Can Gothic be seen as a conservative form which while it can seem subversive, ultimately seeks to contain disorder, discontent, rebellion?The question is in relation to Frankenstein and Northanger...

Can Gothic be seen as a conservative form which while it can seem subversive, ultimately seeks to contain disorder, discontent, rebellion?

The question is in relation to Frankenstein and Northanger Abbey.

Asked on by rachelja

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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Since Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey is a parody of the gothic novel, it does not seem just to define it as gothic and evaluate as part of the gothic genre.  However, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is clearly of the gothic genre, mirroring many of the characteristics of the novels of Anne Radcliffe, novels that in parody Jane Austen's heroine Catherine reads voraciously.

In his book, Anne Radcliffe and the Conservative Gothic, David Durant points to characteristics of Radcliffe's conservatism that can certainly be applied to Shelley's Frankenstein.  For instance, there is the sentimental pattern in which the life of the heroine/hero follows the archetype of the fall from innocence. Having left the safe, hierarchical, reasonable, loving world of the family, the hero of Shelley's novel falls into a chaotic and irrational world of the isolated.  Thus, Frankenstein follow the philophically tradition thought in which Victor's romantic ideals disintegrate into the perverse and irrational.  And, the irrational is monstrous, not romantically beautiful.  Clearly, it is because of his romanticized imagination and emotion, that the villain-hero Victor Frankenstein becomes, himself, the monster rather than his creature.

The terros of Frankenstein are not the spooky passageways and ghosts, but as Durant states, "the winds of change, dissolution, and chaos":  ideas as conservative as the "fall from innocence." 

herappleness's profile pic

M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Yes it can. The evidence is because in both story there is an element of dissolution and lack of self-discipline that permeates throughout the stories in the form of melancholy, despair, persecution, and sadness. The melancholy, specifically is a reaction to the longing and nostalgia of better times which at some point in the stories are ruined by the inevitability of fate. In this case, Gothic Lit in both Frankenstein and Abbey present similarly these elements and relate the stories though the same lines of reason.

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