Romanticism and Frankenstein

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Within Frankenstein, nature plays a key role as it serves as the focal point of both Walton's and Victor's endeavors. As it appears, nature offers the characters comfort and helps restore their peace of mind. Moreover, the "creative force" of nature seems to be the enticement for both Walton and Victor's actions. What's even more significant though, which is in some accord with Romantic ideals, is the message the story relays that nature is not something to be conquered, but rather something to embrace and harmonize with.

In concurrence with the latter, Frankenstein also suggests, again using nature as the advocate, that there is a fine line between discovering a union with nature and all its grandeur and exploiting nature. Concerning this, it may be conceived that Shelley is critical of the Romantic Era and its ideals due to the potential, and perhaps even inevitable, danger it brings when taken to the extreme in conjunction with the upsurge of modern technology and science.

Nature as a source of solace may be seen in relation to most of the characters, but most notably Victor and his monster. An example of Victor's found comfort with nature is depicted quite well through his journey to the valley of Chamounix. His descriptions of the scenery, exclaiming how the "sound of the river among the rocks, and the dashing of the waterfalls around…formed a scene of singular beauty," connote the tranquility he felt while surrounded by nature in it's totality, allowing nature as the remarkable entity that it is calm his soul (91). Earlier in the story, Victor explicitly portrays the power nature has on "bestowing" such sublimity: "A serene sky and verdant fields filled me with ecstasy" and in turn enabled him to remain "undisturbed by thoughts" of which emotionally burdened and consumed him prior to his reunion with Clerval (68).

As noted earlier, Victor's monster also indulges himself into the splendor of nature to resolve ill feelings concerning his existence and desolation upon his first venture out into the world. He "gazed with a kind of wonder" at the moon, as his only distinguishable sensation was that observation (100). As described, his only ease of the pain that "invaded [him] on all sides" was the "bright moon," which at last relieved and brought balance back to his physical and emotional state (99). In addition, when the monster experienced his first coming of Spring, he seemed to forget the misery of his past misfortunes, was contented with the present and hopeful for the future: "My spirits were elevated by the enchanting appearance of nature; the past was blotted from my memory, the present tranquil, and the future guilded by bright rays of hope…" (112).

It is evident that both Walton and Victor have epitomized nature as the ultimate source of knowledge, and thus wish to obtain this knowledge at almost any cost (though seemingly more so the case with Victor). As Walton sets voyage to the north pole, he exclaims how he wishes to discover a "country of eternal light" and his surrounding statements seem to connote a belief in some majestic truth unknown to man, as his exclamation of his wishes to discover the "secret of the magnet" suggest (13,14). There seems to be the implication that discovering what is now unknown, yet so profound, will lend some ultimate insight into the works of nature, this idea of a creative force. He hopes to discover the "phenomena of the heavenly bodies" that he is so assured are there (13).

Similarly, upon deciding to discover the "deepest mysteries of creation," Victor becomes consumed with the idea of achieving insight into what no man has hitherto perceived, again the works of nature, namely creation (47). This can also be seen in his many references to nature's "secrets" and his stated desires to uncover them: "The world was to me a secret which I desired to divine" (36); "It was the secrets of heaven and earth that I desired to learn" (37); "I have been…imbued...
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