Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein has been deemed a classic gothic novel. Her monster has frightened many generations throughout the ages, and lingers as a warning of science gone too far. But why did her monster survive the ages? I believe that Mary Shelley's monster managed to hold our attention and chill us to the bone, because she weaved a tale that incorporated the genres of gothic, and romantic literature into a narrative of complete terror, and psychological torment that managed to surpass any other gothic literature of her time.
Gothic Literature was a genre of writing created in the 1780's in order to give form to the impulses and fears of all mankind. It relied heavily upon the ideas of good and evil, and every emotion was symbolically externalized, either by nature, physical appearance, or crime, in order to establish a physical structure for the term evil. By the 19th century Romanticism began to appear, and slowly but dramatically changed Gothic literature forever.
Romanticism was a genre created as an upheaval against the political and social restrictions of its time. Because romanticism emphasized emotions, imagination, and the arts, it was seen as the complete opposite of the style of writing at the time, labelled neoclassicism, which depended solely on the ideas of logic, reason, and conformity.
Neoclassicism was a genre of writing based totally on the ideas of rationality, Classic literature, and the ideas of old. Romanticism on the other hand, was based on individual expression, and the nature of mankind. Romanticism emphasized the internal not the external, and focused it`s attention on the spontaneity of the human mind. Flat characters of past writing were now able to take form more so then in the past and readers could identify with more then one character at a time. Imagery, though very important, took second place to personality, with the exception of the use of nature. The romantic author regarded nature as the primary setting, and drew attention to it as a background for the character's psyche, and sensation. This Period highly influenced and transformed all gothic literature to come by shifting evil from the external, into the internal.
Mary Shelly creates her two main characters as mirror images of good and evil. The monster is viewed as externally evil, because he is grotesque and frightening to set eyes upon, while Victor is viewed as internally evil. Though Victor looks like everyone else, he is loathsome and miserable inside. The brilliance of Mary Shelly is illustrated by the fact that her characters are an amalgamation of both the romantic and gothic style of writing.
Victor's character is an individual that is nurtured by a very romantic family life. He has loving parents, the appreciation for art and creation, and is very close to nature. He has all the makings for a great man. But as the story progresses, his disposition begins to deteriorate and he becomes a fearful, immoral, decrepit...