Mary Shelley’s 1931 edition of her gothic novel Frankenstein is often regarded as a transgressive text within Gothic fiction, however many traditionally Gothic elements and themes are retained throughout the text. This includes the incorporation of violence, radical challenges to social order or transgression and the overarching theme of morality, accompanied by a concluding ‘moral teaching’ or lesson. This moral teaching can be interpreted as reflecting Shelley’s own experiences and life in a post French Revolution society, the scientific endeavours taking place around the time of Frankenstein’s construction, such as the practice of Galvanism or even applied to modern instances of moral transgression such as designer babies. With themes of violence and transgression serving as a foundation, the moral nature of Frankenstein as a tale is emphasised further.
Violence appears frequently throughout Frankenstein and is predominately perpetuated by the Creature by way of murder. The creature’s acts of violence are often performed as enactments of revenge upon Frankenstein, for instance the murder of William, Henry Clervall and Elizabeth, however there are instances, such as when the creature burns the house of the DeLacey family, that the creature is simply taking revenge upon mankind. In defence of the violent acts he committed, the creature often blames Frankenstein or emphasises that, “no father had watched my infant days, no mother had blessed me with smiles and caresses,” implying his belief that his moral ignorance was the result of neglec...
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...y good intentions, is unable to execute them effectively and thus, once overtaking the ‘creator’ or upper-class in power enacts violence and revenge. Shelley seems to present this path as being undesirable as, in the concluding chapters of the novel the Creature appears to be experiencing great remorse for the murders he has committed, and upon Frankenstein’s death feels so riddled with guilt that he takes his own life.
The combination of the traditionally Gothic themes of violence and challenging social order enhance the extent to which Frankenstein can be perceived as an extremely moral tale. By use of structure and characterisation, Shelley presents an overarching moral lesson which could be summarised as, “do not attempt to exceed the limits of mankind.” This is complemented by accompanying moral teachings, many of which retain their relevance to modern readers.
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