The Letters of Frankenstein

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How are the letters at the beginning of Frankenstein been used to convey the key themes and ideas and context of Mary Shelley’s time? The letters at the beginning of the novel strongly portray the key Romantic ideas of the time – cultivated individualism, reverence for the natural world, idealism, physical and emotional passion, and an interest in the mystic and supernatural. This is mainly seen through the narrator-protagonist Walter, who shows himself as a Romantic, with his “love for the marvellous, a belief in the marvellous,” which pushes him along the perilous, lonely pathway he has chosen to follow. The Age of Enlightenment which Mary Shelley lived through held the pathway for scientific discovery. Although scientific discovery was deemed highly important, Mary Shelley was highly cautious of it and her novel Frankenstein is a warning to mankind over the consequences of scientific discovery. “When I reflect that you are pursuing the same course, exposing yourself to the same dangers, I imagine that you may deduce an apt moral from my tale.” The description of scientific discovery as a journey shows that it is a new and seemingly dangerous concept likened to a literal journey of discovery to unknown lands, which is in fact exactly what Walton is taking part in. The verb ‘exposing’ also shows that a man’s own personal morals can be affected by such a journey of discovery and that there are severe consequences of scientific development. It is the moral duty of humanity to question the validity and reason for scientific advancement – we should not play God in using science to usurp the order of the natural world. Shelley also questions the nature of monstrosity in Frankenstein and this is first highlighted in the opening in “Letters”. The strange description of Victor in Letter IV first highlights the ambivalence over the nature of monstrosity in the novel. “I never saw a more interesting creature; his eyes have generally an expression of wildness, and even...
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