Generically, Frankenstein can be considered gothic in numerous ways, to understand and interpret theses effectively and in depth we must first outline the usual features and aspects of the gothic genre. The gothic genre is somewhat expected to contain vivid features of life and death, religion; or the lack/ defiance of it and the struggle of good versus evil. To be portrayed in a novel such as Frankenstein the author must have an existing aspiration to feature the gothic genre in the novel as gothic is a particular field of literature this is clearly acknowledged by Shelley as she clearly described her intentions to ‘awaken thrilling horror (Frankenstein 1831: intro)
Throughout Frankenstein Mary Shelley, the author often disguises the vivid gothic aspects of the novel, in and amongst regularly applied features found in a novel that would be considered a standard or general fiction read. “The gothic genre exposes and explores desires, anxieties and fears that both society and individual, in there striving to maintain stability attempt to suppress: it is interested in the exploration of what is forbidden, is the dissolution of certainties, categories: above all, it is associated with transgression: not only do the texts themselves, in crossing the boundaries of the ‘real’ transgress, but transgression is a central focus of the gothic plot: all barriers are broken down, all forbidden areas penetrated.” Glennis Byrou 1999.
The main way in which Shelley expresses the gothic genre throughout the novel is through the characters. Many of the characters can be fairly judged to, in numerous ways appear gothic, this, as previously mentioned is regularly subtle or disguised somehow in a way that would have been considered more acceptable and common at the time of publication. The character that, above all appears the most gothic is Victor, the main character; Shelley portrays Victor as gothic throughout the novel; Victor is given strong emotions and his desire to achieve the creation; ‘life’ is one that can be seen as gothic, especially when combined with the persistence and strife with which Victor conducts he wishes to achieve this.
One way in which the gothic genre is portrayed is in the scenery and description of it for example is Victor’s laboratory, located in an abandoned desolate church, and described with language typical of a gothic novel This can be clearly seen as gothic, the laboratory is clearly a focus for Shelley to give an insight into the it exposes aspects of religion and desolation, Victor is committing a ‘terrible’ act that is both illegal and immoral in a most sacred building, where this act could be described as controversial and gothic.
Victor’s personality is expressed as gothic many times throughout the novel; he is violent, extremely determined and even insane; in his determination to ‘give life to the pile of limbs’ that lay at his feet’. The chapter in which Victor expresses the most anguish is chapter 5. From the beginning of the chapter emotions pour from Victor, giving the reader an insight into his personality and the utter anxiety that he feels at this time.
I think Victor’s emotions run so wild at this point as he is worried that something may chance to go wrong. Victor’s emotions at this point are summarised in the following extracts; ‘I beheld the accomplishment of my toils with an anxiety that almost amounted to agony’. Shelley clearly wants the reader to acknowledge Victor’s ‘anxiety’ as she uses language that, at the time of print, would have been understood as more powerful then it would be in a modern society. Shelley continues to amount the emotions; ‘I had desired it with an ardour that far exceeded moderation’.
‘I threw myself on the bed in my clothes, endeavouring to seek a few moments of forgetfulness’. Even through these short extracts Shelley gives a clear insight into Victor’s desperation and anguish, these extreme emotions, especially when being applied to such an immoral act, are clearly intended to be interpreted as disturbing and ultimately gothic. Still Shelley continues to amount emotions by giving Victor an outburst of strong powerful language, that again would have been interpreted as more powerful and ‘ruder’ then it would nowadays, as a result of the widespread use of words previously considered as rude, perverse and unacceptable; ‘CURSED, CURSED CREATOR!
Why did I live? Why, in that instant did I not extinguish the spark of existence which you had so wantonly bestowed?’ That extract shows Victor’s madness and desperation have mounted to give an overwhelming aura of confusion, Victor has finally achieved the ‘accomplishment of his toils’, he has been far overworking for over 2 years, and at the sight of his completed ‘experiment’ he instantly regrets everything and immediately knows he has sinned.
The main subject of the novel, the creature can definitely be seen as gothic. The very creation of the creature can be seen as evil or gothic In numerous ways: it was formed from dead criminal’s body parts that Victor stole, Its creation was illegal, forbidden and unholy and yet created in an abandoned church (sacred place) and It was created out of insanity and immoral desperation. Also, at the instant of creating the creature Victor regrets every moment he spent working on it; he is clearly a confused and perhaps evil man.
Many authors and literary authorities consider the gothic genre to be a genre that simply exposes ‘gloom and terror’ or perhaps an older version of the recently developed ‘science fiction genre’; created as a result of the technology boom giving rise to a lifestyle of infinite development, leading to doubts and suspicions of what might be possible and what evils they may contain, this is a key aspect of the science fiction genre and ultimately the gothic genre. I believe the gothic genre to be exactly that. If applied to this definition of gothic, Frankenstein is clearly a gothic novel, most characters in the book close to Victor, (the character who we are following) are killed, by his creation- the creature, in a miserable path of terror and destruction, involving Victor chasing the creature as it discovers more about its creator whilst killing all people relevant to its conception in its path.
The topic of isolation, separation from society and normality, segregation and deprivation are main features of both the gothic genre and of Frankenstein, in my opinion Shelley describes Victor as being alone for so long as she wants to give the reader an insight into the sheer insanity and abnormality that Victor is expressing during the period he spends working on the creature. The themes of death and murder; again play an important role in Frankenstein, the deaths of Justine and Caroline and the murders of William and Elizabeth. These deaths can be considered as evil, disturbing and upsetting, especially when all the deaths are of people very close to Victor and they are all as a result of his work and wrongdoing. In conclusion all aspects of the deaths in Frankenstein can be seen as gothic.
The use of pathetic fallacy in Frankenstein can be described as gothic. Pathetic fallacy is when the attribution of human emotions or characteristics are given to inanimate objects or to nature. Pathetic fallacy is often used in Frankenstein to further represent Victor’s feelings and ill state. An example of this is the outbreak of cholera in Ingolstadt at the point when Victor is at his most distressed and most ill.
This outbreak represents Victor’s anguish and ill state whilst simultaneously adding further tension and stress to the novel at a time when the general aura can already be considered as stressful and troubled. Pathetic fallacy is often a feature of the gothic genre. E.g. When something is wrong or there is evil nearby the weather is usually dark, stormy or agitated. Pathetic fallacy adds a great deal of tension to any novel as it brings more tension and further hints to the reader as to the events to follow.