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Frankenstein has been described as a 'novel of the Gothic genre' do you feel this adequately describes the novel?

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Frankenstein has been described as a 'novel of the Gothic genre' do you feel this adequately describes the novel? Frankenstein does correspond with the many conventions of the Gothic genre however the traditional term 'Gothic novel' does not adequately describe this text. This essay will explore the many underlying themes and ideas of Frankenstein that make it more than simply, just a 'Gothic novel'. Frankenstein was written by Shelley at the age of 18 in 1818, a period when the Gothic genre was fully established. The term Gothic is usually associated with things that can be described as 'medieval' or 'uncouth'. Some traditional Gothic novels that comply to these descriptions are: 'The Monk', 'The Mysteries of Uldolpho' and ' The Castle of Otranto.' Standard Gothic novels are also very melodramatic with their tone and follow certain generic conventions of the Gothic genre and themes such as: the supernatural, the pursued protagonist, distressed heroine, fallen hero etc. The traditional Gothic genre novel does not venture beyond these conventions. Knowledge and education are major themes in Frankenstein, all the main characters seem to have a thirst for knowledge. The novel starts with Walton writing letters to his sister;' I shall satiate my ardent curiosity with the sight of a part of the world never visited, and may tread a land never before imprinted by the foot of man.' ...read more.


This shows that Frankenstein is comparable to other Gothic novels of the time; however the villain is not usually created by the hero as Victor created the monster. The secrecy of his actions and the guilt he feels and enhances the his monstrous and shameful behaviour. This presentation of monstrosity in Victor, the hero of the novel is not distinctive of traditional Gothic novels Victor is used to present the theme of prejudice that runs throughout the novel, therefore enhancing his monstrosity. When he sees his creation come to life he says 'I beheld the wretch- the miserable monster whom I had created... he might have spoken but I did not hear; one hand was stretched out, seemingly to detain me, but I escaped...' This demonstrates prejudice in the novel as Victor has initial perceptions of the monster and automatically feels threatened based on its ghastly appearance, as the monster may have been innocently reaching out for guidance from his creator. This presents Frankenstein as more than a Gothic novel as prejudice would not often be explored as they are written mainly to scare the reader. Victor decides to take monstrous revenge as members of his family are killed by the monster: 'I will preserve my life: to execute this dear revenge... Let the cursed and hellish monster drink deep of agony; let him feel the despair that now torments me.' ...read more.


Shelley exaggerates the passivity of women in her novel; she seems to be making a point that women are being treated badly in society, as the men (Victor and the monster) are obviously more destructive in the novel, proving that it is not a simple Gothic novel. As women were generally overlooked, Shelley may have had to use some of the Gothic genre conventions in her text in order for it to be accepted by society but she has obviously adapted the gothic novel to suit her style by using underlying complex themes and ideas. The description of Frankenstein as a 'novel of the Gothic genre' does not do this text justice. The purpose of this text is to make the reader aware of the many crucial issues of society at the time whilst maintaining the look of a Gothic novel, it holds greater meaning than a story written to only chill and scare the reader. In the publisher's introduction it says: 'Frankenstein is not a simple battle between good and evil; it is not a ghost story, nor really a gothic novel. It defies a single interpretation, engaging instead with some of the crucial social and public questions of the period.' Frankenstein is more than just a gothic novel as although it's fulfilling many of the gothic conventions it pushes the boundaries by raising some of the key themes of Shelley's life and exploring the moral and social issues of the time. ...read more.

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Here's what a star student thought of this essay

4 star(s)

Response to the question

This essay engages well with the task, and I liked how they weren't afraid to take argument with the question and disagree with the quote. I've read many examiners reports and so often do they say that the best candidates ...

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Response to the question

This essay engages well with the task, and I liked how they weren't afraid to take argument with the question and disagree with the quote. I've read many examiners reports and so often do they say that the best candidates decide to disagree with the question, as their argument isn't forced and is always focused on the task, rather than trying to superimpose an essay they've practiced before. However, I do feel some of the discussions here are a bit basic. For example, arguing that the gothic genre is restricted to its conventions is naive, and to argue that Frankenstein isn't a gothic story as it's more than a ghost story is poor. This is a difficult task, and gothic is an area which is further explored at A-Level, but I still believe at GCSE there should be some awareness that a gothic text must not tick all the boxes. It is worrying how there is a focus on the word 'simply' yet there is no evidence that this was in the quote. Be careful that you don't answer a question that's not there!

Level of analysis

The analysis here is good. There is a strong knowledge of the novel here, and this is evident through the large number of quotes used. Language is sometimes analysed well, looking at the connotations and effects of Shelley's writing. For example "Victor describing it as a 'solitary chamber, or rather cell' gives the impression of the unpleasant conditions" shows the ability to do this. I would've liked to have seen this sort of analysis with more quotes, as this essay tends to retell the story rather than analyse. Examiners don't want to see a simple narration of the plot, as this doesn't show any analytical ability. I would've liked to have seen this essay write about Shelley's constructions, rather than saying things happen. "Victor introduces a conflict between science and religion" is an obvious example of this. You shouldn't be writing as if the characters are real or making decision, as it only inhibits your ability to discuss why Shelley chooses to construct her novel in this way. It is evident here, as this essay tends to explain what quotes mean, rather than look at how the techniques shape meanings, and beyond that shape the genre of gothic. I was slightly confused how this essay was arguing it isn't a gothic novel when so often they say "this is commonly used in novels of the Gothic genre". I particularly liked the use of critical interpretations here, as these are looked strongly upon at A-Level, let alone GCSE. Strengthening an argument with interpretations such as "Bertrand Evans points out that the hero in the Gothic novel is consistently weaker than the antagonist" will gain credit.

Quality of writing

I feel through arguing against the question, there is a lack of structure in the essay. There is no counter argument other than the text is more than a gothic text, so it's hard to collect ideas. If the essay agreed with the quote, then paragraphs looking at individual concepts of gothic would suffice. Here, they have looked at themes, and I feel there is a lack of coherence because of it. The paragraphs are well signposted, but I just feel there is a slight loss of focus on the question. This essay just seems to be a collection of themes and analysis, which is good if brought together to form an argument. I liked how this essay had a strong critical voice, and this is rare from a GCSE student. Being able to craft an argument needs to be worked upon, however.

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Reviewed by groat 09/04/2012

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