What is the mood in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein?
The prevailing mood of Shelley's Frankenstein is, arguably, one of intrigue and mystery, a feeling enhanced by the use of not one, but two frame narratives, a classic Gothic device that serves to distance the reader from the core of the text. In Frankenstein, we first approach the story through the letters of Walton, a sailor, who has no understanding of who Victor Frankenstein is or what he has done. Gradually, we come to understand Frankenstein's own telling of his story, and, as this is told in the first-person via Walton, begin to think we understand what is happening; there is some level of sympathy evoked for Frankenstein, at the same time, as the reader's sense of unease grows. It is evident that what Frankenstein has done cannot end well for him, and that it has led him to the situation in which Walton found him at the beginning of the book. Perhaps the core story within the frame narrative, however, is that of the Creature speaking for himself. It is at this point that the final layers of the onion are peeled away, and the reader finally understands how grievous Frankenstein's errors have been against nature and God, as well as against the unfortunate Creature whom he has brought into existence and then condemned.
The mood of Frankenstein is one of foreboding, or tragedy or evil, that is to come. The first-person point of view from Victor Frankenstein allows the narration to reflect the hard-earned wisdom that he gained from his actions. It is clear from the moment of Victor’s interest in alchemy that no good will come from this. This fact that he immediately abandoned his creature left a sense of approaching doom: Victor does not know what has become of the creature. He makes the leap to the conclusion that it is the creature who has killed his little brother William, as well as causing the guilt to be placed on Justine, who is executed as a murderess. With each event, this leads the reader along, knowing that the creature’s actions will lead him on to more and more murders. On the way, however, the reader learns the creature’s story and manages to gain some sympathy for, perhaps even identification with, him. This gives a paradoxical feeling for the “monster.” With the tragic ending and the creature’s remorse, this becomes less of a horror story than a tale of lost opportunity and love.