Throughout the eventful story of Frankenstein, many gothic elements were used to influence the reader’s emotions and the way they view the story, ranging from Victor Frankenstein’s selfish desire for knowledge and his inhumane ability to create the grotesque creature which greatly impacts the plot of the story to the dark gloomy and night time setting throughout the story.
It is without a doubt the most important aspect of any gothic novel is the setting. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is an innovative disturbing work that constructs a tale of passion, misery, dread, and remorse. The author reveals the story of a man’s thirst for knowledge which leads to a monstrous and inhumane creation that completely goes against our capabilities as humans. After seeing his creation, Victor Frankenstein (the creator) is completely terrified and abandons the creature. The monster, despite being feared and shunned by all of mankind, still feels and yearns for love. However, since Victor Frankenstein abandoned his creation, the monster could only feel loneliness and misery. Because of this, it seeks revenge.
Just the setting itself presents these feelings of loneliness, despair and short-lived happiness. Shelley’s writing shows how the variety of dramatic settings in Frankenstein not only creates the atmosphere of the novel but can also cause or hinder the actions of Victor Frankenstein and his monster as they go on their seemingly endless journey where the pursuer becomes the pursued.
Throughout the story, darkly dramatic moments and the small flashes of happiness stand out. The setting presents the atmosphere and creates the mood for the reader. The dreary night of November where the monster is given life, remains in the memory. That was the sensation felt throughout the entire novel, the dreariness of it along with the feeling of desolate isolation. Yet there were still glimpses of happiness in Shelley’s vivid pictures of the grand scenes among Frankenstein – the thunderstorm of the Alps, the valleys of Servox and Chamounix, the glacier and the precipitous sides of Montanvert, and the smoke of rushing avalanches, the tremendous dome of Mont Blanc and on that last journey with Elizabeth which were his last moments of happiness. The rest goes along with the melodrama of the story. Shelley can sustain the mood and create a distinct picture and it is admirable the way she begins to foreshadow coming danger. Shelley does this by starting a terrible storm, adding dreary thunder and lightning and by enhancing the gloom and dread of her gothic scenes. Shelley writes so that the reader sees and feels these scenes taking permanent hold on the memory.
Furthermore, the setting can greatly impact the actions in a novel such as this: Frankenstein’s abhorred creation proclaims that “the desert mountains and dreary glaciers are my refuge. I have wandered here many days; the caves of ice which I only do not fear, are a dwelling to me, and the only one which man does not grudge.” The pitiful creature lives in places where man cannot go for reason that the temperatures and dangers of these settings are too extreme. But near the end, Frankenstein’s rage and insanity takes him all over the world in an obsessed search for his doppelganger enduring terrible hardships, which the monster, too, has endured. Frankenstein pursues his creation to the Arctic wastes, the immense desire for vengeance being the only thing keeping him alive. This serves only to thicken the strange darkness that surrounds and engulfs them. Here it seems as if Frankenstein may finally capture his adversary, but nature thinks otherwise. The monster tempts his enraged creator through a world of ice and the setting becomes a hindrance as the wind arose, the sea roared, and with the mighty shock of an earthquake, it split and cracked with a tremendous and overwhelming sound. The work was soon finished; in a few minutes a tumultuous sea rolled between me and my enemy. Because of this gothic setting amid the Arctic ice floes, the despair hits both Frankenstein and the reader.
Overall, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a strange and disturbing tale that personifies the gothic novel. With her compelling writing, she creates the setting that sets the gloomy mood and causes as well as hinders actions creating dramatic tension. The entire story is mysteriously set in the cold Arctic which adds to the dark and foreboding atmosphere. Frankenstein pursues his monster there, fails to destroy him, and dies appropriately in the cold of the Arctic that matches the cold of his heart. Likewise, Frankenstein’s monster dies on his own terms, springing to his ice raft, borne away by the waves and lost in darkness and distance.