“Look at the significance of chapter five to the novel as a whole. Focus on the relevance and effect of writer’s use of language to describe setting, character and what it shows about social and historical influences.”
This essay will probe into techniques which Mary Shelley (1797-1851) has incorporated in her novel Frankenstein, especially in Chapter 5, to achieve different atmospheres and to provide a clear sense of character which can help the reader to shape their personal thoughts of what is happening by ambiguous use of language.
Frankenstein, also known as ‘The Modern Prometheus’, was written during the early 18th century (1816-1817), when Shelley was at the young age of 18.
Mary Shelley was nurtured in a political-free thinking; radical family and her mother was a feminist. She died 10 days after giving birth to her. Shelley’s own daughter also died within two weeks of her birth. Her half-sister, Fanny, died committing suicide. She was surrounded by death; this biographical information insights readers as to where Shelley’s eccentric original ideas and fascinations of creating life, which condemned societal thoughts and morality at that period, had arisen from.
Frankenstein is written in two contrasting genres; Gothic and Romance. Shelley fuses these two genres together in Frankenstein to create a dramatic effect which will linger, indulging bittersweet emotion into readers, until the final pages where the tragedy, and fatality of this mix, is uncovered.
Chapter 5 builds on themes surrounding the Gothic-Romance genre. The themes which Chapter 5 explore and shapes for the novel as a whole are: Loneliness and solitude, and how they differ; the difference between general and obsessive science; prejudice, especially via superficiality; fate of different characters and how they are unconsciously doomed for merely knowing Victor; morality: the effects of arrogance and self-righteousness; and the effects of psychological mentality on one’s actions.
All of these themes are dominant and will be linked and explored to demonstrate ways in which they render atmosphere and thought by the reader by foreshadowing later twists of the novel.
Victor’s creation feels loneliness. He yearns for someone that would resemble him, someone that would at-least accept him and look past his appearance. Whilst, on the other hand, Victor takes pleasure in his solitude, taking others’ concerns for granted. If a grotesque countenance occurs, he knows someone would be there to help.
Family concerns for Victor’s welfare is emphasised by the constant letters to and from Elizabeth for him; one of which clearly demonstrates this is at the beginning of Chapter 6. It was socially inadequate of one, especially Victor, who is close to Elizabeth of whom he ‘greatly loves’, not to keep in contact. This emphasises how obsessive he had been to complete his experiment; even if it did take an extensive period of time, and would cause more concern. He had a priority, which if a scientist has, must first be completed. “I had worked hard for nearly two years.”
‘Two years’ is an extremely long period especially since the class-system was dominant during the 19th century thus extended families, including aunts and uncles, were very common – hence this reinforces the amount of concern which Victor, because of his obsessive attitude to his goal, had been oblivious of . His obliviousness is further emphasised when Henry Clerval, Victor’s friend, who arrives at Ingolstadt to study Science, tells Victor that his family would like to receive a letter back in his own hand-writing, rather than being written by Henry from his dictations. Victor, in-spite of making them get to such distaste, answers: “dear, dear friends whom I love, and who are so deserving of my love.” This emphasises how he did not mean – and did not think about – their feelings in such an initially obsessive, and now fugitive, state.
His fugitive state is emphasised as he tries to, in which ever way or method, to hide from the ‘wretch’ of whom he created. “I took refuge in the courtyard.” The way Victor describes his close endeavour from his house as a ‘refuge’ is dramatic as it shows his displacement from the things in which he owns by a creation which had been just endowed with life. His creature is overtaking him; both mentally and physically. This is the beginning of his ever-lasting life under patrol by the creature. He could tell Henry his feelings but chooses to, quite arrogantly, combat the ‘fiend’ on his own, keeping his act in secrecy.
If Victor had chosen to share his knowledge with other willing men of Science, beyond his state of delirium, with, say, Henry; he may have had the opportunity, or cooperative help, to put the creature’s activities to a halt – or to merely ‘prevent’ the deaths of those whom he ‘loves’.
Reference to the ‘courtyard’ is also dramatic in reinforcing his fragmented thoughts because a courtyard is an open-space which is surrounded by only four walls on each side; which is just enough space for Victor to ponder through and device his thoughts to banish the monster from the face of the Earth, but, however, there is not enough space to see the full-picture of the what the monster is really trying to achieve. Victor is thus prone to over-analysis, mainly due to his scientific mind. This is evident in deciding the fate of Elizabeth – Victor misinterprets the creature’s warning of “I will be there on your wedding night.” He thinks – in-spite of seeing the countless number of his relations getting murdered – that the creature is referring to him; he is planning to kill him, and not Elizabeth. In a sense Victor is still naive, and self-righteous enough to still think that the creature wants to physically demolish him – which is emphasised by his mad endeavour to hunt the creature down to the North Pole. He perceives this as avenging himself and all that had been killed; but, in the eyes of the creature, this is deliberate manipulation. The monster is subtlety enjoying his efforts – the creature is winning its vow of vengeance against Victor for his refusal and abandoning of the creature which could have been his Eve.
This creature’s manipulation of Victor can, however, can be interpreted as being unintentionally evil. Readers can sympathise with him because Victor was his only connection to humanity; in-terms of attention and fluent communication; hence why he, after Victor dies, instantly contemplates suicide in the same cold condition. Victor’s death would be-fate him to a life, if he chooses to live, of eternal loneliness. [Chapter 24] “…for the bitter story of remorse may not cease to rankle in my wounds until death shall close them for ever.” The creature felt the same way Victor did; he did kill and destroy innocence, but is however not this psychopathic monster which humanity had initially perceived him to be. The novel ends with the creature’s final recital of his tendencies in an emotional manner: “My spirit will sleep in peace; or if it thinks, will surely not think thus. Farwell.” During his life-time he had taken a cynical outlook of humanity and thus sees death as his only escape to, in his thoughts, a place guaranteed to be better accepting.
A similar word which describes Victor’s psychological isolation is his seeking of ‘asylum’ at “the Church of Ingolstadt”. ‘Asylum’ follows a cruder pattern of ‘refuge’; being an ‘asylum’ is similar to being a ‘refuge’ but is more alienated – a criminal would take ‘asylum’ in a church in-order to avoid persecution at that time. It is keeping him sane as he feels ‘protected’ inside God’s house. This is significant because he, prior to this, had labelled the creature as a ‘daemon’ and a ‘fiend’: both of which are evil spirits related to the devil thus Victor, by seeking ‘asylum’ or – more accurately – help, believes that he is safe from the creature because in Christianity such evil is void of entry.
However all the creature wants is companionship. He had been tolerant and justifiable in his reasoning to Victor before driving himself further to demolishing all of Victor’s happiness in Volume II; Chapter IX:
Did I request thee, Maker, from my day
To mould me man? Did I solicit thee
From darkness to promote me?
The monster, through his intelligence, gradually learns to read and communicate in a profoundly persuasive manner. He quotes lines from John Milton’s Paradise Lost, paralleling his situation to that of Adam’s in Christianity. The creature is trying to show Victor that Adam may have been banished from Paradise but in-spite of such loss can still render happiness merely because he has the one simple element to say alive for – love – which in comparison, the monster is deprived of.
In Chapter 5, Victor describes the monster in a way which will inevitably repulse, or frighten, any human-being: “A mummy endued with animation could not be as hideous as that wretch”. The way Victor compares his creation to ‘a mummy endued with animation’ is striking and conjures up a beyond-frightful image of what the monster must look like.
This frightful, hideous image of the monster is further elaborated on in, “Oh! no mortal could support the horror of that countenance”; “it became a thing that even Dante could not have conceived.” The way Victor describes him saying ‘no mortal’ reinforces that no living thing, in this case human, could even bear to look at him – the inference to Dante emphasises how the creature has surpassed the human connotations of the word ‘hideous’. This is because Dante, especially his death mask, is one of the most controversially hideous architectural figures of History to people, both contemporarily and at that time. Dante had also written Italian Poetry (subsequently translated to other languages) indulgent of emotions, such as Loneliness and exile in Paradiso. The way Shelley makes even Dante scared emphasises how there is a maximum level of tolerance; and when this level is surpassed; one cannot help but turn-away, despite their initial contentment to their feelings and beliefs.
This puts an emphasis on the creature’s loneliness, showing how nothing prior to his creation had trodden upon this Earth, thus nothing currently resembles him – and without Victor’s help of creating him a partner – nothing ever will. He will be the celibate version of ‘Adam’. He is lonely to a degree where he struggles to answer the most fundamental questions of identity and personal History.