Frankenstein: Gothic Literature Analytical Essay

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Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a cautionary tale which follows an inquisitive scientist, Victor Frankenstein, who becomes fascinated by the prospect of reanimating the inanimate and seeks to fabricate artificial life. He pieces together a man-like creature, 8 feet tall, whose ghastly appearance labels it an abomination to all mankind. Deemed loathsome by its creator, the creature develops a thirst for vengeance and proceeds to slaughter everyone Victor holds dear.

Mary Shelley was a 19th century novelist and short story writer most famous for her gothic Novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, which she wrote when she was only 19 years old. It is frequently referred to as the very first work of science fiction and one of the greatest horror novels ever. The classic tale was written 200 years ago on a rainy afternoon in 1817 in Geneva, where Mary Shelley was staying with her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley and their friend Lord Byron. The poet Lord Byron challenged each of his friends to write gruelling horror stories, hence Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was born.

Frankenstein was among the first gothic novels. It was written during the spread of the industrial revolution throughout Europe, in a time of discovery and exploration in the fields of science, religion, and industry. The features of gothic literature which include monsters, death and gloomy settings, provided writers ways to explore and question the unknown.

Mary Shelley uses the features of gothic literature to challenge the views of society, through the story of Frankenstein. Dangerous knowledge is something which Mary Shelley explores. The supernatural is central aspect prevalent within the novel. The character of Victor Frankenstein is one that delves into the realities of dangerous knowledge. The subtitle The Modern Prometheus is a clue to story’s message opposing dangerous Knowledge.

The Supernatural

Mary Shelley uses the supernatural to question the power of science and the unforeseen risks of knowledge and technological advancements. She employs the supernatural elements of restoring life to the deceased and the research into an unexplored territory of science. Frankenstein succeeds “in discovering the cause of generation and life” and claims to be able to animate matter with “a spark of being”.

The monster’s creation occurs in an unnatural way, under mysterious circumstances, and can therefore only be supernatural. The monsters physical power exceeds that of human being and it is virtually unaffected by harsh weather conditions, which renders it superhuman. An instance of the monster being portrayed as a supernatural creature is in the words of Victor Frankenstein himself. “I suddenly beheld the figure of a man advancing towards me with superhuman speed.”

The monster’s super human capabilities are further evident after he is shot by a rustic after saving a girl from drowning. Even when he is severely injured, he continues to live. “After some time, my wound healed, and I continued my journey.” The monster seems to be immune to diseases and infections, when a human would surely perish without medical assistance. Mary Shelley uses the supernatural to symbolise the possible outcomes of scientific advancements and their inevitable risks.

Victor Frankenstein

Victor Frankenstein is an essential character strategically utilised by the author, Mary Shelley, as a representation of human nature and curiosity. He is portrayed as the hero of the story, but it is evident at times that he possesses the qualities of a true villain. Frankenstein’s intentions were not sinister in nature, however the results of his success at artificial life was destructive and undesirable. Frankenstein dreams of transforming society and bringing himself glory through scientific achievements. Yet his ambitions make him flawed.

Frankenstein remarks after completing his creation: “But now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart.” He felt fair and honourable in his pursuit, but only after the monster’s creation, did Frankenstein realise what horrors he had welcomed. Like scientists strive for great breakthroughs and fail to consider the repercussions of their accomplishments, clouded by idealistic views.

Frankenstein fails to consider the consequences of his actions. He turns himself into a creator by bringing his monster to life, which highlights his failure when he is completely incapable of fulfilling the responsibilities that a creator has to its creation. Through the stimulating character of Victor Frankenstein, Mary Shelley confronts her society on the uncertainty of scientific advancements.

The Modern Prometheus

Mary Shelley alludes to the story’s inspiration through the title. The full title of Frankenstein is ‘Frankenstein; or, The modern Prometheus. “The Modern Prometheus” refers to the Greek myth of the Titan who formed humans from clay and stole them fire from the heavens, overstepping his boundaries and being severely punished.

Mary Shelley has drawn parallels between the ancient myth of Prometheus and Frankenstein which are exposed throughout the narrative. Like Prometheus who created humanity and gave them fire ignoring the dangers. Frankenstein, not fully aware of the consequences of his actions; indirectly gifts the monster to humanity by bringing it to life.

For releasing forbidden knowledge into the realm of humans, Prometheus was punished by having his liver devoured daily by an eagle. This is mirrored in Frankenstein’s own never ending torture; the deaths of his family and friends. The monster himself questions Frankenstein’s true motives “God, in pity, made man after his own image, but my form is a filthy type of yours, more horrid even from the very resemblance.” What differs Frankenstein from Prometheus is that he abandoned his creation and rejected it. Prometheus aids humanity after creating humankind in his image. Mary Shelley’s comparison of Frankenstein and Prometheus serves to represent the dangers of knowledge and its dire consequences.


Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a timeless classic which is just as relevant today as it was 200 years ago. The author Mary Shelley expressed her ideas through the context of a gothic novel; Frankenstein. She used supernatural elements, the Character of Victor Frankenstein and the subtitle of the Modern Prometheus to warn society on the risks of rampant ambition and uncontrolled curiosity, disregarding the laws of nature.

Shelley expressed that these characteristics ultimately lead to the destruction of oneself and the demise of those you love. Mary Shelly used the fictional tale of Frankenstein to caution her society against embarking on the quest for dangerous knowledge and exploring possible undesirable outcomes. Mary Shelley warns, that like Victor Frankenstein, ambitious scientists may become so preoccupied with whether they could, they won’t stop to think if they should.


Cite this paper

Frankenstein: Gothic Literature Analytical Essay. (2020, Sep 10). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/frankenstein-gothic-literature/



How has Frankenstein influenced the Gothic novel genre?
Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is considered a seminal work in the Gothic novel genre, as it introduced elements of horror, science fiction, and romance. Its themes of alienation, revenge, and the dangers of playing God have since become staples of the genre, inspiring countless works of literature, film, and television.
Is Frankenstein a romantic or Gothic novel?
Frankenstein is a Gothic novel because it has many elements of horror and suspense. It is also a romantic novel because it is about two people who are in love with each other.
What elements of Gothic literature are in Frankenstein?
The elements of Gothic literature present in Frankenstein are horror and suspense. The novel is full of scenes that are meant to scare or unnerve the reader, and the plot is full of twists and turns that keep the reader guessing.
why is frankenstein a gothic novel?
The types of mystery are crime and detective.
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