In this essay I will show how Mary Shelley manipulates the reader’s view of the monster throughout her novel “Frankenstein.” I will show that Shelley creates many different impressions on the reader, through various methods, to change their opinion throughout the book. “Frankenstein” is a romantic gothic horror novel written in 1818 by a young woman named Mary Shelley. It includes the classic gothic themes of romance, horror, religion and good and evil. “Frankenstein”, however, is centred on a issue still debated today; whether trying to change life is playing God and if it will lead to dire consequences. At the time of writing Mary Shelley was 16, the wife of Percy Shelley and staying in the Swiss Alps with Lord Byron and her husband.
One of the more classic methods Shelley uses to manipulate her readers is setting. In chapter 5 the setting gives a dark and gothic atmosphere, which tells the reader that the monster is horrifying and to be feared. “One in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes, and my candle was nearly burnt out.” This quote is giving the reader the idea of isolation; something surreptitious and forbidden. Mary Shelley does this by using a classic gothic horror setting; the night which traditionally implies evil, secrecy and darkness, the bad weather, used to make everything more dank and dismal, and the burnt down candle, a symbol of long hours of frenzied work and manic concentration.
This setting also reflects badly on Frankenstein’s character; the middle of a stormy night when most people would be in bed and he is up, furtively completing a long held ambition. The burnt down candle image heightens this idea but also adds the concept that Frankenstein himself may be close to burning out. The candle is used as a metaphor for his own exhaustion. This type of setting shows the reader that Frankenstein is doing something secretly, something offensive to society. This casts a negative shadow on his character.
The setting is also used to put a negative slur on the monster and just about everything else in the scene. The setting is used to make everything worse. The strange hour of the night and turbulent weather show the reader that the monster must be weird and unnatural to be kept away from normal people. Overall the main effect of this setting is to make all the ideas Mary Shelley presents to her readers in this chapter seem twisted and dangerous.
Another thing which Mary Shelley uses to influence the reader’s opinion of the monster is its appearance. We are introduced to the living monster in chapter 5 and this is where most of the description concerning its “horrid” appearance is used. The monster is repulsive and gruesome, which is described in horrifying detail, causing the reader to make negative judgements on its character. In describing the monster Shelley also uses the reference of “Dante”. This comparison introduces a religious element; in playing God, Frankenstein has produced something worse than can be found in Hell. This also reinforces the unnatural image.
This is continued with the idea that the monster has not turned out the way Frankenstein expected. “Beautiful! Great God! His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath…” The whole vivid description centres on the unnatural and freakish, especially the way the monster’s innards are described as visible through the monster’s sallow skin. This creates a dramatic image in the readers mind as something human shaped but ultimately wrong, different and scary, more animal than human. The monster is also described as having “watery eyes” which make us think of illness, or perhaps, in the case of the monster, crying. This idea makes the monster seem all the more wretched and repulsive.
Mary Shelley also uses the reaction of Victor Frankenstein to prejudice her readers against the monster in chapter 5. “…the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart.” The inventor turns against his creation immediately after giving it life. He takes no responsibility for the monster’s well being though he is the closest thing to a father the monster could have. He runs from his duty and breaks down, delirious with the shock of losing his dream and realising that he has done an evil deed. This adds to the fear felt by the reader; if even it’s creator cannot stand the monster, how evil would a stranger find it? The way Frankenstein turns against the monster the moment it comes to life signals to the reader that this is the moment when the sin is committed. Giving life is going against God so this is where all the negativity in this chapter, and in most of the book starts.
The last influence on our opinion of the monster I will look at in chapter 5 is the monster’s own words and actions. In this chapter they are deliberately given a double meaning; animal, or baby? “His jaws opened, and he muttered some inarticulate sounds, while a grin wrinkled his cheeks.” This quote shows the monster as incoherent, whether due to a lack of intelligence or experience is unclear at this point. However the monster has, in effect, just been born and the behaviours Shelley describes are very similar to young children not quite in control of their movements, trying to pick up or chew on everything they find. When these movements are applied to the monster Shelley describes they become intimidating and threatening which gives the reader an even worse impression of the monster, when in reality it is just a scared child who has been called into the world and then rejected within minutes.
Frankenstein is the first living creature the monster sets eyes on. This means that in its view Frankenstein is its father. This means that the monster reaches out to him for comfort and shelter. “…one hand was stretched out,” This quote shows the monster reaching for Frankenstein. However Shelley deliberately leaves the action open for interpretation as an animal attack to reinforce the overall impression received by the reader in this chapter that the monster is an ugly, evil, dangerous, horrifying animal.
There are a lot of contrasts between chapters 5 and 10. The first is the setting which becomes a lot more dangerous and inaccessible in chapter 10. The setting is first portrayed in this chapter as enormous and amazing, as yet untouched by humans. “Solemn silence of this glorious presence-chamber of imperial nature was broken only by the brawling waves or the fall of some vast fragment.” This quote shows why Frankenstein has come to this place; he wants peace and isolation, and to think about more than just his own personal tragedy. “They elevated me from all little ness of feeling, and although they did not remove my grief, they subdued and tranquillized it.” The language used to describe the setting is more elaborate in this chapter, which reflects the increased grandeur of the scene. This is done to create a sense of awe from the reader and to show them how isolated the setting is, which affects their perception of the monster when he is introduced to the chapter.