John Locke

In this essay, I will explain the connections with Mary Shelly’s gothic novel Frankenstein, John Locke’s theory “Concerning human understanding”. The novel Frankenstein seems to incorporate the idea of Locke’s theory as you see in the novel when we as the audience come in contact with Frankenstein’s monster for the first time.

Born on the 29th of August, 1632 John Locke was an English philosopher and physician, known widely as one of the great minds of the Enlightenment thinkers. Locke attended Westminster School in London and then went to Christ Church, Oxford, where he studied medicine, which played a major part in his understanding of his Tabula Rasa theory. Locke was also the one who distinguished between simple and complex knowledge. Locke was one of the most well-known philosophers and political theorists of the 17th and 18th centuries. Locke also wrote many books on a range of different topics. Locke is considered the ‘father of liberalism’, which is established on the principle of the liberty and equality, which then lead him to be a founder of the U.S Declaration of Independence and Constitution of human rights.

The theory that we are focusing on, and that is Tabula Rasa or ‘blank slate’ theory. The Tabula Rasa theory is that the when a child is born their mind is ‘white paper, void of all characters’, and we learn by experiences Locke says in one his essays “No man’s theory goes beyond his experience”. Locke believed that every human was born with their mind completely blank, which went against all traditional philosophy, which was that at the very least that when we were born we were born with some rational thinking and ‘human nature’ which Locke did not believe in. Locke believed that all men were born equal. This was thought of when Locke meet Anothny Ashley Cooper, who advanced Locke’s career, he followed him to Holland where he first wrote “Concerning human understanding” – his first novel – and then later returned to England where he wrote more books.

In Mary Shelly’s gothic novel Frankenstein Victor Frankenstein (the protagonist), creates a monster from numerous body parts, from the dead. After Frankenstein created the monster he left the monster to fend for himself. Not knowing any language or had no capabilities of any sort, the monster spied on a family living in the woods where he learned everything he needed to know, how to survive, how to read and write. He soon after turned to kill all of Frankenstein’s family, payback for leaving him alone.

At the beginning of the novel, the monster narrates and he says: “I started up and beheld a radiant form among the trees”. Here the monster lacks initial awareness of the world, just as a child would, this is showing how the monster is learning by experience, Like Locke’s theory. We also see throughout the book that just like a child the monster craves knowledge: “…was indeed a godlike science, and I ardently desired to become acquainted with it… I cannot describe the delight I felt when I learned the ideas appropriated to each of various sounds and was able to pronounce them”. 

“I felt light, and hunger, and thirst, and darkness; innumerable sounds rang in my ears, and on all sides, various scents saluted me”. This said by the monster shows us that, the monster had no prior knowledge of the world, this is another place where we see Locke’s theory come through the story.

This quotes from the story said by the monster: “I began to distinguish my sensations from each other. I gradually saw plainly the clear stream that supplied me with drink, and the trees that shaded me with their foliage.” shows us that the monster learned by experience, there showing us Lock’s theory that all children are born with a blank slate for a mind, and that we learn and comprehend the world by experience.

All together in the novel, we can clearly see Locke’s theory make appearances throughout the book, the monster being created with no comprehension of the world no previous knowledge of the outside world, and that the monster leaning by experience; but if we are meant to say that the monster learnt from experience are when then meant to say if Frankenstein only looked after the monster he might not have become a monster. Nurture over nature.

In conclusion, I think that Mary Shelly was inspired by Locke with Tabula Rasa, that she decided to incorporate it into her gothic novel. I think that the novel was a bit of realism with the growing of a child, sure it had people coming back from the dead and killing all of his creators family, but, I think it showed realism when it came to the monster developing his personality, the novel showed the readers that no matter where you are born or how you look, we are all made the same we all have a blank slate for a mind when we are first born. The novel showed us that “No man’s theory goes beyond his experience” which was Locke’s theory.

Gothic Setting


  • Geneva
    Mary Shelly describes scenes surrounding the Swiss house is as “majestic and wonderous”, and that the mountains are sublime shapes, and the sea is tempest and calm, this tells us that the Geneva house has a lot of contrasting qualities but also very similar qualities; for example, Shelly says that the surroundings of the Swiss house are majestic and wonderous which tells me (personally) that the surroundings are ‘grand’ and telling me that the surroundings are very open like a big field or really big woods. Shelly also says that the sea is ‘tempest and calm’, which is very very contrasting verbs, tempest meaning rough, and calm meaning relaxed, which tells me what Shelly thinks of the sea when she says this (personally) I think she says the sea, although the sea may look calm on the surface it could be wild and tempest under the surface.
  • The Swiss Alps

“But it was augmented and rendered sublime by the mighty Alps, whose white and shining pyramids and domes towered above all, as belonging to another earth, the habitations of another race of beings.”


Shelly describe the Swiss Alps very grandly, she describes them as very ‘mighty’ and big as Shelly says they are ‘domes towered above all’. She also talks about how they belong ‘to another earth’ which tells us that she wants us to think they are grand and beautiful, but also the way she says it the reader could also interpret that the Alps could be scary when it says ‘mighty Alps’ she could mean that we should be scared of these mighty Alps, when Shelly says that they are from another world she could mean it negatively. it all depends how the reader interprets the text.


Frankenstein Essay

Frankenstein is a fantastic novel by Marry Shelly. One of the fantastic elements in the novel is how Shelly writes the gothic antagonist (Frankenstein’s creature). The elements of a gothic antagonist are supernatural powers, dualism, control, and passion and drive. Frankenstein’s creature displays all of these qualities.

His supernatural powers are his superhuman speed and strength, he is able to withstand extreme conditions, and he has a massive physical presence. His superhuman abilities intimidate people as well with his different pieces of his sewn together face.

“At that instant, the cottage door was opened, and Felix, Safie, and Agatha entered. Who can describe their horror and consternation on beholding me? Agatha fainted, and Safie, unable to attend to her friend, rushed out of the cottage. Felix darted forward, and with supernatural force tore me from his father, to whose knees I clung, in a transport of fury, he dashed me to the ground and struck me violently with a stick. I could have torn him limb from limb, as the lion rends the antelope. But my heart sank within me as with bitter sickness, and I refrained. I saw him on the point of repeating his blow, when, overcome by pain and anguish, I quitted the cottage, and in the general tumult escaped unperceived to my hovel.” (15.36)

He displays dualism by the way he acts at the start of the novel he begins as an essentially a good character, but then after being turned away, attacked and feared, he becomes revengeful and develops a hatred for the human race. At the start of the novel, he displays a good character but then after he gets that rejection from Frankenstein his ‘father’ and that continuous rejection he feels that the whole world won’t accept him, because if his own father won’t accept him why won’t the rest of the world.

“Another circumstance strengthened and confirmed these feelings. Soon after my arrival in the hovel, I discovered some papers in the pocket of the dress which I had taken from your laboratory. At first, I had neglected them, but now that I was able to decipher the characters in which they were written, I began to study them with diligence. It was your journal of the four months that preceded my creation. You minutely described in these papers every step you took in the progress of your work; this history was mingled with accounts of domestic occurrences. You doubtless recollect these papers. Here they are. Everything is related in them which bears reference to my accursed origin; the whole detail of that series of disgusting circumstances which produced it is set in view; the minutest description of my odious and loathsome person is given, in language which painted your own horrors and rendered mine indelible. I sickened as I read. Hateful day when I received life!' I exclaimed in agony.Accursed creator! Why did you form a monster so hideous that even YOU turned from me in disgust? God, in pity, made man beautiful and alluring, after his own image; but my form is a filthy type of yours, more horrid even from the very resemblance. Satan had his companions, fellow devils, to admire and encourage him, but I am solitary and abhorred.”(15.8)

He displays passion and drives to find a companion and when he tries to find acceptance. He tries so hard to get accepted by the human race, but after getting rejected so many times he thinks he needs someone who is like him so he can have someone who will accept him, and he goes to extreme lengths to get what he wants, he blackmails and murders Frankenstein’s family so he would be able to get a companion (a female creature).

Frankenstein’s creature has amazing control over Frankenstein by controlling him with the weakness of Frankenstein’s family, therefore getting want the creature wants whenever he wants. Th creature gets what he wants by blackmailing and murdering Frankenstein and his family.

“All was again silent, but his words rang in my ears. I burned with rage to pursue the murderer of my peace and precipitate him into the ocean. I walked up and down my room hastily and perturbed, while my imagination conjured up a thousand images to torment and sting me. Why had I not followed him and closed with him in mortal strife? But I had suffered him to depart, and he had directed his course towards the mainland. I shuddered to think who might be the next victim sacrificed to his insatiate revenge. And then I thought again of his words — “I WILL BE WITH YOU ON YOUR WEDDING-NIGHT.” That, then, was the period fixed for the fulfillment of my destiny. In that hour I should die and at once satisfy and extinguish his malice. The prospect did not move me to fear; yet when I thought of my beloved Elizabeth, of her tears and endless sorrow, when she should find her lover so barbarously snatched from her, tears, the first I had shed for many months, streamed from my eyes, and I resolved not to fall before my enemy without a bitter struggle.”(20.16) 


So conclude Frankenstein’s monster in my view is the perfect representation of a gothic antagonist, he keeps the protagonist on his toes, he makes it hard for the protagonist to reach his goals. He displays all the attributes of a gothic antagonist,



Wide Reading Task #1 (The Tell Tale Heart)

“It was impossible to say how the idea first entered my head. There was no reason for what I did. I did not hate the old man; I even loved him. He never hurt me. I did not want his money. I think it was his eye”


The Tell-Tale Heart written by Edger Allan Poe is a great short story of a man who we do not know the name of and his mental state throughout the killing of who we know as the old man. Narrated in the first person, the narrator indicated how the old man (well rather his eye) disturbed him. The narrator’s ultimatum was that he was tempted to kill the old man to get away from the eye an example of this is ” I did not hate the old man; I even loved him. He never hurt me. I did not want his money. I think it was his eye”. After a lot of consideration the narrator gets too worked up by the eye and kills the old man and quickly ‘disposes’ of him under the floorboards of the old man’s house, and later feels too guilty that he killed the old man that he confesses to the police to what he did to the old man.


The Tell-Tale Heart is a dark and gloomy story that I enjoyed. I believe that what the author was trying to get across how our emotions can dictate our lives and ‘persuade’ us to make irrational choices for example; at the start of the short story the narrator says “It was impossible to say how the idea first entered my head. There was no reason for what I did. I did not hate the old man; I even loved him. He never hurt me. I did not want his money.”, this shows that he had no reason to kill the old man, but then goes on the say “I think it was his eye. His eye was like the eye of a vulture, the eye of one of those terrible birds that watch and wait while an animal dies, and then fall upon the dead body and pull it to pieces to eat it. When the old man looked at me with his vulture eye a cold feeling went up and down my” this shows his discomfort of the “vulture” eye, and how it dictated the narrator to kill the old man. The narrator get’s so worked up by the eye that his negative emotions that it prevents his rational thinking, he doesn’t think of the consequences of his actions. This is one of the emotional qualities that we find in gothic protagonists and one way identify them, the way he makes decisions based on emotions, not rationally. We see this a lot in the real world as well as in the world of fiction, people sometimes make (if not always) make decisions based on how they feel and don’t really think of the consequences of those decisions, for example, a person might save a person for a tricky situation instead of staying out of it and not getting involved, the person listen to his feelings/emotions to make that decision to help another person. I think making decisions based on emotions is sometimes good but in the Tell-Tale Heart the narrator should not have based his decision on his emotions, he should’ve thought of the outcomes and looked at the problem rationally.

What I found interesting was the amount of knowledge that we know of the narrator. We virtually know nothing about him, we don’t know his name his age or his relationship with the old man, the narrator says that “I have been ill” but we have no idea what type of sick. He has an ‘air of mystery’.We can only make assumptions. This is another thing that I think that the author is trying to introduce to the audience,  since we know nothing about the narrator when he is saying he is ill or when he kills the old man, we automatically set up an assumption about this narrator, but what if he wasn’t like this before the story what if the narrator was just a kind and simple being and we made the assumption that he is evil.

In the world today we still are very emotional beings and we sometimes let emotions dictate our lives that we don’t think of the consequences that we might suffer.  And we all have that ‘air of mystery’ we all have something that we keep hidden, you think you know everything about your best friend but you don’t there is bound to be one thing you haven’t told them. This short story just showed me the enhanced ways of the world, the author took these little qualities in people and overexaggerated them.

Frankenstein my thoughts

The book for me was very interesting, some parts of the book were quite predictable, with what was written like when Elizabeth was killed I think the was quite and predictable thing, but also the fact that Frankenstein’s monster turned into a killing machine was quite a shock because I though he just want to be close to Frankenstein.

The Introduction to Frankenstein

Shelley says about the novel’s origin that it sounds like that some of her characters came from actual people in her life e.g. “… Mary Shelley have somehow managed to praise her work only be presenting her talent as a fortuitous refraction of the ‘genius’ possessed by her then virtually unknown love-partner and companion, Percy Shelley. We shall see later that in more ways than one, there is indeed much of Percy Shelley ‘in’ Frankenstein.“, but they also say it just came from her “intuitive genius”. This is saying a young girls of her age at their time should not have these thoughts and Shelley disagreed with them.

The things that parallel that can be drawn between the ‘birth’ of the monster in the novel and the ‘birth’ of the novel itself, you can connect these two things by that when the novel was published Shelley got a lot of negative comments on the book, and when Frankenstein’s monster was created it the monster got a lot of bad comments from Frankenstein himself. They both are out of the ordinary, Frankenstein Brough a ‘being back from the dead, and back when Shelley wrote this book, it was not normal for women of her age to have these thoughts, so they both broke the barriers in the way that society should see them. 

The Creation

After Dr. Frankenstein had finally creation he starts of by saying His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful!’, but after he takes a good look of  what he calls a ‘monster’ he says: Great God! His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and owing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun-white sockets in which they were set, his shrivelled complexion and straight black lips.” and now keeps referring to it as a ‘the monster’, and the when the ‘monster’ is taking care of him the morning after he created it he refers it to the ‘miserable monster he had created .  


I don’t think it was right for Frankenstein to react the way he did towards his creation, what I think he should’ve done was reacted in fright at first and then try and see if he could fix the ‘problems’ that he could see like the yellow skin, black lips etc.

Tone and Mood



In my opinion it gives a very dark and gloomy and yet very knowledgeable ambitious side to Dr. Frankenstein when it says  “To examine the causes of life, we must recourse death”, this gives a really knowledgeable ora when he says “To examine the causes of life…” because he wants to find out how people are alive and how people die, so the narrator makes Dr. Frankenstein sound smart. But when the narrator says “…..we must recourse death” this shows how ambitious he is and how he wants to stop people from dying.


This quote ” To examine the causes of life, we must recourse death”, makes the audience feel like he is very ambitious, it tells us that he wants to achieve the impossible, he wants to feel like a god. These traits makes the audience feel like he ambitious and it gives his a slight insane ora, like the gothic protagonist in ” The Tale-Tell Heart”, he is only trying to good things but is doing  it in a very ‘dark’ way, in The Tale-Tell Heart he kills the old man, in Frankenstein he his examining dead bodies.   

What makes Victor Frankenstein a gothic protaginist


Traits Actions Evidence
Ambitious Not giving up when an teacher at the university said that what he had been researching his whole life was nonsense “It was the secrets of heaven and earth that I desired to learn; and whether it was the out- ward substance of things or the inner spirit of nature and the mysterious soul of man that occupied me, still my inquiries were directed to the metaphysical, or in its highest sense, the physical secrets of the world. “
Caring He was very distraught to hear that his mother and sister were ill and then when his mother died During her illness many arguments had been urged to persuade my mother to refrain from attending upon her. She had at rst yielded to our en- treaties, but when she heard that the life of her favourite was menaced, she could no longer control her anxiety.
Foreshadowing The author fills the text with foreshadowing comments involving Victor Frankenstein (VF) “It is even possible that the train of my ideas would never have received the fatal impulse that led to my ruin.”
Lonely He tells his sister in one of his letters that he is lonely and he wants a friend “I have no friend, Margaret: when I am glowing with the enthusiasm of success, there will be none to participate my joy; if I am assailed by disappointment, no one will endeavour to sustain me in dejection. I shall commit my thoughts to paper, it is true; but that is a poor medium for the communication of feeling.”
Curious VF is very curious he wants to be able to know the secrets of life and death, meaning he wants to be able to create life. “Curiosity, earnest research to learn the hidden laws of nature, gladness akin to rapture, as they were unfolded to me, are among the earliest sensations I can remember.”
He is driven by an strong feeling of ambition and curiosity He wants to be rich famous and he wants to able to have the power of the gods and the power to bring people back from the dead “It was the secrets of heaven and earth that I desired to learn; and whether it was the out- ward substance of things or the inner spirit of nature and the mysterious soul of man that occupied me, still my inquiries were directed to the metaphysical, or in its highest sense, the physical secrets of the world”


I am by birth a Genevese, and my family is one of the most distinguished of that republic. My ancestors had been for many years counsellors and syndics, and my father had filled several public situations with honour and reputation. He was respected by all who knew him for his integrity and indefatigable attention to public business. He passed his younger days perpetually occupied by the a airs of his country; a variety of circumstances had prevented his marrying early, nor was it until the decline of life that he became a husband and the father of a family. As the circumstances of his marriage illustrate his character, I cannot refrain from relating them. One of his most intimate friends was a merchant who, from a flourishing state, fell, through numerous mischances, into poverty. Is man, whose name was Beaufort, was of a proud and unbending disposition and could not bear to live in poverty and oblivion in the same country where he had formerly been distinguished for his rank and magnificence. Having paid his debts, therefore, in the most honourable man- ner, he retreated with his daughter to the town of Lucerne, where he lived unknown and in wretchedness. My father loved Beaufort with the truest friendship and was deeply grieved by his retreat in these unfortunate circumstances.

Word What I think Definition
distinguished Recognisable made conspicuous by excellence; noted; eminent; famous
integrity intelligent adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.
indefatigable ??? incapable of being tired out; not yielding to fatigue; untiring
perpetually More so “ he was perpetually occupied” continuing or enduring forever; everlasting.
flourishing Moving forward, maturing growing vigorously; thriving; prosperous
unbending Not budging, not changing my mind- my unbending mind refusing to yield or compromise; resolute.
disposition Not straightforward, not simple state of mind regarding something; inclination.
magnificence Amazing the quality or state of being magnificent splendor; grandeur; sublimity
wretchedness Badness, something bad very unfortunate in condition or circumstances; miserable; pitiable