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What is scary in Frankenstein?

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Introduction

What is scary in Frankenstein? In her 1831 introduction Mary Shelley relays her task, to "awaken thrilling horror- none to make the reader dread to look round, to curdle the blood, and quicken the beatings of the heart." In the nineteenth century, horror, fear and disgust were the proper responses to creations that failed to conform to neoclassical aesthetic ideals of unified ideals, harmonious composition of parts in simple regularity and proportion. Victor's overwhelming feelings of horror and disgust on seeing his hideously disproportionate creature come to life display the reaction of society to Frankenstein as a novel (Fred Botting.) In general, people were far more religious then and would have balked in horror at someone giving life to a being such as the monster. However, today, a reader might even deem Shelley's progeny boring, or tedious to get through. The culture we live in has been desensitized to many things that would have filled one with fear during the 1800's. Explicit media such as television and film provide us with graphic images of violence, sex, and gore. But in the time of Mary Shelly, the suspense and spooky intrigue of books and plays were the only way to "get carried away with your imagination" and there was certainly plenty in Frankenstein to scare. ...read more.

Middle

The monster only begins to demonstrate violent behaviour when he is exposed to the viciousness of human society. He perceptively links the fallibility of humanity with the injustice of society when he comments to Victor: "You accuse me of murder; and yet you would, with a satisfied conscience, destroy your own creature. Oh, praise the eternal justice of man!" Shelley scares the reader into acknowledging society's corruptness and leaves the question hanging: can we ever make a clear distinction between the monstrous and the human? Frankenstein is a purposefully scary cautionary tale. Challenging God brings terrifying results and the monster is a parody of the beauty of Adam and Eve. Margaret Homans believes that God produces beauty but Victor's male circumvention of the maternal creates a monster. In Chapter IV Victor instructs the reader to "learn from me.... At least by my example, how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge, and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow." In Chapter X he bemoans "Alas!....If our impulses were confined to hunger, thirst and desire." ...read more.

Conclusion

From a sociological and psychological point of view, Frankenstein will scare a reader of any generation. However, the modern reader is no longer scared of the gore and agnosticism surrounding the monster's creation. This proves that there is no eternal facet of our psyche to which horror stories can appeal to. The horror of Frankenstein is not a timeless concept through history; rather it shifts, like a mirror of human evolution. We are culturally conditioned by society in what we find scary. In both the 1931 and 1957 films, the directors of both are aware of the 'shock factor' that the images of an explicitly deformed monster can crudely evoke from the graphic, modern audience. This is rather than the more complex issues, vaguely hinted at in the book and which provide a long-lasting unease. In reference to the novel, a central part of Shelley's thesis is that the monster's eventual life of violence and revenge is the purely a sociological product of his nurture (or lack of) and without doubt, this is scariest aspect of Frankenstein; the ability of a 'noble' yet prejudiced society to convert the monster into a being so horrific. Pandora Sykes ...read more.

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