Frankenstein as a Gothic Novel Literary Analysis

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The aim of the essay is to discover if the different Gothic conventions are present in the novel and how they are featured, as well as the expoloration of different topics of importance for the analysis of the novel. Despite the large number of Gothic novels, novellas, short stories, and sometimes plays that appeared in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries in England, critics introduced little critical writing about the Gothic literature. It is noticeable that the Gothic novel does not enjoy a good space in the essential books of the history of English literature.

However, in the 1970s and l980s, we notice an appearance of critical writing on the Gothic fiction. Gothic literature wins wider circles of reader-ship; reading Gothic fiction becomes a commonplace habit in Europe, and Mary Shelley is described as “one of the greatest practitioners of the Gothic novel. Meanwhile, Frankenstein is viewed as a landmark in English literature, signaling the transition from the eighteenth-century Gothic tales, with all their mysteries and ghosts and artificial horrors, to the deeply serious romantic novel of the nineteenth century.

In the year of its release Frankenstein was immediately identified as a Gothic novel. The dark and gloomy setting and usage of traditional elements were conducive for this reception. Strictly speaking Frankenstein does not correspond with the traditional features of Gothic fiction.

Mary Shelley’s novel is not set in a ruined Gothic abbey, nor does it involve spectral apparitions, but part of its purpose is to frighten us and it has some fairly gruesome descriptions of Victor Frankenstein’s use of the spare parts of dead human beings. It also explores the terrible psychological hell into which Victor is plunged, and in her descriptions of this state Mary Shelley shows the typical Gothic stylistic trait of stressing the inadequacy of language to convey the full horror of the experience.

The Gothic novel is “a kind of, novel with sensational and horrifying events, popular in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein implements many elements of the gothic genre in order to enhance her horror story. The two elements that animate this genre within the text the most are isolation of characters and the dark, gloomy settings where they are isolated. Shelley also incorporates scenes containing a sublime nature in order to make the monster appear more bizarre; however the scenes where he appears in a gothic setting provide a greater sense of terror for the reader, and increases the reader’s sense of his looming presence and vengeful spirit.

It was on a dreary night of November that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils. With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony, I collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet. I was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes, and my candle was nearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated it limbs.

Passages like this make one shudder at the very thought. At the same time they arouse curiosity and a delightful feeling of danger and fear. In fact, horror presents to be one of the most intense feelings man can perceive. Murder, monstrous brutality, supernatural and mysterious happenings, unsafe and creepy places, scientific experiments and weird beings like split selves, monsters, vampires and ghosts depict only few of the things that disturb the situation of natural order and typify imaginative and realistic threats.

Horror fiction combines such scary cases that generate a sense of the unknown, fear and a state of disorder. As in this type of narration the natural order is being rebuilt after a period of horror and distress, this literary genre evokes several feelings in the reader, including fear, stress and anxiety as well as sympathy, delight and relief. This composition of positive and negative feelings produces a mechanical craving for more. Hence, during the period of emergence, more precisely in the late 18th and early 19th century, Horror fiction is perceived as appealing and entertaining and therefore enjoys wide reception.

Provoking terror was one of Mary Shelley’s main intentions in writing Frankenstein. That implies that she was endeavoured to provoke reactions of fear and horror in the reader and the more powerful those reactions were, the better – or in Shelley’s words: the more worth its genre – the story would be. Throughout the novel, although the power of the imagination is emphasized, its uses or effects are as much challenged as they are celebrated. It may be seen that Frankenstein is at times horrible and disgusting, but Mary Shelley uses such horror not merely for its own sake, but to reveal fascinating psychological insight. Trueful terror is to be found not in ghostly apparitions but in the human psyche that the real horrors are within us.

Shelly reveals the story of a man’s thirst for knowledge which leads to a monstrous creation that goes against the laws of nature and natural order. The man, Victor Frankenstein, in utter disgust, abandons his creation who is shunned by all of mankind yet still feels and yearns for love. The monster then seeks revenge for his life of loneliness and misery. The setting can bring about these feelings of short-lived happiness, loneliness, isolation, and despair. Shelly’s writing shows how the varied and dramatic settings of Frankenstein can create the atmosphere of the novel and can also cause or hinder the actions of Frankenstein and his monster as they go on their seemingly endless chase where the pursuer becomes the pursued.


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Frankenstein as a Gothic Novel Literary Analysis. (2020, Sep 10). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/frankenstein-as-a-gothic-novel/

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