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Frankenstein: the Monster of Gothic Literature

  • Date Submitted: 04/17/2011 11:03 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 50.9 
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Frankenstein: The Monster of Gothic Literature
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is an oft-studied, widely-read and reviewed story, and is considered one of the most prominent and definitive works of Romantic and Gothic literature. It is greatly acclaimed and generally acknowledged as an innovative and powerful piece of fiction, a cautionary morality tale prolific in its study of the human condition and lauded for its skilled use of rich and textured prose. In Quarterly Review 18, however, John Wilson Croker takes a much more negative stance on Frankenstein, considering it “nonsense decked out in circumstances,” commenting on “the unmeaning hollowness of its sound, and the vague obscurity of its images” (309). One might argue that his inflammatory, reactionary review is evidence of a more diffuse aversion to Gothic literature as a whole. By deeming Frankenstein as grotesque spectacle, Croker completely misses the story’s allegorical and portentous nature, and its revolutionary literary importance. The story obviously has had a powerful effect on him, yet, while many of his statements reveal his biased and narrow-minded view of the world, he neglects to analyze the tale’s affect. If Croker is going to ignore the bigger-picture implications of his reaction to Frankenstein, one wonders why he bothered to review it at all.
Croker clearly takes issue with Shelley’s “pious” dedication to her father, William Godwin, and his first comment is that the “the tissue of horrible and disgusting absurdity this work presents” is evidence that the story is a study of Godwin (308). Croker makes no effort to disguise his prejudice against Godwin whose prevailing accomplishment, he argues, “is in delineating the wanderings of the intellect” and who “delights in the most afflicting and humiliating of human miseries” (308-9). In Political Justice I, Godwin proves himself a contemporary of his time, favouring the individual over the community, and his “sentiment of justice” relates itself to...


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