To understand Shelley’s intention and her presentation of the monster in her novel, we first have to clarify what determines a tale as a “ghost story.” While the word “ghost” indicates some kind of disembodied spirit, or the soul of a deceased person, the novel Frankenstein however does not have either of these, but rather a physical being, a spectre. Shelley’s Frankenstein is clearly far more than a mere “ghost story”, with the monster’s role is solely to terrify its readers; it is an in-depth study of the psychology of human nature and also of alienation.
The monster in the novel is not portrayed as a mindless wandering soul – he is an intelligent creature gifted with the ability to form coherent thoughts and also deductions. Despite his unfortunate outward appearances, the mislabelled “monster” is capable of feeling very human emotions. His predicament allows him to compare his life to that of the fallen angel, Satan. Reading John Milton’s Paradise Lost “excited different and far deeper emotions” in him and he “often referred the several situations, as similar as they struck [him],” to himself. It is obvious that the creature that Viktor Frankenstein has created is incredibly intelligent and is capable of analysis at a deep level. It is astounding to note of his ability to understanding so quickly and also with such maturity, having only just learned to read.
Shelley presents to her readers the idea of alienation through the character of the monster, and the adverse reactions of other characters in the novel towards him. Although he has no mal-intent, he is judged constantly by his “nightmarish” appearance. It seems that from the moment that Frankenstein “infuse a spark of being” into him, he is doomed to an existence filled with rejection and despondency, being immediately cast away by his creator. His rejection by the De Lacey’s is a large blow to him because he has invested so much emotion and also effort in their one-sided relationship. The monster’s further disaffection is shown, this time by the society in general in Frankenstein who “spurn and hate” him is also shown in chapter 11 when he innocently wanders into the village. The creature’s discrimination of his physical appearance marginalises him from society.
One approach to this question would be to say that the creature in ‘Frankentein’ was himself the only monster. However, as we soon realise, the creature is benevolent at heart and only becomes monstrous due to the unjust way in which society treats him. The bleak, miserable world which Shelley portrays, full of hypocrisy, oppression and prejudice gains exposure through the depiction of ...
The concept of alienation is also explored by the settings Shelley uses. Time and time again, the monster appears in atmospheres that are “desolate”, “severe” and “unforgiving.” The writer’s frequent habit of using the settings in the novel to magnify the feelings of characters helps the readers to feel the tone of the story. The weather or the general atmosphere is the projection of the monster’s feelings.
While Frankenstein may not on the surface appear to be a typical “ghost story”, it does contain many aspects of horror. However, Shelley’s expert handling of characters and her unique ability to make the readers empathise with them; confirms that this novel is complex on so many levels, dealing with multifaceted concepts like human nature and psychology.