Frankenstein is the best-known work by Mary Shelley that has exited the readers since the time of its creation. Indeed, this is an outstanding literary work as it lets the readers reflect on the essence of good and evil, love and hatred, and the challenges and threats scientific progress poses to our society. This paper hypothesizes that the novel transcends different genres – those of science fiction, gothic literature and tragedy – to create the unique atmosphere of the writing as well as let the readers ponder on the most relevant problems of the society.
The novel “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley
The novel “Frankenstein” is believed to be the pioneer of science fiction genre. In the novel, the readers see the pursuit of progress through experiments that had little resemblance to the epoque described, but may become relevant as the development of science progresses. This feature is characteristic of science fiction when the author envisages how scientific progress will develop. Indeed, nowadays, reviving a human, complex as it is, no longer seems atrocious and the idea of embalming outstanding people’s bodies so that they can be revived some day later gives roots in some people’s minds. Portraying the pursuit of knowledge and technological progress, Shelley with her work paved the way for many science fiction writers interested in science and its further development.
Shelly, in her novel “Frankenstein”, maintains a general atmosphere of mystery and fear, a feature characteristic of gothic style. Painting the gloom of monster’s life and the constant apprehension in which Victor lives, through a wide use of imagery Shelley deeply involves the readers in her novel. The author uses a wide range of lexis referring to darkness and misery – a feature peculiar for Gothic literature (Mayer, 230-231). Moreover, there is a contrast between the Elizabeth’s beauty and sweetness and the monster’s ugliness and maliciousness that is often the case in Gothic novels where main heroines are usually defenseless young girls who oppose the evil.
The novel “Frankenstein” is also a tragedy, a tragedy of a monster forsaken by his creator running in terror from the scene of the monster’s birth. As its creator did not think about the prospects and goals of his creature, the creature had to learn about life from strangers who were not merciful or kind, but cruel and unrelenting. The novel is also a tragedy of Victor himself, who, in pursuit of knowledge, abandons the basic human values such as compassion and understanding and sees his creature as an ultimate evil without heart or feelings. Indeed, Shelley writes: “If the study to which you apply yourself has a tendency to weaken your affections and to destroy your taste for those simple pleasures in which no alloy can possibly mix, then that study is certainly unlawful, that is to say, not befitting the human mind” (Shelley, 10). Thus, the author shows that the pursuit of knowledge is not an end in itself and that that knowledge untainted by love and compassion becomes futile and even dangerous.
Combining the styles of Gothic literature, science fiction, and drama, Mary Shelley managed to create a novel that has lived through centuries and has fascinated the readers all around the world. The parallels drawn in this work and the atmosphere created have rendered the novel an outstanding literary work. Raising the themes of immortality, the limits of science and preciousness as well as fragility of life, Shelley leaves room for the readers to ponder over the perpetual questions of mankind.
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein: The 1818 Text. Penguin, 2018.
Mayer, Jed. “The Weird Ecologies of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.” Science Fiction Studies vol. 45, no. 2, 2018, pp. 229-243.