Mary Shelley’s gothic novel, Frankenstein, employs many rhetorical strategies to craft a chilling tale that has delighted and warned audiences for many generations.
The structure of the novel is an important element to note. The novel is a frame narrative or a story within a story. Instead of beginning at the start and telling a linear story until the end, Shelley uses the frame narrative to set the action of her story within another one. The book opens with Robert Walton’s letters to his sister. Here we realize that the next story will be Walton retelling Victor’s story to his sister as it was told to him.
Shelley’s use of appeals (ethos, logos, and pathos) allows her audience to be drawn into the story while accepting her argument. The novel warns its audience about the dangers of becoming too obsessed with the pursuit of knowledge. The book opens with Robert Walton’s voyage to the North Pole. Though his ship, and crew, are stuck in the ice, facing a freezing death, he pushes on because of his desire to be the first and to understand.
Walton’s story, the outer frame of the novel’s frame narrative, gives the novel ethos. The credibility set up through the character Walton aids the reader in believing the inner story of Victor and his creation. Later in the novel, the creature will use ethos and logos to argue that Victor is responsible for him. Even if Victor is afraid of the monster, he created it and is logically responsible for him.
you, my creator, detest and spurn me, thy creature, to whom thou art bound by ties only dissoluble by the annihilation of one of us. (113)
The relationship between the two evolves throughout the test examining the complex relationship that is formed between parent and child. Shelley uses pathos pulling on the emotions of the reader focusing on the creature’s abandonment and isolation as a result of Victor’s actions.
Shelley's novel focuses on nature throughout her novel. As Walton describes the ice around him, she uses imagery to describe the scene. She uses personification giving human qualities to inhuman elements to help her describe elements of nature and Victor’s pursuits. As he studies nature and science, Shelley personifies nature “He had partially unveiled the face of Nature, but her immortal lineaments were still a wonder and a mystery.” She also uses metaphor to explain Victor’s need to understand the natural world, “The world was to me a secret, which I desired.”
Shelley uses similes in her novel to compare events and characters. When Victor’s father adopts Elizabeth, Shelley uses a simile comparing him to a guardian angel. "He came like a protecting spirit to the poor girl, who committed herself to his care." A simile also describes the goodness Elizabeth brings with her to the house, "The saintly soul of Elizabeth shone like a shrine dedicated lamp in our peaceful home.”