Frankenstein as a Classic Gothic Literature
Gothic literature is likely to be associated with horror stories. Although it is not a faulty perception, it is not necessarily accurate. Kelly describes Gothic as “enemy of the dominant culture and classes” (3). In other words, gothic is simply what breaks the boundaries set by conventions. Kelly uses the term side-by-side with orientalism to show how the nature of gothic goes against the grain by representing opposites of values, Christianity and rationality, which served the dominant classes of Europeans in the west and south. All in all, Shelly’s Frankenstein fits as a perfect and classic gothic. According to Kelly (4), gothic literature emerged in the 1790s and 1820s. During these eras, the society was dominated by the wealthy classes, who exercised hegemony over what was considered socially appropriate. Literature had played its part in this regard, promoting the social rules of decorum of the progressive middle-class. However, gothic literature arrived with new objectives. Created by the so-called ‘progressive’ middle classes, gothic literature served as a social commentary on the evils of the day and sought to mount a critique of bourgeois values, promoted through the reigning court culture. Far from the presumed good times, aesthetically, gothic literature somewhat destroyed this notion by adopting tropes like “gloomy setting, supernatural events, mystery, villains, and suspense, among others” (Kohil 228). All the above gothic pictures are covered in Frankenstein. Shelly presents – like her gothic peers – the ‘other side’ (or marginalized) parts of society, particularly its ugliness – what Kohil (227) refers to as the ‘double’ or the ‘doppelganger.’
Frankenstein goes against the grain. Thematically, Frankenstein can be examined from various points of view, and one of those is as a feminist social commentary. To a certain degree, the work remains true to the social beliefs regarding women. Elizabeth Lavenza, for instance, is described as a “saintly soul… [with] sweet glance… [and she is fascinated by] the sublime shapes of the mountains; change of the seasons” (Shelley 58). At this point, Shelly’s presentation fits with the view of women (at the time) as sensible beings who have a sense for nature and intuition. But, perhaps the real anti-bourgeoisie commentary is founded in the monsters that Victor Frankenstein creates, and who ends up finishing his family. The finger-pointing at the court culture, which turns out to be oppressive and destructive to society constitutes what Kohil (230) sees as the conflict between the old and the new.
Despite what is a gothic in Frankenstein, how gothic literature appears present the most evidence. As it is common with the characteristics of classic gothic literature, the protagonist, Victor Frankenstein, is brilliant but has an insatiable hunger for knowledge and power. The surrounding of Victor’s home as he works on his project is old and isolated from the rest of the world. The laboratory in which he works is also dark. Victor Frankenstein’s home environment evokes fear among the readers and audiences. When Frankenstein speaks of seeing the “dull yellow eye of the creature open” (Shelley 17), it signifies danger because it has been lurking at the peripheries of the people’s senses. Finally, the danger is out and can be felt fully.Conclusion
It is apparent that Frankenstein is gothic literature, both in terms of fear-evoking tropes and as a social commentary. The brief overview presents both Shelly’s aspects of gothic in her work. Frankenstein is scary, and it goes against the acceptable norms as perceived by the wider society, but in the end, inherently Shelly disputes the conventions.
Kelly, Gary. “Social conflict, nation, and empire: From Gothicism to romantic orientalism” Ariel, 20.2 (1982): 3-18. Web, 05 March 2019
Kohil, Mouna. “Gothic horrors and the double in Frankenstein.” Humanities and Social Sciences Review, 8.1 (2018): 227-238. Web, 05 March 2019
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus. Cambridge: Sever Francis &Co., 1869. Web, 05 March 2019