Analyse chapter 4 of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein Essay

Mary Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein, contains features of gothic literature throughout the book. However this is most prevalent in chapter 4. From this chapter there are plenty of distinctive features which are conveyed through the creation of the monster and also through the setting. The language techniques that Shelley uses in the novel represent the genre of the gothic and also portray the fears and concerns about the era in which it was written. The aspects that can be taken into consideration when analysing the novel is the influence of Shelley’s personal life on the novel, the attitudes of people and family in the era and the character of Frankenstein.

Chapter 4 starts immediately with a main feature of the gothic. Pathetic fallacy is a technique that Shelley uses well throughout this chapter as it creates an atmosphere and the reader can emphasise the setting. ‘It was a dreary night of November.’ Where Shelley describes it as a dreary night the reader gains an understanding of the setting of the scene and it is always in the back of the mind. The description of the weather undermines Frankenstein’s excitement as he is about to create the monster, this is effective as we can already conjugate an understanding of Frankenstein’s attitude towards the monster which becomes more evident further on in the passage. ‘How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate the wretch.’ Frankenstein describes his creation as a wretch, this description by Shelley is important as it conveys her own trauma of child birth. The description is very negative and horrific; the horrific nature of the description again highlights the gothic feature.

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There are many descriptions of the monster which demonstrate gothic features; most of these descriptions create a sense of fear and unease among the reader. ‘Low skin scarcely covered the black work of muscles and arteries beneath.’ Using intimate body parts and describing them in depth are important because it will put the reader either at unease or wanting them to read on. This is effective because the reader becomes indulged with the monster and creates a very clear image of him. ‘Straight black lips.’ ‘Grave worms crawling in the folds of the flannel.’ ‘Demonical corpse.’ The concept of death is also used by Shelley when she describes the monster and the concept of death is portrayed through the colour black. Using the colour black is significant as the reader can relate to it and use real life examples to compare with the descriptions. Black usually signifies death as it is the colour mainly worn to a funeral, it also represents the end of something and finally it can be a sign that there is no way out; this links me onto my next point.

‘Rain poured from a black and comfortless sky.’ This quotation illustrates how Frankenstein is unable to escape now, the black sky above him acts as a barrier to him getting away from his creation now that he has created it. Also the comfortless sky reflects the personality and feelings of Frankenstein because he does not have any family around him whilst he is at Ingolstadt and has neglected them through his pursuit of creating the monster. The isolation is also a feature of the gothic as it makes it more interesting when someone is alone by building up suspense. Shelley uses it to good effect and highlights it in chapter 4 when Frankenstein meets Clerval after days of work on the monster.

Moreover, in chapter 4 we get a physical representation of Frankenstein’s fear, ‘sometimes my pulse beat so quickly and hardly, that I felt the palpitation of every artery.’ The fear evolved in Frankenstein passes to the reader and again Shelley uses a more intimate description to create this effect, this is by using the image of a heart beating and creating the rhythm to which it beats. The fast and immediate beating of the heart influences how the reader reads the book. The reader begins to read it at a faster pace making them aware of the sense of fear which in effect captures the readers imagination.

Gothic features can be found throughout Frankenstein and each one is unique to how it affects the reader. They contrast from pathetic fallacy to the fear of a character. When Shelley describes the monster is when we can gather the aspects of gothic, the physical and mental states of the monster convey the genre well and also captivate the reader.

In contrast to the gothic features that I have described, Shelley also uses science to demonstrate how dangerous it can be. This is through the creation of the monster. Luigi Galvani was the scientist who influenced Shelley’s writing the most. Much like the coming of the monster, Galvani used electrical impulses to stimulate the nerves of frogs in 1874, this impressed Shelley greatly, so much so she correlated it in her writing. We can see the negative effects science can create through the reaction of Frankenstein when he creates his monster. ‘Demoniacal corpse which I had so miserably given life.’ Birth is meant to be a beautiful welcoming to a new-born; however this description couldn’t be more different. Frankenstein looks upon his creature in disgust which sends a message to the readers not to play with nature.

In conclusion, Mary Shelley uses the gothic genre to great effect. However the genres of science and romance may not just be a feature of the book they can also represent the life of Mary Shelley. In context Mary Shelley was a lover of science and ultimately this is what her book is based on however her aim may have been to dissuade people playing or interfering with humanity. The effects are conveyed in the novel. Most of the novel fits in with the gothic genre as Shelley uses: pathetic fallacy, isolation, setting and many more in chapter 4 alone. Overall the novel wavers on the edge of the gothic genre and a deeper personal representation.