6 Oct 2015

Language Techniques used in Frankenstein for the 2017 GCSE and IGCSE

If you're studying Frankenstein for GCSE or IGCSE, you need to make sure you don't just re-tell the story, but also analyse the language techniques. Here are some of the major techniques Shelley uses, with examples of how to write about them to score top marks.
To raise your grade even higher, try to also link to the themes. Find out more about themes here.

SIMILE

Where one thing is compared to another using ‘like’ or ‘as’.
Where Walton says, ‘my resolutions are as fixed as fate’, the simile compares the strength of his mind to fate, an unstoppable power.
When Frankenstein says, ‘I discarded natural history as a deformed and abortive creation’, the simile ironically links to his own creation, showing his arrogance in discarding ‘natural history’ and by implication, nature.

METAPHOR

You can always check a metaphor by asking is it literally true? Then check whether it uses ‘like’ or ‘as’. If not, it’s a metaphor.
When Frankenstein claims ‘I should pour a torrent of light into our dark world’, it suggests the power of God in creating light, as well as evoking moral evil in the word ‘dark’.

The metaphor of Elizabeth as ‘a garden rose among dark-leaved brambles’ refers to her situation as prickly, a classic image of romantic beauty, as well as the contrast between wild brambles and the civilized ‘garden’.

PERSONIFICATION

This is where non-human things are given human emotions or actions. Throughout the novel, both nature and destiny are personified as female forces.
When Frankenstein says ‘I pursued nature to her hiding places’, it has the sense of a woman fleeing the male scientist. Yet the female personification of ‘destiny’ is a force too ‘potent’ for him to escape and like a terrible judge, she ‘decreed’ his ‘total and utter destruction.’
He also personifies the mountains, saying the glacial ‘ice was continuously torn, as if it had been but a plaything in their hands,’ creating a sense of nature as a gigantic and destructive force, so much larger and more powerful than man.




PATHETIC FALLACY

This is a special type of personification where weather is given human actions or emotions, as in the ‘war in the sky’. In Gothic literature, weather was frequently used as a physical way to symbolise characters’ stormy mental states, and the rain, when it comes for Frankenstein is ‘violent’. In other places, Shelley shows the vastness of an uncaring universe to symbolise isolation, as when the creature says the ‘cold stars shone in mockery’, and Frankenstein refers to the ‘comfortless sky’.

ANTITHESIS

One of Mary Shelley’s favourite techniques, this is the contrast of total opposites. She then plays with these contrasts to show reversal: the creature is a ‘monster’ but so are men; the creature is both ‘the fallen angel’ and ‘Adam’, and where the creature says: ‘I was good; misery made me a fiend.’
It is also used to create a disturbing tension - of something both dead and alive - where Frankenstein says ‘I became able to bestow animation upon lifeless matter’, or sickening tension where William’s murder is ‘hellish sport.’

JUXTAPOSITION

This is where two elements are placed close together to create a particular effect, which could be horror, fear or pity. Justine’s hope for ‘salvation’ through ‘innocence’ is particularly pitiful when juxtaposed against the ‘violence’ and ‘indignation’ of the crowd’s reactions at her trial.
In another place, Shelley juxtaposes the creature’s sensitivity, of his ‘perceptions and passions’ with Frankenstein’s treatment of him when he cast me abroad an object for the scorn and horror of mankind”.

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The author, , is an Oxford graduate, outstanding-rated English Language and Literature teacher and of ages 10-18 in the British education system. In 2012, she was nominated for Pearson's Teaching Awards. As a private tutor, she raises grades often from C to A. Her writing is also featured in The Huffington Post. She offers private tuition in the Haywards Heath area, West Sussex.