The novel Frankenstein is as relevant and terrifying as it was when it was first published in 1818. Explain how Mary Shelley makes her narrative effective and why it has fascinated and shocked audiences for nearly 190 years! Refer to chapter 5 in particular when Victor creates monster as well as giving an overview of the novel. Frankenstein is a gruesome and terrifying novel telling the tale of one man, Victor Frankenstein, ‘playing god’ and reviving the dead.
Although the story is told by a sea captain, who came into contact with Victor shortly before he passed away on his boat, there are effectively three narrators to this story, Victor, Victor’s creation and the sea captain. The novel is set out in two main parts where both Victor and the monster give their story of events. Whilst the sea captain narrates throughout the story, in form of letter to his sister, all three characters have parts in the book where it is just them and only their opinions and actions are commented upon. The sea captain only repeats what Victor had told him before he dies.
The story is about Victor Frankenstein’s monster tormenting Victor and ruthlessly killing his loved ones until Victor can accept him to stop the monsters loneliness and misery. This torment continues as Victor refuses to help the ‘wretch’ he brought into the world and realises he must kill the monster, so that the murders can stop seeing as victor is so adamant he shall not help the monster. As the story is narrated by the sea captain the whole time, one may think that this could make the story less scary but this appears not to be true as readers almost forget that it is narrated.
This is probably because it refers to how the characters feel and gives accounts of both Frankenstein and his creations story. Mary Shelley makes this effective in many ways, but I believe the main way is how she writes the text, constantly referring to the first person, ‘I beheld the accomplishment of my toils’ and ‘I might infuse a spark… ‘ (Both chapter five). This works well because it helps the reader fully understand how they feel, unlike if a narrator said how they felt.
Due to the time period the novel was set, certain aspects of the book will undoubtedly have scared people more in the past then than it does nowadays. In the 1800s religion played a much bigger role in day to day life than it does now and this may be one factor for this. People were horrified that the dead could be revived, man had the power to do this and the fact that the monster was capable of murder was thought to be terrifying. This idea of reviving the dead was also completely against the religious views of the time, as it was thought of as man playing god.
The first scary part of the book is when Mary Shelley introduces the monster to the audience after Victor Frankenstein has just completed making his creation in chapter five. The passage starts with an in depth description of the scene, almost warning readers about what is about to happen. The author uses words and phrases such as, ‘dreary night of November’, ‘candle almost burnt out’ and ‘ the rain pattered dismally against the panes,’ to give the audience an dark and dreary image of the room and one that is perceived by most people to be scary whilst also building anticipation at the same time.
All of these effects adds to the gothic genre that the book is known to have a reputation for. A short text of highly descriptive writing follows, thus giving the audience a portrait of the monster and one that stays with them whenever the monster is mentioned. The author describes the truly grotesque monster as having, ‘Yellow skin scarcely covering the muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes,’ chapter 5.