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In Letters 1 4 Of Frankenstein, What Elements Of The Gothic Are Introduced And How Does Shelley Present Them?

847 words - 4 pages

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein opens with four letters written by R. Walton to his sister, ‘Mrs Saville’ describing his journey through the arctic and his meeting with Victor Frankenstein. Walton’s letters introduce a number of key Gothic elements which are seen consistently throughout the novel. The purpose of this is to introduce the major themes, establish the tone of the poem and foreshadow possible events to come.

The character of Walton is used in the opening letters of ‘Frankenstein’ to set the tone of the novel and introduce some key Gothic concepts. Walton is a confident, yet lonely sea explorer who whilst on a voyage to the North Pole becomes trapped between two sheets of ice and ...view middle of the document...

Absent parents being an important theme in the Gothic due to the freedom it gives to the children and the lack of protection. This is evident in the letter due to Walton’s ‘father’s dying injunction’ forbidding him on ‘embarking in a seafaring life’, this creates a conflict in the novel and conveys a sense of danger to the reader. Walton’s thoughts in his letter conveys a deep sense of isolation and solitude which is further backed up by the Arctic setting.

The sublime arctic setting in my opinion is the most prominent Gothic element in Walton’s letters as he conveys a true sense of awe, astonishment and the sublime nature of such an environment. The Arctic has a sense of shear vastness and magnificence associated with it, making it the perfect setting for Shelly to use. By definition, the sublime depends on obscurity, as we are unable fully to see the landscape or fully comprehend the experience. Therefore, this setting works incredibly well in the 18th century, as the Arctic would have been very much ‘part of the unknown’. Shelly describes the setting as ‘a land surpassing in wonders and beauty in every region’ expressing Walton’s clear sense of awe, whilst also highlighting a sense of endlessness and shear scale. The use of obscurity is effectively used through Walton’s description of the vessel being ‘compassed round by a very thick fog’ which again creates suspense and a fear of the unknown through the setting. Overall, the setting of the...

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