Literary Essay Sample: The Modern Prometheus

Published: 2019-08-29
Literary Essay Sample: The Modern Prometheus
Categories:  Literature
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1266 words
11 min read

People usually read Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus as a horror story. But scholars identify Frankenstein as a combination of romantic traditions and the elements of gothic literature. So, they study Mary Shelleys work as a bright example of a gothic novel.

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In her novel Frankenstein Mary Shelley creates a dark atmosphere combining various elements of the plot and underlying it by literary devices. The main gothic elements of the story are the settings, the mental condition of her characters, and supernatural.

The setting in this story underlines characters mood and creates an atmosphere of the novel. In the tensest episodes of the novel the settings are dark and gloomy. Victor Frankenstein describes his laboratory as a solitary chamber, or rather cell, at the top of the house, and separated from all the other apartments by a gallery and staircase, [] The dissecting room and the slaughter-house furnished many of my materials(Frankenstein., 55). This setting underlines the dreadful experiment of a young scientist. Prof. Akendengue in his analysis of the novel pays attention that Mary Shelley uses dark colors and rain to create an atmosphere of doom and gloom. (Akendengue, 12) For example, in the description of the creation of the monster, Victor Frankenstein is surrounded by the darkness and rain.: It was on a dreary night of November that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils. [] It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes, and my candle was nearly burnt out,... (Frankenstein, 58). There the author creates a sombre atmosphere of the creating of the evil.

The use of the weather to create an atmosphere of sadness, despair and fear is the central technique in the novel. In Mary Shelleys novel, like in the works of the other romanticists, such element of the plot is the most important in the description. In Frankenstein the weather usually underlines the characters mood. One of the best examples of this technique is an episode after Frankensteins refusal to create a wife for an unnamed monster. In this episode, the weather underlines Frankensteins feelings when he destroys the unfinished female monster: The sky became clouded, but the air was pure, although chilled by the northeast breeze that was then rising. But it refreshed me and filled me with such agreeable sensations that I resolved to prolong my stay on the water, (Frankenstein, 210) The given quotation shows that the weather completes the description of the characters mental state.

The other gothic element of the plot which is widely used in the novel is a psychological state of the main character. Robert D. Hume in his articles argues that in gothic novels the authors usually portray the reactions of their characters in frightening and earth-shattering situations. He adds that in such literary works, characters usually experience negative emotions. (Hume, 1969., 283) During Mary Shelleys story, the main character Victor Frankenstein suffers from such feelings as sadness, regret, and fear. He feels remorse because of his action. Frankenstein feels guilty on account of his evil creature killed his family and friends. Victor calls himself a murderer, blaming himself for the actions of his monster, explains Hume in his article. (Hume, 1969., 286). Hume also reminds that one of the much-used technique is an atrocious crime (Hume, 1969., 286). Such crime is presented in Frankenstein in an episode when the monster kills a child. Frankensteins creature kills his little brother William and made Justine blamed for this murder.

In her novel Mary Shelley pays attention not only to the psychological state of the main character but also to the monsters mood. Frankensteins creature also makes a gloomy atmosphere. Complaining to his creator, an unnamed monster tells about his despair and exhaustion: I was a poor, helpless, miserable wretch; I knew, and could distinguish nothing; but feeling pain invade me on all sides, I sat down and wept.(Frankenstein, 199). His story is full of sadness and loneliness. Randy Malamud writes that in an episode of the monsters story, his feeling, and his complaining are elements which create a dark atmosphere of the novel. (Malamud, 1988., 41-45).

Another frequently used element in gothic novels is a supernatural creature. In Frankenstein Mary Shelley used the creation of a monster as a supernatural element of the plot. Trying to make a creature resemble a human being Victor Frankenstein generated a monster (Akendengue, 3). An unnamed creature is very tall, ugly and unnaturally strong. The author describes the monster as: His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, [...], his shriveled complexion and straight black lips.(Frankenstein, 58). This ugly, grotesque and fearful creature seems supernatural. Everything in an unnamed monster seems dangerous and unrealistic. He is too tall and too strong for usual human being, but he is clever, naive and he is also fond of art. This combination makes Frankensteins creature a grotesque figure (Novak, 1980., 50-66).

Frankensteins monster isnt evil in itself. The scientists argue that the society afraid of his ugliness made him an evil. (Ziolkowski, 1981., 37) Even the creator understands it after he had listened to the monsters story: I thought of the promise of virtues which he had displayed on the opening of his existence and the subsequent blight of all kindly feeling by the loathing and scorn which his protectors had manifested towards him.(Frankenstein, p178). Ziolkowski also argues, that Frankensteins creature become evil because the scientist refuses to take responsibility for him (Ziolkowski, 1981., 38). So, Frankensteins creature became the evil because of the people surrounded him.

And the last and the less known element of gothic known was named by Robert Hume. He tells that conclusions are usually absent in gothic novels. Hume adds that psychological reaction to evil is meaningful in such literature in contrast to the result of the described events. (Hume, 1969., 288). The brightest example of this statement is the final episode of Frankenstein when Victor dies, his creature committed suicide, and the situation is still unsettled. So, Mary Shelleys horror story Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus was written according to the tradition of gothic novels, with a dark atmosphere, dreadful events, fear of the main character and the monster. Combining these elements with some romantic traditions, Mary Shelleys created a masterpiece, which became one of the most famous gothic novels.

Works Cited

Akendengue, Daniel R. "Elements of gothic in Frankenstein (1818) and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886)." Diss. Omar Bongo University, Print.

Hume, Robert D. "Gothic Versus Romantic: A Revalution of the Gothic Novel." PMLA 84.2 (1969): 282-90. Web. <>.

Kiely, Robert. "Chapter 8 Frankenstein Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley." The Romantic Novel in England. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1972. 155-73. Print.

Malamud, Randy. "Frankenstein's Monster: The Gothic Voice in The Waste Land." English Language Notes 26.1 (1988): 41-45. Web. <>.

Moers, Ellen. "Female Gothic." The Endurance of Frankenstein: Essays on Mary Shelley's Novel. Ed. George Levine and U. C. Knoeflmacher. Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: Univ. of California Press, 1979. 77-87. Print.

Novak, Maximillian E. "Gothic Fiction and the Grotesque." -A forum on Fiction 13.1 (1980): 50-66. Web. <>.

Wollstonecraft Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. N.p., n.d. PDF.

Ziolkowski, Theodore. "Science, Frankenstein, and Myth." Sewanee Review 89.1 (1981): 34-56. Web. <>.

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