The Function of Monstrosity in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

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The Function of Monstrosity in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

'Frankenstein' is a piece of Gothic literature and was written in the

Romantic era. It was published in the 19th Century and was written by

Mary Shelley. 'Frankenstein' was considered to be one of the most evil

horror stories of its time; it shocked and surprised its readership

due the controversial issues that it addressed. It was inconceivable

that an author could engage with the idea of creating a being from

body parts and bringing it to life. This raised many issues such as,

should we have the right to play God?

In the novel Mary Shelley writes about tragedy, death and romance. It

was thought that perhaps many of the events in her life may have

influenced the events in the story as she suffered a number of

tragedies in her life, two of which where the premature deaths of her

mother and son. In relation to the novel I think that this is very


This is significant because the character of Elizabeth relates to Mary

Shelley in numerous ways: the first being that Elizabeth's mother dies

as did Mary's when both girls were still young. Secondly, Elizabeth

then assumes the maternal role with regard to William her brother, who

later dies; Mary also had a son named William who died.

Monstrosity is apparent throughout the novel in different forms.

Primarily the visual and physical appearance of the creation is

repellant, but also the reaction of the creator and the characters

encountered by the monster reflect an element of monstrosity.

At the beginning Frankenstein is extremely enthralled with the idea of

creating a being. His expectations and standards are hi...

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... walks on,

And turns no more his head;

Because he knows, a frightful fiend

Doth close behind him tread."

In the poem the 'frightful fiend' is the albatross, whereas in the

novel it is the monster. The sailors are terrified of encountering the

albatross and this line illustrates this, 'Doth close behind him

tread.' Frankenstein is also frightened as he knows that the monster

is searching for him and that he is going to have to encounter him at

some stage.

Mary Shelley has utilized different aspects of monstrosity in the

novel to substantiate the observation that monstrosity does not only

relate to the appearance of an individual, but also to his actions.

She has used monstrosity to highlight all the varied events within the

novel, such as, Justine's trial and Frankenstein's creation of the