Frankenstein as a Gothic Novel

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Frankenstein as a Gothic Novel

The Gothic novel has a rich tradition and is a well-established genre. It continues to influence our culture in modern times. The characteristics of a gothic novel can be exemplified in Mary Shelley’s most famous novel, Frankenstein.

A classic and easily identified characteristic of a gothic novel is an atmosphere of suspense and the fear of the unknown. A dark and brooding mood permeates throughout Frankenstein, often taking the form of bizarre weather. The setting of a gothic novel often is in or around a ruined or haunted castle, but Frankenstein has the same effect by its extreme and varying landscape, always taking the reader out of their comfort zone.

Another element of a gothic novel is an oppressed female who is in distress and needs rescuing. In Frankenstein this female is Victor Frankenstein’s would-be wife Elizabeth, who suffers from loneliness without him. She is threatened by the monster even though Victor doesn’t realize it, and she is murdered because Victor was unable to rescue her. In a gothic novel, the characters are often highly emotional. They may be overcome by dread, horror, sorrow or rage. In Frankenstein, this characteristic has a strong presence. Victor Frankenstein seems to almost always be overcome with grief and is so distraught he often becomes ill. Whether he is crazy or not is never discussed in the book, but his behavior certainly led to the modern day “mad scientist.” The monster as well suffers from intense passions, especially anger and anguish.

Finally, the most famous characteristic of a gothic novel is a supernatural or unexplainable event. In this way Frankenstein is a perfect example. Sometimes these bizarre events have scientific explanations, like in Frankenstein, but not always. Frankenstein’s creation, made out of dead parts and brought to life through arcane means, is very much supernatural. With all these various characteristics Frankenstein is a perfect example of a...
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