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A Guide to Frankenstein

mandy_lloyd | Wednesday April 18, 2012

Categories: Hot Entries, Prose, Frankenstein, Writing, Prose Analysis, AQA A Level English Literature B, LITB3, KS5 Archive, AQA A Level

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Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein subtitled ‘The Modern Prometheus’ is one of the most famous novels of the Gothic genre.  Frankenstein was an offshoot of a ghost-story writing project proposed by Byron in 1816. Mary Shelley’s explanation of how she came to write this novel is used in the introduction to the 1831 edition of Frankenstein: ‘I busied myself to think of a story… One which would speak to the mysterious fears of our nature and awaken thrilling horror.’

Shelley’s decision to ‘awaken thrilling horror’ can be seen, from a narrative viewpoint, as a plot device – but a plot for a narrative actually intended to carry many thematic explorations into human life, thought and action. This classic novel is still relevant today because we still thrill at her creation of horror as well as share similar moral concerns with regard to the uses of science, for example, with regard to genetics, stem cell research and cloning as well as the use of nuclear power.

AQA B Literature LITB3: Texts and Genres (Gothic)

This novel can be chosen as a post-1800 gothic text in this unit.

What does the word ‘Gothic’ mean? Gothic writing is a style of writing that explores what is fearful and terrifying and evokes words such as fear, dread, loathing and terror. It is a type of horror story. Gothic also refers to a type of architecture from the buildings of the 12th to 15th century and it is also a kind of art, which is fantastic or eerie. Genres have histories and Gothic literature was particularly popular between 1760 and 1820 and was written in what is known as the Romantic period.

Important Exam Tip

In an exam question a typical feature of Gothic won’t be noteworthy of the marks on its own unless it enables critical conclusions to be drawn from it.

Typical Plot Devices and Features of a Gothic Novel

This list is non-exhaustive. The aim of this type of story is to create an absorbing and suspenseful plot by inspiring fear in...


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