The Modern Prometheus Essay
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“Look at the significance of chapter five of Frankenstein to the novel as a whole. Focus on the relevance and effect of writer’s use of language to describe setting, character and what it shows about social and historical context.” “This is the reason why mothers are more devoted to their children than fathers: it is that they suffer more in giving them birth and are more certain that they are their own.” – Aristotle, Greek Philosopher “The sooner you treat your son as a man, the sooner he will be one.
” – John Dryden, British poet, dramatist and critic.
Never judge a book by its cover. Doing so puts you in danger of jumping to huge conclusions about something before you’ve even gave it a chance. Frankenstein is a prestigious gothic horror story written by British, 19th Century novelist Mary Shelley. It tells the enthralling tale of Dr. Victor Frankenstein, a scientist consumed by his need to find a way to preserve life, as he succeeds in creating an immortal, super strong creature using different attributes of corpses. Shelley wrote the novel when she was around the age of 19, after envisioning the story when her and husband, Percy Shelley, spent the summer with Lord Byron and friends near Geneva, Switzerland.
According to Shelley, “it proved a wet, ungenial summer” and so the insistent rain confined them to the house most days. Due to lack of entertainment, the company amused themselves by sitting around a log fire in Lord Byron’s villa, reading German ghost stories, which prompted Byron to suggest they each try their hand at writing their own supernatural tale. Shortly afterwards, in a waking nightmare in which she saw “the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together”, Mary conceived the idea for Frankenstein; she began writing what she assumed would be a short story. However, with encouragement from husband, Percy, she expanded this into her first and most celebrated novel of all her work. It was first published in 1818.
Shelley’s mother, philosopher and feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, died just 10 days after Mary was born due to puerperal fever, and this tragic event embedded itself in Shelley’s mind, having a huge impact on the novel, circling childbirth as the main theme running throughout. However, there are other themes which appear during the novel, the more prominent ones being: responsibility, science, ambition and obsession. In Frankenstein, the consequences of attempting to master life and death are made apparent when, Victor Frankenstein, a young scientist, idiotically creates a “monster” that counteracts man’s new control over life and death.
Shelley intended to accentuate the importance of God being the only one who should be able to create life as she shows Frankenstein “playing God” and also “playing a Mother”, as the chapter in which the creature is born is told almost like a woman is giving birth. It soon becomes evident however, that he should attempt neither. Chapter five – the Creature’s birth – is a big chapter in this novel, not so much in length but the impact it has on the rest of the novel. It is the pivotal point; if Frankenstein hadn’t brought the monster to life then he would have led a happy, normal life with all of his family alive and well. Nevertheless, Frankenstein does bring life to the dead limbs that lay before him and the monster is born.
Shelley skilfully builds up the atmosphere at the beginning of the chapter by using a range of different techniques. In the first line of the chapter the word “dreary” paints the picture of a boring, dull, wet night which combined with “rain pattered dismally against the panes” immediately sets the alarm bells ringing as it is not expected from a typical Gothic Horror novel. For such an explosive event as the birth of the creature, it would have been anticipated for the weather to be stormy and electrifying – exciting even. Yet, Mary Shelley chooses to use pathetic fallacy to reflect the mood of Dr. Frankenstein and to also warn you to expect the unexpected.
Also Shelley uses words like “anxiety” and “agony” when describing Frankenstein. These two words alone show that all is not well and that something terrible is going to happen as Victor no longer feels happy about his creation. He feels exhausted by his “toils”, fed up and is itching to finish his work and bring the creature to life. Shelley also helps to build up tension and atmosphere by isolating Frankenstein. “It was already one in the morning” It is typical of a Gothic Horror novel to have a character isolated and completely alone with no means of help if necessary. Here Shelley warns us that something is about to happen because of Victor’s solitary status and the reality that most other people aren’t around or awake at one in the morning.