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Frankenstein as a Gothic Novel

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Tragic wanderers, ominous atmosphere, symbolism, and themes: these are elements of a Gothic novel. Though Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, written in the early 19th century, certainly contains many components of a Gothic novel, can it be correctly grouped under that genre?

A definition of a Gothic novel; according to Tracy, is a description of a fallen world. We experience this fallen world though the aspects of a novel: plot, setting, characterization, and theme (De Vore, Domenic, Kwan and Reidy). As well, early Gothic novels have characterized themselves through the use of moral commitment and exotic atmosphere in their themes (Lowry 32). Stock characters that were typically present in Gothic literature were the social outcast, the misfit, the guilt haunted wanderer, and the solitary eccentric. However, earlier Gothic literature was considered primitive and mechanical – trite and clichéd by our standards. An example of early Gothic literature was Horace Walpole’s Castle of Otranto, being a dramatic affair with haunting prophecies, knights, castles, dynasties, and typical Gothic settings. Its plot, which consists of a heir being told by a prophecy that tells the demise of his family and heir, and dying from being randomly crushed by an enormous iron helmet, later on with the use of sexual perversion, violence, and typical Gothic stock characters such as ghosts to advance the plot.

However, later Gothic novels; especially Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein broke this typical convention, with heavy stress of the use of typical Gothic atmosphere and symbolism, focusing on conflict between the good-evil nature of mankind and creating characters that are not typical black and white heroes and villains, rather; fallen and tragic people...

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...cters’ actions contribute to a gothic novel setting as well.

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein A Kaplan SAT Score-Raising Classic. Grand Rapids: Kaplan, 2006.

• This is my primary reading work for my independent study. This novel is a classic of Gothic literature about a scientist who learns to create life in the image of man, but is horrified at the monstrosity he creates and suffers the consequences of playing God.

Vore, David De, Anne Domenic, Alexandra Kwan, and Nicole Reidy. "The Gothic Novel." CAI-Homepage. 29 Nov. 2009 .

• This is a university website that provides details on the genre of Gothic Literature. It gives an explanation of the history, details, and significant authors of Gothic Literature. I feel that this site will help reinforce my understanding of Gothic Literature further.