Compare and contrast the ways in which the two texts 'A picture of Dorian Gray' and 'Frankenstein' can be seen as works of gothic fiction.

Authors Avatar

Compare and contrast the ways in which the two texts ‘A picture of Dorian Gray’ and ‘Frankenstein’ can be seen as works of gothic fiction.

A sense of the sinister and macabre is evident throughout the works of a traditionally gothic novel. Upon reading both ‘A picture of Dorian Gray’ and ‘Frankenstein’, one can immediately pinpoint common features traditionally associated with the gothic genre; the wild landscapes, stock characters, the supernatural and the obvious fascination with the past are perhaps the most vividly depicted features in both novels. However the most distinguishable element is the recognition of opposition and dualism, especially in the characters that encapsulates both novels. This duality present in most characters in both novels reflects an evil aspect about them common of gothic novels in which ‘The villain was always the most complex and interesting character in gothic fiction’. Although Mary Shelley and Oscar Wilde employ the devices commonly associated with the gothic genre, neither produced a traditional work of gothic fiction. Both authors instead choose instead to subvert the gothic genre, forcing the reader to ask the question why and how does this subversion effect the reader’s interpretation of both texts?

Integral to any work of traditional gothic fiction is a defined villain, who will undoubtedly get there comeuppance at the end of the novel. However within 'Frankenstein' it is difficult to distinguish the real villain of the novel, the question at hand being, is the villain the creator, or the monster? The character of Victor is an isolated one, who chooses in the novel to sever ties with all friends and family on his uncontrollable quest for unattainable knowledge. When contesting the villainess nature of Shelley’s characters, many of the characters can be  paralleled with Milton's 'Paradise lost', for example, when considering to what extent Victor can be seen as the villain of the novel it is easy to draw similarities with Adam. His uncontrollable strive for unattainable knowledge results in an act against God, and the result, his monster can be seen as an attempt to unsurp the role of God which results in him losing his paradise (his friends and family), Victor is also described to have had a sheltered life, 'My mother's tender caresses, and my father's smile of benevolent pleasure', with edenic qualities. However although the comparisons drawn between Victor and Adam would suggest that Mary Shelly intended Victor to be seen as a victim, his crimes in the novel remain, and it is from these that Victor can now be compared to the fallen angel, better known as Satan. This link is most evident after Victor has disserted his now living creation as he becomes 'enveloped in an impenetrable darkness' just like Milton's Lucifer after his crime against God, 'No light, but rather darkness visible', furthermore the  actual creation of the monster is not the worst sin committed by the character of Victor; it is in fact his desertion of the monster that remains one of his greatest sins as it effects the events throughout the rest of the novel; perhaps Shelley is highlighting the extent to which the consequences of our actions can effect our lives in an irreversible way. The terrible consequences that happen past this point are mainly undertaken by the nameless character of the monster, which as Shelley states is Victor's 'own vampire, my own spirit let loose from the grave', and just as Milton's Satan let sin and death into the world, Victors creation does the same thing, as it is the beginning of death and destruction within the novel. The link between the monster and Satan are palatable in the novel 'I ought to be thy Adam; but I am rather the fallen angel', which is expected by the reader as the creation is termed the 'monster'.

Join now!


 However Shelley's blurring of distinctions; between the monster and victor, villain and victim, forces the reader to think about who is to blame for the monstrosities in the novel, is it Victor's for creating the monster? Or is it Victor's because he abandoned the monster? Or the DeLacy's for rejecting the monster? Or the monster himself for committing the crimes? All of these questions remain valid when trying to decipher who the villain of the novel is, however the answer can only be found in Shelley’s use of the gothic genre, as by subverting this use of Victim and ...

This is a preview of the whole essay