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How far can 'Frankenstein' be considered a 'Gothic' Novel?

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Introduction

How far can 'Frankenstein' be considered a 'Gothic' Novel? The 'Gothic' genre was first conceived in 'The Castle of Otranto', a novel written by Horace Walpole in 1764, while trying to find a new way to write fiction. The result was a classic ghost story, involving a lonely castle, suits of armour, hidden passages and more. These seem very clich�, but 'The Castle of Otranto was the first novel ever to include these kind of things, and hence was the origin of these modern clich�s. 'The Castle of Otranto' reads like an episode of Scooby-Doo, but altogether more complicated and bizarre. The following features are included in the modern definition of 'Classic Gothic': * Use of isolated & lonely scenes (e.g. ruins, castles) * Weakness and insignificance of women * Presence of supernatural * Use of Epistolary (i.e. letters, diary entries) * Sense of evil, unscrupulousness * Darkness, gloominess Common sub-genres of the 'Gothic' style are 'Classic Gothic', 'Victorian Gothic', 'Gothic Horror' and 'Neo-Gothic'. 'Gothic Horror' expresses a taste for the macabre and disturbing, while 'Neo-Gothic' novels seek to probe the human mind, and interpret the sub-conscious, often focusing of dreams and nightmares. 'Victorian Gothic' novels have science as their main theme. Upon first glance, 'Frankenstein' fulfils all the requirements for a 'Classic Gothic' novel, though when one makes a more precise examination, two of the 'Classic Gothic'; ...read more.

Middle

the creation of Frankenstein's creature). This is the main argument against 'Frankenstein' being a Gothic novel, as ghosts were one of the key features of 'Classic Gothic' novels, and 'Frankenstein' features none - there is no mention of ghosts in 'Frankenstein', indeed the word 'ghost' is only used once in the entire book. "I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs. How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate the wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavoured to form? His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful! -- Great God!" This quote describes the beginning of the book's supernatural events - Frankenstein creates a creature from spare body parts, and makes it alive. This is surely supernatural, though I say again: it is not ghostly. In this respect Frankenstein is not a 'Classic Gothic' novel, more a 'Victorian Gothic' novel ('Victorian Gothic's tended to be focussed on science rather than purely the supernatural). Epistolary is used frequently throughout 'Frankenstein' - the book starts with 4 letters written by Robert Walton to Mrs Saville, detailing how he reached the position we find him in when the book starts proper. ...read more.

Conclusion

The fact that this depression of the book is provided by a characters state of mind and their thoughts is a hint towards the 'Neo-Gothic' genre - which focuses on the workings of the mind; the emotions of man and their consequences. As mentioned earlier, in 'Classic Gothic' novels a sense of gloom is given by pathetic fallacy, Mary Shelley's choice to create depression through a characters thoughts is a significant step towards 'Neo Gothicism. In my opinion one cannot say 'Frankenstein' was a 'Victorian Gothic' novel, because when it was written that genre was non-existent. 'Frankenstein' was an inspiration to 'Victorian Gothic' novels, but it itself is not 'Victorian Gothic' because when Mary Shelley wrote it she was not trying to write a 'Victorian Gothic' novel, merely to write a scary story. In the same way 'Frankenstein' is not a 'Neo-Gothic' novel, though it makes use of aspects of 'Neo-Gothic' novels. Mary Shelley probably drew heavily from early 'Classic Gothic' novels while writing 'Frankenstein': hence it fits nearly exactly into the characteristics of a 'Classic Gothic' novel. In this sense, 'Frankenstein' is very much a 'Classic Gothic' novel, though with a few features of 'Victorian' and 'Neo-Gothic' thrown in. Since both are sub-genres of 'Gothic', in reference to the essay title - I would say 'Frankenstein' is totally a 'Gothic' novel. Richard Kemp 10W 09/05/2007 Mrs Marlow ...read more.

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