What is Mary Shelley's writing style in Frankenstein?

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In Frankenstein, Mary Shelley's style is elevated and emotional. She also employs an embedded narrative and multiple perspectives to provide a wide view of the strange and fascinating events of the tale.

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Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is written in a complex and often challenging style. Shelley uses elevated, emotional language and creates an embedded narrative told through multiple perspectives. Let's look at each of these elements.

Shelley's style is elevated. She uses formal language with intricate syntax and high-level vocabulary. Consider the following passage:

The weight upon my spirit was sensibly lightened as I plunged yet deeper in the ravine of Arve. The immense mountains and precipices that overhung me on every side, the sound of the river raging among the rocks, and the dashing of the waterfalls around spoke of a power mighty as Omnipotence.

Notice the formality of these sentences and the complexity of the word order. The description is both vivid and elaborate, and the author inserts words like precipices and omnipotence to heighten the effect further.

Shelley's style is also highly emotional throughout the novel. This is a tale from the Romantic period, which intensified emotion. The characters express their feelings with vigor. “If I cannot inspire love, I will cause fear,” cries the monster as it swears “inextinguishable hatred” to the point of the destruction of its creator. We can see how emotion and elevation combine to create high drama.

Shelley uses the technique of embedded narrative in which the primary story is embedded in, or framed by, a secondary narrative. Here Victor's tale is contained within the frame of Walton's letters, and the monster's story appears within Victor's tale. This technique also allows for multiple perspectives as Walton, Victor, and the monster all tell their stories in their own words, drawing the reader in to their thoughts and emotions and providing a wide view of the events of the narrative that would not otherwise appear.

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Mary Shelley's writing style in Frankenstein is Romantic, heightened, and literary. Although she uses three narrative voices⁠—those of Walton, Victor, and the creature⁠—all three share the same intense, poetic diction.

As a Romantic writer, Shelley emphasized emotions. Much of the novel describes the emotional anguish or desire the central characters experience. For example, the creature, in a mountaintop encounter with Victor, says the following:

I have love in me the likes of which you can scarcely imagine and rage the likes of which you would not believe. If I cannot satisfy the one, I will indulge the other.

Along with being emotional, this is elevated language: real people do not talk this way. We can see this elevation in the alliteration the creature uses (perhaps he developed this while reading Milton): there is rhythm in the alliterative words "love" and "likes." Further, while the intensity of emotion in this speech is Romantic, Shelley shows her roots in the Classical period of the eighteenth century in the carefully balanced, either/or antitheses the creature expresses: love and hate, satisfaction and indulgence.

Walton is similarly poetic and elevated as he writes to his sister in letter 2,

You may deem me romantic, my dear sister, but I bitterly feel the want of a friend. I have no one near me, gentle yet courageous, possessed of a cultivated as well as of a capacious mind, whose tastes are like my own, to approve or amend my plans.

Robert expresses his feelings in his deep desire for a friend. He, too, uses alliterative language in the repeated "c"s in his letter (e.g., "courageous," "cultivated," "capacious") and in his assonance (e.g., "approve," "amend"). Like the creature, he speaks in balanced antitheses (e.g., "gentle yet courageous," "cultivated as well as . . . capacious," "approve or amend").

The voices of the characters may vary, but the style is all Mary Shelley's, and her poetic diction can be found throughout the novel.

Because she is a Romantic, her writing style is intense, sincere, and emotional, rather than satiric, humorous, or detached.

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Mary Shelley's writing style in Frankenstein is quite interesting. Outside of her beautifully eloquent language, Shelley's creative narrative point of view is so concise that many readers tend to forget that Robert Walton is the true singular narrator. Frankenstein is both a frame narrative and a story within a story (within a story). A frame story beings and ends in the same place. A story within a story (within a story) is seen through Walton's telling of Victor's telling of the Creature's story. Again, Shelley's point of view, by this point, is so well written that readers tend to forget that it is not the Creature, or even Victor, "speaking." 

As for Shelley's language, she proves her place in the Romantic genre as obvious. Her language, rich and elevated, is both beautiful and image ridden. Her inclusion of figurative language is not overdone (or overused) or haphazard. Each and every time she includes a simile or metaphor, it is concise and poignant. Shelley leaves enough to the imagination to allow her reader to frighten himself and herself through mental images stimulated through Shelley's appeal to the reader's senses. 

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Mary Shelley uses a narrative style called the epistolary; this means that the entire text is written in letters. Captain Walton is writing home to his sister, Mrs. Saville, as he sails away on his Arctic expedition to find the (nonexistent) Northwest Passage and learn the secret of the compass. No matter who is narrating, it is always Walton writing it down: for example, when Victor describes what the monster says to him, Victor is telling this to Walton, and Walton is transcribing Victor's words, and so forth.

Shelley also uses frame stories; these are stories that contain other stories, called interior stories. Walton's story frames Victor's, Victor's story frames the creature's, and the creature's story frames Safie's and the DeLacey family's story. These stories share similar themes and symbols.

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Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is, in many ways, a typically Gothic novel. Like the novels of Mary Radcliffe and other Gothic writers of the period, it presents an exotic locale, quasi-supernatural happenings, and grotesque horrors as seen through the lens of a rational protagonist trying to make sense out of what is happening. The wild landscape and distance from ordinary life contribute to the heightened atmosphere of the story, as the remote and perilous settings make the ominous effects more vivid. Rational scientific terminology and logic precision are juxtaposed with an atmosphere of horror to further enhance emotional effects (just as baroque painters would create dramatic highlights by placing them against deep shadows).

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