I'm going to quote in Tank Girl now so she can move your thread to the right place if it's needed.
I am studying Frankenstein for my A-level enlgish language and literature. I am preparing for my mocks in January. Does anyone know any good revision pratice for this subject ?
FRANKENSTEIN IN CONTEXT:
Mary Shelley: Life and Times
1797-Born in London. Only child of Philosopher political radical and pioneering feminist. Mother died ten days after daughter’s birth. 1814- begins relationship with poet and elopes with him in the summer, a year layer gives birth to daughter who dies soon afterwards. 1816- gives birth to a son, Mary and Percy spend summer on Lake Geneva, idea of Frankenstein comes out of ghost story competition. 1818- Frankenstein published. 1822- Percy drowns in a boating accident. Mary returns to London. 1823- First theatre adaption of Frankenstein is performed. 1831- Revised version of Frankenstein published with new ‘Author’s introduction’.1851- Mary dies in London, aged 53
Frankenstein 1818 and 1831
Frankenstein first published anonymously 1818 with preface written by Percy Shelley. Then published in revised form with Mary Shelley’s author’s Introduction 1831. Changes made to text not just matters of style but included addition of an inner life for victor which portrays him slightly more sympathetically, general softening of characters and revision of family and blood ties so Elizabeth no longer Victor’s first cousin makes it much more angelic. Introduction attempted to influence reception of novel by encouraging reader to view Victor’s crime as crime against God (something not in the earlier version). Changes may indicate differences between the free- thinking 19-year-old of 1818 and mature and conservative woman who revised novel and wrote introduction in 1831
A Literary Family
The novel frequently reveals influence of her parents. Father was also author of book which condemned all human institutions as corrupt and championed reason as guide to realising an ideal state. Mother was author of rights of woman book which she condemned false and excessive sensibility and argued for rights of women to receive proper education. Percy Shelley major romantic poets and was known for his political radicalism. Abandoned his pregnant first wife (who then drowned herself) to run off with 16-year-old Mary Shelley. Critics argue that Percy was collaborator with Mary on Frankenstein or at least influential editor
Birth and Death
Childbirth closely associated with death in author’s life. Own mother died 10 days after her death. Her own daughter died soon after birth. Two other children William and Clara both died in 1819. Only had one surviving child. 1822, Mary pregnant again. Had another miscarriage, losing so much blood, nearly died
The rise of Gothic Fiction
Gothic literature emerged partly in reaction to the Enlightenment. 1790’s, Gothic became primarily associated with, on one hand the terror romances of Ann Radcliffe with beleaguered heroines, mysterious castles and threatening aristocratic villains and on the other with more violent and horrific reworkings of these romances in fictions like Matthew Lewis. In these Gothic works, evil is generally located primarily within an external force. With Frankenstein however, and the influence of Romanticism, Gothic turns inwards, focusing on evil within
Gothic as a mode of writing
Specific conventions of the Gothic have changed over the centuries, responding to different contexts and concerns. Haunted castles give way to haunted hotels and castles; monks replaced by mad scientists, serial killers, zombies and so on. What can be said has stayed the same is that Gothic mode of writing as Sue Chaplin says ‘responds in certain diverse yet recognises ways to the conflicts and anxieties of its historical moment and that is characterised especially by its capacity to represent individual and social traumas’. Gothic writers interested in breakdown of boundaries and limits and in the exploration of what is forbidden. Mainly concerned with transgression and excess
The influence of Romanticism on setting
David Lodge demonstrates difference between description of London in two texts, Oliver Twist and Tom Jones and notes that the difference is accounted for by the Romantic movement ‘which…opened people’s eyes to the sublime beauty of landscape and to the grim symbolism of cityscapes in the Industrial age’. Shelley’s Frankenstein was written and first published precisely when the changes Lodge notes were taking place and it was the ‘effect of the milieu on man’ with which Shelley was primarily concerned in her representations of setting
While some of the events take place in cities- Frankenstein family home is in Geneva. Victor goes university in Ingolstadt, learn little of the places and the emphasises rather upon wilder and less civilised setting: ice desolated landscapes. For example, frozen Arctic where Victor encounters Walton, mountain peaks and glaciers of Switzerland or wilds of Scottish Highlands and remotest of Orkneys where Victor begins to make a monster a mate. All spaces set apart from normal civilised world. Arctic, there is constant threat from ice and the obscurity produced by fog creates new king of Gothic space: inhuman, cold, isolated. In Orkneys and on Glacier, environmental conditions repeatedly anticipate appearance of monster: thunder storms and lightening always signify more. In one sense come to function in terms of pathetic fallacy, with weather reflecting Victor’s internal state and emergence of monster within
Landscapes: The Romantic and Gothic Sublime
Natural world inspiring as well as threatening. Shelley alternates between a Romantic sublime and Gothic sublime. For example, the way Alps are represented before and after Victor sees monster and Orkney islands, romantic sublime landscape is inspiring and observed as uplifted and healed. Gothic sublime leads to a sickening sense of decline and decay
KEY ISSUES WITHIN FRANKENSTEIN TO KEEP IN MIND---
- AMBITION AND THE OVERREACHER
- ALIENATION AND ISOLATION
- FAMILY AND DOMESTIC AFFECTIONS
- EGOTISM AND BEHEVOLENCE
- HELING OR THREATENING NATURE
- THE MONSTROUS AND THE HUMAN
- THE DOUBLE OR DOPPLEGANGER
- INJUSTICE AND SOCIETY
CHARACTERS AND THEMES:
son of Alphonse and Caroline, brother of Ernest and William, adoptive brother and later husband to Elizabeth and childhood friend of Henry Clerval. He creates a giant being but abandons him. Monster begins to avenge himself on Victor’s family, Victor is persuaded to make him a female companion which he ultimately rips to pieces. Clerval and Elizabeth murdered and Victor follows the monster into the Arctic where he meets Walton. Dies on board Walton’s ship
Like monster, Victor is an isolated individual, his alienation is self- imposed. While monster longs for companionship and affection he is denied. Victor avoids and rejects the family and friends who love him. Claims this is necessary in order to pursue his quest for the secret of life. However, suggestions that Victor is rebelling against all human ties, against human relationships to family or community against sexual love- all relationships that might interfere with pursuit of his own needs and desires
A modern Prometheus
Victor is a searcher after forbidden knowledge. One of those Promethean overreachers who refuse to accept limitations and then punished. He is a ‘modern’ Prometheus
Critics often consider that through Victor, Shelley criticises the egocentric and antisocial tendencies of Romanticism. She pushes the Romantic figure of the isolated creative imaginatives to its extremes and demonstrates the dangers associated with the solitude and introversion. Victor resembles romantic artist in way he repeatedly claims to suffer for his aspirations. Himself and monster with each other to claim the most suffering
Victor’s ambitions: ‘A new species would bless me as its creator and source’
On his work: ‘I pursued nature to her hiding places. Who shall conceive the horrors of my secret toil?’
Last words to Walton: ‘Seek happiness in tranquillity, and avoid ambition…why do I say this? I have myself been blasted in these hopes, yet another may succeed’
He is created and then abandoned by Frankenstein. Spurned and attacked by all, he begins to avenge himself on Frankenstein by murdering William and framing Justine. He meets Victor and demands a mate. For revenge kills Clerval and then Elizabeth. The monster leads Victor across Europe and into the Artic. When Victor dies, he appears to mourn him and then disappears
The Monster’s Education
In spite of his unnatural origin, monster can initially be seen as a new Adam or a noble savage. Claims to be benevolent, innocent and free from prejudice. As his education continues and he moves from learning about nature to culture, he learns about injustice in society. Learns about emotions and comes to desire love and companionship but is rejected because of his appearance
The Monster Speaks
The monster, when given his reading material, Paradise Lost, is eloquent, a master of rhetoric. He believes that if he acquires language, he will convince the De Lacey family to overlook his appearance and accept him. He masters language but this does not save him. Argued that instead of allowing him entrance into society, his mastery of language serves only to make him more fully aware of his unique origin and alien nature. Does education make him more miserable?
Monster convinces Victor that he should have companion because he’s miserable. Turns on Victor’s family and friends because they represent to Victor what he has denied to him: comfort of domestic affection. Monster seen as Victor’s double, the monster is murdering all those whom Victor has already attempted to cut off. He may represent Victor’s own aggressive instincts, his fears of the family and of women
The question posed by the monster’s education: ‘What was I?’
Monster after being rejected by DeLacey’s: ‘I, like the arch fiend, bore a hell within me’
Explorer and ship’s captain on an Arctic expedition in search of the Northwest Passage to Pacific Ocean. He rescues Victor who tells him the narrative of his life and the monster’s narrative. Walton writes down these narratives and sends manuscript to his sister Margaret in England
Walton may be seen as a double for Victor. He revels against his father’s dying instruction that he should not go to sea the same way Victor rebels against Alphonse’s dismissal of his readings in alchemy. Both men are obsessed with their quests
But differences between the two men, Walton is not as isolated. Walton relies on his crew to fulfil his ambitions, Victor on his own
Like Victor, Walton leaves behind his family and friends to gain glory, frequently complains of his loneliness to his sister. No one is crew who he’s very close with. On meeting victor, ‘loves him as a brother’, ‘brother of my heart’. Repeated work of this family term shows importance given that Walton has escaped the domestic world
Alphonse and Caroline Frankenstein
Parents of Victor, adopted parents of Elizabeth. Caroline looks after her father until his death. Alphonse then saves her from poverty and marries her. Caroline contracts scarlet fever then dies. Alphonse dies after hearing death of Elizabeth
Ideal of Femininity
Caroline serves primarily to establish ideal of femininity that will then be reproduced in other female characters. Before her marriage, has certain hardiness and independence. Her father’s pride makes him willing to remain idle and suffer, and lets his daughter suffer whilst he waits for employment suitable to his position. Her husband’s protective care means she loses some independence. The rest of her time is devoted to her family. She dies saving Elizabeth
Alphonse is a public figure of some importance, retires from world once becomes a husband and father. They are indulgent but firm parents. Victor later sees his childhood life as ‘remarkably secluded and domestic’
Elizabeth is orphan adopted by Frankenstein family. Caroline intends that Victor should marry her. Victor and Elizabeth marry after Clerval’s death. Monster murders Elizabeth on their wedding night
Elizabeth and the Ideal women
Elizabeth singled out for her beauty. Caroline moulds her into the ‘ideal’ woman, a role she avidly embraces. Like monster, Elizabeth is set apart and viewed as being of a ‘distinct species’. Religious imagery colours descriptions of the ‘heaven- sent’. Elizabeth’s name means gift of god. She is the opposite of the egotistical Victor. Her concerns are limited to the domestic circle and to caring for others
Servant to the Frankenstein family. Monster sets her up as William’s murderer; she is convicted and executed
Justine and the will of Heaven
Justine is the most passive out of all the women in the novel, often appearing to have little character of her own in the way she attempts to mimic and mirror Caroline. She is somewhat ironically names, her name means ‘righteous’ or ‘fair’. Her fate is anything but just. She is unfairly dealt with. However, she is the only character in the novel’s entirely to call upon God. The life of women in Frankenstein does frequently seem extremely limited: they are rescued, they suffer and they die: if they are good, they are completely resigned to their lot
Daughter of a Turkish merchant and a Christian Arab slave. Given refuge by the De Lacey’s when her father plans to take her to Turkey
De Lacey includes the blind father, his son, Felix and his daughter Agatha. The monster takes secret refuge in a hovel adjoining their cottage in Germany. He gains an education listening to them teaching Safie. The De Lacey’s repulse the monster when he reveals himself to them and in revenge burns down their cottage
Clerval is a childhood friend of Victor and Elizabeth. He is murdered by the monster when Victor destroys the monster’s female companion
Creation and Divine Aspirations
The world Shelley creates is entirely secular: Christian myth serves only to provide analogies and allusions. There is no vengeful God to punish Victor, only a vengeful monster. Perhaps the crime upon which Shelley focuses is not so much what Victor does, but what he fails to do. Victor’s ambition and achievement may well be heroic; chaos ensues became he is incapable of bearing responsibility for what he produces. On the one hand, Victor’s description of hid ‘secret toil’ does suggest he is engaged in something shameful or unlawful
Isolation is a key theme from very opening, with Walton’s complaints to his sister about his lack of companionship. The suffering of both Victor and the monster are primarily caused by their alienation from others. The monster’s isolation is imposed upon him by the creator who abandons him and the people who shun him. He longs for companionship and affection, and his unhappiness and subsequent violence result from his awareness that he will never experience love. Victor insists that his isolation is imposed because of the monster’s crimes: he must be an outcast. But he chooses to isolate himself from family and friends to carry out his scientific experiments
The double or doppelganger is a particularly common trope in the 19th century Gothic. Often used to demonstrate the tensions between the laws of society and the desires of the individual, and to give voice to that which has been silenced by rational discourse
Fear of Sexuality
In creating the monster and usurping the role of women, argue that victor is rejecting human sexuality. His terrible nightmare after the creation of the monster seems to support the idea that Victor is repelled by his sexuality. When he attempts to kiss Elizabeth, she turns into a corpse. Difficult to imagine that Victor misinterpreted the monster’s threat because of what happened on his wedding night. The monster assures Victor that he will be with him on his wedding night the time when Victor can no longer avoid confronting his owns sexuality. He leaves Elizabeth alone, but the part of himself he rejects, his sexuality does not disappear. Instead it turns destructive and he unleashes upon her this ugly violent thing: the embodiment of his twisted sexual impulses
Critique of Society
In the treatment of the monster and in the trial of Justine, human injustice is emphasised and the idea that society itself is monstrous is one of the key themes in the novel. Social institutions such as the law and the church are repeatedly shown as corrupt. Shelley frequently uses the monster as her own mouthpiece in her critique of oppression and inequality in society. From his own experiences and those of the De lacey family, the monster learns much about social injustice
STRUCTURE, FORM AND LANGUAGE
- The three-volume novel became a standard publishing format in nineteenth century England.
- Instead of the common Trilogy of novels, it was published in three sections or instalments.
- The form became particularly successful in mid-Victorian times.
- The price of each volume remained stable at half a guinea for most of the nineteenth century — roughly equivalent to around £20.
- The cost of a single novel then was one and a half guineas (approximately £60).
- The use of multiple narrators is typical of Gothic fiction.
- The testimony of various narrators could be a method to add plausibility to a tale which otherwise lacks truth to life.
- It also provides a range of perceptions to events, allowing us a more rounded view of what occurs.
- The connected narratives grow organically from one another: it is impossible to extricate them one from the other — the monster’s narrative is part of Frankenstein’s narrative and vice versa.
- Shelley’s novel clearly has strong claims to be the first great science fiction novel.
- Science-Fiction techniques include: dystopian possibilities, the heroic fantasy of the hero, its reliance on horror, the paranormal and scientific advance.
- Shelley creates verbal ties between Frankenstein and the monster.
- Through such verbal echoes, she emphasises the connections between creator and creature:
The monster: ‘I, like the archfiend, bore a hell within me’ (p. 138).
Frankenstein: ‘I was cursed by some devil and carried about with me my eternal hell’ (p. 207).
- Shelley makes use of the word ‘consummate’ with regard to Victor’s wedding night — it is to be the night that the monster consummates his crime, as well as the night that Frankenstein and Elizabeth consummate their marriage. – Double meaning.
Frankenstein: ‘I would sell my life dearly, and not shrink from the conflict until my own life, or that of my adversary, was extinguished’ (p. 198)
The Monster: ‘you, my creator, detest and spurn me, thy creature, to whom thou art bound by ties only dissoluble by the annihilation of one of us’ (p. 102).
- Shelley’s use of this technique establishes the intimate connection between Frankenstein and his monster.
- Even though they are in many ways isolated one from the other, Shelley uses verbal ties to emphasise the inevitable connections between the creator and his creature at an unconscious level.
- BIBLIAL IMAGERY: nature of Shelley’s tale of creation (Genesis) and apocalypse (Revelation) — the first and last books of the Bible.
- The words of the monster to his creator on the ‘sea of ice’ and elsewhere have the tone of the prophetic books of the Old Testament.
- Frankenstein ironically sees himself as humanity’s only potential saviour, but in seeking to destroy the monster and to prevent the continuation of his species by refusing to create a companion, he seals his own fate.
- LANGUAGE OF HEAVEN & HELL: As common in the Gothic Genre, Frankenstein often makes use of opposites and contrasts.
- Hellish Language is used such as ‘fiend’ and ‘diabolical’ when referring to the monster and heavenly language in the context of Victor’s mother and Elizabeth
- V-shaped Structure:Walton, Frankenstein, Monster, Frankenstein, Walton
- This suggests that Walton’s narrative is the surface of the novel’s events — it is the narrative ‘present’ with which the novel begins and ends.
- Below that surface lies Victor Frankenstein’s tale — a cautionary tale relating to Walton’s potential future.
- At the ‘deepest’ point of the tale lies the monster’s narrative, embodying the deepest and darkest psychological forces of the novel.
- The V may thus suggest a descent into darkness and re-emergence from it.
- The open V also suggests an open-ended conclusion to the tale.
- We are left uncertain as to the monster’s fate and we are also uncertain of Walton’s future.
- Frankenstein’s highly ambiguous closing observations on scientific exploration leave us doubting whether Walton will notice the warning.
- Chinese Boxes:Unlike the open-ended possibilities of the V shape, this view suggests a closed ending to the novel with Walton.
- The close parallels between the two men suggest close links between their narratives, especially as Victor’s narrative is scribed by Walton.
- Again, this signals the inescapable ties between the two characters.
- The monster can be seen as the forbidden ‘box’ at the heart of Shelley’s tale, which Frankenstein foolishly opens, allowing turmoil to spill out into the world.
- Concentric Rings: The monster’s narrative is completely enclosed within Frankenstein’s, which is enclosed within Walton’s frame story.
- Again, this emphasises the inescapable interactions between all three narratives and points to the monster as the core of Frankenstein.
- Whereas the ‘V’ implies a linear movement through the novel, and the boxes imply a movement inwards from Walton through Frankenstein to the monster, this model implies a movement outwards from the monster, making him the driving force of the novel.
- Walton’s first sighting of the monster comes before he has met Victor, and therefore the monster leads Victor in Walton’s imagination; it is the monster that drives Frankenstein’s insane pursuit and fuels his desire for revenge; and it is the ‘monster’ of scientific ambition in Frankenstein that leads to the sorry events we see.
- Shelley also employs the device of doubling and doubling of plot devices.
- This links to one of the great features of Gothic fiction — cyclical repetition.
- Through repetition and alteration, Shelley structures the text to ensure that the tale has an inevitable and unavoidable logic.