Study Guide

Frankenstein Writing Style

By Mary Shelley

Writing Style

Naturally Emo

Okay. Hands up out there if you did this at least once while reading the book: (1) rolled your eyes, (2) sighed with exasperation, (3) shouted, "Get over it already! Everyone has daddy issues!", or (4) all of the above.

We hear ya, Shmoopers, really we do. Frankenstein can be a challenging read for modern folks. The characters go on and on in complex sentences. When they aren't admiring the scenery, they're talking about their, you know, feelings all the time. And they do it in ways that would make us totally walk out on our friends if they tried to pull that stuff. Still, Mary Shelley's writing style does serve a purpose. In fact, it serves two.

Purpose #1

Nature is a really big deal. Considering that it encompasses everything around us, we guess that's kind of stating the obvious. But for the Romantics, Nature was a really big deal. Of course, Mary Shelley's husband Percy was a leading figure in the Romantic literary movement, so she would naturally have been similarly influenced by the Romantic viewpoint that the natural world is something to be noticed, admired, and foregrounded in human experience as evidence of greater truths. Check out Victor recalling his stroll through the mountains:

The weight upon my spirit was sensibly lightened as I plunged yet deeper in the ravine of Arve. The immense mountains and precipices that overhung me on every side, the sound of the river raging among the rocks, and the dashing of the waterfalls around spoke of a power mighty as Omnipotence — and I ceased to fear or to bend before any being less almighty than that which had created and ruled the elements, here displayed in their most terrific guise. (9.13)

In this passage, a simple mountain stroll is characterized as a profound spiritual experience, which is totally in keeping with Romantic ideals. Nature for them was an extension of God, and the interaction of humans with the natural world was much more important than a day trip to your favorite campsite. Hence, we get lots of passages in this style in the book.

Purpose #2

Soooo emo, you guys. The Romantics put a premium on the importance of feelings in their work, and Mary Shelley is no exception. Okay, sure, we're used to sharing everything from what we ate for breakfast to who we're listening to on Spotify right now. But we don't usually share our deepest thoughts and feelings. (That's a quick way to get yourself blocked from most people's newsfeeds.) But the Romantics wanted to remind readers that human emotions mattered, too. We aren't just rational brains wandering around on two legs. Just ask the monster:

Oh, earth! How often did I imprecate curses on the cause of my being! The mildness of my nature had fled, and all within me was turned to gall and bitterness. The nearer I approached to your habitation, the more deeply did I feel the spirit of revenge enkindled in my heart. (16.15)

And the monster isn't the only one to emote like this. Everyone does it. What seems like an extended diary entry is really just a celebration of our emotional inner turmoil. (Hey, times were hard before psychiatry.)