The ‘Gothic’ elements in Frankenstein
One of the first novels to be recognized as a Gothic novel was Horace Walpole's Castle of Otranto (1765). This text as well as others such as Matthew Lewis’ The Monk (1796) was seen as being linked with what were traditionally considered Gothic traits: the emphasis on fear and terror, the presence of the supernatural, the placement of events within a distant time and unfamiliar setting, and the use of highly stereotyped characters/villains/fallen hero/ tragic heroines, etc. Gothic writers, like Shelley, were interested in pushing the boundaries, in the exploration of what is forbidden, in desires that should neither be spoken of nor acted upon. In her 1831 introduction, Shelley stated her wish to "curdle the blood, and quicken the beatings of the heart"1 of the readers. If we read Frankenstein as a Gothic novel, we can suggest that what Victor does and what he creates are unnatural. He goes too far, breaks the laws of nature, crosses forbidden precincts, and what he unleashes, within himself and in society, disruption and destruction. This becomes the first of many signals to the reader that Frankenstein should be placed in the genre of the Gothic. However, Gothic genre covers a wide variety of texts and is difficult to define. Gothic is a style of fiction characterized by the use of deserted, desolate or remote settings and morbid, mysterious or violent incidents. It concerns with good and evil, and questions regarding the boundaries between what are human, monstrous, natural, unnatural, supernatural and divine. The Gothic employs monsters and the unknown to make readers consider and examine what knowledge is, and explore what being 'human' really means. It is a world which opened up "the dark irrational side of human nature - the savage egoism, the perverse impulses, and the nightmarish terrors that lie beneath the controlled and ordered surface of the conscious mind." 2
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