On Vol 1 and 2 of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

Essay by IshanibhatCollege, Undergraduate December 2014

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Ishani Bhattacharya, Roll No. 181, English Hons. 3rd year

On Volume 1 and 2 of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Or the Modern Prometheus

Mary Shelley, daughter of William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft, was perhaps one of the first few writers to write a gothic-horror novel that also came under the then-unexplored category of science fiction. Taking up the areas of "modern chemistry" or "chemical physiology", her novel was published in the time period when scientific revolution was at its peak, i.e. 1818. On reading of the first two volumes, there are a few distinct aspects of the narrative that come to the fore- the three-fold narration; the use of images and metaphors to describe scientific theories; the eloquence and fervor of the narrators. The setting of the story, beginning in the bleak cold poles then the shift to the dreary neighborhood of the Alps, speaks of a mysterious environment where discovery and recognition of the monster within and without are not unlikely.

The three-fold narrative is understood by the fact that there are three major narrators in this fiction. Beginning from within, there is the 'monster', created then abandoned by Victor Frankenstein. The 'Monster' is a nameless character whose persona comes to light in Volume II when he confronts his 'Creator' and tells his life-story. Then, there is Victor himself, who is recounting his life events to R. Walton, the leader of an expedition towards the North Pole. It is Frankenstein's story that Walton records into his journal. The third narrative is of Walton himself in the form of his letters to his sister that he writes on his journey. The most expansive narrative here is of Frankenstein, his life being set as an example of the results of scientific hubris.

Victor Frankenstein was just like any other young...