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Frankenstein as a gothic novel

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Introduction

Frankenstein as a gothic novel The gothic tradition highlights the grotesque, relies on mysterious and remote settings, and is intended to evoke fear. All of these are evident 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 of November," 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 as the creaking doors, the soft blowing of the wind in the still of the night, and the quiet footsteps in the house all lead to a feeling of fear and suspense. On a certain level, Victor's interest in creating life is an extension of his desire to escape death. By assembling the body parts of the dead, Victor makes a "monster", a massive, grotesque being, with the mind of a new born baby; and like a tormented spirit, the creation haunts Victor's mind. ...read more.

Middle

The symbol of light, introduced in Walton's first letter ("What may not be expected in a country of eternal light?"), appears again in Victor's narrative, this time in a scientific context. "From the midst of this darkness," Victor says when describing his discovery of the secret of life, "a sudden light broke in upon me-a light so brilliant and wondrous." Light reveals, illuminates, clarifies; it is essential for seeing, and seeing is the way to knowledge. Just as light can illuminate, however, so can it blind; pleasantly warm at moderate levels, it ignites dangerous flames at higher ones. Immediately after his first metaphorical use of light as a symbol of knowledge, Victor retreats into secrecy and warns Walton of "how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge." Thus, light is balanced always by fire, the promise of new discovery by the danger of unpredictable-and perhaps tragic-consequences. The theme of secrecy manifests itself in these chapters, as Victor's studies draw him farther and farther away from those who love and advise him. ...read more.

Conclusion

As in the first three chapters, Victor repeatedly addresses Walton, his immediate audience, reminding the reader of the frame narrative and of the multiple layers of storytellers and listeners. Structuring comments such as "I fear, my friend, that I shall render myself tedious by dwelling on these preliminary circumstances" both remind the reader of the target audience (Walton) and help indicate the relative importance of each passage. Shelley employs other literary devices from time to time, including apostrophe, in which the speaker addresses an inanimate object, absent person, or abstract idea. Victor occasionally addresses some of the figures from his past as if they were with him on board Walton's ship. "Excellent friend!" he exclaims, referring to Henry. "How sincerely did you love me, and endeavor to elevate my mind, until it was on a level with your own." Apostrophe was a favorite of Mary Shelley's husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley, who used it often in his poetry; its occurrence here might reflect some degree of Percy's influence on Mary's writing. ...read more.

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