The Gothic often employs a first person narrative focussing on the inner lives of its protagonists. The psychological processes revealed reflect political and social issues arising in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. The Enlightenment, French, American and Industrial revolution had set in motion a reshuffling of traditional social orders; a new middle class, the bourgeoisie emerged, and with it mercantilism and rationalism. The Gothic can be seen as a reaction to overtly rational thinking, exposing the hidden fears of that time, and criticising the new models of society. The core text used as a representative of the genre Gothic is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. However, Frankenstein is not only a Gothic novel, but is closely connected to Romantic thoughts and ideas. Vice versa, some of the tropes of the Gothic novel can also be found in Romantic literature. Frankenstein is intertextually connected with Wordsworth´s and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads through references to Coleridge’s ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ and Wordsworth´s ‘Tintern Abbey’. Romantic poetry focuses on the individual, too. Although the form of novel and poetry inevitably differs, and thus also the extent to which a character or issue is presented, a lot of similarities can be found which stand for a discourse typical of that epoch.
A prerequisite for the exploration of the individual mind is a narrative exposing the processes of the protagonist’s mind. The suitable narrative form is thus the first person narrative employed in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, as well as in some of the Lyrical Ballads. In a time of political and social upheaval very few things appear stable, and neither does the individual mind. Cultural and individual change is paralleling each other.
In Wordsworth’s poem ‘Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey’, the changing of a personality is addressed. Time is an influential factor for change: ‘Five years have passed: five summers, with the length / Of five long winters!’. Whilst the setting and therewith nature herself seems to have been untouched by the course of time, the narrator is aware of the changes which occurred in himself and in his attitude to his surroundings. Nature serves as a base for contrasting his former and his present state of mind, as stated in self-reflective lines such as:
And so I dare to hope
Though changed, no doubt, from what I was, when first
I came among these hills; when like a roe
I bounded o’er the mountains, by the sides
Of the deep rivers, and the lovely streams,
Wherever nature led; more like a man
Flying from something that he dreads, than one
Who sought the thing he loved.
(115, ll. 65-73)
Nature is also presented as a reliable source of ‘tranquil restoration’(114, l. 31), like the domestic relations, that is the lyrical persona’s sister, focused on in the last lines. This interpersonal relationship anchors the self between now and then, for, in opposition to nature’s invariable attitude, the sister remembers the past and perceives the present:
My dear, dear Friend, and in thy voice I catch
The language of my former heart, and read
My former pleasures in the shooting lights
Of thy wild eyes!
(117, ll. 117-120)
This self-observation of a character changing and maturing over the years is enabled through the first person narrative of the lyrical persona.
 Wordsworth and Coleridge. Lyrical Ballads. (London, New York: Routledge, 1988) 113, ll. 1-2
Subsequent references will be marked in the text..
- Quote paper
- Meike Kohl (Author), 2006, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and the Gothic - exploring the individual psyche and operating as a form of social critique, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/117646