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Frankenstein. Diction. Overall. In general, Mary Shelly’s diction is intensely descriptive. Like a good ghost story, vividly expressive word choice forms the basis of the reader’s horror.

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  • In general, Mary Shelly’s diction is intensely descriptive. Like a good ghost story, vividly expressive word choice forms the basis of the reader’s horror.
  • “Delighted and surprised, I embraced her; but as I imprinted the first kiss on her lips, they became livid with the hue of death; her features appeared to change, and I thought that I held the corpse of my dead mother in my arms; a shroud enveloped her form, and I saw the grave worms crawling in the folds of the flannel” (56).
overall cont
Overall (Cont.)
  • In the beginning, the diction is optimistic and cheerful.
  • As Victor matures, the diction shifts to become more gloomy.
romantic or gothic
Romantic or Gothic?
  • Descriptions of nature and childhood use positive, glowing diction.
  • “Their icy and glittering peaks shone in the sunlight over the clouds. My heart, which was before sorrowful, now swelled with something like joy; I exclaimed– ‘Wandering spirits, if indeed ye wander, and do not rest in your narrow beds, allow me this faint happiness, or take me, as your companion away from the joys of life’” (96).
romantic or gothic cont
Romantic or Gothic? (cont.)
  • On the other hand, much of the diction is morbid and depressing, suggesting a gothic.
  • “A fiendish rage animated him as he said this; his face was wrinkled into contortions to horrible for human eyes to behold” (125).
  • “As yet I looked upon crime as a distant evil; benevolence and generosity were ever present before me, inciting within me a desire to become an actor in the busy scene where so many admirable qualities were called forth and displayed” (127).
  • “The feelings of kindness and gentleness which I had entertained but a few moments before gave place to hellish rage and gnashing of teeth. Inflamed by pain, I vowed eternal hatred and vengeance to all mankind”(121).
  • The creature’s diction cast him as a very perspicacious character.
  • The creature’s narrative switches from positive diction (kindness and gentleness) to negative diction (hellish rage and gnashing of teeth).
  • Imagery and diction relating to hell: hellish rage, gnashing of teeth, eternal hatred.
    • This helps to reinforce the concept of the creature’s descent from innocence and goodness to distrust and disillusionment
  • “All was silent again, but his words rang in my ears. I burned with rage to pursue the murderer of my peace and precipitate him into the ocean. I walked up and down my room hastily and perturbed, while my imagination conjured up a thousand images to torment and sting me” (147).
  • Victor’s diction is marked by the use of scientific sounding words and formal constructions.
  • Also, note the use of “burned.” Words which relate to fire are a used extensively in Frankenstein, usually to describe extremes of emotion.
  • Not as much in this quotation, but often Victor uses vague, wordy diction with many qualification.
  • “I wish to soothe him; yet can I counsel one so infinitely miserable, so destitute of every hope of consolation, to live? Oh, no! The only joy that he can now know will be when he composes his shattered spirit to peace and death. Yet he enjoys one comfort, the offspring of solitude and delirium: he believes that, when in dreams he holds converse with his friends and derives from that communion consolation for his miseries or excitements to his vengeance, that are not for the creations of his fancy, but the beings themselves who visit him from the regions of the remote world”(207).
  • Walton’s diction in this quotes displays mood swings in his speech. While words such as “soothe” and “counsel” show that Walton views Frankenstein as a friend, he also looks down upon the man as crazy and hopeless. In a sense, this dichotomy mirrors the way Frankenstein influences Walton, at once urging him onward to the North pole and serving as an example of the dangers of reckless scientific ambition.
  • Vivid descriptive diction (what a surprise!)
  • Romantic and Gothic themes
  • The monster: intelligent, clear diction
  • Frankenstein: overly scientific
  • Walton: mood swings