Frankenstein Background (post on Wiki)

AUTHOR BACKGROUND
Mary Shelley- August 30, 1797 –February 1, 1851
She was a British novelist, short story writer and a dramatist best known for her Gothic novel Frankenstein and The Modern Prometheus. Was the daughter of philosophers William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft. Her mother died giving birth to her which led to her and her older half sister being raised by her father. Her father provided Mary with a rich, if informal, education, while encouraging her to stick to his liberal political point of view. Mary published her first poem at the age of ten.
In 1814, Mary entered a relationship with one of her father’s married friends, Percy Shelley. They soon left for France where Mary would become pregnant yet unfortunately be forced to face with the death of their prematurely born daughter. After Percy Shelley’s first wife committed suicide in 1816, Mary and Percy married.
Mary conceived the idea for Frankenstein in 1816 at the age of 18 while in the company with Lord Byron, John William Polidori, and Claire Clairmont in Switzerland. Amongst other subjects, the conversation turned to the experiments of the 18th-century natural philosopher and poet Erasmus Darwin, who was said to have animated dead matter, and to galvanism and the feasibility of returning a corpse or assembled body parts to life. Sitting around a log fire at Byron's villa, the company also amused themselves by reading German ghost stories, prompting Byron to suggest they each write their own supernatural tale. Shortly afterwards, in a waking dream, Mary Godwin conceived the idea for Frankenstein:
I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half vital motion. Frightful must it be; for supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavour to mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the world.
The Shelleys left Britain in 1818 for Italy, where their second and third children died before Mary Shelley gave birth to her last and only surviving child, Percy Florence. In 1822, her husband drowned when his sailing boat sank during a storm in the Bay of La Spezia. A year later, Mary Shelley returned to England and from then on devoted herself to the upbringing of her son and a career as a professional author. The last decade of her life was dogged by illness, probably caused by the brain tumour that was to kill her at the age of 53.
Until the 1970’s Mary was mainly known for her novel Frankenstein, which remains widely popular with many entertaining yet very inaccurate adaptations.
Works Cited
Ty, Eleanor. "Mary Shelley Biography." Brandeis University. 09 Jan. 2009 <http://people.brandeis.edu/~teuber/shelleybio.html>.

Liukkonen, Petri. "Mary Shelley." Pegasos. 09 Jan. 2009 <
http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/mshelley.htm>.


CHARACTERIZATION
Mary Shelley:
Shelley isn't big on the subtle showing. She pretty much tells you what characters are thinking or feeling. With all the complicated symbols and duality and "what does it mean to be human?" questions, we kind of appreciate her tossing us a bone on this one.
Physical Characterization:
Well, identifying "looks" as a tool of characterization in Frankenstein is kind of like shooting immobile fish in a tiny barrel. While we, the reader, understand that the monster is ugly, it's actually the characters themselves that use looks as a tool of prejudice and unwarranted characterization. Since the monster is ugly, he must be evil. The fun part comes in when the monster actually does become sort of evil, or at least commits evil crimes. He conforms to everyone's expectations. He becomes the victim of his own characterization.
Victor Frankenstein:
Victor's character is complicated. He grows from a young, innocent, hopeful boy into a jaded, vindictive, vengeful man. Driven by a desire for knowledge and an exploratory nature, Victor's crime is one of obsession. He oversteps the bounds of science in becoming the creator of a being that never should have lived.

His ultimate flaw - aside from being shallow, foolish, and generally unaware of the threats posed to his loved ones - is not providing for the creature to which he gives life. He is also unable to rectify the consequences of his inquiring mind. He doesn't take responsibility for the monster, ever. He goes back on his promises, runs away from his problems, and seems to have no compassion for the creature of his own making.

Even though Victor being the villain is apparent, we do not actually come to hate him. You could say that we understand Victor. We sympathize with his plight in a way that he is never able to do with his monster. You could even say that Victor is the monster of our own making, of society's making. He is born out of our own fears of technology and science. He encapsulates our negative qualities, our shallowness, and our ugliness. Or at least he did in the nineteenth century.

Another direction you could go is to say that Victor is a self-sacrificing hero, maybe even a Christ figure. He chooses to give his own life to save mankind from what he believes to be evil in the world. If said evil isn't actually evil as much as ugly, then he's a misguided Christ figure. However, at the same time, he is a most wretched villain, bringing pain to the thing most dear in his life - the product of his own creativity (Siminoff 1).


Frankenstein’s monster:
The Monster is simply lonely. He acts respectfully towards Victor and kindly towards the French Family that he observes in the woods. After Victor refuses to make him a mate, the Monster turns vindictive. Frankenstein's monster talks in an oddly poetic way, considering his origins. This is evidenced by the eloquence he uses in his monologue in Chapter 11. He can only think from the experiences he has had, or things that he has seen. This is because he has had no one to teach him anything.
The monster comes into the world by a pretty terrible set of circumstances. He has the strength of a giant, yet an infant mind. He has a gentle nature, yet his physical defects hide his goodness and make everyone fear and mistreat him. He is rejected by his own creator because of his hideous looks (Siminoff 2). His feelings are the deepest and most moving of any characters in this novel, as well as the most conflicted.
To make matters more confusing, the monster is compared to both Adam and Satan in Paradise Lost. This may seem slightly unclear. The thing idea at the core of the monster is his duality. His complexity mirrors that of his maker, Victor Frankenstein.
R. Walton:
Walton is a very introspective character. Walton acts as though that there is something better to life, and he tries his best to pursue it. He, in a way, seeks a life of solitude, but as well seeks a friendship which the other individual is much like himself and can relate to all things with him. Also in the beginning of the book, he acts with the up most affection towards his family, especially to his sister. The relationship with Walton is established primarily through the letters he writes to his sister. Aside from this, the only time we actually see Walton interact with another person is when Victor Frankenstein is rescued. Although he has had no formal education, Walton speaks in a very sophisticated manner. When tending to Victor Frankenstein, he speaks kindly, at it is obvious that he is truly concerned for the well-being of Frankenstein (Benson 1). Although this doesn't prevent him from becoming the hardest worker on his expedition, it does seem to limit his interaction with others.
Elizabeth:
Elizabeth is very passive and just waits for Victor to come for her and eventually to marry her. After Justine is tried for murder and tried guilty, Elizabeth pretty much loses her faith in humanity. When faced with times of trouble, as with the deaths of her aunt, cousin, and friend, Elizabeth holds herself together fairly well (Benson). She is a true friend, which is shown when she stands up for the innocence Justine, even when everybody else was convinced of her guilt. However, although she may seem composed, it appears that if she has to deal with any more tragedy, she will crack.
Clerval:
Clerval is very caring and generous. When he comes to Ingolstadt to attend the university and finds Frankenstein in such terrible condition, he cares for his friend all winter instead of attending classes. This shows that he is selfless and that his friends are very important to him.
Works Cited
Benson, Etienne and Rebecca. SparkNote on Frankenstein: Analysis of Major Characters. 9 Jan. 2009
<http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/frankenstein/>.
Siminoff, Ellen. "Characters." Shmoop. 2008. Shmoop University . 9 Jan 2009
<http://www.shmoop.com/character/literature/mary-shelley/frankenstein/the-monster.html>.

IMAGES in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
Light and Fire = “What could not be expected in the country of eternal light?” asks Walton, In Frankenstein, light symbolizes knowledge, discovery, and enlightenment. When the monster's first encounters fire he discovers excitedly that it creates light in the darkness of the night, but also learns that it can harm him. (Themes, Motifs & Symbols)
Yellow = throughout the book, yellow is the color of evil and the monster (yellow eyes, yellow moon light). “He falls into sleep, he [wakes]. The horrid thing stands at his bedside, opening his curtains, and looking at him with yellow, watery, but speculative eyes.” – Mary Shelley (Lienhard 1 )
Moon = the fact that the creature is protected by Nature (learning to live in the forest, and so on). The moon is a symbol of nature that connects with the monster but frightens Victor because nature is unknown and dangerous to him. Nature destroys Frankenstein in the end. (Freeland 36)
Lightning = the moment of life, and the energy that filled the creature with life and potential. The image of Lightning is shown when it goes into the monsters body to give him life.
Ice- an image of a barrier of something terrible: to the captain it is before he crosses beyond the ice and he goes crazy! At the end the reader can assume that the monster dies because he vanishes from view across the ice.
Dreams- a symbol of happiness. Victor states “My life, as it passed thus, was indeed hateful to me, and it was during sleep alone that I could taste joy.” (Mary Shelley 213)
Mountains- like the alps, a symbol is pride and fearlessness of god leading to Frankensteins downfall. ( Kamio 45)
Works Cited
Freeland, Cynthia. The Naked and the Undead: Evil and the Appeal of Horror. Westview Press, 2002. 35-36.
Kamio, Mitsuo. “The ‘What Was I” Syndrome: Mary Shelley, Frankenstein.” JSL, Vol. 3. 2007. 45.
Lienhard , John H. “Frankenstein, Faust, and Pygmalion.” Engines of our Ingenuity. Society for Technical Communications (STC) Conference. Houston: 2001. <http://www.uh.edu/engines/faust.htm>.
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. Tom Doherty Associates, LLC. 1988. 213.
“Themes, Motifs & Symbols.” Frankenstein: Mary Shelley. Sparknotes LLC. 2009. <www.spark notes.com/ lit/frankenstein/themes.html>.

Alissa Gregory and Laine Meelheim

FRANKENSTEIN THEMES
There are 5 major themes in the novel Frankenstein:
Dangerous Knowledge- Victor’s search for knowledge, wouldn’t stop till he found it; search for the secret of life and surpassing natural forces; Walton tries to surpass human explorations by reaching the north pole, which was never done before. Walton gets trapped in sheets of ice and Victor ends up ruining his life and losing those close to him because of his obsession with knowledge (dangerous knowledge). The ruthless search for knowledge can sometimes be very destructive, especially if it becomes an unstoppable obsession like we saw in Victor. The concept that ignorance is bliss can also be attributed to this, sometimes knowledge is too much for someone to handle. Some things are better off not being known by man.

Sublime Nature- The influence of nature and seasons on the character’s emotions. When springtime comes around, the monster’s mood becomes happier reflecting the change in weather and scenery. Victor mends his feelings of depression and remorse by retreating into the mountains. Nature’s influence on the character’s moods can be observed throughout the novel. At the end, as Victor obsessively chases the monster through the Arctic Desert, this barren backdrop symbolizes his futile struggle against the monster.

Monstrosity- Obviously, monstrosity is a big theme because the ‘monster’ is the center action in the novel. He is rejected by society and hideously ugly, made of a random mixture of stolen body parts. Society is unable to accept this creature because he is so frighteningly different than anything they’ve seen. His supernatural means of creation is also considered monstrous. Victor went against all known earthly possibilities to create this creature. Since the monster sprang from Victor’s own mind and hands, Victor himself can be considered monstrous. The creature is monstrous in appearance, while Victor is monstrous in mind. The monster’s alienation from society, need for a companion, and struggle for revenge are all shared by his creator. So, in a way, the creator is no better than the creation.

Secrecy- Secrecy is another obvious, major theme in the novel. The theme of secrecy is prevalent through Victor’s creation of the monster and his journey to destroy it. While he was creating his monster, he kept himself very isolated and secretive, alone to obsess over his ‘dangerous knowledge.’ He had discovered a secret of science when he discovered the secret of life, and how to reanimate dead flesh. Even when the monster is loose and Victor chases after him, he tries to remain in his secrecy out of shame and guilt for having created such a terrible thing. In reality, the monster is not all bad; he just wants love and companionship. Victor’s entire search for knowledge, discovery of the secret of life, and creation of a secret monster ties into this theme. After the monster comes to life, Victor still keeps it a secret because he is ashamed of what he has done.

Romance/Companionship and Loneliness- Upon his creation, the monster goes in search of romance, or a companion of some sort, but society rejects him due to his unsightly appearance. When Victor refuses to build a companion for the monster, it becomes violent and vengeful for his loneliness. Victor finds himself equally lonely with the loss of his family and the isolation he created in his obsession with science. It was his own creation that killed those dear to him. Romance also plays a part in the use of scenery in the novel. The descriptions of dramatic scenery and settings portray a sense of dark gothic romanticized imagery. This romanticized and exaggerated description of scenery adds to the drama of the novel.
Works Cited
"NovelGuide: Frankenstein: Theme Analysis." NovelGuide. 09 Jan. 2009 <http://www.novelguide.com/frankenstein/themeanalysis.html>.
"SparkNotes: Frankenstein: Themes, Motifs & Symbols." SparkNotes. 09 Jan. 2009 <http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/frankenstein/themes.html>.
"Themes of Frankenstein Essay by Mary Shelley | Student Essays Summary." BookRags.com. 09 Jan. 2009 <http://www.bookrags.com/essay-2003/6/3/233813/6895>.

FEMINISM IN FRANKENSTEIN
· Feministic beliefs and movements are two separate things
o Movements began in the late 1800’s
o They are referred to as the “Waves” of Feminism (“Topics in Feminism”)
o Movements were when women took distinct political action
§ i.e. holding the First International Women’s Conference and other political activities
o Beliefs are simple when feministic beliefs were made public in society
o These could be traced all throughout history but they are very rare
o An abundance of ideas began to be published in writings starting in the very late 18th century and early 19th century
§ Authors began publishing books such as Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Women
· Mary Wollstonecraft: An Early Feminist
o This author is the mother of Mary Shelley
o She is considered one of first real feminist
o She wrote the first book that made a strong argument trying to promote the equality of the sexes
§ Vindication of the Rights of Women
o Her beliefs were influenced by
§ Her father’s abusive relationship with her mother
§ Her sister’s relationship with an abusive husband
· Mary helped hide her sister from a brutal husband “until a legal separation was arranged” (“Mary Wollstonecraft”)
§ Education
· She was very educated herself, and she and her sister made a school to educate young women
· Vindication of the Rights of Women
o Published in 1792
o The first Feministic book published
§ Criticized women for being submissive to men, not standing up for their rights, for equality
§ Tried to persuade women to stand up for themselves
· Made Wollstonecraft both famous and infamous
· Reception by women was mixed, some felt insulted rather than inspired
o “Wollstonecraft preached that intellect will always govern and south to ‘persuade women to endeavour to acquire strength, both of mind and body, and to convince them that the soft phrase, susceptibility of heart, delicacy of sentiment, and refinement of taste, are almost synonymous [sic] with epithets of weakness’” (“Wollstonecraft…”)
· Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
o Some feminist critics believe that feministic views are apparent in the creation of the Monster
§ They suggest the monster’s evil nature is a result of being created with the maternal aspect of a female
o Another critic, Margaret Homan, has suggested that the creation of the monster is a “’criticism of [male] appropriation’ of the maternal” (Yousef 1)
§ In other words, the creation of the monster shows that males will take what they want and do what they want with force and without permission
§ Normally to create life, and man would need a woman, but Frankenstein avoids this and creates life his own way
§ Obviously, the monster turns out to be destructive and evil, a major point of the criticism
o Cynthia Pon believes that the monster performs the actions that Frankenstein represents symbolically
§ Frankenstein has eliminated “females figures and those that sustain life” from his life (Pon 1)
§ The monster literally kills these figures, such as Justine Mortiz and Elizabeth
o Another presentation of feminism in Frankenstein is prevalent in the scene of the creation/destruction of the female monster
§ Shelly had the female monster destroyed because if it had been created it would not have been content with it’s life of apparent servitude and obedient towards the male Monster
§ Frankenstein realized it would not be content and he decided to destroy it because it may have revolted against the male monster and went on its own path of destruction

"Mary Wollstonecraft, 1759-1797." The History Guide -- Main. 09 Jan. 2009
<http://www.historyguide.org/intellect/wollstonecraft.html>.
Pon, Cynthia. "'Passages' in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein: Toward a Feminist Figure of
Humanity?." Nineteenth-Century Literature Criticism. Ed. Jessica Bomarito and Russel
Whitaker. Vol. 170. Detroit: Gale, 2006. Literature Resource Center. Gale. OCEAN
COUNTY LIBRARY. 10 Jan. 2009
<http://go.galegroup.com/ps/start.do?p=LitRC&u=ocl_aplus>.
"Topics in Feminism." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Stanford
University. 09 Jan. 2009 <http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/feminism-
/#FemBelFemMov>.
"Wollstonecraft, Mary. 1792. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman."
Bartleby.com: Great Books Online -- Encyclopedia, Dictionary, Thesaurus
and hundreds more. 09 Jan. 2009
<http://www.bartleby.com/144/index.html>.
Yousef, Nancy. "The monster in a dark room: Frankenstein, feminism, and philosophy."
Modern Language Quarterly. 63.2 (June 2002): p197. Literature Resource Center.
Gale. OCEAN COUNTY LIBRARY. 10 Jan. 2009
<http://go.galegroup.com/ps/start.do?p=LitRC&u=ocl_aplus>.

The Similarities Between Faust and Frankenstein: Notes
Although there are different versions of “Faust”, it appears that in all the versions Faust is a scientist who is lead to make a pact with the devil. In one specific version of Faust, the main focus is on how Faust’s motivation to make a pact with the devil is his thirst for knowledge. Even with this general introduction to Faust, it becomes apparent that Faust is very similar to Victor Frankenstein. As quoted in Vasbinder’s "Mary Shelley and the Critical Tradition,” “Mary Shelley refers to the Faustian idea that knowledge intoxicates and is dangerous when excessive” (Vasbinder 26). In one analysis entitled “Faust”, Faust’s lab room is described as displaying multiple scientific instruments, and Faust himself is described as someone possessing an “interest in science as a method of unlocking nature’s secrets, and rows of dusty books point to the sterility of medieval learning” (Prandi 2). This description is very similar to that of Victor Frankenstein. Throughout Frankenstein, Victor mentions his scientific instruments that he uses to create the monster, and Victor takes great care in preserving his instruments almost like they are his children. Also, Victor has always been interested with nature, even since he was a young child. Victor’s interest in nature—mainly his curiosity in the origin of life—and his desire for knowledge causes him to create the monster. Victor’s creation of the monster can be compared to Faust’s pact with the devil; both characters desire knowledge which leads them to perform tasks that are associated with the devil.
Works Cited
Prandi, Julie D. “Faust.” Literary Reference Center. EBSCO. 9 January 2009. Web.
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. Tom Doherty Associates: United States of America. 1988. Print.
Vassbinder, Samuel Holmes. "Mary Shelley and the Critical Tradition." In Scientific Attitudes in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Literature Resource Center. 1984. 9 January 2009. 5-30. Web.

PROMETHEUS:
Prometheus steals fire from Zeus and gives it to mortals
Zeus shackles Prometheus to the top of a mountain and has an eagle peck out his liver everyday.
His wounds heal every night so Prometheus will suffer for eternity
Prometheus also opens Pandora’s box releasing all evil upon the world to nullify Prometheus giving mortals fire.

Prometheus vs. Frankenstein:
1. Prometheus
a. Created Man
b. Gave fire to Man
c. Opens Pandora’s Box
d. Shackled to a mountain
e. Has eagle peck his liver out for eternity
2. Frankenstein
a. Gave life to a monster
b. Creates evil in his creation
c. Gets sick when sees monster; gets well when he is away from monster
d. Must suffer by the deaths of all who are close to him

Works Cited
Lewis, Paul. "VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN AND OWEN WARLAND: THE ARTIST AS SATAN AND AS GOD." Studies in Short Fiction 14.3 (Summer77 1977): 279. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Ocean County College Library, Manahawkin, NJ. 11 Jan. 2009. <http://search.ebscohost.com.libproxy.ocean.edu:2048/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=7150775&loginpage=Login.asp&site=ehost-live&scope=site>.
"Literary Essay on Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley." Welcome. 09 Jan. 2009. <http://www.gymnase-morges.ch/docs/Eleve/frankenstein.html>.
"Prometheus * The Immortals * Greek Mythology: From the Iliad to the Fall of the Last Tyrant." Messagenet Communications Research. 09 Jan. 2009. <http://messagenet.com/myths/bios/promethe.html>.
· Man has the ability to know things that make him “not much less than God,” but man should not partake of that knowledge.
· Victor is likened to both God and Adam
· As God, Victor creates the monster in his image.
· As Adam, Victor steals from the proverbial tree of knowledge

Monster as Adam
u The monster likens himself to Adam, “Remember, that I am thy creature; I ought to be thy Adam ”
u Like Adam he is perfect in creation. He is not tainted by the prejudices of humanity.
u The monster was full of love for humanity and nature at his creation but was turned to a life of evil and hardship by outside forces beyond his control. “I was benevolent and good; misery made me a fiend.”

Frankenstein as the Devil
u The monster was created to be beautiful. However, like Satan the monster falls from his creator’s grace and becomes a perversion of beauty.
u The monster is cast away from his creator’s presence just as Satan is cast out of heaven.
u Like Satan, the monster never attacks his creator directly. Instead, both attack that which is closest to their creators heart.

Bloom, Harold. "An excerpt from a study of Frankenstein: or, The New Prometheus." Partisan Review. 32.4 (Fall 1965): 611-618. Rpt. in Literature Resource Center. Gale, Cengage Learning. 611-618. Literature Resource Center. Gale. OCEAN COUNTY LIBRARY. 11 Jan. 2009 <http://go.galegroup.com/ps/start.do?p=LitRC&u=ocl_aplus>.
Davidson, Chris. "Frankenstein's Monster and Milton's Satan." Yahoo! GeoCities. 11 Jan. 2009 <http://www.geocities.com/sir_john_eh/plandfr.html>.
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. Tom Doherty Associates: United States of America. 1988. Print.

THE MONSTER IN A DARK ROOM: FRANKENSTEIN, FEMINISM, AND PHILOSOPHY
NANCY YOUSEF

This criticism is an analysis of several facets of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein including how it relates to feminist thought and how it mirrors various philosophical theories of its time period.
Frankenstein’s monster embodies feminism in many ways. Yousef describes how the lack of female influence is demonstrated by the monster’s creation, development, and behavior, resulting in an extremely flawed individual. She also addresses the opinions of other critics on Shelley’s feministic message:
“The Promethean arrogance of Frankenstein’s project, the ambition to create life without the other, and the inescapable erasure of the feminine and the maternal that that ambition and project entail: these have been the foci of varied feminist interpretations of the novel” (1).
After briefly addressing the feminist perspective of the novel, the author delves into the philosophical thought behind it. First, she addresses the influence of the Enlightenment and its relation to feminism: “In its engagement with Enlightenment theories of education, human nature, and sociality, Frankenstein displays Shelley’s penetrating and critical interpretation of masculine constructions of knowledge and personhood” (3). Yousef argues that the masculine thought processes of emotionless analysis that accompanied the Enlightenment strongly influence the plot development of Frankenstein himself, who initially pursues a scientific project devoid of compassion. Yousef further describes how she believes Shelley’s inspiration for the novel is derived primarily from philosophical texts.
The main purpose of the criticism is to draw parallels between specific works of philosophy and Frankenstein: “[Yousef] begin[s] by establishing how closely and carefully the novel alludes to two philosophical texts in particular: Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1689; fifth, enlarged edition 1706) and Rousseau’s Discourse on the Origins of Inequality (1755).” (7). One such parallel is how Shelley’s depiction of the monster’s initial development mirrors the opinion of the aforementioned authors. In Frankenstein, the monster speaks of how he gains his consciousness and the first thing he observes is light. This light is similar to the light spoken of in the Essay Concerning Human Understanding, which is also experienced by a developing character.
The final point of the criticism deals with Shelley’s inability to describe her monster’s acquisition of knowledge and human emotion: “The creature’s ability to read human actions and affect goes unexplained in the narrative and leads to another mystery: his inspiration to act on his sympathy” (11). Yousef also briefly analyzes the philosophy behind the monster’s feelings towards himself and the outside world.
Overall, the criticism was very well written; however, it was not an easy read and it tried to link together very different topics. It may have been more easily understood if the reader had a grasp of the philosophical texts to which the author references.

Yousef, Nancy. "The Monster in a Dark Room: Frankenstein,." Modern Language Quarterly 63:2 June 2002 197-267. 9 Jan 2009

Gothic Literature
I. Introduction
"Gothic" has come to mean quite a number of things by this day and age. It could mean a particular style of art, be it in the form of novels, paintings, or architecture; it could mean "medieval" or "uncouth." It could even refer to a certain type of music and its fans. What it originally meant, of course, is "of, relating to, or resembling the Goths, their civilization, or their language" ("gothic").

The Goths, one of the many Germanic tribes, fought numerous battles with the Roman Empire for centuries. According to their own myths, as recounted by Jordanes, a Gothic historian from the mid 6th century, the Goths originated in what is now southern Sweden, but their king Berig led them to the southern shore of the Baltic Sea. They finally separated into two groups, the Visigoths (the West Goths) and Ostrogoths (the East Goths), so named because of where they eventually settled. They reached the height of their power around 5th century A.D., when they sacked Rome and captured Spain, but their history finally subsumed under that of the countries they conquered ("Goths").

Centuries passed before the word "gothic" meant anything else again. During the Renaissance, Europeans rediscovered Greco-Roman culture and began to regard a particular type of architecture, mainly those built during the Middle Ages, as "gothic" -- not because of any connection to the Goths, but because the 'Uomo Universale' considered these buildings barbaric and definitely not in that Classical style they so admired. Centuries more passed before "gothic" came to describe a certain type of novels, so named because all these novels seem to take place in Gothic-styled architecture -- mainly castles, mansions, and, of course, abbeys ("Gothic...").

The Gothic novel took shape mostly in England from 1790 to 1830 and falls within the category of Romantic literature. It acts, however, as a reaction against the rigidity and formality of other forms of Romantic literature. The Gothic is far from limited to this set time period, as it takes its roots from former terrorizing writing that dates back to the Middle Ages, and can still be found written today by writers such as Stephen King. But during this time period, many of the highly regarded Gothic novelists published their writing and much of the novel's form was defined.
As Ann B. Tracy writes in her novel The Gothic Novel 1790-1830 Plot Summaries and Index to Motifs, the Gothic novel could be seen as a description of a fallen world. We experience this fallen world though all aspects of the novel: plot, setting, characterization, and theme.
The setting is greatly influential in Gothic novels. It not only evokes the atmosphere of horror and dread, but also portrays the deterioration of its world. The decaying, ruined scenery implies that at one time there was a thriving world. At one time the abbey, castle, or landscape was something treasured and appreciated. Now, all that lasts is the decaying shell of a once thriving dwelling.
The Gothic hero becomes a sort of archetype as we find that there is a pattern to their characterization. There is always the protagonist, usually isolated either voluntarily or involuntarily. Then there is the villain, who is the epitome of evil, either by his (usually a man) own fall from grace, or by some implicit malevolence. The Wanderer, found in many Gothic tales, is the epitome of isolation as he wanders the earth in perpetual exile, usually a form of divine punishment.
The plot itself mirrors the ruined world in its dealings with a protagonist's fall from grace as she succumbs to temptation from a villain. In the end, the protagonist must be saved through a reunion with a loved one. For example, in Matthew G. Lewis's The Monk, the monk Ambrosio is tempted by Matilda. She lures him into succumbing to his lust until he turns fully to rape and murder of another young girl. In the end, he makes a deal with Satan and dies a torturous death on the side of a mountain. Emily of Ann Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho does not have the same kind of temptations but finds that she cannot escape her evil uncle's castle (called Udolpho) without the help of a suitor. In the end she does find retribution in her affection for her once-lost love, Valancourt.
Even though the Gothic Novel deals with the sublime and the supernatural, the underlying theme of the fallen hero applies to the real world as well. Once we look past the terror aspect of this literature, we can connect with it on a human level. Furthermore, the prevalent fears of murder, rape, sin, and the unknown are fears that we face in life. In the Gothic world they are merely multiplied.
Because of the supernatural phenomena and the prevailing morbid atmosphere of Gothic novels, this genre is traditionally brushed off as "un-academic". But as George Haggerty writes in Gothic Fiction/Gothic Form, "the Gothic novel is a liberating phenomenon, which expands the range of possibilities for novelistic expression" (Haggerty 34).
"The Gothic Novel." CAI-Homepage. 11 Jan. 2009 <http://cai.ucdavis.edu/waters-sites/gothicnovel/155breport.html>.



Romantics

  • Revolt from the enlightenment
  • Stressed strong emotion, trepidation, horror, awe experienced by confronting nature

  • Elevated folk art, nature and custom


  • Epistemology-theory of knowledge and how it relates to truth, belief, and justification

  • Skepticism of different knowledge claims—What is knowledge? How is knowledge acquired? What do people know? REACTION TO PEOPLE

  • Physics involved the study of “natural philosophy”- objective study of nature and the physical universe—precursor to natural science and physics


  • Distrusted science for its materialism, its emphasis on rationality, its attempts to control nature and bend it to man’s will, and its potential to deaden the human spirit
    • Creation of monster

  • Feared that science would probe into forbidden areas and unleash forces it couldn’t control
    • Robots and monster becoming dangerous
    • What monster become

POINT OF VIEW
· Frankenstein is written in the first person limited point of view
o Narrator is a character in the story, and part of the action
o Author uses literary device known as framing
§ Framing- the narrator tells a story that he or she has heard or read from another source
· Frankenstein has 3 major narrators:
o Robert Walton
§ Writes letters to his sister, detailing his journey and the events that have taken place on his ship
o Victor Frankenstein
§ Explains his journey following the monster to Robert Walton after he is rescued by Walton on the ice
o The creature
§ Details his trek from Ingolstadt to Geneva and his interactions with various other people to Victor Frankenstein.
o The narrators take turns telling the story from their individual points of view
§ Sections of the story overlap, but are told from opposite sides
· Telling the story from different points of view allows the reader to interpret the plot with an un-biased opinion.
o Each narrator evokes a different emotional response in the reader.
§ The creature- loneliness
§ Victor- desperation, anxiety
§ Walton- hope
· It takes all three narrators to tell the complete story