Textual Analysis: The Night of Creation

In the first volume of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, chapter V begins with a short paragraph that precedes the pivotal creation scene. Through the selection of fervent diction, incorporation of grim detail, and utilization of haunting imagery, Shelley generates a setting that both exemplifies characteristics of a Gothic novel and foreshadows Victor’s unfavorable feelings towards his creation.

The illustration of “a dreary night of November” with “rain patter[ing]” against the windows immediately generates a gloomy atmosphere. The description of Victor working past “one in the morning” on a cold, wet, and dark night when most people are asleep, stores are closed, and towns are quiet depicts a morbid silence interrupted only by the “disma[l]” cadence of rain drops and sounds of Victor’s work with his “instruments of life.” Shelley’s incorporation of a metaphor for Victor’s scientific tools integrates a supernatural element and poses a question regarding Victor as a God-like figure with divine power. Additionally, the decreasing illumination of a “nearly burnt out” candle further develops a disturbing scene. The darkness from outside slowly bleeds into Victor’s laboratory, casting shadows and indicating that soon blackness will become all consuming.

After much hope, apprehension, research, and “toils,” Shelley reveals that Victor finally succeeds in his endeavor to create life. However, Shelley purposely connects what should be a bright and happy moment with the downcast mood of a stormy night, the unnerving image of darkness, and Victor’s dehumanizing description of his creation. This juxtaposition exemplifies a tactic to foreshadow not only Victor’s unhappiness, but also future horror and dread that will follow his “accomplishment.” Although Victor aspired to create a human being, in this passage he only refers to his creation as a “thing” and a “creature.” Through the description of a “yellow eye” like that of a lizard, an unnatural and inhuman characteristic, Shelley exemplifies an act of dehumanization and foreshadows Victor’s detachment and disgust towards his creation.

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