Patterns of language use Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

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1 You will often be given more credit for analysing patterns of language use in English Literature texts, rather than single quotations. The table below gives a selection of quotations which include variations on the commonly used word wretch in order to provide you with models of how you could analyse these details, ideas to get you started, and further opportunities for analysing on your own. Most of the table has been completed but there are gaps left for you to fill. This could be repeated for any word in Shelley s narrative using a reliable online text, such as Project Gutenberg. Location Quotation Context Significance and analysis Letter 4 I never saw a man in so wretched a condition Walton describing Frankenstein. 5 How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate the wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavoured to form? I beheld the wretch the miserable monster whom I had created A mummy again endued with animation could not be so hideous as that wretch I passed the night wretchedly Frankenstein s reaction to seeing the creature after its creation. This description of Frankenstein through the eyes of Walton may invite the reader to consider Victor initially as a sympathetic wretched figure. However, having read the whole novel, the reader may retrospectively consider this portrayal of Frankenstein as a way of presenting the negative consequences of the two men s egocentricity. Frankenstein s narrative (which is being told to Walton) immediately presents the creature as an inhuman wretch on several occasions. He is threatened by his creation. However, this narrative viewpoint is heavily biased; as we read the creature s narrative which retells the events in s 11-16, here we may become more compassionate towards the abandoned creature. Frankenstein suggests that passing the night wretchedly is a direct result of seeing his creation. This links with his term of abuse wretch earlier. However, later, the reader may consider Frankenstein s lack of responsibility towards his creation as the more wretched act Page 1 of 5

2 7 What would be your surprise, my son, when you expected a happy and glad welcome, to behold, on the contrary, tears and wretchedness? The picture appeared a vast and dim scene of evil, and I foresaw obscurely that I was destined to become the most wretched of human beings. Letter from Frankenstein s father about death of William. Frankenstein travels towards home. Can you link the use of wretchedness to the death of William? Look at William s use of wretch later, too. Frankenstein s self-pity linked with the creature s self-pity as described later in the novel? She most of all, said Ernest, requires consolation; she accused herself of having caused the death of my brother, and that made her very wretched. Ernest speaks to Frankenstein about Elizabeth. How have Frankenstein s actions affected others, such as Elizabeth? Does the reader feel sympathy for her? 8 this wretched mockery of justice Frankenstein on the trial of Justine. Frankenstein admits that justice has not been served can you link this to his description here, and the fact that he did nothing to save Justine? Dear lady, I had none to support me; all looked on me as a wretch doomed to ignominy and perdition Justine to Elizabeth about lying about her guilt. Why might you feel compassion for Justine as she admits her guilt? Is she a wretch, like Frankenstein? 10 I expected this reception, said the daemon. All men hate the wretched; how, then, must I be hated, who am miserable beyond all living things! Creature to Frankenstein when they meet on the glacier. Why do you think the creature calls himself wretched? Wretched devil! and You have made me wretched beyond expression. Frankenstein to creature just after this. Why, then, might Frankenstein use the same term to address the creature and describe himself soon after? I was a poor, helpless, miserable wretch Creature at the start of his narrative. If such lovely creatures were miserable, it was less strange that I, an imperfect and solitary being, should be wretched. Creature describing the De Laceys. Why do you think Shelley has the creature compare himself with the de Laceys using the word wretched? Page 2 of 5

3 15 I learned from Werter s imaginations despondency and gloom, but Plutarch taught me high thoughts; he elevated me above the wretched sphere of my own reflections, to admire and love the heroes of past ages. Creature reflecting on what the texts he found taught him. Why do you think Shelley describes the creature as being elevated above the wretched sphere of his own thoughts at this point in the story? But Paradise Lost excited different and far deeper emotions I often referred the several situations, as their similarity struck me, to my own. Like Adam, I was apparently united by no link to any other being in existence; but his state was far different from mine in every other respect. He had come forth from the hands of God a perfect creature, happy and prosperous, guarded by the especial care of his Creator; he was allowed to converse with and acquire knowledge from beings of a superior nature, but I was wretched, helpless, and alone. Many times I considered Satan as the fitter emblem of my condition, for often, like him, when I viewed the bliss of my protectors, the bitter gall of envy rose within me. 16 Let me go, he cried; monster! Ugly wretch! William to the creature before he dies. Why do you think William calls the creature wretch? Does this link to Frankenstein s use of the word earlier? Is it because William is Victor s brother? Why does William add the adjective ugly here? Look above at the 7 comments too. 18 And you, my friend, would be far more amused with the journal of Clerval, who observed the scenery with an eye of feeling and delight, than in listening to my reflections. I, a miserable wretch, haunted by a curse that shut up every avenue to enjoyment. Frankenstein to Walton, describing his journey with Clerval Page 3 of 5

4 20 I was now about to form another being of whose dispositions I was alike ignorant; she might become ten thousand times more malignant than her mate and delight, for its own sake, in murder and wretchedness. Frankenstein describing the creation of the creature s mate. The wretch saw me destroy the creature on whose future existence he depended for happiness, and with a howl of devilish despair and revenge, withdrew. The destruction of the mate. Slave, I before reasoned with you, but you have proved yourself unworthy of my condescension. Remember that I have power; you believe yourself miserable, but I can make you so wretched that the light of day will be hateful to you. You are my creator, but I am your master; obey! Creature threatening Frankenstein after this event. 21 But I was doomed to live and in two months found myself as awaking from a dream, in a prison, stretched on a wretched bed, surrounded by jailers, turnkeys, bolts, and all the miserable apparatus of a dungeon. Frankenstein in custody after death of Clerval. I was overcome by gloom and misery and often reflected I had better seek death than desire to remain in a world which to me was replete with wretchedness. 24 I was answered through the stillness of night by a loud and fiendish laugh. It rang on my ears long and heavily; the mountains re-echoed it, and I felt as if all hell surrounded me with mockery and laughter. Surely in that moment I should have been possessed by frenzy and have destroyed my miserable existence but that When Frankenstein starts to pursue the creature and describes hearing the creature s laugh. Why do you think the creature calls Frankenstein a wretch here? How does it link to Victor s pursuit of the creature? Page 4 of 5

5 my vow was heard and that I was reserved for vengeance. The laughter died away, when a wellknown and abhorred voice, apparently close to my ear, addressed me in an audible whisper, I am satisfied, miserable wretch! You have determined to live, and I am satisfied. Hear him not; call on the names of William, Justine, Clerval, Elizabeth, my father, and of the wretched Victor, and thrust your sword into his heart. I will hover near and direct the steel aright. His fine and lovely eyes were now lighted up with indignation, now subdued to downcast sorrow and quenched in infinite wretchedness. I was at first touched by the expressions of his misery; yet, when I called to mind what Frankenstein had said of his powers of eloquence and persuasion, and when I again cast my eyes on the lifeless form of my friend, indignation was rekindled within me. Wretch! I said. It is well that you come here to whine over the desolation that you have made. But it is true that I am a wretch. Farewell! I leave you, and in you the last of humankind whom these eyes will ever behold. Farewell, Frankenstein! If thou wert yet alive and yet cherished a desire of revenge against me, it would be better satiated in my life than in my destruction. But it was not so; thou didst seek my extinction, that I might not cause greater wretchedness; and if yet, in some mode unknown to me, thou hadst not ceased to think and feel, thou wouldst not desire against me a vengeance greater than that which I feel. Frankenstein s last words. Walton in continuation. Walton to the creature. Creature to Walton. Why does Victor call himself wretched, even at the end? Why does the creature also call himself a wretch at the end? How does it link him and his creator? Why might Shelley have done this? Page 5 of 5

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