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carterian's picture

Frankenstein from the Gothic Standpoint

I read Frankenstein in my gothic lit. class last week, so the ideas that were brought up in that class are still very fresh in my mind.

One of the Gothic tropes that is used in the book is the idea of "doubles." Doubles are encountered a lot in gothic novels, often times there are two women vying for the same man. Or when one woman dies, her lover will often end up with the woman that is earlier identified as the earlier woman's double. It's kind of complicated, it's hard to explain if you haven't read any truly gothic novels.

So, the idea of doubling and duality is brought up with Frankenstein and his creation, not by way of physical resemblance, but by how they are both presented. I did a post about this on the blackboard for my other class, so I will share it with you now...the page numbers will be different because I used a different book:

"Generally, when someone says that they are going to be Frankenstein for Halloween, they don't dress up as the actual character, but rather his creature. Mary Shelley's book initiates the blurring of the line between the scientist and the monster from the very beginning. We first see the monster as a "gigantic stature [who] sat on a sledge" (25). Frankenstein, the actual character was found in "a sledge, like that we had seen before" (26). After some convincing, he agreed to get on the boat. Once on the boat, however, he was unable to speak for a few days and it is noted that his "sufferings had deprived him of understanding" (27). Later in the paragraph he is referred to by the captain as an "interesting creature" and "his eyes have...an expression of wildness...even madness" and "sometimes he gnashes his teeth " (27). These all embody characteristics of someone wild and subhuman. Once almost fully recovered, he "appears uneasy when anyone except [the captain] enters the cabin" (28). Later in the volume, when Frankenstein is visiting Justine and is torn up by the tragedy caused by his creation he "gnashed [his] teeth and ground them together, uttering a groan that came from [his] inmost soul" (89). Again, there is this animalistic tendency that he displays.

There is also a childishness shown in both characters. The monster at one point scares his creator in the middle of the night when "he muttered some inarticulate words, while a grin wrinkled his cheeks" (59). And when Frankenstein is on the boat with the captain he shows such changes in character. At one point he seems wild and at another "his whole countenance is lighted up...with a beam of...sweetness" (27). This childishness is well-used by Shelley in invoking terror for the reader. This seeming innocence just makes the acts displayed by characters that much worse. With these descriptions, the confusion between Frankenstein and his monster is an easy mistake."

  So, there is the small lesson in a gothic trope for anyone who was interested!

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