Frankenstein or ‘The Modern Prometheus’ is regarded as the first true science fiction in English literature. Written by Mary Shelley, Frankenstein is the story of a scientist, who created a sapient creature through unnatural procedure. However, Frankenstein cannot be considered as the first Gothic novel. It is a mixture of Romance and Gothic elements, weaved together to give us a unique story never written before.
Gothic novels have existed since a long time in English literature. The first Gothic novel was ‘The Castle of Otranto’ by Horace Walpole. The word ‘Gothic’ originally referred to the Goths, an early Germanic tribe. the principle aim of such novels is to evoke a sensation of fear and horror among the readers. They create an environment of fear with the use of supernatural elements. Frankenstein, that fits into this category creates an environment of horror in the minds of the readers through the character of the monster. In fact, the sense of horror begins the moment Victor starts collecting body parts of other dead humans to create his creature. With the help of unnatural process, he joins these parts to give life to a completely new being. This experiment is so bizarre in the first place, that the readers can expect the upcoming terror. Shelley makes a reference to the idea of raising the dead, which is a controversial topic to discuss.
Gothic novels are set on the specific locations that create a sense of fear and panic among the readers. Spooky old castles, deserted buildings, that are far away from human civilization, are often chosen as the backdrop of gothic novels. Frankenstein is set in the Europe, specifically in the interiors of Switzerland and Germany, where many of Shelley’s readers have not been to. Also, the inclusion of the Arctic regions take us to a land that is far away from humans. These locations are away from busy cities where human activity can be found in every nook and corner. Instead, the isolated locations make it easy to highlight the fright of the monster. Victor’s laboratory is also another terrifying place, where lots of unnatural and gruesome experiments have been practiced. Creating a life by joining body parts of dead humans, Victor had literally made the dead rise up again. Just imagining Victor walking in the streets, looking up for dead bodies, collecting them and sewing them up together gives chills to the readers. Also, the rainy weather, surrounded by grave darkness adds up to the gothic element of the novel. The storms and wet weather symbolizes mystery and dread.
The creature’s face is so hideous that whoever meets him, runs out of fear. His ugly face, huge body and enormous strength, makes him appear as a beast, feeding on weak human beings. Even his own creator disowns him out of fear and disgust. Every other human, that he meets attacks him without any specific reason, other than him looking like a monster. It doesn’t matter if the creature is innocent by heart, everybody assumes him to be dreadful monster and treats him as an outcast in the society. His looks are enough to repel the people who see him.
In Gothic novels, the characters seem to have an interrelation between the mortal and the immortal world. Victor and the monster seem to share a connection between them. The monster appears wherever Victor goes, even in the North Pole. Such supernatural instincts serve as an important theme in the gothic fiction. Mary Shelley has done a commendable job while portraying the story, that could captivate the readers through sensations of fear and suspense.