How does Frankenstein's retrospective narrative of chapters 1-5 attempt to situate blame for his actions elsewhere, and how far are we convinced by his "excuses"?(Frankenstein, Mary Shelley)

Essay by benfrench2003High School, 12th gradeA-, May 2004

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Shelley chose to allow Frankenstein to narrate his own tale for several reasons. For example, a direct effect of this first person narrative is that it lets the reader into the inner thoughts of the main protagonist. This allows us to pass judgement on the choices he makes, the explanations he gives for them and the general way in which he considers his actions and comes to justify them. However, in fitting with the gothic genre of the novel, the decision on whether or not to sympathise with Frankenstein can not be made easily, putting the reader into an uncomfortable, uncertain state of mind. The clever narrative Shelley uses often creates such a feeling of ambiguity, which enhances the horror we come to feel as the book progresses. Whilst the fact that Shelley presents Frankenstein's view first suggests she doesn't want us to totally condemn him, there is also an ironic repulsion we sometimes feel towards him because of the views that he expresses so confidently, despite his attempts to gain sympathy.

In this respect, Frankenstein's narration is often more telling of himself than he actually realises.

Throughout chapters one to five, we learn of Frankenstein's "excuses", as he tries to situate the blame on many different influences on his life, conveniently avoiding that of his own human error. One such influence that we learn about is the effect that his father and family had on the way he was brought up. Frankenstein seems to suggest that his childhood was rather sheltered and mundane, and as a result of this he was subconsciously driven to seek out adventure and the unknown. He was very much steered throughout his childhood, and Frankenstein uses very figurative language to express this- "I was so guided by a silken cord that...