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Compare and contrast the ways in which the two texts 'A picture of Dorian Gray' and 'Frankenstein' can be seen as works of gothic fiction.

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Introduction

Compare and contrast the ways in which the two texts 'A picture of Dorian Gray' and 'Frankenstein' can be seen as works of gothic fiction. A sense of the sinister and macabre is evident throughout the works of a traditionally gothic novel. Upon reading both 'A picture of Dorian Gray' and 'Frankenstein', one can immediately pinpoint common features traditionally associated with the gothic genre; the wild landscapes, stock characters, the supernatural and the obvious fascination with the past are perhaps the most vividly depicted features in both novels. However the most distinguishable element is the recognition of opposition and dualism, especially in the characters that encapsulates both novels. This duality present in most characters in both novels reflects an evil aspect about them common of gothic novels in which 'The villain was always the most complex and interesting character in gothic fiction'. Although Mary Shelley and Oscar Wilde employ the devices commonly associated with the gothic genre, neither produced a traditional work of gothic fiction. Both authors instead choose instead to subvert the gothic genre, forcing the reader to ask the question why and how does this subversion effect the reader's interpretation of both texts? Integral to any work of traditional gothic fiction is a defined villain, who will undoubtedly get there comeuppance at the end of the novel. However within 'Frankenstein' it is difficult to distinguish the real villain of the novel, the question at hand being, is the villain the creator, or the monster? The character of Victor is an isolated one, who chooses in the novel to sever ties with all friends and family on his uncontrollable quest for unattainable knowledge. ...read more.

Middle

Although at first the portrait doesn't appear to follow the traditional constraints of the gothic genre, ( ghosts and phantoms of the supernatural aspect for example), it can be seen to haunt Dorian in the novel resulting in him destroying it at the end, and therefore himself as one cannot exist without the other; just as society can't exist without corruption. Dorian is a Faustian figure which means a devil character is lacking in the novel, and the supernatural aspects of the novel are concentrated only in the painting. It is due to this therefore that the reader must consider the satanic aspects of society, as in 'Frankenstein', Dorian is a creation of Henry, who is a creation of society. It seems that both Wilde and Shelley were keen on pinpointing the criticisms to be made of society, circling around the idea that it is impossible to ever judge someone as evil, as it is difficult to distinguish between an innate sense of evil, or an evil that is simply a result of social conditioning. Wilde's highly sophisticated use of the supernatural continuously blurs the divisions between the natural and the supernatural obviously intended by Wilde to show how difficult it is to make a clear distinction between good and evil, and therefore how easy it is to move between the two. The presence of magical subtly mingled with reality serves a purpose in Frankenstein, with the monster given supernatural attributes. For example the monster is somehow able to know and be where Victor is at all times in the novel having the stalking presence of a ghost perhaps, with this sense of omniscience reflecting how he now governs Victor's life, and if the monster is said to reflect society at this point, it could be said to be representing a restricting society with negative consequences. ...read more.

Conclusion

the detailed parallels between the lives of Walton, Frankenstein and the monster emphasises the danger Walton is in if he continues his strive for knowledge, which can also be imposed upon everyone, including the reader who should therefore read 'Frankenstein' as a cautionary tale. 'A Picture of Dorian Gray' on the otherhand has a linear structure reflecting the continuous deterioration of his soul, with the third person being used by an ambiguous omniscient narrator which manipulates the reader into criticising the repressive Victorian society. Unlike 'Frankenstein', Wilde does not allow detachment to the characters as it is a criticism of society of a whole, whereas 'Frankenstein's' use of the first person and epistolary form seems to challenge the people of the enlightenment more then society. It remains arguable whether both 'Frankenstein' and 'A picture of Dorian Gray' can be considered a works of gothic fiction morsel then. However both authors skilled subversion of the genre results in a complete almost confusing blurring of distinctions. It is clear that both novelists wanted not the challenge the conventions of the gothic genre, but instead challenge the conventions in society used to restrict and repress people. It is for this reason that both texts can be read from a feminist, psychoanalytical, and Marxist view, as all reflect a fraction of society marginalized. The issue of universal ethics is clearly highlighted in both novels, suggesting that there are broader issues to be considered at hand. Although neither author produced a conventional traditional work of gothic fiction, it cannot be said that neither produced a work reflecting the sinister and the macabre, i an almost realistic way, which in fact seems to evoke more horror form the reader. ...read more.

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