Gothic fiction is a genre of novel that incorporates dread, supernatural elements like ghosts and mysterious atmosphere. Most of the time in Gothic fiction the setting is gloomy and frightening to manifest the atmosphere of the novel.
Mary Shelley’s famous novel “Frankenstein” which was written in 1816 is also regarded as gothic fiction because it shows the characteristics of gothic fiction such as dread, gloomy settings, horror etc. “Dracula” by Bram Stoker, “Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte“, and “The Castle of Otranto” by Horace Walpole are some of the famous gothic fictions in English literature.
Gothic setting in Frankenstein:
One of the most prominent aspects of any gothic fiction is it’s dark and gloomy setting. Mary Shelley has also employed this type of dark setting a lot in her novel “Frankenstein”. After creating the monster, Dr. Frankenstein compares that monster to a scary night of November. The scene in which describes the creation of the monster augurs darkness to come further in the novel when Dr. Frankenstein states: “I saw, by the light of the moon, the daemon at the casement”(Mary Shelley, Frankenstein). This statement reveals that the reader will always identify the monster with evil and darkness.
Read More: Romanticism in English Literature
Mary Shelley also utilizes these dark settings to point out the seclusion and loneliness the monster experiences from the people. We can notice how secluded the monster was when he utters: “The desert mountains and dreary glaciers are my refuge. I have wandered here many days; the caves of ice which I only do not fear are a dwelling to me, and the only one which man does not grudge.” (Mary Shelley, Frankenstein) This suggests that the monster has been abandoned by humans and hence the monster has been forced to live in a mountain away from the sight of humans.
Terror and Horror situations in Frankenstein:
The important characteristic of any gothic fiction is evoking fear with frightful situations. Shelley’s novel Frankenstein conveys this characteristic too. When in the novel it is shown that how the monster goes to many places together with its devastating attributes it immediately brings about dreadful circumstances together with terror. For instance when the monster kills Dr. Frankenstein’s Wife Elizabeth on their Honeymoon Night there is extremely horrifying and frightful scenes packed with terror and horror. We can see many more such instances in the novel if we look at the actions of the Monster.
In another scene, Monster meets a small child named William. At first, the Monster treats her well and calls her beautiful too. But when William starts screaming in fear and when the Monster learns that William is a member of Frankenstein’s family, Monster becomes furious and kills William. Such frightening scenes create a sense of fear in the mind of the reader and make Frankenstein novel a perfect Gothic novel.
Read More: Wuthering Heights as a gothic novel
Dreams and Visions in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein:
Another important characteristic of Gothic fiction is dreams and visions. In chapter five of the novel, Frankenstein is at long last accomplished his desired aim of reanimation of dead human tissue. After that Frankenstein felt tired so he hurled himself on the bed without taking off his clothes. After sometime he falls into a deep sleep and sees a dream. In the dream, he first sees his future wife Elizabeth. He is so impressed by Elizabeth’s beauty that he proceeds to kiss her. but as he kisses Elizabeth she transforms into his dead mother. Victor’s dream foretells the eventual destruction of his wife and his balanced life. This dream also implies that Victor will bring about Elizabeth’s death as shown by the fact that Victor’s passionate kiss causes Elizabeth to turn into a dead body. So such scary dreams and visions are very common in gothic novels.
Women characters in Gothic novels:
Mostly in gothic novels women characters get terrified and intimated by more dominant and formidable men. We can see a similar scenario in Mary Shelley’s novel “Frankenstein” when Shelley presents her female characters Elizabeth, Caroline and Justine. All these women characters surrender themselves to take care of others until they notice or not, of yielding their lives for them. Caroline sacrifices her life as an obedient mother. Elizabeth sacrifices her life as a faithful wife, undoubting Victor’s decision and serving to his wishes. Justine sacrifices her life as a loyal servant. This reveals that men were more powerful than women in Mary Shelley’s time. That is why female characters were portrayed as timid and frightened.
Read More: John Keats as a romantic poet
Some other gothic elements in Shelley’s Frankenstein:
One of the most important aspects of gothic novels is that they have manifold layers of narration. In the beginning the story of the novel “Frankenstein” is narrated by Walton’s point of view. Then the viewpoint shifts towards Victor who expresses to Walton about his existence. When Frankenstein in his narration arrives at a point where he recounts his encounter with the monster, the viewpoint then shifts towards the monster who tells his side of the story. Where after the viewpoint again comes back to Frankenstein, who carries on his story and at the end of the novel the viewpoint comes back to Walton.
Read More: A Tale of Two Cities as a historical novel
Gothic elements and Shelley’s Frankenstein:
Although Shelley’s novel Frankenstein is a perfect gothic novel, concurrently it questions some of the traditions of gothic literature. Generally, we do not know about the origin of supernatural elements such as ghosts in most of the gothic novels. But in Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein, the reader knows very well who created that monster and why. We can perceive why that monster has been created and the destruction he causes is the consequence of an absence of vision on the part of his founding creator, Victor Frankenstein, not of mysterious power. The secret of the novel is not the monster’s origin, but his actions.
In general, Gothic novels are based on events from the past, but Shelley’s Frankenstein is based on the time period when it was authored.
Read More: Coleridge’s concept of imagination and fancy
To conclude we can say that dark and gloomy settings, horror and terror that the monster creates, Victor’s scary dreams, and manifold layers of narration make “Frankenstein” a perfect gothic novel.
- Augustan Age in English Literature
- Restoration Age in English Literature
- Commonwealth Period in English Literature
- Caroline Age in English Literature
- Jacobean Age in English Literature