What language is used in Chapter 5 of Frankenstein to develop atmosphere?

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favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Shelley also employs words with extremely negative connotations (the feelings that a word invokes in the reader as a result of its past associations) in the opening lines of the chapter in order to develop a dark mood or atmosphere.  Victor says,

It was on a dreary night of November that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils. With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony, collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet. It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes, and my candle was nearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs.  How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate the wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavoured to form?

Words that describe Victor's emotional state -- anxiety, agony -- are overtly negative: he isn't "excited" or "eager" or something else with a more positive connotation.  Instead, he seems to suffer terribly, even before his creation comes to life.  Next, he describes even the weather as dreary and dismal.  Then, when he talks about the light by which he works, he describes it as "half-extinguished": he doesn't focus on the light it provides but rather the fact that it is half out (kind of like seeing a glass as half-empty rather than half-full).  The creature's eye isn't a "pale gold" (which would sound more positive) but a "dull yellow" (which sounds much more negative and dirty), and when the creature comes to life, Victor describes the process as agitation and convulsions: language that connotes dread, corruption, and disturbance rather than hopefulness or excitement (the feelings that accompany most "births").  Finally, the connotation of "catastrophe" and "wretch" is so dreadful and awful that they contribute these feelings to the atmosphere as well.

dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Mary Shelley uses imagery and strategic repetition of key descriptive words to create an atmosphere of horror and gloom in the first part of the chapter, when the monster comes to life.  She uses variations of words such as "dreary", "dismal", "horrid", "disgust", "miserable", and "wretched" liberally, and paints vivid images of ugliness and decay.  An especially vivid example of this is when she has Victor Frankenstein describe holding "the corpse of (his) dead mother...a shroud enveloped her form...the grave-worms crawling in the folds of the flannel".

The gloominess of the atmosphere is further highlighted when, halfway through the chapter, Clerval arrives.  Frankenstein is lifted from his morbid situation and responds manically, jumping over chairs, clapping his hands, and laughing out loud.  The extreme intensity of Frankenstein's apparent joy emphasizes the heaviness of the previous scene by sheer contrast, and the fact that his reaction is based in madness only serves to underscore the darkness of the scene.

bubblegumpink | Student

she uses pathetic fallacy to create atmosphere.

'it was a dreary night of November' refelcts on victors moods.

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Frankenstein

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