Frankenstein and the "Horror Fiction Formula"I am trying to establish what parts of the novel “Frankenstein” are true to the The Horror Fiction Formula and where does it depart from it? Since...

Frankenstein and the "Horror Fiction Formula"

I am trying to establish what parts of the novel “Frankenstein” are true to the The Horror Fiction Formula and where does it depart from it? Since many people may not know what I mean by “formula” I have added the definition given to me by my professor below my question. I have read the book but don’t really know how the novel fits and/or doesn’t fit into this formula. I understand this formula isn’t a guideline or anything it is more or less how horror fiction stories typically play out. To me “Frankenstein” is a bit different because the main “monster in the story isn’t really the “evil” being. Any help at all would be appreciated.

Expert Answers
ask996 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Maybe the difficulty you're having in cataloging this story into the "horror fiction formula" lies in the fact that it might have been written before the "formula" was devised. Frankenstein was written in response to a challenge that Lord Byron gave to a group of friends which included Shelley, her husband Percy Byshe Shelley, and Claire Clairmont to see who could write the most terrifying story. Frankenstein was the winner. I'm suspecting that there was no "formula" at the time. Perhaps it set the original standard, however.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In that the creature/monster creates havoc, fear, and terror in Frankenstein, he certainly fits the formula.  When, for instance, the creature attempts friendship with the DeLacey family, he inadvertently creates terror and chaos; later the people of the area battle him and he must flee.  For Victor, the creature is a horror of which he must rid the world.  After all, many of Victor's family have died because of him and he is the catalyst to the horror in Victor's soul as he realizes what evil he has committed.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
I agree with the other posters. However, one could argue that King got some of his inspiration from the original Gothic novels like Frankenstein. There is a message buried in the gore. We view our own world, and the moral choices we make, differently once we read the story. The relevance is in what really scares us. It's not the gore, but the human element.
sultlete | Student

In Frankenstein, there is always the defense that the creation was the victim and Victor Frankenstein was, in fact, the monster. I think that this 'Horror Fiction Formula" is at times most relevant in parts where we see Walton, i.e; the beginning and the very end. For example, the beginning you see that the creation is being chased by Frankenstein and here it is believed that the creature is a monster, but in the closing chapters, things are not peaceful until you see the death of Frankenstein himself which makes you question, who was the monster? It is not until Frankenstein runs himself to his own demise that the creature appears and says that he will kill himself now because there is nothing left to live for now that Frankenstein is dead and alongside the setting (which was very important in the gothic/horror genre) of snow and the imagery of purity that everything seems to be at peace. Thus, coinciding with King's Formula.

At least, that's how I see it.

kateew | Student

Obviously since Stephen King wrote the formula the novel preceeds it. The formula is merely an observation of the basic outline of most horror fiction works. It isn't a guideline but most horror novels do fit into this basic template in some areas if not all.

chuckydd | Student

The Horror Fiction Formula
(in part from Stephen King’s Danse Macabre)

We begin usually in a small town which is fairly orderly, peaceable, and generally prosperous. Kids and adults are complacent with the generally benign nature of life. The townspeople are depicted as having (usually) minor moral failings but they have not, or at least most of them have not, experienced real evil. King calls this an “Apollonian community.”

This unsuspecting Apollonian community then experiences what King calls an “irruption” of the irrational. King calls this a “Dionysian force”—named for the Greek God Dionysus. This Dionysian force is truly evil; it is a monster and it begins to stalk members of the community. At first the townspeople may not realize the mysterious deaths are related. But eventually one or more members of the town learn of the existence of the monster. Maybethey are informed of the existence of the Dionysian force by someone experienced and wise who knows of or has combated this evil force before (such as Dr. Van Helsing in Dracula).

The individual small group begins to hunt the monster or irrational force. They have an escalating series of confrontations with the monster, ending in a climactic battle. The monster is defeated, banished, or apparently destroyed. Order and peace is at least temporarily restored to the community. This order and peace is not the same, however, as the peace that the novel or film started with. their innocence has been destroyed.

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