What are the elements of a novel?The question I have says "..list 5 elements from the novel(characters' speeches/actions, plot development, symbols, etc.)..." Despite the stuff in parentheses, I...

What are the elements of a novel?

The question I have says

"..list 5 elements from the novel(characters' speeches/actions, plot development, symbols, etc.)..."

Despite the stuff in parentheses, I still don't quite understand what the elements of a novel are. Some help would be extremely helpful.

If it is any help, the novel we're working on is Frankenstein.

Expert Answers
amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Frankenstein is one of my all-time favorite novels.  However, the elements of a novel are much the same as the elements of a short story, and will apply to all stories.

Among these are plot, character, setting, conflict, mood/tone, symbol, theme, etc.  I will include a link to a handbook which will help you further understand these terms, but I will apply them to Shelley's Frankenstein for you. 

I don't know how far you are in the novel, but undoubtedly by now you understand that Victor Frankenstein has built a creature out of "used" parts as a result of his mother's untimely death through a difficult childbirth.  He says that no one should have to die while giving birth, or really, at all.  This is the basic plot.  Victor is interested in science from the very beginning, his mother dies, he is propelled to bring a creature to life, and then he spends the rest of the novel battling his morals and belief system as a result of the creature's vengeful attitude.

The main characters are Victor, the obsessed scientist who has only a few good friends, devoted family members, and otherwise keeps to himself.  Every time he secludes himself and ignores Nature, his health suffers and he falls ill.

Henry, Victor's best friend, is a people person and is responsible for bringing out the best in Victor along with Elizabeth.  He loves literature, drama, and other "people" centered activities.

Elizabeth, Victor's "sister" and future wife, is also a social being.  She is full of energy and draws Victor out of his seclusion and science experiments.

It is important to know that Victor, the main character, is a withdrawn and introspective type.  His thoughts, words, actions all play on a major theme:  is it OK to play God?  Shelley's answer is a resounding "NO" since Victor's creation is the ruination of everyone dear to him.  Other themes are also evident while studying Victor's character.  When he secludes himself, he is engaged in his science experiments where he "forgets" to take care of himself.  When he is exercising and walking among Nature (ie, God) he is in tune with the Creator and everything is right.  He is healthy, and his mind is right.  But his health fails and he falls into either physical or mental or both illness when he is in seclusion.  Thus, the state that Henry finds Victor in after Victor creates the creature that dreary November evening.

Setting includes not only the geographic location, but also the mood/tone of the place, the time period, the weather, etc.  So, when it's rainy and storming in the novel (or any novel) the author is letting you in on how the characters are feeling or that they should be aware that something isn't right.  Of course, the night the creature is created and brought to life, it is dark, dreary, stormy, and miserable...foreshadowing the rest of Victor's life.  When Victor is outdoors, everything is OK.  When he's indoors shut up in dark and secret rooms, things go wrong.  The isolated place in Scotland where he chooses to build the female creature is a horrible place.  Can anything good come of this?  As we read on, we see that the answer is no.

Conflict deals with any problems in a story.  Victor's conflicts are both internal and external.  He questions his own motives, and then he wrestles with what the right thing to do is.  He questions his ability to protect his family and friends, etc.  He argues with his father, with Elizabeth, with the creature.