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To what extent is Frankenstein typical of the Gothic genre?

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Introduction

Sam Heard To what extent is "Frankenstein" typical of the Gothic genre? The Gothic in literature is designed to inspire terror in the reader using a number of methods and techniques. Originally, 'Gothic' was used to refer to style of medieval architecture, constructed to deliberately appear frightening in order to scare off 'bad spirits': so the term 'Gothic' was given to Gothic literature as it inspired emotional extremes such as fear in its readers, as did Gothic architecture, and because the genres preferred setting in buildings of the gothic style such as castles and churches. Subsequently, the setting is often exploited during Gothic novels in order to isolate the characters, thus provoking a sense of horror and or awe in the reader. Another element Gothic authors use to terrify their audiences is the idea of crossing boundaries which are not supposed to be crossed. This idea of crossing boundaries generates a lot of fear in the reader as it takes them away from their comfort zones and often goes against their opinions of how things should naturally happen. Physical horror is particularly used to scare the reader, sometimes in a graphic way, playing on humanity's primitive fear about the body and its mortality, meaning it is prone to damage and decay. Gothic fiction is often narrated using a fragmented style in order to confuse the reader and take them still further away from reality. This differs strongly from other genres of fiction, as generally, in classic realist fiction of the 19th century there is an omniscient narrator throughout the story. However, Gothic novels often have various narrators contributing to the story in a number of ways, often underlining the presence of bias from character accounts and so giving the reader a better idea of characters allegiance. A good example of this narrative technique is Bram Stoker's "Dracula" where the novel is narrated by a number of different voices. ...read more.

Middle

Frankenstein has many examples of physical horrific sequences; one of the most repulsive of these is just before creating the monster, whilst Victor is learning about the decay of human flesh in the charnel house. Victor explains to Walton how "I (he) saw how the fine form of man was degraded and wasted; I beheld the corruption of death succeed to the blooming cheek of life; I saw how the worm inherited the wonders of the eye and brain" which is a very nauseating set of images. Consequently, for readers of the time when Frankenstein was published (1818), this was absolutely terrifying and so Gothic. Perhaps most notably of all the episodes of physical horror throughout the novel is the creation of the monster, where Victor, using various body parts stolen from corpses, attempts to bestow life. The "convulsive motion which agitated its limbs" is a nasty image, almost as though the monsters limbs are not supposed to be moving again and so they are "agitated". Also, a violent "convulsive motion" is the monsters first movement, perhaps a warning of the violence the monster will later bring in its wake. His "yellow skin" which "scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries" is a revolting thought, and the unnatural shade of the skin is perhaps a symbol of the whole operation, as is his "dull yellow eye". Indeed this repetition of using the same colour for the moon, skin and eyes is a key feature in the Gothic. The few luxuries which the monster does have, including his "lustrous black" hair and his "teeth of pearly whiteness" serve only to form a "horrid contrast" with his other features, and so the reader is presented with a disgusting image of the monster. Following this sequence, Victor has a dream which can also be classified under physical horror. At first, he sees his sweetheart Elizabeth "in the bloom of health", however on embracing her, a revolting change occurs. ...read more.

Conclusion

Fiddling with nature- for example engineering crops- will only turn out for the worst, as with genetically engineered plant you are more likely to sink into a famine as one problem can spoil the whole harvest. The debates raised by Frankenstein also apply to fertility treatments such as IVF as one could argue that is god's role to bestow life upon whom he chooses. Also raised is the debatable regime of capital punishment. As we see with Justine, innocent people may have to pay the ultimate price for a crime they have not committed and so the system, according to Shelley, is fundamentally flawed and therefore morally wrong. Frankenstein also opposes all forms of racism and prejudice where people are penalised due to nothing more than their appearance as was the case with the monster. Ultimately, the novel is Gothic in most respects in that it uses many of the features typical of Gothic texts, as well as a truly Gothic subject (a monster constructed of dead body parts) and generally frightening language. All these elements combined with a fluent overall style, are enough to categorise Shelley's Frankenstein as a Gothic novel. However, to some extent it cannot be classed as a 'typical' Gothic novel as Shelley adds her own aspects to the mix, including science, relationships between characters, a sense of character psychology and the prevailing idea of alienation. Shelley wrote Frankenstein to include the dramatic sensationalism shared by most gothic texts but at the same time comforting aspects of everyday life, contrary to other Gothic writings. Through this method, Shelley adds a sense of realism to the book, meaning readers feel there may be a chance that they too could someday be involved in such events and as such intensifying every other aspect of the novel: this is perhaps the reason why the novel enjoys its role as the flagship of the gothic genre which it has retained to this day. ...read more.

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