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Free Study Guide-Frankenstein by Mary Shelley-Free Chapter Summary Notes
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AUTHOR'S STYLE

Frankenstein as a gothic novel

The gothic tradition highlights the grotesque, relies on mysterious and remote settings, and is intended to evoke fear. All of these qualities are evident in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. The "monster" around whom the novel revolves is itself a product of Victor Frankenstein's attraction to the grotesque, which results in deformity and deviation. The monster towers over other human beings. While he has a good soul, he strikes fear in all who lay eyes on him.

The fine settings within the novel are striking and distinctively gothic. Appropriately, the creature first breathes on a "dreary night of November." Victor creates his monster in a remote laboratory at Ingolstadt, while the second "monster" is begun in a desolate area of Scotland. Elizabeth is killed on a stormy night, the perfect time for a dramatic murder.


The eerie atmosphere of Frankenstein is typical of the gothic tradition. Victor, unafraid of the dark, spends his time in "vaults and charnel-houses." He boldly visits the cemetery at night and vows to avenge the murders of his family members. Such details as the creaking doors, the soft blowing of the wind in the still of the night, and the quiet footsteps in the house all lead to a feeling of fear and suspense. Frankenstein succeeds as a gothic horror and as a "ghost story."

In the gothic there is a strong reliance on the fantastic and the supernatural, which often overrides inconsistencies within the details of the plot. The fact that the monster unfailingly follows Victor everywhere he goes is rather questionable. Almost no mention is made of the obstacles he could have faced along the way. It is equally striking that the murders committed by the "monster" have all gone unwitnessed.

Finally, the gothic takes the theme of death in an interesting direction: overcoming the limits of mortality is a major concern. On a certain level, Victor's interest in creating life is an extension of this desire to escape death. By assembling the body parts of the dead, Victor makes a "monster" who is part human and part ghost. Like a tormented spirit, his creation haunts the living.

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