how does shelley create her gothic atmosphere

The Gothic Atmosphere in Mary Shelley’s “Education”

The Use of Nature in Shelley’s Gothic Atmosphere

Frankenstein Shelley Gothic Nature

One of the key elements in creating a gothic atmosphere in literature is the use of nature. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is no exception. In fact, Shelley masterfully creates a distinctive gothic atmosphere by utilizing nature in a variety of ways.

Firstly, the setting of the novel is deeply intertwined with nature. The bleak and desolate landscape of the Swiss Alps serves as the perfect backdrop for the novel’s dark and gloomy themes. The mountains, glaciers, and mists of the region create an ominous feeling that sets the tone for the entire novel. Shelley expertly uses nature to mirror the unsettled and turbulent emotions of the characters in the story.

Another way Shelley uses nature to create a gothic atmosphere is through the use of weather. Throughout the novel, dark and stormy weather is frequently described. This sets the perfect backdrop for the dramatic and sinister events that occur in the story. The stormy weather also emphasizes the darker emotions of the characters and serves as a symbol for the turmoil they are experiencing. For instance, the storm that rages on during the night of the creature’s birth foreshadows the turbulent events that will soon follow.

In addition to the setting and weather, Shelley also utilizes nature to explore the themes of life and death. The natural world plays a crucial role in Victor Frankenstein’s creation of his creature. The vivid and detailed descriptions of the body parts he gathers to create the monster evoke a sense of horror and disgust in the reader. Furthermore, the creature himself experiences a deep connection to nature, indicating that he is more than just an artificial creation. The creature’s appreciation of nature contrasts with his own grotesque appearance, adding to the novel’s gothic atmosphere.

In conclusion, the use of nature is an essential element in creating a gothic atmosphere in literature, and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a prime example of this. Through her use of setting, weather, and even the natural world, Shelley masterfully creates a dark and unsettling atmosphere that perfectly reflects the themes and emotions of the novel. By employing nature in this way, Shelley cements her place as one of the greatest gothic writers of all time.

Setting and Description

Mary Shelley Gothic atmosphere

In her novel “Frankenstein,” Mary Shelley creates a striking gothic atmosphere that enthralls readers. This atmosphere is largely due to her exceptional use of setting and description. Shelley’s descriptions of the environment in which the story unfolds, such as the weather, landscape, and architecture of different locations, all play a significant role in creating a feeling of foreboding that persists throughout the novel.

The novel opens with a gloomy, desolate setting in the form of the remote, isolated Walton Expedition. Shelley describes the crew’s ship as being surrounded by “eternal ices,” setting an ominous tone right from the start. Throughout the novel, Shelley uses the bleakness of the Arctic as a stark backdrop against which the inner turmoil of the characters plays out.

Another example occurs when Victor Frankenstein first arrives in Oxford. Shelley describes the city as being “old and weather-beaten” with “massive and lofty piles.” The descriptions of Oxford’s architecture create a feeling of unease, as if the walls themselves were constricting around the characters.

The gothic atmosphere is further enhanced by Shelley’s use of weather imagery. Whenever something terrible happens, the weather seems to reflect the mood of the characters. When Victor Frankenstein is creating his creature, the weather outside is dreary and oppressive, mirroring the emotional state of the scientist. Similarly, when the creature finally exacts his revenge on his creator, the weather is described as “dismal and wet.” Shelley uses the weather to amplify the emotional resonance of key moments, truly immersing readers in the story.

Shelley also uses the environment to create a sense of mystery and intrigue. The Creature’s movements are often obscured by thick fog or deep shadows, lending an air of uncertainty to his appearance. In addition, the Castle of Frankenstein is shrouded in secrecy, with many secret passageways and hidden chambers. It is a labyrinthine structure that emphasizes the labyrinthine nature of the characters’ inner lives.

In conclusion, Mary Shelley’s skillful use of setting and descriptive language create a gothic atmosphere that is both evocative and enduring. By setting her characters in a world that is as bleak and unforgiving as their situation, Shelley succeeds in creating an immersive experience that captures the imagination of readers to this day.

Characterization and Themes

Shelley Gothic atmosphere

Shelley’s characters are often shrouded in darkness, with pasts and traits that are both foreboding and ominous. The protagonists in her works are often tortured by their pasts, seeking redemption and struggling with their own inner demons. The villains in her stories are often evil and calculating, driven by a desire for power or revenge. This characterization imbues Shelley’s works with a sense of dread, as readers can sense that something dark and sinister is lurking just beneath the surface of the narrative.

Shelley’s use of themes in her works also contribute to the gothic atmosphere that pervades her stories. Death, decay, and the supernatural are recurring motifs in her works, haunting her characters and drawing readers deeper into the unsettling world that Shelley has created. Death is often present in the form of a looming threat–whether it be physical harm, emotional trauma, or a supernatural curse. Decay is a constant presence in Shelley’s works, often symbolizing the decay of society or the decaying state of the human psyche. Finally, the supernatural is a frequent occurrence in her stories, adding a sense of the eerie and the unexplainable.

Overall, Shelley’s characterization and use of themes work in tandem to create a gothic atmosphere that is both haunting and unforgettable. The characters in her stories are complex, sometimes even sinister, and the themes explored in her works serve to highlight the darker aspects of the human experience. Shelley’s Gothic atmospheres have entranced readers for centuries and continue to be a source of inspiration for writers and enthusiasts of Gothic literature.

Shelley’s Use of Literary Devices

Shelley Frankenstein

Mary Shelley’s contribution to literature is immense, with her novel Frankenstein inspiring and influencing numerous works of fiction, movies, and pop culture. The gothic atmosphere Shelley sets in the novel is one of the reasons for its popularity. Shelley has masterfully used literary devices like metaphors, similes, and imagery to create a sense of unease and horror that permeates the novel.

One of the crucial elements of Shelley’s writing style is her use of metaphors. Shelley compares the creation of Frankenstein’s monster to childbirth, using terms like “delivery” and “labor” to describe the process. These metaphors not only create a vivid picture in the minds of the readers but also add to the gothic atmosphere of the novel. The process of giving birth is often associated with pain, blood, and death, which perfectly aligns with the themes of the novel.

Another literary device that Shelley expertly employs is similes. Similes are comparisons that use the words “like” or “as,” and Shelley uses them abundantly throughout the novel. For instance, when Frankenstein sees his creation for the first time, he describes it as a “catastrophe.” This simile not only provides a visual image of the creature’s appearance but also highlights the disastrous consequences of Frankenstein’s actions.

Shelley also utilizes imagery to create an unsettling atmosphere in the novel. For example, the darkness and isolation of the Arctic region where Frankenstein pursues his creation give readers an immediate sense of foreboding. Shelley’s description of the ice and snow in the Arctic region, the howling of the wind, and the inhospitable terrain contributes to the overall feeling of melancholy and desolation.

In conclusion, Shelley’s use of literary devices, including metaphors, similes, and imagery, contributes significantly to the gothic atmosphere of Frankenstein. These devices are used to create vivid and disturbing images that stick with the readers. Shelley’s writing style is entirely immersive, and readers are transported into the eerie world she creates with her masterful use of language and style.

Sensationalism and Terror

Frankenstein book cover

Mary Shelley is a masterful writer who knows how to grip readers’ attention and create a gothic atmosphere in her novels. One way she does this is by using sensationalism and terror as key elements in her storytelling.

Shelley’s stories are often full of suspense and terror, gripping the reader from the very first page. These elements are present throughout her most famous novel, Frankenstein, where the character of Victor Frankenstein creates a monster that eventually takes on a life of its own, wreaking havoc and destruction everywhere it goes.

At the heart of Shelley’s use of sensationalism and terror is the idea of the unknown – what lies beyond our experiences or what we thought we knew about the world around us. Her descriptions of the monster, for example, are steeped in fear and awe, with strong images that evoke what we might imagine a terrifying creature to look like.

In addition to creating a sense of dread in her readers, Shelley also uses horror and terror as ways to explore bigger themes. In Frankenstein, for example, she uses the story of a mad scientist and his monstrous creation to ask questions about science, morality, and the role of the individual in society.

Shelley’s use of sensationalism and terror is not confined to Frankenstein, however. In her other works, such as The Last Man and The Mortal Immortal, she explores similar themes, offering readers a unique perspective that combines horror and social commentary.

Overall, Shelley’s use of sensationalism and terror is central to her ability to create a gothic atmosphere in her writing. By tapping into our deepest fears and exploring the unknown, she creates stories that are both thrilling and thought-provoking, making her one of the most important writers of the gothic genre.

Shelley’s Use of Setting

Shelley's use of setting

One of the most important elements in Shelley’s gothic atmosphere is the setting. Her stories are often set in isolated locations, such as remote castles or mountains, which create a sense of isolation and loneliness. These settings also have an air of mystery and intrigue, making them perfect for gothic stories.

Shelley uses setting to not only add to the suspense but also to underscore the themes she explores in her stories. In Frankenstein, for example, the setting in the icy wastes of the Arctic underscored the theme of the dangers of unchecked scientific ambition and the consequences that can arise when humans play god.

Shelley’s Use of Description

Shelley's use of description

Shelley’s descriptions are vivid and often unsettling. She uses detailed descriptions to create a sense of atmosphere and to convey a sense of the macabre. In Frankenstein, for example, Shelley uses meticulous descriptions of corpses and body parts to create a sense of horror and disgust in the reader.

Description is also used to create a sense of suspense in Shelley’s stories. She often uses foreshadowing to hint at what is to come, leaving readers with an uneasy feeling as they continue to read.

Shelley’s Use of Characterization

Shelley's use of characterization

Shelley’s characters often embody the gothic tropes of the time. Her heroes are often tragic figures, while her villains are often driven by obsession and madness. Shelley also uses characterization to explore the larger themes of her stories, such as the dangers of ambition and the cost of isolation.

Characters in Shelley’s stories are complex and often multi-dimensional, making them more than just caricatures. They feel like real people, which makes their struggles all the more devastating.

Shelley’s Use of Language

Shelley's use of language

Shelley’s writing is marked by its lyrical and sometimes melodramatic language. Her stories are full of poetic phrases and grandiose descriptions that evoke a sense of awe and wonder in readers.

Language is used to create a sense of atmosphere and to convey the emotional states of the characters. For example, in Frankenstein, Shelley uses florid language to convey the emotional turmoil that Victor Frankenstein is experiencing as he grapples with the consequences of his creation.

Shelley’s Use of Style

Shelley's use of style

Shelley’s writing style is marked by its vivid descriptions and its ability to create a sense of atmosphere. She often uses long, flowing sentences to create a sense of pacing and to build tension. Her stories are also characterized by a sense of melancholy and tragedy.

Style is used to make the reader feel like they are a part of the story. Shelley draws the reader in with her descriptions and her use of perspective, making it easy to become lost in her stories.

Shelley’s Use of Sensationalism

Shelley's use of sensationalism

Shelley’s writing is characterized by its sensationalism. Her stories often feature shocking revelations and twists that keep readers on the edge of their seats.

She also uses sensationalism to explore larger themes. The grotesque and shocking imagery in her writing serves as a commentary on the darker aspects of human nature, and the consequences that can arise from our actions.


In conclusion, Shelley’s gothic atmosphere is the result of her masterful use of setting, description, characterization, language, style, and sensationalism. These elements work together to create a sense of terror and unease in readers, making her stories some of the most celebrated in literary history. Shelley’s stories remain relevant today because they deal with universal themes such as the dangers of ambition and the cost of isolation, and because they tap into the darker aspects of human nature that continue to fascinate and terrify us.

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