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Mary Shelley's Frankenstein - Narratives of Seduction Essay

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Frankenstein:  Narratives of Seduction       

 

The following essay is concerned with the frame structure in Mary Shelley`s Frankenstein and its’ functions as it is suggested by Beth Newman`s "Narratives of seduction and the seduction of narratives".  To start with, the novel Frankenstein is a symmetrically built frame narrative with a story at its center. This is not always the case with frame structured novels, as there are examples without a proper center (e.g. Heart of Darkness). The elaborate system of frames indicates that this center reveals some kind of a mystery. However, it would be wrong to asume that the center alone contains the meaning of the novel. On the contrary, the meaning of the novel is brought about by the relation between the different stories at the center and the frames around it.

            One of the main suggestions of the article is the functioning of the inner oral narratives as forms of seduction, to be more specific, seductions into a promise. In other words, they try to persuade their listener to promise the satisfaction of a desire that could not be satisfied directly. The two main examples for this are the Monster’s as well as Frankenstein’s story, but the themes of seductive narration and promises can be found also elsewhere in the novel. The Monster’s desire is to be loved by someone. When he realises that not only the DeLaceys but every human being will reject him because of his uglyness, he tells Frankenstein his story in order to persuade him to create a female being of his kind for his companion. At the end of Chapter 8 of Volume II (page 97 of our edition) the monster s...


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...econd reason for the lack of stylistic means to convey the narrators persuasiveness is probably more important and has to do with the frame structure of the novel. Frankenstein offers a reversal of an older novel structure, in which a written document is at the center of a novel surrounded by an oral narrative. In Frankenstein the Monster’s and Frankenstein’s originally oral reports are not only framed by Captain Walton’s written story, but also transformed into written language. This technique is used to exclude Captain Waltons’s sister and the reader from the horror of the narratives, building a barrier to the seductive power of the spoken narratives that does not work any more in the medium of written language. Thus the domestic tranquility of Walton’s sister and her family is saved and not destroyed like the one of Frankenstein’s family in the center of the novel.


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