The very first characteristic of a Gothic novel is its sinister setting. The opening sentence in Frankenstein sets the mood for the rest of the book. Shelley begins her novel with, "You will rejoice to hear that no disaster has accompanied the commencement of an enterprise which you have regarded with such evil forebodings" (p. 13). At this point in the novel, Walton is on a ship in the middle of the North Pacific Ocean, on his way to the North Pole. He is being blocked from all sides by ice, and can see nothing but ice for miles. The landscape is barren, and all of his crew is in fear of running out of food and fresh water. This setting is very sinister in lieu of the imminent death that is facing the crew members.
When the scene switches to the life of Victor Frankenstein, the reader finds out that everything is wonderful throughout his childhood. Later, when he goes away to college in pursuit of knowledge about alchemy and other sciences, everything gets darker and darker. When construction of the creature begins, Victor describes his workshop as "a solitary chamber, or rather cell, at the top of the house, and separated from all the other apartments by a gallery and staircase. This is where [he] kept [his] workshop of filthy creation" (p. 53). He goes on to describe the "dissecting room" and "slaughter-house" that provided his material (p.53). This, too, adds to the sinister setting and evil undertones of the novel.
The setting also serves the purpose of reflecting the feelings of the characters in the novel. Whenever Frankenstein is upset or someone is going to jail, it is raining. A Gothic novel would not be complete without a lot of rain. ...
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...to Frankenstein ends up dying and even Walton is in danger of being killed if he stays out to sea too long.
Death, darkness, rain, and horror are all needed to make a good Gothic novel. Not only did Mary Shelly include all these things, she added a few to make the story even more interesting. Her novel meets all the characteristics for a work of Gothic fiction. As Malamund mentions, "Shelley's monster [is] at home amid the Gothic, and [is] able to march forward--undaunted by the landscape of terror" (p.45).
Crowell, Thomas Y., et al. The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe. Boston: Desmond Publishing Co., 1902.
Shelly, Mary. Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus. 1818. England: Penguin Putnam Inc., 1992.
Malamud, A. "Frankenstein's Monster: The Gothic Voice in the Waste Land." English Language Notes 46 (1988): 41-45.
Parkin-Gounelas, Ruth. "Learning What We Have Forgotten." English Language Notes 39 (1987): 215-219.
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