Frankenstein’s narrative technique explained and simplified

Frankenstein presents us with a Chinese box style narrative- this means that there are narration within narrations. This style of narration creates a lot of meaning and also helps to foreshadow the events within the novel.

One of the main effects this style of narration has on the narrative, is it makes it unreliable. We are told different versions of the same storey and what we are told by Walton is third person. Do we believe the creature’s storey about himself? Before meeting the DeLacey’s he was inarticulate and ‘childlike’. He did not recognise human emotions so how can he portray them to the reader?

Similarly, it is difficult for the reader to fully accept Victor’s version of events. Victor, throughout the novel, brought the label of mad upon himself. He secluded himself and obsessed over unconventional things. The people around him picked up on these things and thought he was psychotic. From erratic mood wrings to depression, there was a sense of insanity that was associated with victor throughout the novel. As an omniscient reader, we understand that he has reason for his depression and crazy mood swings; but there is still an underlying sense of madness that made him fixated with such unconventional interests. Shelly chose to use this style of narration.

There are a lot of ideas about why Shelly chose to use this style of narration. Victor says he wants to ‘penetrate the secrets of nature’- clarifying that science is all about trying to find out how the wold works. In this sense, it could be said that victor is trying to adopt the roll of god… all knowing, all seeing. By having multiple narrators, it is the reader that becomes all-knowing and all seeing, highlighting how victor is fighting a losing battle against science.

Another idea, in keeping with the theme of science, is the idea of foreshadowing. The narrative is put together from a collection of voices; not of which would hold any real significance on their own. When victor is creating his monster he uses stolen body parts and stitches them together. One missing body part and the creature would be incomplete. The same goes for the narrative. If one voice was missing, the storey wouldn’t make any sense.
Science is about finding out how the world works; the idea of knowing everything. Because of the multiple narrations, the narration becomes restricted for everyone except the reader. In doing this, shelly is allowing the reader to play the role of the ‘scientist’, forcing us to piece the narrations together to find out the truth.
Victor and the creature have separate narrations, just as they have separate lives. Victor created the creature, and so therefore had the responsibility to take in the rose of the mother; the protector. Instead of facing up to what he had done, he ran away from his responsibilities and left the creature to fend for himself. Victor and the creature going their separate ways reflect their separate narratives.

Linking directly to this is the ongoing theme of isolation. Victor, Walton and the creature face isolation at some point within the novel, albeit caused by different things and in different ways. The creature was forced into isolation by the rejection of both Victor and society because of the way he looked. Victor brought the isolation upon himself. He kept his creation a secret due to fear and self-blame. He isolated himself, locking himself away, hiding from the creature and also during the creation process he spent most of his time in his apartment. Walton, on his quest to find magnetic north, found himself isolated from humanity on the icy seas. All three were isolated from society and also from each other as they didn’t understand one another; hence the separation of the narratives to keep the isolation going.

The only narrators we have are Victor, The Creature and Walton. We do not receive the narrative voice of a female. When Victor’s mother brings Elizabeth home for the first time, he says ‘since till death she is to be mine’. He looks at her as a present to him and takes ownership of her. From this pint on , she no longer has an identity other than that of her belonging to Victor. This shows the objectification of women, trues to that of the time period- long


before the feminist movement.


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