Frankenstein

Topics: Frankenstein, Mary Shelley, Prometheus Pages: 6 (2189 words) Published: February 1, 2014
Essay 1: Frankenstein: the frame and its functions, the characters (Frankenstein, the monster, Walton), the main themes; the manipulation of suspense

Frankenstein: Chinese boxes, Russian dolls and a big, scary monster

This essay will briefly examine a variety of features in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Firstly, it will examine the structure of the novel before turning to the three main characters. Afterwards, it will investigate how Shelley manipulates suspense and then discuss a few selected themes. Finally, it will offer a concise summary and a concluding statement. Concerning the structure of Frankenstein, Mary Shelley structured her story in a series of layers, using a frame structure. When examining this kind of structure one will probably come across the term Chinese boxes. However, the image of Russian matryoshka dolls appears to be more fitting in the case of Frankenstein as the novel follows the lives of different individuals, with some of them being manipulated by their own obsessions like puppets, or dolls if you will. In reference to Frankenstein and literature in general this term refers to novels which are told in the form of a narrative, imbedded in a narrative and so on. This frame structure complicates the first person point of view she utilizes in her novel Frankenstein. The chain of narration shifts between the three major characters beginning with Robert Walton, then Victor Frankenstein, then the monster itself. By structuring her story in this way, Shelley adds elements of unreliability and fantasy to the tale. Furthermore, the reader of the novel faces the challenge of discerning the reliability of every narrator. To make this more apparent it is worthwhile to examine the novel’s narrators. Robert Walton encounters Victor Frankenstein at a time where he is struggling with loneliness and in search of human contact, a friend. Therefore, it is only natural that he paints a heavily idealized picture of a wonderful and kind individual in the letters to his sister, Margaret Saville, as shown in the fourth letter:

My affection for my guest increases every day. He excites at once my admiration and my pity to an astonishing degree. How can I see so noble a creature destroyed by misery, without feeling the most poignant grief? He is so gentle, yet so wise; his mind is so cultivated, and when he speaks, although his words are culled with the choicest art, yet they flow with rapidity and unparalleled eloquence. (Shelley 28-29)

Apparently, Walton’s perception of Victor Frankenstein was influenced by his own needs for human contact as the story depicts the scientist in a different manner. For instance, when he tells his own tale, Frankenstein appears to be deeply flawed, selfish, and even cruel as he says “I had gazed on him while unfinished; he was ugly then; but when those muscles and joints were rendered capable of motion, it became a thing such as even Dante could not have conceived” (Shelley 59) about his very own creation. According to Frankenstein his creation is ugly, evil, and nothing short of the devil incarnate, however, when the creature gets to speak for itself, one realizes the eloquent voice and kind and humble personality as illustrated in this quote:

I discovered also another means through which I was enabled to assist their labours. […] [D]uring the night I often took his tools, the use of which I quickly discovered, and brought home firing sufficient for the consumption of several days. (Shelley 114)

Utilizing several different narrators and the frame structure adds unreliability to the story of Frankenstein as the reader gets the impression that certain pieces of information are left out when the perspective changes from one narrator to the other. Ultimately, the effect of this multiperspectivity and its effects on the reliability of every narrator leave it to the reader’s interpretation to decide what is the truth and what is not. Moving on to an analysis of the...

References: Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. London: Penguin Classics, 2003.
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