Frankenstein as a gothic novel
The gothic tradition highlights the grotesque, relies on mysteriousand remote settings, and is intended to evoke fear. All of these areevident in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, especially in chapter five.
The settings in the novel are striking and distinctively gothic.Appropriately, the creature first breathes on a “dreary night ofNovember,” in a remote laboratory at Ingolstadt.
The eerie atmosphere is typical of the gothic tradition. Victor,unafraid of the dark, spends his time in “vaults and charnel-houses,”he boldly visits the cemetery at the dead of night. details such asthe creaking doors, the soft blowing of the wind in the still of thenight, and the quiet footsteps in the house all lead to a feeling offear and suspense.
On a certain level, Victor’s interest in creating life is an extensionof his desire to escape death. By assembling the body parts of thedead, Victor makes a “monster”, a massive, grotesque being, with themind of a new born baby; and like a tormented spirit, the creationhaunts Victor’s mind.
Analysis: Chapters 3–5
The first three chapters give the reader a sense of impending doom,and chapter four depicts Victor on the way to tragedy. The creation ofthe monster is a grotesque act, far removed from the triumph ofscientific knowledge for which Victor had hoped. His nightmaresreflect his horror at what he has done and also serve to foreshadowfuture events in the novel. The images of Elizabeth “livid with thehue of death” prepare the reader for Elizabeth’s eventual death andconnect it, however indirectly, to the creation of the monster.
Victor’s pursuit of scientific knowledge reveals a great deal abouthis perceptions of sc…
…comments such as “I fear, my friend, that I shall render myselftedious by dwelling on these preliminary circumstances” both remindthe reader of the target audience (Walton) and help indicate therelative importance of each passage.
Shelley employs other literary devices from time to time, includingapostrophe, in which the speaker addresses an inanimate object, absentperson, or abstract idea. Victor occasionally addresses some of thefigures from his past as if they were with him on board Walton’s ship.“Excellent friend!” he exclaims, referring to Henry. “How sincerelydid you love me, and endeavor to elevate my mind, until it was on alevel with your own.” Apostrophe was a favorite of Mary Shelley’shusband, Percy Bysshe Shelley, who used it often in his poetry; itsoccurrence here might reflect some degree of Percy’s influence onMary’s writing.