Frankenstein, written by Mary Shelley is an example of a Gothic Horror fictional novel and was first published in 1818. Gothic Horror was a type of romantic fiction that predominated in English literature from the late eighteenth century to the pre-twentieth century. The setting was usually in ruined Gothic castles or in other secluded places, which could be built upon to create Gothic Horror. Gothic Horror fiction novels were emphasized by mystery and horror and were filled with many forms of monstrosity and ghostliness.
The context of Mary Shelley’s novel was written in an era when Gothic Horror was read widely and was highly popular, especially amongst women. During this time, discussing Gothic Horror novels was a common past time amongst women of high society. This allowed the discussions and beliefs of horror to escalate and created popularity that made the female readers want to read this particular type of genre. This genre was also linked together with mystery novels, which were also highly popular.
Writers realised that mystery and horror were two very important elements that made Gothic Horror fiction novels popular for their readers. Mary Shelley was on holiday and the idea of this story was developed when she and others were gathered together improvising on the subject of Ghost Stories. When she arrived back home to London she used this idea to develop an extraordinary Gothic Horror novel, which explained monstrosity in depth. This story allows us – the readers, to take into account how a character’s ‘monstrosity’ can be discriminated against.
This novel is most likely to be influenced by the fact that Mary Shelley’s parents were radicals who challenged society by writing books regarding the subject of feminist rights. Women didn’t have many rights as in decision-making so Mary Shelley’s novel could have made women believe that they had rights to put forward their ideas and beliefs. Gothic Horror is a story of terror and suspense, usually in a gloomy setting. It emphasizes the grotesque and mysterious, with the intense feeling of repugnance and fear.
With all these elements combined Gothic Horror is an unexplained and apprehensive genre to read and to understand. This type of horror is unexplainable and leaves you mystified in seeking the cause and reasons for such a novel. It allows us, the reader – to gain a sense of the surroundings and makes us consider the views of the characters experiencing the terror within the novels. Frankenstein is a classic example of a Gothic Horror novel. When we discover Victor Frankenstein, the sense of suspense and mysteriousness occupies our minds.
The reader is made to question who actually is the ‘monster’. Victor, for his feelings and thoughts, or the ‘monster’, for his looks and appearance. The name used by Mary Shelley, Frankenstein means someone who kills his or her creator (according to The Oxford Handy Dictionary). This novel uses the true meaning of ‘Frankenstein’, it builds up the frustration on the characters by making them hate one another so much, that they get the sense that the only way to stop this ‘torture’ is to attempt to hurt each other, not physically, but emotionally by hurting the people they love.
The ‘monster’ is an essential part of a Gothic Horror convention as it fulfils the requirements of grotesque and terror. Without a ‘monster’ in a Gothic Horror novel, it would make this particular part of genre seem bland, as there would not be any sense of mystery or suspense. The ‘monster’ within the novel gives the reader a whole new perspective to follow the reactions of the characters which Mary Shelley makes ‘monsters’. The uses of techniques such as the three narrators, which tell the story of who they think is the ‘monster’, tells us why we should be considerate regarding ‘their’ feelings.
Mary Shelley uses the ‘conventions’ of Gothic Horror to make us anticipate the thoughts and actions of the characters. She also makes us think of the setting that Victor secludes himself to when creating the ‘monster’ and this formulates the whole narrative technique of the genre used by Mary Shelley – the ‘dark’ ‘dreary’ ‘rainy’ ‘night’ for example is played upon when Victor is assembling the ‘monster’ as she uses imagery and symbols to create setting and mood. Mary Shelley sets up expectations within the novel and she overturns them, just to make us aware of how society can claim to cast somebody as a ‘monster’.
Victor is expected to take care of the ‘monster’, he is ‘eager and excited’ when creating and assembling the ‘monster’ but when the ‘monster’ comes to life, Victor’s approach can be described as ‘monstrous’ as he neglects him because of his appearance. As the novel progresses we begin to understand how its Creator disregards the ‘monster’, so we hear the opinion of the monster and we look upon the subject of – ‘who really is the ‘monster’ and why? ‘ As the evidence from the novel suggests that humanity has excluded Victor’s creation totally, just because of his physical appearance, we realise just who are we to make this judgement?
Victor’s feelings and emotions are monstrous towards the ‘deformed and wretched’ creation, so why isn’t he declared as an outcast? – As his appearance cannot justify his inner monstrosity. This is why it is problematic for us to term either of them a ‘monster’. We criticize people for being dissimilar to society, we must learn to consider people for whom and what they are, although we must be comprehensible on what really a ‘monster’ is – looks or just personality?
In this essay I will be exploring Mary Shelley’s attitude to Monstrosity – in ‘Frankenstein’ through an evaluation of the interpretation of the characters, Victor and its ‘monster’ creation. I believe that ‘monstrosity’ can be looked upon in a number of ways; ‘monstrosity’ to us is looked upon as some kind of ‘deformity in its aspect’ or a ‘filthy daemon’ which civilization has a reason to condemn a ‘monster’. However, what we must again take into account is the fact that monstrosity cannot just be discrimination against someone merely because they are what we judge to be ‘out of the ordinary’.
From the creation, Victor’s monstrosity is outlined by his behaviour towards the ‘monster’. Victor cannot bear the ‘monster’ whatsoever and rues the day he created him – ‘… the filthy daemon to whom I had given life’. Victor has a numerous amount of encounters with the ‘monster’ and this agitates the amount of hatred he feels towards his ‘monstrous creation’. Victor’s inner monstrosity is gradually noticeable to us, as he begins to understand the ‘monster’s feelings and emotions.
The only monstrous feature of the creation is obviously his appearance to the people present around him. His monstrous looks, does not hinder kind actions on his part. He helped a young child who had fallen into a stream. However instead of gratitude the child’s parent shot at him. So instead of appreciation for saving the child the ‘monster’ was greeted by a bullet, which caused him to suffer for weeks. The ‘monster’s own monstrosity begins to emerge when he kills Victor’s nephew and wife. His motive for this is the result of Victor’s abandonment to him.
Victor instantly develops a hatred for his creation, so the ‘monster’ began to feel hatred towards his creator for not accepting him – ‘Adam was accepted by God, then why do you not accept me? ‘ Victor and his creation show monstrosity throughout the novel due to Victor’s negligence of his creation. Victor gradually begins to feel and understand the ‘monster’s needs and feelings. The ‘monster’ then believes he can gain more acceptance if he had a partner – whom he blackmails Victor into creating. Victor has to accept, otherwise the consequence will be fatal for him, declares the ‘Frankenstein’.
As the novel progresses Victor now begins to question himself about the outcomes if he was to create another ‘monster’ – he questions, would ‘she’ accept the ‘monster’, what would this creation do to society? And he believes this action would not be appropriate to ‘inflict’ on the world. Throughout the novel Victor is portrayed as a mysterious and unpredictable character. When Robert Walton first discovers him on his expedition to the North Pole, Victor was fatigued and also suffering, which gave us the opinion that he was a determined and constructive man to begin to recover from such a state.
When he awoke from his unconsciousness he began to make slow but stable progress. As Robert Walton continued his expedition we begin to learn that Victor had extraordinary experiences throughout his life. The two of them begin to get better acquainted and we begin to develop knowledge of Victor’s character. As we begin to hear Victor’s story leading to the creation of the ‘monster’ we are able to gather that he is from a respectable family – ‘… my family is one of the most distinguished of that republic’ and ‘my ancestors had been for many years counsellors and syndics’.