Above all else, the Gothic relates to our fears. Discuss with reference to Frankenstein The Gothic is a strange genre, touching on the most taboo topics available and making it okay to talk about them. Gothic novels create tales involving incest, homosexuality, fear and inhumanity- most of which are centred around a core of sex or sexual desire. Frankenstein was, of course, written at a time when people were more shockable. In today’s society it is fair to say we are less vulnerable to attack- our senses have been dumbed down and we are no longer so easily offended.
What is unique about the Gothic is that it still has the shock factor, even in today’s society. It doesn’t just shock, it takes our most depraved fears, the dark and murky things we hate about ourselves or others and turns them into a story, brings them to life. Thus, shocking even modern readers. The most obvious fear Frankenstein deals with is the fear of creating something with tremendous consequences, consequences that are impossible to predict and impossible to deal with. The scary thing about Frankenstein is that he has the power to deal with his mistake.
He is a clever intellect from a good background, he is relatively stable and theoretical and could easily have solved his problem. But he doesn’t, he falls apart. Frankenstein completely loses the ability to be theoretical- all he can think about is escaping the monster and running away from his problem. Here Shelley is playing on the fact that everyone is scared of creating a problem they can’t handle. No-one wants to fall apart at the exact moment they most need to be together and Frankenstein does just this. Then the problem grows, fed by Frankenstein’s ignorance of the mistake he has made.
By turning his back on the monster he condemns his brother, Justine, Clerval and Elizabeth to death, and the problem is no longer fixable. He can do nothing but watch it spiral out of control. It is s the monster tells his story, it is most clear what a mess Frankenstein has made, however there are early indications he is setting himself up for a devastating fall.. It is obvious he is a snob, that he feels himself above the laws of nature, he wants to usurp God, to be all powerful. “Life and death appeared to me ideal bounds, which I should first break through, and pour a torrent of light into our dark world.
” He is so sure of himself, wanting to be the creator of a creature that would call him master. But the second the creature opens his eyes, it goes from being a creation and miracle to a ‘fiend’, a ‘daemon’- something so frightening he immediately runs from the room. , despite the fact that only seconds earlier he mentions he had selected the monster’s features as attractive. “Beautiful- Great God!… but these luxuriance’s only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes”.
It is the classic scenario- realising seconds after you achieve something, that it was exactly what you shouldn’t have done, and it works well to create fear in the readers. Of course there are many more sub-fears, minor frights that are perhaps a little deeper and darker than the main fear but the possibility of uncontrollable error is predominant in the essay. Linking to the main fear, is the fear of your mistakes affecting others. Not only is Frankenstein’s life ruined by the creation of the monster but it leads to the death of so many of his family and friends. This throws out the theory, and proves it, that Frankenstein is a weak person, hidden underneath intellect.
He controlled whether or not Justine was executed for his brother’s death, he held life in his hand and he destroyed it. In a similar way, he abused the privilege of birth by creating a monster and then abandoning him. He could have admitted his guilt, he knew who really killed his little brother but instead he turned away and let an innocent friend of the family die. In another respect, he also knew what he had to do to make everything right. When the monster requested a mate so he could find happiness, Frankenstein was assured he would never again have to face the death of someone he loved.
Again, the power of life was given to him and again he walked away and let his beloved Elizabeth die. Too weak to admit a mistake, he allowed others to take the blame and the blood was indirectly on his hands. Elizabeth plays an interesting part in another fear Shelly introduces to us- the fear of incest. As first cousin, Elizabeth’s relatinship with Frankenstein would be frowned on in today’s society but Victor’s mother looked favourably on the match and it was decided almost from birth.
The passive language Victor uses to describe Elizabeth suggests he doesn’t love her in a a passionate, wild way but rather he is fond of the girl, brought up like his sister, and is now about to spend the rest of his life, just the same as they did before but with a marriage certificate. He likens her to birds, insects- furry, nice creatures on whom one looks with fondness. We don’t feel the brunt of the incestuous relationship until he dreams about her, mainly because their relationship has been reasonably passive and stable. Then, suddenly, Shelly throws in a dream, Frankenstein’s dream in which he is kissing Elizabeth and she turns into his dead mother.
Freud worked on a theory that in a sub conscious way, each sex is somehow in love with the parent of the opposite sex. The daughters feel incestuous love for their fathers while the sons love their mothers in a similar way. It is a dark way of looking on the parent- child relationship and is rarely touched upon. However Shelley brings in Frankenstein’s love for his mother, suggesting perhaps that he is loving Elizabeth because, as the only real female influence on his life, he likens her to his mother.
Thus, when she is murdered by the monster, Frankenstein is finally brought to his knees. Frankenstein brings together all of the classic Gothic influences and builds them into a whirl of fear and depravity. And Shelley cleverly arranges events so that everything we see as dark and deadly and impossible, suddenly becomes real and frightening. But, as most Gothic novels go, there is a hidden meaning- something that only becomes apparent at the end of the book. The most horrifying part of Frankenstein then surely must be, that in the end we discover we have been deceived. It was no the creation that was the monster, but the creator.