The novel “Frankenstein” was written in 1818 by Mary Shelley; in places it adheres to, and in places effectively subverts the conventions of Gothic fiction. The said subversions create tension and a sense of defamiliarisation in a reader, this is effectual in creating a sense of unease but can be a little disconcerting all the same; much like the calm before the storm. I believe that when Mary Shelley wrote ‘Frankenstein’, she intended for the sympathy of the reader to be evoked in favour of the protagonist Victor Frankenstein in preference to his antagonistic creation; although this character is habitually referred to sympathetically.
In the novel, Frankenstein loses his mother to scarlet fever at an early age which clearly devastates his character and instils in him a sense of unwavering defiance towards his ultimate goal of instilling life upon a deceased being. Whilst at university, he creates a creature from scavenged human body parts and manages to give life to it; he achieves this amazing feat without thinking much of the possible consequences of his actions. Frankenstein’s creation is, up until the point of its animation, not described in detail.
This could possibly symbolise Frankenstein’s unwavering faith in the fact that his creation would be pure and good, and his tendency to bury his head in the sand when he has a goal in his mind. Once the creature has been given life, Frankenstein seems to get a metaphorical slap in the face and sees his creation in a new and terrifying light. Through a combination of prejudice against the physically repulsive and cruel intentions, Frankenstein’s creation becomes a social outcast and takes out his grief and anger on Frankenstein’s young brother, William.
A family friend is implicated in the murder and is subsequently hung at the gallows. After Frankenstein refuses to create a female partner for his creation, it goes on to kill everyone Frankenstein holds dear; including his best friend Henry Clerval and the remainder of his family. The parts of the novel that comply with gothic fiction do so very inflexibly; “… tremendous and abhorred! “, “… the dashing waves were around, the cloudy sky above…
” This is possibly as Mary Shelley deeply revered the Romantics – a tight circle of writers who enjoyed writing in the style of gothic horror – and wished to prove herself to them, so she felt the need to show a deep understanding of their techniques. Although some of the novel uses narrative, the main part of it makes use of and epistolary structure, “To Mrs Saville, England”. This is important in making us feel that we are almost part of the novel, having been entrusted with personal letters between main characters.
The novel is written in the first person, “When I was about fifteen years old… ” This is vital to render this novel convincing enough to hold a reader’s interest and to emphasise the reader’s sense of involvement whilst reading the novel. When Victor Frankenstein is growing up in Geneva, he passes much of his time reading the published works of a wide variety of extremely outdated scientists. This is undoubtedly what sparks his enthusiasm for science but it does not do much to prepare him for his study of “natural philosophy” when he attends university at Inglestadt.