Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus
"By the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs" (Frankenstein, page 58), an image of terror, a horrific event to strike fear into every heart from 1818 through to years to come. Mary Shelley's 1818 novel Frankenstein: the Modern Prometheus is a perfect example of the genre of gothic fiction. At the time it was written, images like this would completely terrify all who read it. In contemporary society, the reader sees this as an ordinary fictional situation to be in, but only when they interpret the language of the Romantic Era. This language is overly formal, so it detracts from the feeling and emotion Shelley is trying to convey. Frankenstein tells of a man named Victor Frankenstein (VF), whose goal in life is to create a super-being. The being turns out to be a monster, or a "demoniacal corpse" (Frankenstein, page 59), wreaking havoc on the lives of many. The events that followed the creation of the monster show how people will be punished if they play God. The events of the novel happen in a clichéd manner that is apparent only in modern day parodies of Gothic Horror. Frankenstein has become gradually less frightening as time wore on, and more relevant to present day happenings such as cloning and in vitro fertilization (IVF). Despite, and because of, all this, Frankenstein has become known as one of the most popular and well-known gothic novels in human history.
The popularity of Shelley's novel relies on the effectiveness and relevance of the ideas. Frankenstein is a very well known book, and is read and studied by several people around the world today. It is widely talked of as an icon of the literature world, being the book that ‘introduced the concept of scary' by following the genre and atmosphere of a gothic fiction. Shelley devised a fictional horror story that predicted the future of the world as she knew it. Through her famous novel, she explored the concept of life and death, just as we do today with the use of science and technology. Frankenstein is written effectively to bring forth messages that are important 190 years on. From the novel, readers can gather that Shelley is showing what she believes will happen to anyone who plays God. People are fascinated with the supernatural and reading these sorts of books as it gives them a sort of window or portal into the past. Through older books such as Frankenstein, people can explore history and see events from a different time, which fascinates them.
Frankenstein is written in the time of gothic fiction, from the late 18th to early 19th centuries. This genre was widely recognised in the past for its horrific and terrifying ideas, and is still used today. The two most prominent features of gothic fiction are mystery and terror, each of which Shelley has incorporated into her novel. All books of this genre explore the unknown, and the fear people have of it, by suggesting ideas and events that are new and unexplored. The gothic fiction literature style was influenced by gothic architecture and art, which was dark, mysterious, and sometimes observed as haunted. It is becoming increasingly difficult to find aspects of fiction that frighten the modern world, though things such as vampires, insanity and witchcraft are still among those that will give the younger generation nightmares. Gothic horror fiction is not as terrifying now as when it was first brought into the world. It has become so relevant, that we can now read a gothic horror story without the fiction. People may ask the question, ‘Has society changed, or are horrific events just more publicised?' as we can never know for sure in these days and times. Several aspects of the story Frankenstein, such as the events, are relevant to contemporary society, but there are some that are not as easy to understand or compare to our lives, such as the language.
The language of Shelley's novel conforms to the requirements of the romantic literary period. This affects its relevance, as in the modern day, it is more difficult to decipher what she means. Some of the words used have lost relevance, and the formality of speech contributes to the lack of emotion and feeling at crucial times of the book. "Alas! Life is obstinate, and clings closest where it is most hated." (Frankenstein, page 199) Victor Frankenstein exclaimed, wishing to be dead, when he observed his wife dead before him. The way this statement and realisation is portrayed gives it a form of fakeness and sarcasm in today's era. The confusing language of Frankenstein somewhat detracts from the storyline and its purpose; to terrify and enlighten people to an ‘upcoming event' in the future. By the time we have figured out what the text means, it is not as terrifying as it would have been. The heavy language takes away the surprise of the characters' reaction, and the fear Shelley
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