[The] juxtaposition of the ghastly and the everyday suggests one of the defining characteristics of the gothic genre, that of the uncanny double, the shadowy world that is the complex underbelly of familiar experience(TM) "L

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Tabitha Scott   12N   Miss Avanall    Frankenstein ‘Full Novel’ Essay

‘[The] juxtaposition of the ghastly and the everyday suggests one of the defining characteristics of the gothic genre, that of the uncanny double, the shadowy world that is the complex underbelly of familiar experience’ –Laura Kranzler. Discuss this quote with close reference to Frankenstein.

The quote above was found in the introduction to the collection of Gothic Tales by Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell. The introduction goes on to describe the genre of gothic fiction and how each tale individually applies to it. In this introduction and indeed this quote, Laura Kranzler points out, as she says, the ‘defining characteristics of the gothic genre…’ which include the comparison and contrast of good and evil, and within the comparison there is the discovery of darkness and impurity far beyond what could be found in other genres.

        Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein does not stray far from its gothic genre beginnings. Her use of contrasts and the combination of horror and romance is prototypical of the gothic genre at the time and is present throughout the novel’s three volumes.

        The novel begins with Robert Walton’s letters home to his sister; with the opening paragraph dedicated to ensuring her that he is well and that nothing disastrous had yet occurred. This immediately implies that Walton is in possible danger on his journey and sparks the suspense that the reader will carry through the entirety of the novel.  At this point the reader is also made aware that the novel contains a possible evil and that at any point this evil could appear and harm the only character that the reader has met so far, Robert Walton. It soon becomes clear, through reading Walton’s letters home that he is a driven romantic and so the reader can expect the contrasts of the ghastly and beautiful which is typical of the romantic genre.

        Incidentally these contrasts are also typical of the gothic genre and are incorporated into much of Mary Shelley’s novel. As well as the base contrast of good and evil there are also contrasts between the innocent and the guilty, the free and the imprisoned, the pursued and the pursuer, the moral and amoral, the light and the dark, the powers of the male and female gender, the fantasy and the reality, and so on. Perhaps the most important contrast in the context of Frankenstein is the contrast between what is natural and what is unnatural.

        This is the biggest question that Mary Shelley raises and one that occupies much of the novel. Many critics would argue that the presence and evil of the monster is representative of the effects of science. Whilst others would argue that the monster is science itself; unnaturally created and causing the death of innocent characters. Perhaps these feeling accumulated because science was and still is very experimental and these experiments often had fatal consequences. These fatalities are less frequent in modern times as we have precautions that must be undertaken, however, up to the mid 1900’s experimental procedures were dangerous and often poorly pre-meditated. Whatever part of science that the monster occupies it involves the deaths of innocents and therefore fairly is labelled as a social comment or opinion of Mary Shelley. Indeed, Mary Shelley’s exploration of the theme of science and nature also explore the gothic contrasts mentioned earlier.

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        The innocent and the guilty is a contrast used in both the foreground and the background of the novel. In the foreground we have the death of innocents at the hands of the guilty; the deaths of William, Henry, and Elizabeth. We also have the prosecution of innocents due to the cowardliness of the guilty; this in the form of Justine’s trial and execution based on a crime she never committed when all along Victor knows the real criminal. Also we have the guilty reaping the consequences of the death of the innocents; Victors sorrow over Justine’s death and the ...

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