In their chapter on ghosts in literature, Bennett and Royle propose that nineteenth century literature changed the prevalent understanding of ghosts. The ghost now ‘move [d] into one’s head. The ghost is internalised: it ends up being a psychological sign, and no longer a thing that goes bump in the night …’ (p.
133). Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley definitely supplies proof for this argument that nineteenth century Gothic literature ended up being more interested in the haunted awareness than the haunted house (Byron 2004: Stirling University).
The tale like all Gothic works is interested in the extraordinary, and if we believed the popular representation of Frankenstein, we could be deceived into thinking that it is just about a frightening, grotesque monster. However, is this really what Shelley’s book is about? By paying particular attention to chapter 2 in volume 2 of Frankenstein, and utilizing Bennett and Royle’s chapter on ghosts, I will think about to what extent Frankenstein can be described as a ghost story. Before we begin to look at Frankenstein itself, we should initially take a look at the context in which it was composed.
As is well known, Mary Shelley composed Frankenstein when taking a trip in Geneva with her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron. In her beginning to Frankenstein, Shelley informs the reader that ‘at nights we crowded around a blazing wood fire, and, periodically amused ourselves with some German stories of ghosts …’ She goes on to describe how ‘these tales excited us in a playful desire of imitation. [Percy Shelley, Lord Byron] … and myself accepted write each a story, based on some supernatural occurrence’ (Norton Anthology, p. 908).
So prior to we have even read her tale, we understand that she initially planned to compose it as some form of ghost story. Did Shelley accomplish her objective? Chapter two in volume two of Frankenstein does seem to supply proof to the presence of the theme of the supernatural. This is the chapter in which Victor and his creature are reunited after Victor first fled after bringing the creature to life due to the fact that he was horrified by its horrific look. Prior to this, our only impression of the animal was quite a mystical one; we understood him just by Victor’s description of his hideous and deformed look.
Now we get to ‘meet’ him for ourselves, and our impression may be that of shock; not because of his look (as of course we never actually know what the creature appears like) but due to the eloquence with which he speaks. As Sparknotes sum up, ‘The beast’s eloquent narration of occasions … reveals his amazing level of sensitivity and altruism.’ The animal tells Victor of the pain and rejection he has had to experience terrific feeling; ‘All males dislike the wretched; how then need to I be disliked, who am unpleasant beyond all living things! (Norton Anthology, p. 960).
His expressive words reveal us that the creature is not a purely wicked being, as Victor would have had us think. The animal’s look has a transcendent quality, simply since we never ever know and never will know what he actually appears like; we can just rely on Victor’s and Walton’s descriptions which might be biased, therefore his appearance remains a secret. Nicholas Abraham endeavors that ‘ghosts relate to offensive tricks’ (Bennett and Royle, p. 134).
As we know, Frankenstein felt his secret of creating life was unspeakable to his family and friends– the only person he recounts his tale to is Walton (that the reader knows of anyway). On the other hand, Victor never ever continuously repeats the creature’s horrific appearance, and pays much less attention to the humane, delicate side of the animal. This ends up being a fatal and terrible mistake, as the creature’s human qualities turn out to be the most important; it is his humane side that ends up being blackened by rejection of society, and causes the creature to kill Victor’s family and friends and eventually, Victor himself.
The method which the animal appears before Victor in this chapter is also exceptionally eerie. He ‘bound [s] over the crevices in the ice’ as an answer to Victor’s call to the spirits. Victor pleads with them ‘Wandering spirits, if indeed ye roam, and do not rest in your narrow beds, allow me this faint joy, or take me, as your companion, away from the delights of life’ (Norton Anthology, p. 959). The reality that the animal’s arrival comes when Victor is pleading for someone to bring him away from his concerns by ways of death might foreshadow who Victor’s ‘saviour’ will be.
The creature likewise has a distinguishable result on Victor when the 2 are reunited; he becomes the catalyst to cause Victor to end up being haunted just by his sheer animal hatred of the creature. As the animal approaches Victor, Victor explains how ‘anger and hatred had actually at first denied me of utterance, and I recovered only to overwhelm him with words meaningful of furious detestation and contempt’ (Norton Anthology, p. 959). The creature has a ghostlike effect on Victor, as he causes him to end up being paralysed, not by worry nevertheless, but by his pure loathing for him.
If we take this further, we could even venture to say that from the creature’s animation right till Victor’s death, the animal ‘initiates a haunting theme that continues throughout the novel-the sense that the beast is inescapable, ever present, accountable to appear anytime and create chaos’ (Sparknotes). Victor continuously resides in fear from the appearance of the creature, and also fears that he will kill all his family and friends. The way in which Frankenstein is told likewise continues this haunting theme.
It is told through a series of numerous narratives, as if Shelley was attempting to recreate the method which scary stories are passed down through generations, and perhaps also how they alter in time. A notable example of the animal’s haunting impact on Victor comes when the two are reunited on the glacier. Victor describes with scary the sensation that came over him as he ‘saw the figure of a man … advancing towards me with superhuman speed.’ He tells the reader that ‘I felt a faintness seize me; but I was quickly restored by the cold windstorm of the mountains.
I perceived as the shape came nearer, (sight significant and abhorred! that it was the miscreant whom I had actually created. I shivered with rage and horror …’ (Norton Anthology, p. 959). Victor must have, on some level, expected a reunion with his animal at some time; he understood he could only range from him for so long. Nevertheless, his regret has actually haunted him from the creature’s creation, and so it might be that the creature is simply the embodiment of all of Victor’s regret and regret for imitating God. This could discuss why he is overwhelmed with horror– not by the animal’s look, but because now he has to face his guilt head on, which he has tried to put out of his mind for so long.
We should likewise observe that Victor states he was ‘restored by the cold windstorm of the mountains’ (Norton Anthology, p. 959) when he feels faint. This is the chapter in which the style of superb nature ends up being utterly essential in regard to understanding Victor Frankenstein, his animal and their impressive relationship (Sparknotes). The majestic landscapes of nature impacts Victor’s state of minds, has the power to move him and remind him of great times and likewise hard times.
In a striking example, he goes so far as to state that ‘these superb and spectacular scenes managed me the best alleviation that I can getting’ (Norton Anthology, p. 58). This remark might show that Victor takes higher comfort in God’s production, that is, nature, than his own family, to whom he has not told his awful secret, and hence a barrier has been developed. Victor has chosen rather to separate himself and bask from the inanimate and practically haunting scenes around him.
The changing weather can likewise arouse in Victor his sensations of despondency. He says ‘… the rain put down in gushes, and thick mists concealed the tops of the mountains. I rose early, but felt uncommonly melancholy. The rain depressed me; my old sensations recurred, and I was miserable’ (Norton Anthology, p. 58). This might reveal that Victor’s moods are ruled by some absent yet ever-present being– possibly God. God is noteworthy mainly by his unique absence in the unique (Byron 2004: Stirling University). However, the manner in which Victor does not appear to have the power to manage his own sensations could show us that he has actually lost some of his own life and vigor in developing the creature, and now leaves it as much as the altering nature and weather condition to control his feelings. The location where Victor and his animal satisfy is likewise considerable, as it initially presents the concept of the animal being Victor’s doppelganger.
The truth that they both fulfill at a rather random scene of beauty rather than a real place might show that they are both isolate creatures, albeit that Victor is separated due to the fact that he selects to be, and the creature due to the fact that he needs to hide from human eyes. The language that Victor utilizes indicates to the reader that he would prefer to be alone with his secret in nature than with other people. He utilizes phrases such as ‘solitary magnificence’ and ‘terrifically desolate’ (Norton Anthology, p. 958) to explain the scenes around him, and perhaps also his state of mind.
The creature, like Victor, is impacted by beautiful nature around him, and feels that ‘the desert mountains and dreary glaciers are my refuge,’ (Norton Anthology, p. 960) which likewise reflects how Victor feels. The animal and Victor are both so in the house in nature, which could stress that there is more to this relationship than meets the eye; are these 2 actually so various? Numerous contemporary critics think that the creature is Victor’s doppelganger. In earlier Gothic literature, evil was typically situated in an external source, but Frankenstein sees a turn inwards to a focus on the evil within ourselves (Byron 2004: Stirling University).
Bennett and Royle propose that ‘clashing senses of the word ‘ghost’ suggest ghosts are both outside and main to our sense of the human’ (p. 132). The animal in Frankenstein is the embodiment of this confusion. While he is physically outside, he also pervades Victor’s consciousness. It needs to be remembered that it was Victor who produced the creature, therefore perhaps the animal is Victor’s doppelganger, as he is ‘the personification of an internal and irreversible division in the human mind’ (Byron 2004: Stirling University).
It is possible to see that the spaces between Frankenstein and his creature are not as wide as we may have at first thought. Nevertheless, while I do believe that Frankenstein is a ghost story to a very large extent, I do not believe one might describe the tale of Frankenstein without, at some point, pointing out the genre of sci-fi. While at the same time being Gothic and having the design of the German ghost stories that Shelley and her buddies read on their journeys, the story would have much less of an impact if it were not for the role that science plays in the book.
Victor becomes obsessed by the secret of life in the book, and it is he who creates the ‘ghost’ in the story, so it is not merely a case of the bogey guy in Frankenstein. The creature challenges our way of thinking about ghosts because he was brought to life made of dead parts, as if life can spring from death with using science. So, while I would argue that the tale is most definitely a ghost story, I do not think that Frankenstein would have become such a literary timeless if Shelly had not chosen to use the role of science to show us what can occur if we simple mortals meddle excessive with God’s prerogative.