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"Chapter Four Is the Most Gothic Chapter of Frankenstein" How Do You Respond to This View?

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“Chapter Four Is The Most Gothic Chapter of Frankenstein” How Do You Respond To This View?

To try to judge the extent of a single chapter’s gothic values and then measure it outside of the context of the entire work is an absurd notion. One chapter cannot be more gothic than another. Yet, if forced to select a chapter that contains the most gothic elements, chapter 4 most definitely does, not only having all the major gothic elements of Frankenstein like horror, transgressive desires, extremes of emotions and other generic gothic features but also depth regarding these elements other chapters lack. This depth is shown in the common theme common to Frankenstein of transgressive desires, firstly legally transgressive. In order to create his ‘creature’ Victor had to use the body parts of corpses, this meant he had to dig them up, known in the time as bodysnatching and was illegal.
Yet these actions are also socially and philosophically transgressive, Victor felt he ‘must observe the natural decay and corruption of the human body’. Contextually this was a current issue at the time Shelly wrote the novel but also the idea of watching bodies decay is unnatural as socially one should respect the dead and this subverts that completely. To Victor ‘a churchyard to [him] was merely a reciprocal of bodies’, this complete lack of any religious morals is contextually and contemporarily shocking and taboo. Not only does it imply the absence of God and actively disrespects his land and laws, but it also toys with the human fear of the unknown and life after death, a sensitive topic Shelly has Victor give no respect for. He also claims he ‘spent some months collection and arranging [his] material’, this casual description of digging up, cutting apart and arranging body parts highlights the how horrifying his actions are by understating them. The offhand description of such a morally corrupt action also offers the idea Victor sees no harm in his actions, which is even more horrific. The almost mechanical, industrial lexis of Victor of ‘collecting and arranging materials’ supports the idea of this disconnect to moral and social values. However it could be said it isn’t a lack of feeling that allows him to go this but an enjoyment for it, ‘I saw how the worm inherited the beauty of the eye and the brain’. This implies that Victors takes pleasure from watching his bodies decay and finds wonder in it, not only supporting the gothic theme of transgression but also of the dangers of curiosity. Victor’s religious transgressions are furthered when he claims ‘I myself became capable of bestowing animation upon lifeless matter’, this firstly suggests, in ‘myself’, that nothing else, not even God can do what he can and he has replaced God. Victor also believes ‘no father could claim the gratitude of this child so completely as I should deserve’ suggesting that there is no father, meaning no God, or highlighting that there is no mother, both a socially and philosophically transgressive statement. Shelly again, using understatement, creates horror when Victor ‘tortured living animals to animate lifeless clay’, this is not only socially wrong but religiously too. The bible says humans have responsibility to treat animals how they see fit, and Victor doing this to actually go against God is terribly transgressive. This idea of going against nature is repeated when Victor ‘pursues nature to its hiding place’, this language has connotations of hunting and implies Victor is actively hunting down nature to subvert it. This chapter also shows Victor’s taboo desires through his description of the ‘tremendous features of the human frame’, paired with earlier chapters the implication of Victors intimacy with the dead. This is worsened when his interests ‘had taken an irresistible hold of [his] imagination’, Shelly’s use of irresistible and not overwhelming or uncontrollable shows the almost lustful desires of Victor and how the enticement of the dead and his studies are too much for him, either because the pleasure he takes from the dead bodies, or the pleasure he takes from his curiosity, both gothic features. No other chapter throughout Frankenstein contains such depth regarding transgression, not even chapter five where he dreams of embracing his decaying mother, although it contains incestuous necrophilia it lacks the religious transgressions, and chapter five lacks other gothic features chapter four doesn’t, like the extremes of emotion.

The most extreme emotion of Victor is his obsession. Shelly repeatedly uses language like ‘sole occupation’ and ‘ardour’ three times to show the extent of his passion, to the point of romantic obsession through the noun ardour and its romantic connotations. His obsession even overcomes his family obligations as he ‘had paid no visit to Geneva but was engaged heart and soul’ in his studies, mainly showing how family pails in comparison to his work but also the adjective engaged too suggesting romantic interests. This idea he is so passionate about his work to the point of a romantic curiosity is supported by his lack of interest in female sexuality. Victor believed he was ‘forced to spend days and nights’ working, but was only forced by his own ambition, a very gothic feature. Victors work is so consuming he becomes sick and is ‘shunned by his fellow creatures’. Victor’s obsession shows both the gothic trait of extreme emotions but also the gothic trait of excess and its dangers.

It is reasonable to say, regarding emotions nothing is moderate, and Victors arrogance is no exception to this rule. The way in which he condescends Walton in ‘no one but those who have experienced them’ talking about the wonders of science and ‘how much happier the man who believes his native town to be the world’ saying ignorance is bliss and he envious Walton for being so naive. Victor also believes himself above his university when his ‘residence can no longer be conducive to [his] studies’ because he now believes himself smarter than his professors. The previously mentioned quote ‘I became myself capable of bestowing animation’ puts forth the idea of Victor and a God-like complex, paired with the ‘no father’ quote clearly showing Victor even believes himself the powers of a god. He then decides ‘I alone should be so reserved in astonishing secrets’ showing he will not share his findings but keep the wonders to himself, supporting this god complex as he wants to be the only one with such power. Also when Victor realises his capabilities he seeks to ‘create a being like myself’ showing his extreme arrogance and will not settle for anything less complex than creating a human, too showing his arrogance and excess.

Victor’s very nature is extreme judging everything based on beauty, starting with Monsieur Krepe because his ‘repulsive physiognomy and manners’ to the point Victor is surprised someone physically unappealing can be intelligent. Also this chapter shows Victor intended to create a human and his distain for the creature is purely aesthetically.
Finally the general extremes of emotion common to the gothic and Frankenstein of ‘infallible misery’ and ‘no one can conceive a variety of feelings’ are present in this chapter.

More gothic features common to Frankenstein and this chapter are present like the close link between sex and death, a theme of Frankenstein is featured in this chapter with the ‘tremendous secrets of the human frame’ and all the theories of Victor and necrophilia. The extremely gothic feature of the outsider is too in this chapter with Victor’s obsession with his work resulting in his isolation from his colleagues, the fact he works in a locked room above his house and the general isolation of his working being in that it is illegal and must be done secretly results in Victor becoming the outsider. The setting of this chapter too is gothic in his locked ‘workshop of filthy creation’ but also his reference to his frequenting of church graveyards, slaughterhouse and charnel houses. Another gothic theme is the double self, Victor frequently uses the term animation regarding himself, implying the creature being an awakening of himself. But also Victor says how he collects parts from slaughterhouse, which contains animal corpses, meaning the creature is part beast and his animation is almost like releasing the animal side of himself.
On a more basic level this chapter is a gothically scary chapter. The supernatural nature of the chapter with reanimating the dead, but also the horrific nature of the content with dead bodies, isolation and the transgessive actions all results in a frightening atmosphere.
Therefore both literally and simply this chapter if one must, is the most gothic as it contains the almost all the literary gothic elements the novel contains, many in depth, but is also terrifying for the reader.

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