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Outline On Frankenstein

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by Mary Shelley

In the Gothic novel Frankenstein, Mary Shelley integrates the rhetorical devices figurative language, imagery, and tone to impart the concept that the desire to acquire knowledge and emulate God will ultimately result in chaos and havoc that exceeds the boundaries of human restraint.

I. Life of Mary Shelley / Characteristics of Gothic Literature

A. Life of Mary Shelley

1. Eleven days after Mary Shelley's birth, her mother, the famed author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, succumbed to puerperal fever, leaving her [Mary Shelley's] father, William Godwin, bereft of his beloved companion. In her honor, Godwin puts together a loving tribute entitled Memoirs of the Author of a Vindication of the Rights of Woman, a sensitive and factual account of his deceased wife's life.

2. The relationship between Mary Shelley and her stepmother was strained. The new Mrs. Godwin provoked Shelley's ire by encroaching upon her privacy. In addition, she resented Mary's passionate affection for her father and was envious of the interest showed by visitors in the two radical thinkers of the day.

3. Death revolved around Mary Shelley's life. Her first child was born prematurely and survived for only eleven days; her second child died of malaria; the next child succumbed to dysentery after sustaining life for about a year; and her sister Fanny committed suicide.

4. Mary Shelley was denounced by her beloved father; who thought that she "had been guilty of a crime." Shelley, who was seventeen at the time, was not yet a wife and no longer a mother. She felt insecure and was dependent on her future husband Per Shelley for emotional support and familial commitment.

5. Shelley suffered her greatest loss in 1822, the death of Percy Shelley by drowning. Percy's sudden death left Mary in a psychological turmoil, with feelings of "fierce remorse" and guilt. In order to make up for her guilt, Shelley decided to write his biography and an idealized portrait of him in her next novel, The Last Man.

B. Characteristics of Romantic / Gothic Literature

1. Romantic literature everywhere includes themes such as: imagination was praised over reason, emotions over logic, and intuition over science--making way for a vast body of literature of great sensibility and passion.

2. This literature emphasizes a new flexibility of form adapted to varying content, encourages the development of complex and fast-moving plots, and allows mixed genres and freer style.

3. No longer tolerated, for example, were the fixed classical conventions, such as the famous three unities (time, place, and action) of tragedy.

II. Rhetoric in the Novel

A. Conflict

1. From the tortures of my own heart, I turned to contemplate the deep and voiceless grief of my Elizabeth. This also was my doing! And my father's woe, and the desolation of the late so smiling home - all was the work of my thrice-accursed hands...Thus spoke my prophetic soul, as torn by remorse horror, and despair, I beheld those I loved spend vain sorrow upon the graves of William and Justine, the first hapless victims to my unhallowed arts."

a. In this quote, Frankenstein has an inner conflict within himself. He has realized that his lack of foresight has caused the deaths of two of his loved ones - William and Justine. In doing so, he has also placed grief into the hearts of his father and Elizabeth. Tone here is agonized - this is because he is filled with anguish knowing the fact that he created a monster that induced grief among his loved ones. This quote also serves as an example of irony. It implies that instead of achieving the glory he had hoped for by discovering the secret of creation of life, he has only caused grief.

2. "Liberty, however, had been a useless gift to me, had I not, as I awakened to reason, at the same time awakened to revenge. As the memory of past misfortunes pressed upon me, I began to reflect on their cause - the monster whom I created, the miserable daemon whom I had sent abroad into the world for my destruction. I was possessed by a maddening rage when I thought of him, and desired and ardently prayed that I might have him within my grasp to wreak a great and signal revenge on his cursed head."

a. In this quote, Frankenstein is clearly in conflict with the monster as a result of the monster's heinous actions. Here, the actions of the monster have prognosticated Frankenstein's ire and have spurred him to wreak revenge upon the monster. This quote further bolsters the irony that although Frankenstein initially wished to create life for the sake of glory, the creature becomes intractable and induces grief in Frankenstein by gradually depriving him of his loved ones. The tone in this statement is a bitter and vengeful one. This is evident because Frankenstein himself states that he was "possessed by a maddening rage" and wished to "wreak a great revenge" upon the monster.

B. Figurative Language

1. "But these philosophers, whose hands seem only made to dabble in dirt, and their eyes to pore over the microscope or crucible, have indeed performed miracles. They penetrate into the recesses of nature and show how she works in her hiding places."

a. In this quote, M. Waldman's speech appeals to Frankenstein's desire to acquire knowledge. In his speech, M. Waldman praises the modern scientists for their outstanding and brilliant achievements. For example, he uses a metaphor "recesses of nature" and "hiding places" to portray how modern scientists have achieved significant discoveries by acquiring knowledge. This speech further motivates Frankenstein to seek knowledge to its extent.

2. "As he went on I felt as if my soul were grappling with a palpable enemy; one by one the various keys were touched which formed the mechanism of my being; chord after chord was sounded, and soon my mind was filled with one thought, one conception, one purpose. So much has been done, exclaimed the soul of Frankenstein - more, far more, will I achieve; treading in the steps already marked, I will pioneer a new way, explore unknown powers, and unfold to the world the deepest mysteries of creation."

a. This quote is arguably the most potent, powerful, and expressive one in the entire novel. So expressive this quote is that Frankenstein eloquently describes



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