Frankenstein

by

Mary Shelley

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Frankenstein: Tone 1 key example

Definition of Tone
The tone of a piece of writing is its general character or attitude, which might be cheerful or depressive, sarcastic or sincere, comical or mournful, praising or critical, and so on. For instance... read full definition
The tone of a piece of writing is its general character or attitude, which might be cheerful or depressive, sarcastic or sincere, comical or mournful, praising or critical... read full definition
The tone of a piece of writing is its general character or attitude, which might be cheerful or depressive, sarcastic or sincere, comical... read full definition
Letter 1
Explanation and Analysis:

Unsurprising given its dark subject matter, the tone of Frankenstein is largely bleak and despairing. The story, however, opens optimistically from Captain Robert Walton’s perspective. Writing a letter to his sister Margaret, he expresses excitement and optimism for his journey ahead:

What may not be expected in a country of eternal light? [...] I shall satiate my ardent curiosity with the sight of a part of the world never before visited, and may tread a land never before imprinted by the foot of man. These are my enticements, and they are sufficient to conquer all fear of danger or death, and to induce me to commence this laborious voyage with the joy a child feels when he embarks in a little boat, with his holiday mates, on an expedition of discovery up his native river.

The language in this passage, with words like “enticements” and “laborious,” is characteristic of the novel’s overall formal tone. The image of an “eternal light,” representing enlightenment and progress, and young children on a boat, reflects Walton’s positive, hopeful, and even childlike feelings. Like protagonist Victor Frankenstein, Robert is extremely ambitious in his pursuit of scientific discovery, so much so that he believes he has conquered “all fear of danger and death.”

However, this enthusiastic, elated tone doesn’t last long. In Letter 4, the novel’s tone becomes fatalistic and foreboding once Victor Frankenstein appears, a tone encapsulated in the following passage: 

Even now, as I commence my task, his full-toned voice swells in my ears; his lustrous eyes dwell on me with all their melancholy sweetness; I see his thin hand raised in animation, while the lineaments of his face are irradiated by the soul within. Strange and harrowing must be his story, frightful the storm which embraced the gallant vessel on its course and wrecked it – thus!

Victor’s presence in the narrative immediately shifts the tone. Words like “melancholy,” “strange,” “harrowing,” and “frightful” create a sense of apprehension in the reader, as does Walton’s comparison of Victor to a shipwreck. All throughout Frankenstein, Shelley builds suspense through drastic tonal shifts like the one above. This is exemplified in Chapters 6 and 7, when Victor finds out his youngest brother, William, has been murdered.

At the end of Chapter 6, the novel’s tone reflects Victor’s newfound optimism after he takes a tour around Geneva with Henry Clerval:

When happy, inanimate nature had the power of bestowing on me the most delightful sensations. A serene sky and verdant fields filled me with ecstasy. The present season was indeed divine; the flowers of spring bloomed in the hedges, while those of summer were already in bud. I was undisturbed by thoughts which during the preceding year had pressed upon me, notwithstanding my endeavours to throw them off, with an invincible burden.

Nature relieves Victor of his melancholy and despair, and has a positive, hopeful effect on him. Chapter 7, however, immediately opens with a letter to Victor from his father, informing him that his brother William has been murdered:

And how, Victor, can I relate our misfortune? Absence cannot have rendered you callous to our joys and griefs; and how shall I inflict pain on my long-absent son? I wish to prepare you for the woeful news, but I know it is impossible; even now your eye skims over the page, to seek the words which are to convey to you the horrible tidings.

William’s unexpected death, caused by the Monster’s desire for revenge, only amplifies Victor’s guilt and despair. Like characters Justine and Elizabeth, William is portrayed as gentle, innocent, and kind. Through his death, Shelley suggests that innocence is temporary and subject to the harsh reality of human nature. By the end, Frankenstein’s tone is one of regret, sadness, and disgust, captured in the Monster’s final words to Victor:

Blasted as thou wert, my agony was still superior to thine, for the bitter sting of remorse will not cease to rankle in my wounds until death shall close them forever.

Letter 4
Explanation and Analysis:

Unsurprising given its dark subject matter, the tone of Frankenstein is largely bleak and despairing. The story, however, opens optimistically from Captain Robert Walton’s perspective. Writing a letter to his sister Margaret, he expresses excitement and optimism for his journey ahead:

What may not be expected in a country of eternal light? [...] I shall satiate my ardent curiosity with the sight of a part of the world never before visited, and may tread a land never before imprinted by the foot of man. These are my enticements, and they are sufficient to conquer all fear of danger or death, and to induce me to commence this laborious voyage with the joy a child feels when he embarks in a little boat, with his holiday mates, on an expedition of discovery up his native river.

The language in this passage, with words like “enticements” and “laborious,” is characteristic of the novel’s overall formal tone. The image of an “eternal light,” representing enlightenment and progress, and young children on a boat, reflects Walton’s positive, hopeful, and even childlike feelings. Like protagonist Victor Frankenstein, Robert is extremely ambitious in his pursuit of scientific discovery, so much so that he believes he has conquered “all fear of danger and death.”

However, this enthusiastic, elated tone doesn’t last long. In Letter 4, the novel’s tone becomes fatalistic and foreboding once Victor Frankenstein appears, a tone encapsulated in the following passage: 

Even now, as I commence my task, his full-toned voice swells in my ears; his lustrous eyes dwell on me with all their melancholy sweetness; I see his thin hand raised in animation, while the lineaments of his face are irradiated by the soul within. Strange and harrowing must be his story, frightful the storm which embraced the gallant vessel on its course and wrecked it – thus!

Victor’s presence in the narrative immediately shifts the tone. Words like “melancholy,” “strange,” “harrowing,” and “frightful” create a sense of apprehension in the reader, as does Walton’s comparison of Victor to a shipwreck. All throughout Frankenstein, Shelley builds suspense through drastic tonal shifts like the one above. This is exemplified in Chapters 6 and 7, when Victor finds out his youngest brother, William, has been murdered.

At the end of Chapter 6, the novel’s tone reflects Victor’s newfound optimism after he takes a tour around Geneva with Henry Clerval:

When happy, inanimate nature had the power of bestowing on me the most delightful sensations. A serene sky and verdant fields filled me with ecstasy. The present season was indeed divine; the flowers of spring bloomed in the hedges, while those of summer were already in bud. I was undisturbed by thoughts which during the preceding year had pressed upon me, notwithstanding my endeavours to throw them off, with an invincible burden.

Nature relieves Victor of his melancholy and despair, and has a positive, hopeful effect on him. Chapter 7, however, immediately opens with a letter to Victor from his father, informing him that his brother William has been murdered:

And how, Victor, can I relate our misfortune? Absence cannot have rendered you callous to our joys and griefs; and how shall I inflict pain on my long-absent son? I wish to prepare you for the woeful news, but I know it is impossible; even now your eye skims over the page, to seek the words which are to convey to you the horrible tidings.

William’s unexpected death, caused by the Monster’s desire for revenge, only amplifies Victor’s guilt and despair. Like characters Justine and Elizabeth, William is portrayed as gentle, innocent, and kind. Through his death, Shelley suggests that innocence is temporary and subject to the harsh reality of human nature. By the end, Frankenstein’s tone is one of regret, sadness, and disgust, captured in the Monster’s final words to Victor:

Blasted as thou wert, my agony was still superior to thine, for the bitter sting of remorse will not cease to rankle in my wounds until death shall close them forever.

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Chapter 6
Explanation and Analysis:

Unsurprising given its dark subject matter, the tone of Frankenstein is largely bleak and despairing. The story, however, opens optimistically from Captain Robert Walton’s perspective. Writing a letter to his sister Margaret, he expresses excitement and optimism for his journey ahead:

What may not be expected in a country of eternal light? [...] I shall satiate my ardent curiosity with the sight of a part of the world never before visited, and may tread a land never before imprinted by the foot of man. These are my enticements, and they are sufficient to conquer all fear of danger or death, and to induce me to commence this laborious voyage with the joy a child feels when he embarks in a little boat, with his holiday mates, on an expedition of discovery up his native river.

The language in this passage, with words like “enticements” and “laborious,” is characteristic of the novel’s overall formal tone. The image of an “eternal light,” representing enlightenment and progress, and young children on a boat, reflects Walton’s positive, hopeful, and even childlike feelings. Like protagonist Victor Frankenstein, Robert is extremely ambitious in his pursuit of scientific discovery, so much so that he believes he has conquered “all fear of danger and death.”

However, this enthusiastic, elated tone doesn’t last long. In Letter 4, the novel’s tone becomes fatalistic and foreboding once Victor Frankenstein appears, a tone encapsulated in the following passage: 

Even now, as I commence my task, his full-toned voice swells in my ears; his lustrous eyes dwell on me with all their melancholy sweetness; I see his thin hand raised in animation, while the lineaments of his face are irradiated by the soul within. Strange and harrowing must be his story, frightful the storm which embraced the gallant vessel on its course and wrecked it – thus!

Victor’s presence in the narrative immediately shifts the tone. Words like “melancholy,” “strange,” “harrowing,” and “frightful” create a sense of apprehension in the reader, as does Walton’s comparison of Victor to a shipwreck. All throughout Frankenstein, Shelley builds suspense through drastic tonal shifts like the one above. This is exemplified in Chapters 6 and 7, when Victor finds out his youngest brother, William, has been murdered.

At the end of Chapter 6, the novel’s tone reflects Victor’s newfound optimism after he takes a tour around Geneva with Henry Clerval:

When happy, inanimate nature had the power of bestowing on me the most delightful sensations. A serene sky and verdant fields filled me with ecstasy. The present season was indeed divine; the flowers of spring bloomed in the hedges, while those of summer were already in bud. I was undisturbed by thoughts which during the preceding year had pressed upon me, notwithstanding my endeavours to throw them off, with an invincible burden.

Nature relieves Victor of his melancholy and despair, and has a positive, hopeful effect on him. Chapter 7, however, immediately opens with a letter to Victor from his father, informing him that his brother William has been murdered:

And how, Victor, can I relate our misfortune? Absence cannot have rendered you callous to our joys and griefs; and how shall I inflict pain on my long-absent son? I wish to prepare you for the woeful news, but I know it is impossible; even now your eye skims over the page, to seek the words which are to convey to you the horrible tidings.

William’s unexpected death, caused by the Monster’s desire for revenge, only amplifies Victor’s guilt and despair. Like characters Justine and Elizabeth, William is portrayed as gentle, innocent, and kind. Through his death, Shelley suggests that innocence is temporary and subject to the harsh reality of human nature. By the end, Frankenstein’s tone is one of regret, sadness, and disgust, captured in the Monster’s final words to Victor:

Blasted as thou wert, my agony was still superior to thine, for the bitter sting of remorse will not cease to rankle in my wounds until death shall close them forever.

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Chapter 7
Explanation and Analysis:

Unsurprising given its dark subject matter, the tone of Frankenstein is largely bleak and despairing. The story, however, opens optimistically from Captain Robert Walton’s perspective. Writing a letter to his sister Margaret, he expresses excitement and optimism for his journey ahead:

What may not be expected in a country of eternal light? [...] I shall satiate my ardent curiosity with the sight of a part of the world never before visited, and may tread a land never before imprinted by the foot of man. These are my enticements, and they are sufficient to conquer all fear of danger or death, and to induce me to commence this laborious voyage with the joy a child feels when he embarks in a little boat, with his holiday mates, on an expedition of discovery up his native river.

The language in this passage, with words like “enticements” and “laborious,” is characteristic of the novel’s overall formal tone. The image of an “eternal light,” representing enlightenment and progress, and young children on a boat, reflects Walton’s positive, hopeful, and even childlike feelings. Like protagonist Victor Frankenstein, Robert is extremely ambitious in his pursuit of scientific discovery, so much so that he believes he has conquered “all fear of danger and death.”

However, this enthusiastic, elated tone doesn’t last long. In Letter 4, the novel’s tone becomes fatalistic and foreboding once Victor Frankenstein appears, a tone encapsulated in the following passage: 

Even now, as I commence my task, his full-toned voice swells in my ears; his lustrous eyes dwell on me with all their melancholy sweetness; I see his thin hand raised in animation, while the lineaments of his face are irradiated by the soul within. Strange and harrowing must be his story, frightful the storm which embraced the gallant vessel on its course and wrecked it – thus!

Victor’s presence in the narrative immediately shifts the tone. Words like “melancholy,” “strange,” “harrowing,” and “frightful” create a sense of apprehension in the reader, as does Walton’s comparison of Victor to a shipwreck. All throughout Frankenstein, Shelley builds suspense through drastic tonal shifts like the one above. This is exemplified in Chapters 6 and 7, when Victor finds out his youngest brother, William, has been murdered.

At the end of Chapter 6, the novel’s tone reflects Victor’s newfound optimism after he takes a tour around Geneva with Henry Clerval:

When happy, inanimate nature had the power of bestowing on me the most delightful sensations. A serene sky and verdant fields filled me with ecstasy. The present season was indeed divine; the flowers of spring bloomed in the hedges, while those of summer were already in bud. I was undisturbed by thoughts which during the preceding year had pressed upon me, notwithstanding my endeavours to throw them off, with an invincible burden.

Nature relieves Victor of his melancholy and despair, and has a positive, hopeful effect on him. Chapter 7, however, immediately opens with a letter to Victor from his father, informing him that his brother William has been murdered:

And how, Victor, can I relate our misfortune? Absence cannot have rendered you callous to our joys and griefs; and how shall I inflict pain on my long-absent son? I wish to prepare you for the woeful news, but I know it is impossible; even now your eye skims over the page, to seek the words which are to convey to you the horrible tidings.

William’s unexpected death, caused by the Monster’s desire for revenge, only amplifies Victor’s guilt and despair. Like characters Justine and Elizabeth, William is portrayed as gentle, innocent, and kind. Through his death, Shelley suggests that innocence is temporary and subject to the harsh reality of human nature. By the end, Frankenstein’s tone is one of regret, sadness, and disgust, captured in the Monster’s final words to Victor:

Blasted as thou wert, my agony was still superior to thine, for the bitter sting of remorse will not cease to rankle in my wounds until death shall close them forever.

Unlock with LitCharts A+
Chapter 24
Explanation and Analysis:

Unsurprising given its dark subject matter, the tone of Frankenstein is largely bleak and despairing. The story, however, opens optimistically from Captain Robert Walton’s perspective. Writing a letter to his sister Margaret, he expresses excitement and optimism for his journey ahead:

What may not be expected in a country of eternal light? [...] I shall satiate my ardent curiosity with the sight of a part of the world never before visited, and may tread a land never before imprinted by the foot of man. These are my enticements, and they are sufficient to conquer all fear of danger or death, and to induce me to commence this laborious voyage with the joy a child feels when he embarks in a little boat, with his holiday mates, on an expedition of discovery up his native river.

The language in this passage, with words like “enticements” and “laborious,” is characteristic of the novel’s overall formal tone. The image of an “eternal light,” representing enlightenment and progress, and young children on a boat, reflects Walton’s positive, hopeful, and even childlike feelings. Like protagonist Victor Frankenstein, Robert is extremely ambitious in his pursuit of scientific discovery, so much so that he believes he has conquered “all fear of danger and death.”

However, this enthusiastic, elated tone doesn’t last long. In Letter 4, the novel’s tone becomes fatalistic and foreboding once Victor Frankenstein appears, a tone encapsulated in the following passage: 

Even now, as I commence my task, his full-toned voice swells in my ears; his lustrous eyes dwell on me with all their melancholy sweetness; I see his thin hand raised in animation, while the lineaments of his face are irradiated by the soul within. Strange and harrowing must be his story, frightful the storm which embraced the gallant vessel on its course and wrecked it – thus!

Victor’s presence in the narrative immediately shifts the tone. Words like “melancholy,” “strange,” “harrowing,” and “frightful” create a sense of apprehension in the reader, as does Walton’s comparison of Victor to a shipwreck. All throughout Frankenstein, Shelley builds suspense through drastic tonal shifts like the one above. This is exemplified in Chapters 6 and 7, when Victor finds out his youngest brother, William, has been murdered.

At the end of Chapter 6, the novel’s tone reflects Victor’s newfound optimism after he takes a tour around Geneva with Henry Clerval:

When happy, inanimate nature had the power of bestowing on me the most delightful sensations. A serene sky and verdant fields filled me with ecstasy. The present season was indeed divine; the flowers of spring bloomed in the hedges, while those of summer were already in bud. I was undisturbed by thoughts which during the preceding year had pressed upon me, notwithstanding my endeavours to throw them off, with an invincible burden.

Nature relieves Victor of his melancholy and despair, and has a positive, hopeful effect on him. Chapter 7, however, immediately opens with a letter to Victor from his father, informing him that his brother William has been murdered:

And how, Victor, can I relate our misfortune? Absence cannot have rendered you callous to our joys and griefs; and how shall I inflict pain on my long-absent son? I wish to prepare you for the woeful news, but I know it is impossible; even now your eye skims over the page, to seek the words which are to convey to you the horrible tidings.

William’s unexpected death, caused by the Monster’s desire for revenge, only amplifies Victor’s guilt and despair. Like characters Justine and Elizabeth, William is portrayed as gentle, innocent, and kind. Through his death, Shelley suggests that innocence is temporary and subject to the harsh reality of human nature. By the end, Frankenstein’s tone is one of regret, sadness, and disgust, captured in the Monster’s final words to Victor:

Blasted as thou wert, my agony was still superior to thine, for the bitter sting of remorse will not cease to rankle in my wounds until death shall close them forever.

Unlock with LitCharts A+