Slides in this set
Frankenstein describes terrifying events - Mary Shelley said she Context The story seems to be set in contemporary Europe,
· Gothic is a genre a kind of writing with its own conventional rather than in the Middle Ages or the Renaissance,
wanted to write a story "to curdle the blood, and quicken the beatings
settings, characters, props and themes. which were more usual settings for the Gothic Novel.
of the heart." Gothic writers aimed at these effects of terror.
·It was very popular in the late eighteenth century, though it had It contains no supernatural events, whereas the
·The tyrannical power of one person over another is a prominent gone out of fashion by the time Mary Shelley was writing the novel supernatural is a standard element in the Gothic Novel.
theme, with first Frankenstein and then the Creature gaining the (1816-17). She revitalised the genre to explore contemporary Some "real" events in the novel are, however, described
upper hand in the conflict. This kind of struggle is often found in the issues (science, injustice in society, the position of women, in terms of ghosts and phantoms.
Gothic Novel, as is the theme of a manic pursuit. exploitation of the masses, the effects of upbringing which could
mean that a criminal was in effect an innocent victim, etc.)
Events take place mainly in countries with "romantic" scenery (e.g. the Orkney
Islands). Gothic novels often describe desolate and dangerous landscapes,
and explore the experiences of the characters who travel to or dwell in them. The events of the plot are based on a scientific idea
Wild passions (ambition, fear, rivalry, hatred etc.) are prominent - Mary (the creation of a human being by artificial means)
Shelley is fascinated by extreme emotional states. The novel is intended to which, though extreme, is said to be `not impossible'.
arouse powerful emotions in the reader. This underlines Mary Shelley's rejection of the
There is emphasis on abused and victimised female characters, and on supernatural.
unimaginable threats to idealised and vulnerable children. Frankenstein as a
Context cont. Mary Shelley is concerned to tell the reader
·Mary Shelley's parents were interested in social issues, rather than in something about her own society the failings
escapist fantasy, and she was influenced by them. She uses Gothic to analyse of the justice system, social inequalities, why
and criticise society rather than as simple entertainment. and how people become anti-social, problems
·There was an explosion of scientific research and innovation in the half- in the family and so on rather than to create
century leading up to and during Mary Shelley's writing career. Mary Shelley a fantasy.
There is emphasis on the physically gruesome, loathsome, was influenced by these ideas, which are non-Gothic influences on the book.
monstrous and horrifying, with dismemberment and death central to On the other hand, the novel conveys a sense of the strangeness, wonder and
the plot. The intensely emotional reactions of the characters to these fearful potential of scientific discovery that is obviously like the gothic, and this
elements are described in detail. is the side of the novel that horror films have taken up and developed.
There is a doomed hero who brings disaster on himself and others
by aspiring beyond the permitted limits for a human being:
Frankenstein is occasionally compared to Satan, the rebellious angel.
= reasons that Frankenstein is not a gothic
= reasons that Frankenstein IS a gothic novel.
= context points.…read more
Frankenstein explores what is wrong with our society, and especially Mary lived outside the boundaries of conventional society (Shelley
what we think of as `civilised' society. was married when they eloped). From this unconventional position · Criticism of society
·Society is shown as limited, with it's injustice, class divisions, she challenges conventional ideas (for example, that there can be `'I heard of the division of property, of immense wealth and
cruelty, and an inability to understand the needs of an individual. no such a thing as a "good" murderer). squalid poverty, of rank...
· This criticism of society is typical of the romantic period. · Moral and political radicalism were part of an active public debate `the possession most esteemed...were high and unsullied
·The novel is imaginative imagination was highly valued by the at the time (what has been called "the war of ideas"), carried out in descent...'
romantics. The events in the novel are unlikely. novels, poems, lectures, plays and so on. `I read of men...massacring their species,'
·Isolation or loneliness `I shunned my fellow creatures as if
I had been guilty of a crime.'
The narrator and main characters are sensitive to the sublime, awe-inspiring and
elevated scenes of nature. Frankenstein takes solace in nature and Clerval is shown as a
Power of nature to lift sprits `elevated me'
lover of nature, something that is seen as admirable.
`maternal nature bade me weep no more'
This links to the belief that there a bond between human beings and nature, and that to
Dangers of cutting oneself off from nature `I did
break this bond is disastrous. Frankenstein does this when he cuts himself off from his
not watch the blossom or the expanding leaves...I
family and friends, becoming obsessed with his scientific research. This it results in the Frankenstein as a became nervous to an almost painful degree.'
birth of the creature, which is represented as a transgression against the laws of nature. novel of the romantic
. The novel has a typically romantic view in the effects of isolation and loneliness,
especially when brought about by man's cutting himself off from, or attacking nature. period.
When she wrote the novel Mary Shelley was living with (and Morally radical ideas (i.e. that murderers
later married to) the Romantic poet Percy Shelley, whose should be understood) `misery made me a
poems explore many of these ideas. Byron, another "second fiend', monster gets the last word, the
generation" Romantic, suggested the ghost-story writing closing `speech'.
competition that led to the composition of Frankenstein. Interested with base emotions `ardent
·The major Romantic poets Wordsworth and Coleridge were desire', `I bore a hell within me'
of the same generation as Mary's parents. She knew the
·The novel is interested in psychology and the mind works, especially the elements of writings of the Romantics well, and from an early age.
fear, guilt and love all the basic emotions.
·The novel is morally radical it challenges conventional ideas e.g. arguing that a
murderer should be understood, not condemned. This is shown through the
sympathetic attitude shown towards Frankenstein.
·The novel puts a high value on simple, honest and direct feeling, especially family
affection and sensitivity to music and the beauty of nature
= quotes to back up points
= ways in which Frankenstein is a romantic
The Northern Ocean is a key location in the novel the
Natural philosophy, or the study of how nature works is very opposite of civilisation, it is wild, exciting and
what Frankenstein studies. He becomes obsessed with dangerous. Robert Walton's challenging it links him to ·There are frequent references to how
learning it's secrets `the secrets of heaven and hell' Frankenstein, who also challenged nature. revolting Frankenstein's work is a sign that
where was he desired to learn. ·Geneva is a harmonious landscape where man and nature he is going against nature ion his dissections,
He becomes obsessed with manipulating natures are in balance however, terrible things also happen, like prying into how the body works, digging up
secrets, and in doing so, reaches beyond the reasonable Williams murder and the condemnation of Justine. corpses and in trying to create a man. Only
limits placed upon human beings. `profane' and god should do this.
`unhallowed' being two words that are used to describe ·His experiments are described as `profane'
his endeavours. His research is shown as self defeating, and `unhallowed'.
as nature is too powerful for him to control it.
·Nature and civilisation in
·The Orkneys the desolate landscape represents
Frankenstein's isolation and the his state of mind.
Living on the island, he is physically and
·The Alps they are `sublime', metaphorically isolated, and also through his
Frankenstein visits them to recover from ·There are two distinct aspects of nature portrayed in the novel: actions.
the trauma of creating the creature. the invisible force of nature, a personified power behind the ·There is an underlying theme throughout the novel
However, it is also where he meets the circle of life, and nature in the sense of the visible natural world. that shows the importance of following nature.
creature again, and the meeting indicates ·Nature in the sense of the world around Frankenstein and the Frankenstein's monster is unnaturally created, and
that he has tampered with a might power landscapes described in the novel, consoles and revives this is a reason for him turning against Frankenstein
that he can not control. Mount Blanc is Frankenstein. later in life.
described `as magnificent', and ·On the other hand, it is Frankenstein's research into the power
possessing an `awful majesty'. of nature (over death) and his triumph over it that leads to his
Geneva: Frankenstein's happy home, contrasted with ·France: a tyrannical and unjust government There was a widespread anti-French feeling at
the time, which may explain why Shelley chose
other locations in the novel in which he is unhappy. It victimises Safie and her father because of their
her example of all that is wrong with human
has it's faults too allows unjust condemnation of religion and wealth. The death sentence is
society to be Paris.
Justine, as a result of mass panic after William's `barbarous', which is ironic, as a large city, Paris is
murder. Arises through individual cowardice, mob meant to represent civilisation. The French
irrationality and the authorities need need to deal with government then take revenge on the de Lacey's,
the crisis. because of Safie's father's escape.
In the Romantic period writers were very
interested in the experience of outsiders, those
whom a cruel or indifferent society turns into
victims, but whose values are represented as
Ingolstadt : the city of learning where Frankenstein studies is a male superior to those of their tormentors. The de
environment it is here he goes wrong, cut off from his mother Laceys belong in this tradition, as does the
(deceased) and Elizabeth in fact, all women. Creature himself
Ireland: shown by Mary Shelley as the place where the virtuous
Frankenstein as a
magistrate Kirwin exercises his responsibilities and powers responsibly
criticism of society
to help Frankenstein, and is also the place where Frankenstein's father
comes to his aid.
The family community of the de Lacey's: even this ideal community Criticism in this sense does not mean adverse or
cannot accept the Creature, despite his benevolence. negative criticism, finding faults, and emphasising what
Also important to the novels criticism of society is the History book, Ruins is wrong with society. Instead, it means intelligent
= points on each of Empires, that teaches the creature about human society `the strange analysis, based on scepticism, looking honestly at
society in the system of human society...immense wealth and squalid poverty'. It also what society is like and identifying faults were there
establishes his status as an outsider. are any.
= clarification of
the idea of
= context points.…read more
Elizabeth is shown as courageous in her attempt to save ·Justine classic female `damsel in distress.'
Justine's life by speaking up for her in court, and her honest ·In her trial, all the judges are men this highlights social injustice. She
letter to Frankenstein in Volume III, Chapter V. is condemned for killing a child, an `unfeminine' act that goes against
·IS described as an angel, pure and soft, not strong. maternal instinct.
·At the end of the novel, she is used as a pawn in the ·Justine shows courage in the face of suffering - her self-possession
= points that
male/male power play. is contrasted with Frankenstein's hidden turmoil and cowardice.
·Fails to save Frankenstein. ·However, she still submits, and dies resigned to her fate. presentation of
= context points.
Robert Walton's sister is a sympathetic
· Frankenstein's mother just like Elizabeth and Justine, she was rescued friend to her brother, despite the fact that
from a state of unhappiness, she was a `damsel in distress'. he does not notice of appreciate her.
·On the other hand, after her marriage she becomes the rescuer (with the She is possibly caused pain by her
support of her husband). Her courage on her deathbed, and her The portrayal of women brother.
announcement that it is her wish for Frankenstein to marry Elizabeth, and in Frankenstein
that Elizabeth must now look after the younger children, show resolution
and decisiveness as well as insight into Frankenstein's character. Her
death is the result of her courageous decision to nurse Elizabeth herself
·As a prominent woman author, Mary Shelley was interested in women's position in
the family and in society, and in relationships seen from the woman's point of view. She
analyses the way women are treated in a male-dominated society, showing some of
the ways in which they can preserve their integrity.
·Her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, was the best known and most influential feminist
writer of the 1790's.
·Gothic Novels often dealt with the social pressures on women, with a tormented,
victimized but survival-oriented heroine.
·Writers of the Romantic period, were fascinated by and explored male-female
Safie - represented as both a victim and a "winner" in the battle relationships, including those of brothers and sisters.
Despite her father's ingratitude to the de Laceys and his plans
for her to return to Turkey and the harem, she imitates her
Christian mother (who "spurned bondage") and escapes to join
He is unnatural, not born from two parents. Born from · He is hideous. References to his `water, clouded eyes' The word "creature" in Mary Shelley's day
an act of self gratification? This makes him an outsider. and him being called a `ugly wretch' (by William) establish usually meant just "person", and she uses it in
· Is made up of dead parts of others tapping into him to be a grotesque monster. this neutral sense (as in the last point above)
fears about dismemberment and the treatment of ·He reacts violently when rejected, murdering William, as well as to refer to the fact that Frankenstein
human remains, especially their exploitation by Clerval and Elizabeth, and incriminating Justine. He has literally created the Creature.
scientists. cannot be controlled.
·He himself admits he is a monster `misery made me a
The novel was written at a time when questions of
society's influence on the individual, and especially of
whether criminals should be seen as victims rather
The reader is encourage d to question whether he truly is a `monster' than as fully accountable for their crimes, were often
we can see why he comes violent and destructive. `I am malicious discussed. Mary Shelley speaks with a clear,
because I am miserable'. articulate voice on the liberal side of the debate,
Even in the murder of William, Mary Shelley ensures that we can still showing how a monster could be virtuous.
sympathise with him. His intentions were to take William and educate Her father discussed that question in his writings.
him as a friend and companion, to ease the creature's loneliness, not Frankenstein and
to kill him. monstrousness.
He is deprived of choice he did not ask to be created, and is
rejected by is father.
He has great potential, as the reader can see from his intelligent and
articulate speech. This is wasted because he is rejected, not accepted.
·We are constantly reminded that Frankenstein himself is a different
kind of monster physically `normal' but an outcast because of his
dangerous and secretive science. He acknowledges that the
He develops with the de Lacey's as good, sensitive and creature's kills are his fault.
sociable. Their rejection of him shocks the reader, as his ·Mary Shelley generates sympathy for the creature she shows that
point of view has made us sympathise with him and want even Frankenstein pities him. His is trapped by the creatures request
them to accept him. for a mate because he has a moral obligation to accept him.
He is a victim, always excluded from an unjust society.
= points that indicate the
creature is not a monster.
= points that indicate the
creature is a monster.
= context points.…read more