How is Frankenstein true or different to the The Horror Fiction Formula given below?The Horror Fiction Formula We begin usually in a small town which is fairly orderly, peaceable, and generally...

How is Frankenstein true or different to the The Horror Fiction Formula given below?

The Horror Fiction Formula

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. Maybe they 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.


Expert Answers
accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Whilst I agree that your horror fiction formula is accurate for a wide range of horror novels, I definitely do not think this formula can be applied to Frankenstein for a number of reasons.

The biggest way that this formula does not fit this classic Gothic novel is the way in which the creature is not actually a "Dionysian force" of pure evil. If anything, depending on how you read the novel, it is society that is shown to be evil and Frankenstein, as the creator of the creature, displays several questionable tendencies through the way that he abandons his creature. In particular, the novel seems to stress the evil and injustice of humanity more than the creature. Note the way we are told about how Justine is condemned to death:

And when I received their cold answers, and heard the harsh unfeeling reasoning of these men, my purposed avowal died away on my lips.

It is humanity that is shown to be evil, not the creature, who, from his own account, only sought human warmth and companionship. However, at every turn, thanks to his appearance, he is shunned and despised. It appears that although the creature does go on to commit terrible crimes, as he himself said, he is only imitating the "kindness" of humanity that he has experienced. Note how he reasons with Frankenstein:

"I am malicious because I am miserable. Am I not shunned and hated by all mankind? You, my creator, would tear me to pieces, and triumph; remember that, and tell me why I should pity man more than he pities me?"

Let us remember this before we quickly jump to label the creature a monster. If he is a monster, it is thanks to how he has been treated by humanity and his creator. This is one central reason therefore why this novel does not fit into the formula you have given.

kateew | Student

he confrontation between Victor and the monster both follows and deviates from the formula. The Victor initially doesn’t want to have anything to do with his “monster.” He runs from the “fiend” partially because he doesn’t have the character to deal with his own actions. He is irresponsible. He doesn’t want to accept his role in the violence because he is proud. The confrontations do escalate. At first the monster finds Victor and they have a fairly rational conversation. He tries to bargain with his creation by agreeing to create a companion for him.  When he refuses the monsters actions become increasingly aggressive. Victor is becoming more rational but he is preparing for future confrontation. The monster’s threat also perpetuates the future conflict. The violence becomes increasingly more person with the death of Victor’s new bride. He eventually decides that he has to hunt down his monster. Victor travels in pursuit of his monster further from the world as we heads north.  The mad chase to the arctic is a little unusual I think. The typical chase in the horror formula would have the beast stalking victims while the hero tries to stop him. In “Frankenstein” the creature has almost given up and is actively trying to avoid contact with others.

The fact that the “monster” of the story isn’t inherently evil is n important diversion from the formula. It stems from the Romantic idea that there is no such thing as inherent evil and human beings are born with a “tabula rasa” and become bad because of their environment. The “creature” wasn’t an evil monster by nature but became violent and vengeful only after being repeatedly rejected by society. This creates an interesting perspective for the reader. We can certainly empathize with the creature, but can also understand the fear victor has of him and his violence. I’m not sure Shelley believed in or wanted to illustrate true evil. In chapter 11 when the “monster” is speaking we learn that he is in fact not evil but he is emotional and intellectual. The creature is not devilish but calm and rational. Shelley is trying to make the point that appearances can be deceiving and we shouldn’t judge things by appearance. I also think she begs the question, who is really responsible for evil acts, the person who commits the acts or a society that creates the person who commits the acts.

kateew | Student

I don’t think the “Frankenstein” story really conforms to the “Horror Formula.” there are some aspects that do follow the formula. Victor’s life before his creation was rather idealized and romantic. In many ways Victor’s life and family before his mother’s death and his obsession with life and death was “Apollonian.” I’m not sure if there is a truly “Dionysian force” in the  story. The creature certainly wasn’t entirely evil. I would say science itself and the blind pursuit of a forbidden knowledge were the causes of the evil in the story. There are several events which could be considered an “irruption.” The series of fatal events following Victor’s hearing of a mysterious murder of his brother can be considered the “irruption.”

Victor didn’t tell anyone of about the problem. This is Victor’s intuition of the creature’s complicity in some of the story’s murders fits into the formula. He seems to instinctively know that his “monster is responsible for the deaths of others without any indication that this was the case. This happens on several occasions; first when the flash of lightning illuminates the “monster” and the truth about Williams murder seems to reveal itself to Victor. This is effective because it adds suspense and mystery to the story. This intuition imparts knowledge of the killer to Victor through a supernatural fashion.


kateew | Student

I would agree that the entire novel won't fit into the formula. That's why I am curious as to what people think about parts that do or do not fit into it. I have already written my essay about it and was curious as to what others thought.


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