Mary Shelley’s, ‘Frankenstein’ came a bout when poet, Lord Byron, challenged her to a competition of who could write the most frightening supernatural tale. First told as a ghost story on the shores of Lake Geneva it was later published in 1818 under a false name and became her most famous novel. Frankenstein begins with Captain Robert Walton telling the story of Frankenstein and his monster. Walton had set out to sea to explore the North Pole and advance in scientific discoveries however his ship gets trapped within some ice which is when Frankenstein is found in a weak state.
This is when he begins to tell Walton his story, of his childhood, his family, his research and then his creation. As the novel advances Walton takes over the narrative, for it to be finished off by the monster telling Walton of his vengeance and remorse before he leaves to destroy himself. In chapter five of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Shelley uses the setting to terrify the reader. She creates an atmosphere using many different descriptive techniques such as the time of day and the weather to create fear and anxiety.
In the first paragraph for example Shelley uses the weather to portray Frankenstein’s feelings, “it was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the paned, and my candle was nearly burnt out. ” The use of language, “pattered dismally” mirrors his emotions. It also has a double meaning; is candle was literally burning out, and the time of day. It suggests he is tired and Shelley sets the scene creating tension before going on to terrify the reader.
Shelley maintains the use of horrible descriptive language throughout the first chapter such as the description of the monster. For example she describes it as “yellow eyed”- a signal of disease and quite an evil picture in context. Especially since it is also said the eyes describe someone’s true self, ‘a window to the soul’. Shelley closes the first paragraph saying, “a convulsive motion agitated its limbs” speaking of the monster. It suggests spasm like gestures, a very unsightly way of moving and it adds to the horror of the description of the monster and the story.
In the second paragraph Shelley as Dr Frankenstein describes the reaction and emotions of the first encounter with the live monster. She is very emotive and expressive using exclamation marks to exaggerate Frankenstein’s feelings. Shelley uses more horrifying descriptions of the monster such as, ” work of muscles” dehumanising it as much as she can and, “watery eyes” and “black lips” which both create disgusting images and have connotations of illness and death. Shelley then goes on as Frankenstein as narrator.
Frankenstein is portrayed as having a split personality. On one hand he is trying to make excuses claiming, “His limbs were in proportion” and “teeth of pearly whiteness” but then goes on to say, “Beautiful! Great God! ” he is arguing with himself, both trying to justify his creation and being completely repulsed by it. Shelley also describes how the, “teeth of pearly whiteness” only creates a more horrifying image of the monster due to such a contrast in one being.
The feature which could alone have been considered successful simply worsens the creature as a whole, “but these luxuriance’s only form a more horrid contrast”. Shelley goes on in the next paragraph to describe Frankenstein’s obsession with his creation, and shows how he reaches an understanding about his work, “I had worked hard for nearly two years, for the sole purpose of infusing life into an inanimate body”- this portrays Frankenstein’s realisation. He is starting to understand that his intentions were not for the good of science and discoveries but simply because he could.