What are the elements of the gothic novel, Frankenstein?



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literaturenerd's profile pic

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There are many different elements of the Gothic novel seen in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

First, the setting of the Gothic novel is always important. The setting is meant to evoke both horror and fear in the reader. For Frankenstein, the novel does both. The setting, while it changes many times, evokes fear in the fact that parts of it take place in the frozen seas and wildernesses. The unknown of what is to come for both Victor and the monster, in regards to the setting, typically evokes fear for the engaged reader. The second element of the novel's setting which evokes fear is Victor's gathering of body parts and the labs he works in. Both settings are morbid and frightening.

Victor, the Gothic hero (to some), isolates himself from the rest of society. The monster (the other Gothic hero) has fallen from grace (Victor's love) and is forced to become the epitome of the Gothic "Wanderer."

gpane's profile pic

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The novel partakes of the typical Gothic theme of hubris, or excess: the transgression of lawful human limits by individuals questing after forbidden knowledge, aiming to push back the boundaries of what is known and permitted to mortals. Frankenstein is also the typical Gothic hero in being of a lonely, dark and brooding nature which impels him to his activities outwith normal, everyday life. He aims to crack the secret of creation but can only do so in isolation. He is cut off from ordinary human intercourse. He dares too much and has to pay the price for his audacity, his sin of excess.

The novel makes use of distinctly supernatural elements, again a typically Gothic touch. True, the creation of the monster is given a scientific veneer with the use of the then newly-discovered force of electricity, but Frankenstein is portrayed more or less as dabbling in black magic, haunting charnel-houses and lonely islands for his unseemly purpose. He is not presented as an enlightened scientific pioneer but rather as one practising unholy arts, challenging nature itself, which, the novel strongly suggests, it is not right for human beings to do.  In this respect he appears more in the mould of the legendary magician Faust who sold his soul to the devil for knowledge, rather than as a modern scientist. And of course his wretched creature - his offspring, as one might call it - despite its acquisition of intelligence and even eloquence, is generally regarded as a 'monster', an unnatural thing.


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