Frankenstein: Methods and Techniques: Structure & Narrative Form
From Top Notes – Pattinson & Stanners
Epistolatory Narrative Form
“Frankenstein” is written in an epistolary narrative form that was popular at the time in which it was written. The original publication was presented in three volumes and this emphasised the Chinese box structure of the story within a story within a story. This structural device adds a great deal to its stark drama as well as ensuring greater reader engagement. The use of three narrators lends verisimilitude to an unlikely story since there is no one omniscient narrator. Our ideas are formulated by responding to multiple narrators and from being able to balance perceptions from one to the other.
This method enables the author to maintain a certain objective distance between the text and the reader, allowing her audience to judge and assess the moral worth of her protagonists. Flaws become evident but rather than the novelist casting aspersions on them; the characters condemn themselves in the reader’s mind by their very actions.
The novel is still able to intrigue contemporary audiences because each of the three separate stories engage our sympathy with the narrator who presents them. This lends a personal voice in their fate. Each story fits neatly into the next. New contributions are made to our understanding which in turn colours our response to what is being recounted. The interlocutionary bond between storyteller and listener is maintained throughout even though the narrators alternate and often overlap. The reader is caught up in the storyteller’s magic, listening spellbound as different aspects of plot or character are revealed. First person narration offers one perspective but when this is put up against a different version of events, out interpretations shift on response to questionable moral efficacy.
Both Walton and Frankenstein are linked by their voluntary alienation from society...
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