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Frankenstein- What Makes It A Gothic Novel

Frankenstein- What Makes It A Gothic Novel Essay, Research Paper

Frankenstein: What makes it a Gothic Novel?

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One of the most important aspects of any gothic novel is setting.

Mary Shelly?s Frankenstein is an innovative and disturbing work that

weaves a tale of passion, misery, dread, and remorse. 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.

Darkly dramatic moments and the ever-so-small flashes of

happiness stand out. The setting sets the atmosphere and creates the

mood. The ?dreary night of November? (Shelly 42) where the monster is

given life, remains in the memory. And that is what is felt throughout

the novel-the dreariness of it all along with the desolate isolation. Yet

there were still glimpses of happiness in Shelly?s ?vivid pictures of the

grand scenes among Frankenstein- the thunderstorm of the Alps, the

valleys of Servox and Chamounix, the glacier and the precipitous sides of

Montanvert, and the smoke of rushing avalanches, the tremendous dome

of Mont Blanc? (Goldberg 277) and on that last journey with Elizabeth

which were his last moments of happiness. The rest goes along with the

melodrama of the story. Shelly can sustain the mood and create a

distinct picture and it is admirable the way she begins to foreshadow

coming danger. Shelly does this by starting a terrible storm, adding

dreary thunder and lightning and by enhancing the gloom and dread of

her gothic scenes. Shelly writes so that the reader sees and feels these

scenes taking permanent hold on the memory.

Furthermore, the setting can greatly impact the actions in a novel

such as this. Frankenstein?s abhorred creation proclaims that: ?the

desert mountains and dreary glaciers are my refuge. I have wandered

here many days; the caves of ice which I only do not fear, are a dwelling

to me, and the only one which man does not grudge? (Shelly 84). The

pitiful creature lives in places where man cannot go for reason that the

temperatures and dangers of these settings are too extreme. But near

the end, Frankenstein?s rage takes him all over the world in an obsessed

search for his doppelganger enduring terrible hardships, which the

monster, too, has endured. Frankenstein pursues his creation to the

Artic wastes, revenge being the only thing keeping him alive. This ?serves

only to thicken the strange darkness that surrounds and engulfs them?

(Nitchie 274). Here it seems as if Frankenstein may finally capture his

adversary, but nature thinks otherwise. The monster tempts his enraged

creator through a world of ice and the setting becomes a hindrance as

the ?wind arose; the sea roared; and, as with the mighty shock of an

earthquake; it split and cracked with a tremendous and overwhelming

sound. the work was soon finished; in a few minutes a tumuluous sea

rolled between me and my enemy? (Shelly 191). Because of this gothic

setting amid the Artic ice floes, the despair hits both Frankenstein and

the reader.

So Frankenstein, Mary Shelly?s strange and disturbing tale

personifies the gothic novel. With her compelling writing, she creates the

setting that sets the gloomy mood and causes as well as hinders actions

creating dramatic tension. The entire story is mysteriously set in the

cold Artic which adds to the dark and foreboding atmosphere.

Frankenstein pursues his monster there, fails to destroy him, and dies

appropriately in the cold of the Artic that matches the cold of his heart.

Likewise, Frankenstein?s monster dies on his own terms, springing to his

ice raft, ?borne away by the waves and lost in darkness and distance?

(Shelly 206).

1.

2. Shelly, Mary. Frankenstein. Bantam Books. New York, New York.

c1991

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