Methods and Techniques: Structure & Narrative Form From Top Notes – Pattinson & Stanners Epistolatory Narrative Form “Frankenstein” is written in an epistolary narrative form that was popular at the time in which it was written. The original publication was presented in three volumes and this emphasised the Chinese box structure of the story within a story within a story. This structural device adds a great deal to its stark drama as well as ensuring greater reader engagement.
The use of three narrators lends verisimilitude to an unlikely story since there is no one omniscient narrator. Our ideas are formulated by responding to multiple narrators and from being able to balance perceptions from one to the other. This method enables the author to maintain a certain objective distance between the text and the reader, allowing her audience to judge and assess the moral worth of her protagonists. Flaws become evident but rather than the novelist casting aspersions on them; the characters condemn themselves in the reader’s mind by their very actions. Multiple Narrators
The novel is still able to intrigue contemporary audiences because each of the three separate stories engage our sympathy with the narrator who presents them. This lends a personal voice in their fate. Each story fits neatly into the next. New contributions are made to our understanding which in turn colours our response to what is being recounted. The interlocutionary bond between storyteller and listener is maintained throughout even though the narrators alternate and often overlap. The reader is caught up in the storyteller’s magic, listening spellbound as different aspects of plot or character are revealed.
First person narration offers one perspective but when this is put up against a different version of events, out interpretations shift on response to questionable moral efficacy. Both Walton and Frankenstein are linked by their voluntary alienation from society whereas the Creature has been forced to wander the world as an outcast. The narrators are depicted as flawed individuals and on the absence of any one, single or reliable storyteller, the reader is forced to assume the mantle of judge. We, rather than the novelist, evaluate the narrators and their versions of the truth that are presented to us.
Well – educated Walton seems the most reliable of the three and like Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner, is left alive to tell the tale that was in turn recounted to him. Shelley makes it clear however that these tales however have been filtered throughout his consciousness. Walton’s sister, Mrs Saville becomes a surrogate reader, serving the narrative function of receiving the letters her brother writes. Dualism Dualism links Victor and his mother which is not given a name, having no identity other than that of being Frankenstein’s doppelganger shadow.
Constructed from the dead body parts of others, he is a grotesque parody of life. “My form”, says the monster, “is a filthy type of yours, made horrid even in the very resemblance. ” Both the scientist and his creation represent the duality of the human condition, the composite blend of good and evil; “Was man, indeed, at once so powerful, so virtuous and magnificent, yet so vicious and base? He appeared at once time a mere scion of the evil principle, and at another as all that can be conceived of noble and godlike. ”
Frankenstein describes the fiend as a monstrous or supernatural devil – “I was cursed by some devil, and carried about with me mu eternal hell”. Linked by many features such as a desire to learn and extract vengeance and scarred by the emotional suffering that results, they become mirrored reflections of each other. Their identities fuse as part of the Doppelganger motif, forging an ambivalent relationship between good and bad. This helps reinforce the central thematic concern of monstrosity, challenging the reader to ponder the nature of humanity and its evil twin.