Language, form and structure in Frankenstein

  • Created by: mm2004
  • Created on: 26-09-18 16:50


Romanticism was an arts movement which occured in the late 18th and early 19th century. They were concerned with:

  • The power of nature- There are many storms in the book and electricty brings The Monster to life. There is a theme of conflict between the power of nature and man.
  • Wild and rugged landscapes- some of the settings in the novel include The Swiss Alps, the Orkney Islands and The Arctic
  • Intense feelings- Victor and The Monster are döppelgangers of each other, they both feel isolation and extremes of emotion
  • The 'Isolated Romantic Hero'- The Monster is rejected by society
  • Social responsibilty and justice- A key theme in the novel
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Gothic fiction

Gothic fiction can be seen as the more sinister sister of Romanticism. The tone of Frankenstein is undoubtedly gothic. 

  • The settings- Dimly lit laboratories, graveyards at night and hostile foreign landscapes 
  • The weather- Thunderstorms, driving rain and icy blizzards. Pathetic fallacy is featured throughout.
  • 'Damsels in distress'- Caroline Frankenstein dies of a fatal illness, Elizabeth is murdered, and Safie (a guest of the De Lacey's) is victimised
  • Extreme emotions- Both The Monster and Victor vow revenge
  • The Monster- Horrific to look at, a murderer, and made of corpses
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Frankenstein's embedded narrative

Shelley writes in an 'embedded narrative' in Frankenstein- the novel is framed by Walton's letters to his sister, then moves onto the main narrative which is Victor's story, and contained is the Monster's story of survival and how he learns from the De Laceys.

Why does Mary Shelley write in this structure?

  • To lead the reader gradually to the central ideas of the novel to create a Gothic sense of suspense, and if revealed suddenly, would be dismissed by the reader.
  • So the reader is interacted with the novel, like a scientist piecing together evidence to form the truth using the 3 narrative perspectives given. 
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Use of language in Frankenstein- Motif of Döppelga

The Döppelganger-

  • The Monster is seen as the dark side of Victor's nature.
  • As Victor pursues his studies, he divides his desire for knowledge from repsonsibilities and feelings, which makes him monstrous.
  • The Monster at first is rational and uses education for betterment, just like young Victor pursuing science. 
  • Both Victor and The Monster are:
    • Outsiders isolated from society 
    • Passionate and driven by ambition
    • Intellectually gifted 
    • Monstrous and driven by thoughts of justice and revenge 
    • Use language to persuade and control each other 
  • Walton is regarded as another döppelganger of Victor's as they share:
    • Ambition and a desire for discovery
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Use of language in Frankenstein- Motif of Light an

Motif of light and fire:

  • Most of the key events take place in dark and gloomy nights; light juxtaposes this to show the power of knowledge and discovery 
  • Victor believes that by creating life he will 'pour a torrent of light into our dark world', and Walton talks of 'the eternal light' of the Arctic
  • Whilst white light can be a symbol of purity and comfort, too much can be blinding and dangerous. The two men fail to realise this.
  • When The Monster first sees flames it is 'overcome with delight at the warmth I experienced from it', however he gets too close and realises it also can cause harm; 'In my joy I thrust my hand into the live embers, but quickly drew it out again in a cry of pain.How strange, I thought, that the same cause should produce such opposite effects!" 
  • Like light fire evidently also can comfort as well as harm.
  • At the end of the novel The Monster hints he will commit suicide by bonfire
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Use of language in Frankenstein- Allusion of Prome

Motif of Prometheus:

  • Full title of the novel is 'Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus'
    • In the ancient myth, Prometheus creates man from clay then steals fire from The Gods to make his creation more godlike. 
  • Frankenstein also trespasses on what should be God's role.
  • Prometheus was also punished in the same way Victor and The Monster both live lives of torment
  • The fact that The Tale of Prometheus is a myth and not a biblical story shows how Victor has strayed away from religious teachings and morals and is instead, following an unrighteous and unspiritual path 
  • Mary Shelley's good friend Lord Byron published a poem called 'Prometheus' shortly before she began wok on her novel.
  • Her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley later wrote a poem named 'Prometheus Unbound'
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Use of language in Frankenstein- Allusion of Parad

Allusion of Paradise Lost:

  • John Milton's epic poem Paradise Lost, written in 1667, is based on the biblical story of God creating Adam and Eve.
  • The reader is encouraged to link Victor to God, The Monster to Adam and the uncompleted female to Eve.
  • The main figure in 'Paradise Lost' is Satan. 
  • The Monster declares 'I am thy creature; I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel, whom they drivest from joy for no misdeed.'
  • Victor also links himself to Satan by saying, 'Like the archangel who aspired to omnipotence, I am chained in an eternal hell'
  • This links into the Döppelganger motif, and proves they both are no longer ignorant
  • One of the books The Monster finds in the forest and helps him to read is a copy of 'Paradise Lost'
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Use of language in Frankenstein- Allusion of The R

Allusion of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner:

  • This narrative poem was written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and published in 1798
  • As a young girl, Mary Shelley heard Coleridge read this poem out loud
  • In the poem, the mariner tells of a sea voyage to the Antarctic where his ship becomes ice-bound.
    • This parallels Walton's voyage to The Arctic and at one point he refers to the poem
  • The Mariner is guilty of shooting a harmless albatross, and is punished to suffer whilst everyone around him dies.
    • Victor, too, exists in a living hell as his family and friends are killed.
  • The Mariner eventually becomes an outcast having little contact with society
    • This parallels to The Monster
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Why Mary Shelley uses motifs and allusions

Mary Shelley uses allusions to...

  • Provide a deeper meaning to her texts 
  • To connect her writing to the contect of the real world
  • To aid the reader in understanding emotions and feelings conveyed

Mary Shelley uses motifs to...

  • To reference a specific theme dominating the literary work
  • To define the nature of the story and fabric of the piece 
  • To make the readers focus on a specific aspect of the story and think of deeper meanings regarding the motif 
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Reference to Dante

Shelley references Dante by saying that The Monster was so horrific 'even Dante could not have conceived it'. 

This links to 'Dante's Inferno', part of Italian poet Dante Alghieri's epic poem Divine Comedy. Dante is led through the '9 circles of Hell' by a fellow poet, Virgil. He writes about the horrors and terrors he sees there, so saying that even 'Dante couldn't have conceived' the horrific monster Victor created emphasises the horror aspect of it. 

Dante says, “…But to that second circle of sad hell, were’ mid the gust, the whirlwind and the flaw of rain and hailstones, lovers need not tell their sorrows”

 Victor says, “the wind, which had fallen in the south, now rose with great violence in the west”

Both use pathetic fallacy to create a dark ambience of emotion

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