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The Clever Use of Diction in Mary Shelly's Frankenstein

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Frankenstein is the story of an eccentric scientist whose masterful creation, a monster composed of sown together appendages of dead bodies, escapes and is now loose in the country. In Frankenstein, Mary Shelly’s diction enhances fear-provoking imagery in order to induce apprehension and suspense on the reader. Throughout this horrifying account, the reader is almost ‘told’ how to feel – generally a feeling of uneasiness or fright. The author’s diction makes the images throughout the story more vivid and dramatic, so dramatic that it can almost make you shudder.
A clear example of the use of diction to provoke fear is seen in Chapter IV. Mary Shelley uses words such as “wretch”, “yellow skin”, “horrid”, “white sockets” and “shriveled” to describe the monster, thus making our stomachs churn. Later on, she uses words such as “livid”, “grave-worms”, “crawling”, “dim” and “convulsed” to describe a terrifying nightmare Victor Frankenstein, the main character, had had the night his monster came to life.
Mary Shelley carefully picked which words to use when describing a certain object, place, or situation. She obviously knew what words would arouse our trepidation and make us quiver at the thought of such a horrifying description. Whether it’s because of the way the word fits in the sentence or because of the sound of it, words like “disturbed” and “chattered” simply make us feel uneasy.
When the author was describing the petrifying appearance of the creature, she made sure to use words that would make us sick to our stomachs in order to get a really good idea across about how simply disgusting this now-animate creature was. She does this by explaining to us how the creature’s “yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath”. The thought of seeing something so sickening even makes us make a wry face and try to get the image out of our heads – and that’s exactly the reaction the author is hoping to see from us. This also helps us know how Mr. Frankenstein must’ve felt in that situation!
The story Frankenstein, is one of terror, suspense, and eccentricity, therefore, diction is a very important aspect of the account. The author, Mary Shelley, is a master at carefully selecting the right words to provoke the desired reaction upon us. If it weren’t for her meticulous search for the perfect words to use, we might’ve not felt disgusted at the monster’s appearance, or felt just as terrified at Victor Frankenstein’s terrible nightmare of death.

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