How would you describe Mary Shelley's style in the book Frankenstein? What is the significance of the openingscene? closing scene?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Through her use of the framed narrative and her epistolary style, Mary Shelley achieves an objectivity in her novel, Frankenstein, that permits the readers to arrive without influence at their own assessment of the characters.  For, rather than using Victor's point of view immediately, Shelley has his tale mentioned by the sea captain, Walton, whose nature is somewhat similiar to Victor's.  Walton, in letters, alludes to "the wretched man," an epithet which elicits the sympathy of readers and arouses their curiosity about the "demon."

The theme of listening is, indeed, central to Shelley's novel.  For, the listener/reader "hears" Walton's accounts, then Victor's, then the creatures, then back to Victor's, and, finally, Walton's.  With this listening to all parties concerned, so to speak, the readers are, thus, more able to arrive at an objective criticism of the characters.  With the episolary beginning and ending, the theme of nurturing is reinforced.  This is important for Shelley as a Romanticist who wishes to point out the dangers of science in Frankenstein.

And, although clearly a gothic novel, Shelley's use of the Swiss Alps and the brightness and sublimity of snow-capped mountains and clear streams and  and cold, white icebergs is a departure from the darkness of the classic gothic narrative of gloomy darkness and distorted scenery.  This departure from the genre sets the ugly creature in stark contrast to his environment, pointing further to the unnaturalness of the "monster" of scientific creation.  To make this creature more realistic, Shelley also departs from the usual time period of Gothic literature and places her narrative in contemporary times.  This, again, is done to point to what science was doing at her time and what its potential dangers were.  In addition, the use of contemporary scenes and nature was reflective of Shelley's Romantic style.  Thus, she combined her scientific concerns with the Romantic sensibilities  and appeals to isolation, imagination, and nature acquired from her poet husband, Percy Blythe Shelley.  Truly, Frankenstein has a complex style that makes it a unique novel and a wonderful read.

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