Frankenstein – How Does Shelley Create a Sense of Horror in Chapter 5?
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Shelley creates horror in chapter 5 by using horrific language, structure (horrific in a sense of how she has structured chapter 5), themes to do with horror and context. Shelley doesn’t only use horror in the scary sense but also in an emotional was, as I will reveal to you later in this essay.
Shelley uses language to show horror; language such as pathetic fallacy is used throughout the chapter.
For example “the rain pattered against the panes dismally”, this mainly sets the scene and foreshadows negativity and discomfort there after. This shows horror in a way that the weather is horrific as implied by the word “dismally” as to is Victor’s actions which is creating life within a human being which is not his rightful job its gods! Shelley has used this example of pathetic fallacy mainly to set the scene but also to show the horrific actions in the lab, which are surrounded by the horrific weather. At the moment when Victor Frankenstein is creating the monster, there is a thunderstorm, which is a stereotypical image.
Lighting and thunder has always been and always will be terrifying. In the past the human race has thought of lighting and thunder as a message from god showing his anger and wrath, and has also seen its destructive power. Shelley is trying to suggest the thunder or lighting in the thunderstorm could be a sign to Victor Frankenstein as a warning. Shelley adds the stereotypical fear of thunder in this chapter to the fear already, which we feel about Victor Frankenstein actions. This is very effective narrative device used to give access to Victor Frankenstein to “infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing”. The spark used to bring life to the creation is from the thunder from the surroundings also, This quote suggests that Shelley is trying to make the reader visualise something that could kill us, used to create life which itself is horrific.
Another way Shelley has used language to show horror is by using a semantic field of horror. For example “death, evil, hell, fear” these words are used in the chapter to remind the readers of horrifying events to come. For example the words “evil and hell” these words work to create a feeling of negative power. These words are used to give the reader a severe feeling of discomfort, which is leads to fear. These words create the feeling of negativity therefore create a strong and effective link to horror.
At the beginning of chapter 5 Shelley uses the word “agony” suggests that the pain Victor Frankenstein was feeling was unbearable. In the usage, word agony is linked to the word anxiety as it adds a different understanding to it; it is as if the anxiety within him from his mind is turning into physical pain. The realisation of what he had done causes him pain after his mistake is made.
Two paragraphs later Victor says, “breathless horror and disgust filled my heart” even more horrific and these words are very effective when describing his emotions which are so horrified that he is unable to breathe. This also suggests that he is feeling heartbroken not in the way of losing someone close which he does later in the book but for failing to achieve his dream which he was so desperate to achieve.
Later in the chapter the words used from an extract from Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” show Victor Frankenstein’s feelings strongly. A word from the extract such as “fear and dread …frightful fiend” contains effective alliteration. Especially the phrase “frightful fiend” as it refers to the monster as a thing from hell once again, another link to hell, fear and devil which is very horrific, it is horrific as it is a ultimate danger and fear we cannot control. It is also horrific, as back in the time when Shelley wrote this book, religion was a huge factor in peoples’ lives and anything involving hell would scare anybody. And even today even though hell is a not as big of a factor as it was, people would rather not think of going to hell. Shelley has used these words and phrases in order to build tension throughout the chapter as the tension builds the degree of horror increases. This tension foreshadows Victor Frankenstein’s feelings and our own as readers. This affects the reader in the sense that it makes us read the rest of the book, as we are curious to see what obstacles Victor Frankenstein may have to face next to achieve pacification.
The horrific descriptions used by Shelley are very graphic for example, “the approach of the demonical corpse”. This relates to god, heaven and hell. Especially the word “demonical” is very horrific describing the monster as a demon like character once again describing it as if it was from hell itself. Shelly makes the creation horrific by describing it negatively, such as the way he looks for example; “shrivelled complexion”, “catastrophe”, “creature”, “convulsive motion” etc. These descriptions are highly emotive and powerful words.
Shelley has also used Victor Frankenstein’s thoughts and feelings to show horror. For example, “the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart”; this relates to his passion and desire to conquer death. He does this by animating a corpse of a human and fundamentally is able to animate dead flesh. As we know conquering death is challenging both god and nature, and challenging god or nature comes with horrific consequences. Shelley conveys a message to the future generations not to undertake work, like Victor Frankenstein, it is Gods! Shelley is aiming this message especially to scientists who are involved in genetic cloning or genetic engineering; she shows her concern by using strong emotive language “disgust, breathless horror”. Victor Frankenstein’s experiment is a step towards achieving his dream, which is destroyed as the quote states. As the book goes on we know the future for Victor Frankenstein is not bright at all. Shelley uses chapter 5 to prepare us to experience the horror Victor Frankenstein is going to face, as she shows throughout that Victor Frankenstein has overstepped the mark. His excessive ardour for this experiment creates tumult. Shelley shows signs of Victor Frankenstein overstepping the mark by revealing his terrible nightmare on the second page. From the moment of creation we are given a mental picture of a horrid future for Victor Frankenstein.
In addition to using language in this way, Shelley uses structure to also show horror, structure such as intertextuality, short sentences, punctuation and narrative sequence.
For example, Shelley uses intertextuality through poetry by quoting from “the Rime of the Ancient Mariner” to reveal to readers Dr Frankenstein’s feelings. The extract taken from “the Rime…” describes Victor Frankenstein’s mental state. This adds horror to the expression of Dr Frankenstein’s feelings and the monster’s presence, this is effective as the poem is all about unfortunate events happening due to a certain character’s actions which affects others in the poem as it does in this book. Shelley has used intertextuality to show us as readers how Victor Frankenstein is feeling and realise the terrible situation he is in. she also shows her own attitude to these events by quoting from existing literature she knew.
Shelley uses short sentences & punctuation very effectively to show horror. Short sentences are used to imply anger, excitement or shock. Short sentences such as “Beautiful! – Great – God!” the dramatic punctuation adds to explosiveness of the exclamation mark. This example shows shock As it is short, it is not detailed, this is puts the reader on the edge curious to see what has happened. This is horrific as we as readers would rather not be in a position of curiosity of being watched and violated which if we were we would be horrified. Through Victor Frankenstein’s horrified reaction, we in turn feel horror at what is happening.
Shelley uses narrative sequence very effectively to create and build tension throughout the chapter and throughout the book. The monster wants answers or attention like as a baby would and Victor Frankenstein like a father to this monster, turns away and abandons the monster. This abandonment causes massive tension between these two characters. From this as readers we have our own opinions at this point, through they may change as the book goes on as there are delayed outcomes which makes us read on. At this moment we have sympathy for the monster being abandoned by its father (Victor Frankenstein). In Victor Frankenstein’s position we, as readers’ maybe would do the same as what Victor Frankenstein did, so we kind of understand what he did. This is horrific not in the sense of making you tremble but emotionally horrific as it is the last thing you would expect a father figure to do. From this we are in two minds because we have sympathy as well for the monster .If Victor Frankenstein were trying to act like god by creating life his actions towards the life he created is not like gods. God did not abandon man neither did Prometheus and Victor Frankenstein does.
Shelley has used a narrative structure to show the power of men throughout the book. Shelley has used men in the book as a gender, which try to get fame and to play god. When Shelley wrote this book, men were more powerful than women were. Men would go work while women stay home looking after children and doing housework, unlike today where men and women work together as the same occupation. Shelley makes us believe this by having women dying throughout the book for example: Elizabeth, Justine. She shows men trying act like god for example Victor Frankenstein who creates life, which is not his rightful job. This shows he is trying to have the power that only god can have. Men, such as Victor Frankenstein seem to “create” life without women. This is unnatural as well as morally wrong, and takes the power that “men” supposedly have to ridiculous lengths. Mary Shelley, as a woman shows this to be a disastrous horrific scenario.
Shelly also shows horror by using themes. Themes such as gothic references, hatred, the natural & the unnatural.
For example Shelley uses candles, which is gothic in chapter 5 “my candle was nearly burnt out…by the glimmer of the half extinguished light” a candle is a gloomy and a fragile light. Shelley is giving us readers a hint that “the half extinguished light” is symbolic to Victor Frankenstein’s loss of hope. This shows us also that the future from there on that fate is not going to be with him.
Themes of hatred are mainly used of Victor Frankenstein verbally stating his dislike for the monster. For example he says to Cleval “I am at length free” this shows he is lying to his friend also he is having misguided thoughts as his conscience is playing on him. Another example is when he says to Cleval “Nothing could equal my delight on seeing Cleval” this show’s Victor Frankenstein is terrified of the monster, hates the monster that he doesn’t want to think about it. Shelley does this to make Victor Frankenstein look as if he is trying to avoid thinking about it. Shelley does this do add horror. The horror is the monster and has been left at the lab and the horror added by Victor trying not to think of the monster. This makes the monster look ultra horrific.
The theme of natural and unnatural, is a theme used in chapter 5 especially. The process of making the creation is natural, parts of dead flesh attached to the creation not a metal arm or plastic leg. The unnatural theme is the way the creation is made, it is not created inside a mother’s womb but from lightning. Imagery is used to shows natural and unnatural, for example; “mummy” “even Dante could not”. This shows that the monster is unnatural to the point of it being so horrific that a well-known poet could not even imagine how horrific the monster is.
Lastly, Shelley uses context to show horror. She does this by referring to her past (biological context), events at the time she wrote the book (Historical context), who influenced her (Literary context) and showing implications of rebirth.
Shelley refers to her past to come up with certain ideas in this book. The idea of Victor Frankenstein losing everybody close to him came from Shelley’s past as she lost many of her family members at an early age. Her own experiences were horrific therefore creating the horrific experience Victor Frankenstein had. Her own introduction in the book gives us an idea of her past and how horrific it must have been for her, which is exactly how Victor Frankenstein ends up.
Shelley uses ideas from experiments, which took place during the time, the book was written. Shelley used the idea for example, of giving the monster life through giving the monster an electric shock, which was an experiment where a scientist put an electric current through a frog’s leg, which made the leg twitch. This is horrific as this shows movements within something dead.
Shelley was influenced by many extracts such as; “the Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, Dante’s inferno, the story of Prometheus. An example of this is the similarities between Prometheus and Victor Frankenstein; these characters are very similar. Prometheus is a titan who stole fire and gave it to mankind. Another story of about Prometheus is in Roman mythology where he was creating human beings from clay and blowing them to life. Zeus the king of gods in Greek mythology was furious at Prometheus’s actions so he punished him by bringing a savage bird everyday to earth to devour Prometheus’s liver, which would grow back everyday for the bird to eat. Very similar to Victor Frankenstein as he steals the power of creating life from god and gets severe punishment, which is his family all die due to his actions.
In conclusion, Shelley shows horror by using language, structure, themes and context. She uses descriptions, narrative structure, unnatural themes and past experiences of her own and others. Overall I believed Mary Shelley has shown horror effectively.