People living in the twentieth century tend to regard horror as a frightening fictional tale. It is a story intended to scare people usually by incorporating gruesome and supernatural events. The films made about Frankenstein are all suited to the horror genre; however I feel that the book actually transcends this genre as it incorporates the religious and moral issues of the time. Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein in the early eighteen hundreds, an era which has since been referred to as the Age of Enlightenment or Reason.
It has been so called as scientists were discovering the laws of physics for the first time, for example Isaac Newton had discovered the force of gravity. These discoveries eventually began to demote the need for God, as progressively the implications of the Bible were dismissed by scientific discoveries. Human beings had always believed that the Earth was in the centre of the universe because they were created by God; however the laws of physics proved this to be incorrect. In the novel Frankenstein has discovered one of Gods precious secrets – he has developed the ability to create human life.
Mary Shelley hopes that by writing this book she can put a stop to all these scientific discoveries as she, like many other people of the era, wanted to believe the word of God in the Bible. When the book was written it would have been classed in the Gothic genre which meant it was a response to the developments in the scientific world: “one which would speak to the mysterious fears of our nature and awaken thrilling horror. ” Frankenstein is a perfect example of a Gothic hero; he is solitary and does not conform to society as he is unable to tell anyone about the monster he has created.
This breaks the rules of society. Mary Shelley was married to a Romantic poet named Percy Shelley who must have been a key influence in her life. The Romantic poems possessed a dream like quality and Mary Shelley received the idea of Frankenstein in a dream. The poets involved in the Romantic Movement were providing a response to the developments of science. However unlike the Gothics they loved nature, to them nature was God – nature had meaning and provided a source of inspiration. This interest with nature is reflected in ‘Frankenstein’: “icy and glittering peaks … swelled… joy”.
Frankenstein like the romantic poets is a solitary individual communing with nature. A characteristic which features heavily in ‘Frankenstein’ is ambition, which could lead to the novel being classed as moral fiction. It demonstrates what can happen to human beings when the drive of ambition reaches abnormal levels. Readers are easily able to see Frankenstein’s demise once he had created the monster: “the fatal impulse that led to my ruin”. This could be regarded as a principled message to scientists and other readers alike to learn from the results of Frankenstein’s ambition:
“Devil …your miserable head… vile insect”. It is evident throughout the story that Mary Shelley does not take a favourable view on ambition and regards it as an evil. Through the medium of the book Shelley is trying to deter people from letting ambition take over their lives: “guided by an ardent imagination and childish reasoning”. She also allows Walton to turn back from his mission to the North Pole, indicating that Walton had understood the message Frankenstein had conveyed to him. Sometimes it is better to turn away from ambition in order to succeed in life’s journey.