he could leave mankind. However, Victor fails to do so and suffers more deaths of more loved ones from the wrath of monster who did not receive his wishes that were not too much to ask.
In Frankenstein, Shelley is really able to make a critique on society and its faults. In addition, it easily fit the bill as a Gothic or horror story. She used the various characters as tools to get through to the reader the state of mankind and some of the problems that are present. Granted she wanted to tell a great story, but no writer is able to completely tell an unbiased story and she is of no exception. In fact I, along with others, believe that she greatly intended on making the conflicts that society faces present in an entertaining form.
Frankenstein As A Gothic Novel Essay
Tragic wanderers, ominous atmosphere, symbolism, and themes: these are elements of a Gothic novel. Though Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, written in the early 19th century, certainly contains many components of a Gothic novel, can it be correctly grouped under that genre?
A definition of a Gothic novel; according to Tracy, is a description of a fallen world. We experience this fallen world though the aspects of a novel: plot, setting, characterization, and theme (De Vore, Domenic, Kwan and Reidy). As well, early Gothic novels have characterized themselves through the use of moral commitment and exotic atmosphere in their themes (Lowry 32). Stock characters that were typically present in Gothic literature were the social outcast, the misfit, the guilt haunted wanderer, and the solitary eccentric. However, earlier Gothic literature was considered primitive and mechanical – trite and clichéd by our standards. An example of early Gothic literature was Horace Walpole’s Castle of Otranto, being a dramatic affair with haunting prophecies, knights, castles, dynasties, and typical Gothic settings. Its plot, which consists of a heir being told by a prophecy that tells the demise of his family and heir, and dying from being randomly crushed by an enormous iron helmet, later on with the use of sexual perversion, violence, and typical Gothic stock characters such as ghosts to advance the plot.
However, later Gothic novels; especially Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein broke this typical convention, with heavy stress of the use of typical Gothic atmosphere and symbolism, focusing on conflict between the good-evil nature of mankind and creating characters that are not typical black and white heroes and villains, rather; fallen and tragic people (Lowry 36). The use of typical Gothic symbols, atmosphere, conflicts of good and evil, and tragically fallen characters stem from the archetypes of the Gothic novel in Frankenstein.
Frankenstein’s use of atmosphere and imagery is used in a typical Gothic setting – dark in nature. In James Whale’s 1931 adaptation of Frankenstein, imagery such as crosses, a statue of Death, and a crucified Jesus Christ are shown to give a first impression into the macabre nature of Henry Frankenstein’s gathering of corpses. As the plot advances, rain and thunder are added to show pathetic fallacy to foreshadow the creation of the monster and warn the viewer of the dangers of the monster’s creation. The dark setting of the castle is typical of the Gothic genre, and also contrasts with the use of light and fire as horrifying to the monster, a creature of darkness by nature. In Chapter 5 of Frankenstein, the creature’s ugliness is exemplied from Victor Frankenstein’s point of view: "It was on a dreary night of November, that I beheld the accomplishments of my toils. With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony . . . I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breath hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs" (Shelley 56)....
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