Elements In Frankenstein

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Just as Frankenstein’s monster was the first of a new species of being, so Mary Shelley’s novel was the first of a species of book. Frankenstein is generally accepted to be the first ever science-fiction story (Stableford, 1995), and it incorporates themes that are now considered to be at the core of the genre. However at the time of writing, the genre of science-fiction did not exist, since she had yet to create it. It is therefore imperative to examine how Shelley’s work functions as a piece of gothic literature, taking into account all of the accompanying symbolism and imagery that entails.

The passage in question forms the opening of chapter five in Shelley’s novel and takes place relatively early on in the narrative. It is a pivotal
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Indeed, when such matters were discussed, Shelley describes herself as a “devout” listener (Shelley, 1999, p. 4)which seems to imply that she was of a more positive inclination regarding science than Dr Frankenstein. We must then attempt to explain why the voice of Frankenstein so vehemently opposes the acquisition of knowledge if this is not the voice of the author speaking through him, and such an explanation is found in the nature of the novel itself.

Frankenstein is a gothic novel and as such, and is naturally lends itself to a darker portrayal of events. It is for this reason then, that the doctor describes the culmination of his work, not as a miracle of science but as an act of unspeakable horror. In the words of Frankenstein himself, “the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart.” (Shelley, 1999, p. 45) Gothic literature is inherently dark, and most will incorporate some element of magic or the
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Justine, Elizabeth, and Frankenstein’s mother, despite having a significant presence in the novel, are all passive characters who do little, if anything, to impact the course of events (Dickerson, 1993, pp. 84-7). One could say they have presence, but little power, which could be taken as a commentary on the role of women in Shelley’s world, caretakers of the home, but not the course-plotters of their own lives. Her comments regarding herself in the foreword make it clear that she certainly saw herself as less significant, or at least less interesting, than the men she encountered in her life (Dickerson, 1993, pp. 80-1). We see then that Shelley is well aware of the inequality in male-female power relations, and her female characters reflect this. It is in case of the monster however, that the issues of injustice, prejudice and unequal power relations are explored. When we combine those some investigations with the struggle of feminism - which Shelley seemed well aware of, as evidenced by the role of her female characters - we see that Frankenstein is a novel that does show awareness of the struggles of female
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