Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein explores the main protagonist scientist Victor Frankenstein who creates a monster from the limbs of the dead but abandons his hideous creation which causes The Creature to seek revenge. Frankenstein reflects key conventions of Gothic fiction by appealing intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually to the readers. These key conventions of Gothic fiction are conveyed through a fascination with death, excessive emotions, and transgression.
Mary Shelley utilizes the Gothic convention of fascination with death to drive the plot of Frankenstein. This can be seen through Victor’s obsession with the reanimation of body parts to create his monster. Victor acknowledges that ‘To examine the causes of life, we must first have recourse to death.’ (Shelley, 2016, pg. 40). Victor’s examining life suggests that he wants to prevent death, therefore, causing him to become fascinated by death to create life. Moreover, when Victor is creating The Creature he has plenty of emotions before he invents The Creature; ‘With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony, collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet.’ (Shelley, 2016, pg. 45). Hence the fact that Victor will do anything to create life, such as digging up dead parts of the body to do so. Fascination with death appeals emotionally to readers as Victor is driven by his emotions and ego to create an abomination for scientific purposes, therefore, fascination with death reflects key conventions of Gothic fiction by appealing emotionally to readers.
An archetype of Gothic fiction is excessive emotions which invoke a heightened sense of drama and suspense. Excessive emotions are what Victor feels as he abandons The Creature causing it to go on a killing spree for revenge. For example, ‘Satan had his companions, fellow devils, to admire and encourage him; but I am solitary and abhorred.’ (Shelley, 2016, pg. 113). This suggests that The Creature is lonely, and he just wants a companion ever since Victor deserted him. Another example is when Victor reflects on what The Creature has caused because he isolated him; ‘When I reflected on his crimes and malice, my hatred and revenge burst all bounds of moderation.’ (Shelley, 2016, pg. 79). Consequently, Victor swore revenge on The Creature for all the hardships he had put him through when he killed his loved ones to make Victor understand how lonely his life is without company. These overwrought excessive emotions leave Shelley’s readers interested in key conventions of Gothic fiction as excessive emotions help influence readers emotionally. This is because of all the trauma, both Victor and The Creature have put each other and themselves through.
The author has used transgression in the novel Frankenstein to show how Victor progresses morally and socially throughout the novel. At first, Victor is an egotistical and narcissistic character who only cared about himself and what he could do. But during the novel Frankenstein, Victor learns not to take things and people for granted and transgresses as a person. This can be seen at the start when he wants to learn the secrets of immortality; ‘It was the secrets of heaven and earth that I desired to learn…’ (Shelley, 2016, pg. 27). Implied here is that Victor rebels against God to create this unearthly creature by usurping the power to create life. As time goes on Victor realizes what he created was not normal, and he swore to kill the hideous creature. Nevertheless, Victor goes through a social transgression when he understands what The Creature had done to his family and loved ones; ‘You are all mistaken; I know the murderer Justine, poor, good Justine, is innocent.’ (Shelley, 2016, pg. 66). It was shown that despite only caring about himself, he learned to love others as well because he never knew what could happen to them. Furthermore, moral and social transgression conveys key conventions of Gothic fiction which appealed emotionally to readers. Victor changed for the better as a person because of all the sorrows he went through because of his own self-righteousness.
Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein reflects key conventions of Gothic fiction by appealing intellectually, emotionally, and/or spiritually to the readers through a fascination with death, excessive emotions, and transgression. Additionally, fascination with death, loneliness, revenge, moral and social transgression appealed emotionally to the readers as they read what life must have been like for a hideous creature to be abandoned and how this affects the mad scientist’s life afterward.