Frankenstein - Mary Shelley



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1)The atmosphere of the novel.
a. predominant atmosphere: the predominant atmosphere is gothic, in which there are moments of suspense and danger where the reader has the feeling that something dramatic can suddenly happen. (horror scenes→ the birth of William and death of the mother. The killing of Elizabeth. The moment in which the doctor collects the dead parties of bodies). The weather conditions are often bad, there is the rain and the air is cold.
b. the scenery: sublime. – the meeting on the mountains: the landscape is huge. – at the beginning, Frankenstein goes on the mountain with Elizabeth, his brother….ecc…. to do experiments on electricity. – when the creature finds in the nature a sense of quietness compared with the negative situations he has with the other people.
c. the symbolism of light and darkness. The lights are half-extinguished and this sense of darkness contributes to increase the sense of fear and horror. The most important events happen in night. We have light only when Victor is a little child, when he spends time with his family because light means happiness and serenity. Instead dark means fear, horror, unhappiness, confusion, chaos.

2) Frankenstein and his creature.
a. The alter–ego motif: “I was the part you left out” (creature)
“I will have revenge” (creature)
“Did you ever consider the consequences of your gesture: give me life and then let me die”
“You gave me these emotions but you didn’t tell me how to use them”
“For the sympathy of one living being I would make peace with all”
the monster is Frankenstein’s double, his alter-ego. Their personality is very similar and we can say that they’re complementary to each other. The monster is a part of Frankenstein, the result of his insatisfaction, of his sufferance after the death of his mother. Frankenstein, in fact, is unable to find a replacement for his mother and he tries to infuse life in an inanimate body but the result is terrible. When Frankenstein sees how ugly the creature is, he abandons him. The monster’s isolation is the cause of his discontent, the same discontent which feels Victor when his mother died.
The creature is the irrational side of Dr. Frankenstein, his hidden and deep thoughts. They’re complementary and he mirrors Victor’s ambitions. In fact, unconsciously he hated his brother (because he had been the cause of his mother’s death) and also Elizabeth (she was an orphan. When she arrives in Victor’s family she breaks the privileged relationship between him and his mother ). Instead, Justin is an indirect victim of Victor’s cowardice.
This theme of the double was very common in Britain.

b. The creature’s development:
Locke Empiricism: “Knowledge is derived from experience”
Rousseau: the contrast Nature/ Society
Countryside/ Town
Natural goodness/ Selfishness and greed
The creature’s development is built by philosophical theories and by the creature himself. He learns lot of things by the family where he lives in the forest. Moreover, the creature remember some things. He also read three books: “Parallel lives” of Plutarch, “Paradise lost” of Milton and “Werther” of Goethe. Rousseau is very clear in defining the social environment and the natural one. He says that men are corrupted by society and, in fact, the creature was good at the beginning and then he becomes selfish. According to Rousseau the countryside has to be preferred from towns because people aren’t in contact with progress. This kind of society selfish and corrupted is more typical of towns because they have lost the true values. The country life is more simple than town life. Countryside is based on a small community where there is a big help between people and human relationships. Instead, in town there is much more isolation, human relationships are fewer and quicker. In towns there is the detachment from the natural world, houses’ conditions were appalling, terrible and there are lots of problems. We have the beginning of the desegregation of the families because the members of the family work in different places, for many hours ( 16h a day) and only after years a law protect children and women, who have to work for 12 hours.
The main consequence is that the social environment is negative for men.
Moreover, Rousseau elaborate the theory of the good savage: everyone is born good but, when he gets in contact with the society, he is contaminated (It’s true for Frankenstein’s creature).

3) Social criticism.
The theme of the outcast:
“I’m so very ugly, they are so very beautiful”
“People are afraid except you”
The theme of the outcast is one of the main themes of Marie Shelley’s novel. The creature becomes an outcast in consequence from the hate he receives from society. In fact, people think that “beauty is good, ugly is evil” and they give a great importance to the physical aspect. They consider more it than the true personality of people and when they see the poor creature they reject him, thinking he is evil. So, with the passing of time, the creature becomes really evil because he isn’t loved and he isn’t neither protected by his father, who abandons him.

4) The modern Prometheus.
“Knowledge is power only through God”
Dr. Frankenstein is considered a modern Prometheus. He is the one who had stolen the fire to God to give it to the human being. He had committed a sin of pride: he tried to put himself on the same level of God and he was punished by him, who put Prometheus chained on a mountain and every night an eagle came to eat his liver. Prometheus had stolen the fire to give life to a clay doll he had made before. The connection between him and Dr. Frankenstein is that both of them had challenge God trying to infuse life into an inanimate body.

5) Walton and Frankenstein.
Their mutual relation
“I have not come this far only to give up now” (Walton)
“I have spent six years and all my fortune” (Walton)
“Do you share my madness?” (Frankenstein)
Walton’s and Frankenstein’s deeds are very different but they have both an excessive desire of knowledge to become famous. They think they have to do something for the society and they are almost mad in this obsession to go beyond the human limits and they sacrifice everything they had for it, but, so, it starts their ruin.
In this madness we have also to consider the time, which are the 18th and 19th centuries. In these times people were mad, thirsty of knowledge, above all in the field of geography. An example is the Titanic, a huge ship which tried to go beyond the normal possibilities that it might have a ship.

6) Gothic tale or science fiction?
(anticipation of transplants, creation of life, preservation of life)
Science fiction was not invented yet. It starts to have this name at the end of 19th century, with George Herbert Weels who employed science as a basic element of his novels. In Frankenstein there is an anticipation of science fiction because Victor, for example, makes a sort of primitive transplants (creation of life). Instead we find the idea of preservation of life in the way he tries to defeat death. But in this novel there are also some elements belonging to the gothic tale, for example the aspect of the sublime (natural description, environment), the atmosphere and the horror scenes (Killing of William, Elizabeth….).
The book moves between these two genres. There is not the domestically atmosphere, characteristic of Mary Shelley. Moreover it is not set in Britain and there is very little realism and satiric (aspect of 1700)

7) The structure of the novel.
Narrators and narrates.
In this novel we have three different narrators and also three narrates. At the beginning, we are given first an ideal portrait of Frankenstein by Walton (narrator=Walton; Narratee =his sister; Genre=epistolary), then Frankenstein’s portrait of himself (narrator=Victor; Narratee=Walton; genre=narration) and finally the monster’s indictment of his creator as a selfish and cruel man (narrator=creature; Narratee=Victor …and then…. Narrator=creature; Narratee=Walton).



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