Which of the standard Gothic elements (castle ruin, dungeon, shadows, etc.) do we see in Frankenstein?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Frankenstein is a narrative generated by the grotesque, supernatural, and horrifying that evolve after an eight-foot creature originally designed to be "beautiful" rampages the countryside and haunts his creator. Truly, there are almost all the listed elements of the Gothic in Mary Shelley's novel.

  • a castle that is haunted or ruined

Although there is no castle that is occupied, in Chapter 18 there is the vision of the "black woods, high and inaccessible." and as Victor and Clerval traverse the Rhine River, they view "rugged hills, ruined castles, overlooking tremendous precipices."

Certainly, the ominous laboratory in which Victor Frankenstein forms his creature, his "hideous phantom" of a man, as Shelley herself wrote, fits the Gothic image of a threatening environment that the dark castle usually presents.

  • shadows, a beam of moonlight....

The stroke of lightning which generates the energy for the creations of Victor's monster connotes the Gothic characteristics of the passionate and irrational. In Chapter 5, Victor first beholds his creature by the "glimmer of half-extinguished light" of a candle nearly burnt out".

  • extreme landscapes

The narrator Walton undertakes an extremely dangerous voyage to the Artic, and Victor chases his creature across the frozen terrain. Further, when Victor sets out to create a female for the creature he chooses a barren island, away from his family as he becomes "restless and nervous" in the "solitude where nothing could for an instant call my attention from the actual scene in which I was engaged.”

While Victor and Clerval travel the Rhine, they marvel at the beauty of the highest point of the Alps, the "spreme and magnificent Mount Blanc. Later, when Victor encounters his creature in Chapter 10, he tells Victor that he has wander many days through the "desert mountains and dreary glaciers," which have been his refuge.

  • omens

In Chapter 3, the death of Victor's mother serves as an omen. On her deathbed, she joins the hand of Elizabeth and Victor in the hope that they will marry. Victor, who feels that her "existence appears a part of our own" violates her memory later and suffers the consequence of his prideful acts.

In Chapter 22, Elizabeth's letter to Victor asking if they will ever be married also serves as an omen to her fate.

  • supernatural, magical

The formation of a living being from the parts of cadavers, aided by the energy of the lightning, generates a preternatural being, one formed as by magic.

In a supernatural experience, Chapter 10 as Victor seeks solace in the beautiful area of Chamounix, he is filled with a "sublime ecstasy" as he contemplates nature, believing that human contemplation of natural wonders "gives wings to the soul and allows it to soar from the obscure world to light and joy" in a supernatural experience. 

  • a passion-driven, willful villain-hero

Despite the warnings of Clerval's "distastes for natural science" Victor, as he relates his tale to Walton, urging the sea captain to learn from him, pursues scientific knowledge irrationally:

...how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge, and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow.

Later, despite his realization that his brother William has probably been killed by the creature and the fact that Justine will be a sacrificial victim, Victor remains silent in his willful self-interest.

  • a curious heroine with a tendency to faint and a need to be rescued often

Justine is an odd heroine as she passively accepts her fate, admitting to a crime she has not committed despite some strange facts such as her having in her possession something that belonged to William, hoping that she will thereby earn salvation. A heroine, she perishes "through the cowardice of her pretended friends."

Elizabeth, too, is a Victorian heroine, submissive and in need of rescuing. She writes to Victor, but always acquiesces to his will. She represents an ideal of womanhood from Victorian days. In Chapter 23 Victor finds her the victim of the vengeance of the creature: 

...the deadly languor and coldness of the limbs told me that what I now held in my arms had ceased to be the Elizabeth whom I had loved...The murderous mark of the fiend's grasp was on her neck....

  • a hero revealed at the end of the novel

After listening to the tragic tale of Victor Frankenstein, Walton decides to abandon his expedition and heroically is able to save the men from disaster.

  • horrifying events

Of course, the creature commits several horrific acts: his murders William and Elizabeth--show[ing] unparalleled malignity and selfishness, in evil"--and he threatens Victor, stalking him after Victor refuses to create a female for him. Victor, too, is horrified by the darkness of his own soul in being the cause of Justine and Elizabeth's deaths, and in his prideful act of attempting to master nature. 

Certainly, Walton has been horrified by the chronicle of Victor, who confesses, "Evil thenceforth became my good....The completion of my demoniacal design became an insatiable passion." Moreover, Victor confesses that he is horrified by himself. He tells Walton,

"You hate me, but you abhorrence cannot equal that with which I regard myself."

Later, the appearance of the creature after Victor dies, horrifies Walton when he first sees him 

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