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David Punter: Gothic & Characters

- ‘the villain is always the most complex and interesting character’

- ‘shy, nervous, retiring heroine...remarkable ability to survive hideously dangerous
- ‘heavy-handed, tyrannical father’

Fred Botting

- Gothic condenses the many perceived threats associated with the supernatural and
natural forces, imaginative excesses and delusions, religious and human evil,
social transgressions, mental disintegration and spiritual corruption.

- Gothic writing remains fascinated by objects and practices that are constructed as
negative irrational, immoral and fantastic.

- Cultural anxieties and boundaries, fascination with social transgression produce

ambivalent emotions and meanings in their tales of darkness, desire and power.

- Gothic landscapes are desolate, alienating and full of menace. In the 18th Century,
they were wild and mountainous locations. Later the modern city combined the
natural and architectural components of Gothic grandeur and wildness, its dark,
labyrinthine streets suggesting violence, and menace of Gothic castles and

- Alps stimulate powerful emotions of terror and wonder in the reader. Their
immense scale offered a glimpse of infinity and awful power.

- Vast landscapes linked to poetic visionary power, the sublime also evoked
excessive emotion. Gothic produced emotional effects on its readers rather than
developing a rational or properly cultivated response.

- Gothic texts were also seen to be subverting the mores and manners on which
good and social behaviour rested.


Gothic & the Supernatural: “image for real and carefully depicted social fears”

Shelley like other Romantics, believed nature was sacred. In Frankenstein’s time of
despair and isolation Victor runs to these large landscapes as if seeking out solace and
guidance, this is where he chooses to release his ‘own vampire, my own spirit let
loose’. It relates to the idea of doppelganger: it is his own repressed side that has
failed to act morally.

Romantics (e.g. Byron & Wordsworth), believed we must preserve nature because it
is divine and sacred. It was an alternative way of thinking back in the early 18th
Century, but we can relate in today’s time, but more for environmental reasons than
believing nature is divine and sacred. In a sense, the Romantics rejected much of what
the ‘Enlightment Age’ represented. They believed the opposite, opposed the
advancement of science.

Literary criticism: The gothic writers were very influenced by the Romantics.

Rousseau: insisted on the idea of learning through instinct, he is often known as the
founder of modern education. Shelley suggests that nurture plays a bigger role.
Culturally depends: Britain by enlarge have broken relationships in family dynamics.
Now Shelly explores this and shows that both are important – nurture and nature.

Galvanism: Set in a time of radical thinking. Shelley went to lectures on electricity

and was profoundly shocked when she witnessed how a frog was electrocuted and it
came back to life.



- Doppelganger
- The idea of not being human, being different (like Dracula), not being accepted
because he is known to be a monster is gothic, as the position of the outsider
becomes prevalent.
- The notion of prejudice and how it can be destructive adds to the gothic genre.
The way people treat others in society – collectively we can be monstrous.

- [Volume 1, Chapter 8]  The monster feels rage and intense desire for revenge,
parallel to Satan. The monster’s nature changes dramatically, contrasts against
what we read of him before, of his benevolent nature
- The gothic lies in the concept of the monster turning into the very fiend we
believed he was going to be
- Taking innocent lives
- His sense of justice and morals is distorted, there is a serious blurred line between
what he thinks is right and wrong
- Asking Victor for a female partner is horrific
- True horror: Victor contemplating the idea

- The novel deals with questions of religious, moral, social and personal doubt, and
the impact of such opposites is profoundly unsettling for the readers.
- Having so many diverse PLACES emphasises the lack of belonging that Victor
and the monster has, it is impossible for them to escape or go anywhere. They
have no routes.
- The concept of JOURNEY embodies the quest for knowledge is a central devise
in the novel, but also important is where the journey leads to.


- The use of multiple narrators is often used in gothic fiction. It provides a range of
perceptions of a single event, allowing us to see and empathise with the
emotional responses of the character involved.
Walton’s narrative is at the surface of the novel’s events. Below that surface lies
the tale of Victor, a tale bearing potentially destructive similarities to the future of
- At the deepest point of the tale, lies the narrative of the monster whose
perspective embodies the deepest and darkest insights into the psychological
world of the novel.

- Another way of constructing the narrative would be to view it as a set of circles.

With this idea, the Monster’s narrative is completely enclosed within Victor’s
narrative, which is enclosed in turn, within Walton’s.
- This emphasises the inescapable, interrelations and interactions between all three
- Such a view also recognises the overall enclosing structural possibilities of the
- This model also points towards the middle of the novel as the deepest, central
most significant point, it is the Monster that is the heart of ‘Frankenstein’.

- The reader may see in the three narrators Shelley’s establishment of an unholy
and alternative trinity – rather than the biblical trinity of God the Father, the Son,
& Holy Spirit.
- The reader presented with the father (Victor), the Son (Walton) and the Spirit

- The appeal to our senses increases our mental awareness of the gothic genre,
significantly helps to build suspense and anxiety.

- The ambiguous and indefinable nature of the monster, along with his predatory,
threatening tendencies play on the social, religious and political fears of the

- The gothic is a genre that makes considerable uses of opposites and contrasts, and
this is demonstrated as we see how the monster’s goodness and love (described
through his narrative) is met with his hatred and anger.

- The books, ‘Sorrow of Werter’, and in particular ‘Paradise Lost’ provides the
Monster with a way of reflecting on his situation. He knows the extent to which
he is rejected and his feelings become bitter and resentful as he compares himself
to ‘Adam’.

- By challenging the natural order of things, the Gothic tradition allows boundaries
to be crossed that are either socially stirring or morally shocking. For example,
Frankenstein challenges the moral ethics within scientific research as he focuses
on finding the secrets of life.
- Frankenstein’s pursuit of creating a superior being is of perverse nature. He
essentially wishes to change the natural order of humans beings and the Gothic
tradition reveals the terrifying outcome in the form of the monster.
- When the natural order of things is challenged, it can be viewed as something of
an anomaly – an outsider.
- This blurring of mortal and immortal, inhumanity and humanity and the
possibility that normal human beings may possess the same inhuman powers is
perhaps what convey the true horror in Shelley’s novel.