‘How far can we accept Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein as a typical example of the Gothic Tradition? Focus on specific examples of the genre to illustrate your answer. ‘ Many critics have named Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein as a Gothic novel. A traditional Gothic novel can be described as, ‘ tales of the macabre, fantastic and supernatural. ‘ In the beginning, the word Gothic implied ‘medieval’, but with time its meaning altered, until its emphasis lay on the macabre.
Many of the best gothic novels show examples of invention and produce moments of horror far greater than pieces that are less emotive.
Frankenstein fits into this category. Victor Frankenstein is an ambitious, although misguided inventor, looking to solve the secret of life. In her introduction, Mary Shelley declares her desire to ‘curdle the blood and quicken the beatings of the heart. ‘ This type of language immediately signals to the reader that Frankenstein should be placed in the gothic genre.
Gothic novels are generally said to include some of the following elements.
They should be set in a castle with an atmosphere of suspense and mystery, there should be supernatural or otherwise inexplicable events, am ancient prophecy, omens, portents, visions, high or overwrought emotion, women in distress or threatened by a powerful, impulsive, tyrannical male, and finally the metonymy of gloom and horror. Frankenstein does not really include any of these points to the excess.
It is not set in a castle and the language cannot really be said to be mysterious, as we are narrated clearly throughout. Can it still be said to be a gothic novel, even without any of the conventional gothic traits? The term gothic covers a wide variety of texts and is by no means easy to define. It is not that straightforward to therefore relate Frankenstein to other gothic novels. However, some certain elements of Frankenstein can be determined as gothic, even though other parts may not fit the pattern.