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The essay will explore the romantic elements present in Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein.” It will analyze the novel’s embrace of nature, emotion, and individualism, characteristic of Romantic literature. The piece will delve into how Shelley uses these themes to challenge Enlightenment thinking and explore deeper philosophical questions about science, nature, and the human condition. This overview aims to offer a comprehensive understanding of “Frankenstein” as a work deeply rooted in Romanticism, reflecting the era’s artistic and intellectual movements. You can also find more related free essay samples at PapersOwl about Frankenstein.
Mary Shelley was an English Romantic author who shared the movement’s appreciation for nature, emotion, individualism, rebellion, imagination, and the purity of art. The main thought presented in Romanticism is, “Reason cannot explain everything,” and that is what Shelley’s works were based on – imagination. She is best known for “Frankenstein,” a novel believed to be rich in Romantic features.
“Frankenstein” is a horror fiction gothic novel, infused with the elements of the Romantic Movement. The 280-page book is divided into three narratives: firstly, Walton’s story to his sibling and the idea of seeking knowledge; secondly, Victor Frankenstein’s story to Robert Walton about glory and life creation; finally, the creature’s story to Victor Frankenstein about his transformation into a monster due to societal influences.
How it works
The book as a whole examines various themes and ideas, all presented by Mary Shelley on paper: the relationship between a creator and his creation; how the quest for scientific discoveries might lead to others’ misery; the blindness of revenge related to innocent individuals’ deaths; the theme of monstrosity; and the power of radical ideas to expose darker aspects of life.
In 1815, the world witnessed the tragedy of Mount Tambora’s eruption, which caused a volcanic winter, and a subsequent rainy summer in 1816, referred to as the “year without a summer.” Mary Shelley and her lover traveled to Lake Geneva in Switzerland to visit Lord Byron. Unable to venture outdoors due to the weather, Byron suggested that they each write a ghost story, sowing the seeds for “Frankenstein.” For this reason, nature is a primary feature in “Frankenstein,” as it influenced the masterpiece’s development from the start.
Nature is defined as the material world or reality, distinguished from any human influence. This natural world consists of elements such as mountains, trees, or animals. Romanticism emerged as a reaction to the industrial revolution, but Romantics at the time found refuge in nature, seen as a pure, spiritual source of renewal and an escape from the growing industrial landscape.
Mary Shelley states, “Supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavor to mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the world.” This quote sheds light on the dangerous consequences of misused knowledge. For Frankenstein, natural philosophy was a source of inspiration. As a seeker of knowledge, he sought answers about the natural and physical world. However, the Romantics believed that nature is sacred and its secrets should never be exposed – tragedy will occur when humans trespass into the unknown.
In this novel, Mary Shelley occasionally refers to nature itself as a female, implying that Victor is violating it. “Unrelaxed and breathless eagerness, I pursued nature to her hiding places.” Victor was so eager and curious to know the unknown, breaking the rules and laws that all living organisms have abided by and respected since the beginning of time. This metaphysical drift led to his doom and the doom of those he loved the most.
Shelley presents nature as very powerful. It has the power to change a man and to put humanity back into a person when the unnatural world has stripped him of his moral virtue. Nature had a profound effect on the creator’s mind and soul, acting as a consoling mother and a healing process. When no medicine was found, it was his cure. Whenever our main character was mired in dejection and remorse, he would turn to nature so that its beauties could lift his spirit. Nature for the Romantics is a maternal force; it helps soothe the human mind, body, and spirit. Thus, we must never lose our connection with the natural world.
“I lay down happy to have found a shelter, however miserable, from the inclemency of the season, and still more from the barbarity of man” (Shelley 94). Elements of nature and seasons were continuously remarked upon by Shelley to reveal how the characters were feeling. Nature in the novel also served as a reflection of the characters’ moods. The effect it had on them could lift their spirits during a time of despair or bring them down to their lowest points.
The external natural world is not the only nature that our writer considers so powerfully in “Frankenstein.” We also examine how Victor’s internal nature edges him toward tragedy. “Life and death appear to me ideal bounds which I should first break through, and pour a torrent of light into our dark world.” Victor’s fatal flaw, or hamartia, is clear through this quote. He presumes to draw from nature’s power, specifically the power of life over death, and as he accomplishes something awe-inspiring, his pride and eagerness lead to his death and the death of all those dear to him. He is held responsible, yet this is nothing but nature’s revenge, the price he was forced to pay for violating the natural laws of the world.
As the plot of this science fiction unfolds, the readers learn the secret: nature held the key element that was being searched for the whole time – knowledge. Characters in “Frankenstein” are regularly busy in their hunt for knowledge. However, it was nature that was increasing their intelligence and affecting them. The monster was taught how the world works because of nature, and Victor learned how to cope with his emotions by virtue of the delights the earth brought him.
Lastly, Shelley portrays nature on several levels: abstract and concrete. Firstly, nature is presented as a healing process that helps the characters spiritually. Secondly, she represents the inherent nature of humans and how they abhor difference, as exemplified when they reject the creature for his ugly features. Frankenstein’s self-regarding nature led him to create a monster, causing the death of innocent people. Conversely, the monster’s initially benign nature evolved into malevolence due to rejection and deprivation of basic human needs. Thirdly, she portrays the punishment our protagonist suffered as a consequence of delving into the secrets of nature.
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