Frankenstein And Romanticism Essay Research Paper Mary

Frankenstein And Romanticism Essay, Research Paper

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, written in the early seventeenth century, is the product of a monumental literary movement known as Romanticism. Through emphasis upon the dark, demonic and corrupt within the human mind, and upon other identifiable characteristics, this era of writing’s individuality and style is confirmed. Throughout the novel, these attributes and mannerisms are clearly identified as Romantic. Frankenstein may be characterized as a Romantic work due to its specific traits. Victor Frankenstein’s quest for knowledge is discovered during the beginnings of his education. As Victor begins reading elementary philosophy at the age of thirteen, he finds himself, “imbued with a fervent longing to penetrate the secrets of nature” (Shelley 25). This excitement and desire to explore natural philosophy to its end, leads to Victor to depart for the university of Ingolstadt soon after his seventeenth birthday. Within just two years he, “had become as well acquainted with the theory and practice of natural philosophy as depended on the lessons of any of the professors,” and thought of quitting his education (Shelley 36). Instead of this, Victor decided to more intensely study the concepts of life, and soon stumbled upon the secret of life itself. As Victor begins to construct a living being and apply his discovery in order to give it animation and life, he becomes absorbed in his work. At this point, he has “isolated himself from society to fulfill his great expectations,” (Nockinson 2389) and depriving himself of nutrition and companionship, he states that he “seemed to have lost all soul or sensation but for this one pursuit” (Shelley 38). Victor’s search for knowledge concludes as he finishes his creation one dreary night in November. The creature brought to life by Victor is quickly abandoned by its creator, and forced to discover its identity and knowledge without assistance. The monster’s quest for knowledge begins the instant he is brought into the world, and speaking of this point in his life, the monster states: “I was a poor, helpless, miserable wretch; I knew, and could distinguish, nothing; but feeling pain invade me on all sides, I sat down and wept” (Shelley 87). Here, the monster is as innocent and naive as a newborn baby, and without a parental figure to guide and take care of it, is limited to an experiential learning process. During the monster’s quest for knowledge, he encounters the hostility that all humans seemed to show towards him, and at this point, the monster begins to learn about his difference from society. Finding a hovel connected to a cottage in which he could inhabit without human interference, the monster views a family’s everyday life for an extended period of time. The experiences that he endures here are the cornerstone and essence of his education. During this time in his life, the family he is watching, the De Lacey’s, begins to teach a foreign visitor how to speak the English language. This, combined with the discovery of several books, allows the monster an opportunity to learn how to read and talk, and desiring knowledge, he “bent every faculty towards that purpose” (Shelley 103). With the monster’s newfound knowledge, came understanding, as he stated that “the words induced me to turn towards myself” (Shelley 104). “What was I” (Shelley 105)? The monster’s hate towards his irresponsible creator begins to form immediately following his education. Besides Victor’s rejection of him, the event which determines his quest for vengeance against Victor is a final, failed attempt to fit into society. During this incident, the monster decides to confront a blind resident of the De Lacey cottage at a time when he is isolated. Getting his chance, he befriends the man who can not judge him with sight, only to have the other residents return to curse and beat him out. After this incident he says, “Cursed, cursed creator! Why did I live? Why in that instant, did I not extinguish the spark of existence which you had so wantonly bestowed” (Shelley 121)? The feelings of rejection that the monster encounters transform into feelings of “rage and revenge” (Shelley 121). With papers discovered in his jacket, he deciphers the location of Victor’s residence and decides to seek out his “unfeeling, heartless creator” (Shelley 124). Thinking of Victor he expresses, “The nearer I approached your habitation, the more deeply did I feel the spirit of revenge enkindled in my heart” (Shelley 125). In the end, with his quest for vengeance complete, the monster “explains that he only wanted to love his creator but that his adoration turned to murderous hate in his creator’s rejection of him” (Nockinson 2389). One of the most utilized characteristics of the Romantic movement is the concept of the noble savage. By definition, it is “the idea that primitive human beings are naturally good and whatever evil they develop is the product of the corrupting action of civilization and society” (Harmon 333). It is human society that warps the innocent and care-free monster in Frankenstein to become vile and hateful. The Romantic concept of the noble savage is utilized as Victor’s monster changes from an innocent creature to a corrupted demon through society. Upon stepping into the world, and viewing humans, the monster says “the gentle manners and beauty” of the creatures “greatly endeared them to me” (Shelley 97). The monster sees the magnificent creatures and naively assumes his acceptance with them is natural, yet his first interaction with mankind is as follows: “He turned on seeing a noise, and perceiving me, shrieked loudly, and quitting the hut, ran across the fields with a speed of which his debilitated form hardly appeared capable” (Shelley 90). This experience is the monster’s first lesson in rejection and is the beginning of his corruption. Later, he states that “I longed to discover the motives and feelings of these lovely creatures,” but he doesn’t understand that his appearance obstructs him from doing so (Shelley 99). The monster’s experiences with man continue, and after his continual rejection, he realizes that he is an outcast of society, predestined to live in solitude. On the monster’s journey to find Victor, acting on his natural moral instincts, he rescues a drowning child from a river. The girls father, judging the monster on his appearance, takes the girl and “aimed a gun, which he carried, at {the monster’s} body and fired” (Shelley 126). At this point, the monster says “the feelings of kindness which I had entertained but a few moments before gave place to hellish rage and gnashing of teeth” (Shelley 126). This is the last time that the monster ever exhibits an act of kindness towards the human race as he then “vowed eternal hatred and vengeance to all mankind” (Shelley 126).

Yet through this fact, as a noble savage, the monster does not strike against society because he is evil; he does so because society has forced him to. Lurking over Victor on his death bed, after finishing his quest for vengeance by finally killing his creator, the monster expresses his feelings. He says, “I cannot believe that I am the same creature whose thoughts were once filled with sublime and transcendent visions of the beauty and the majesty of goodness. But it is even so; the fallen angel becomes a malignant devil” (Shelley 203). The monster is not evil at heart, it is society that has corrupted him, and forced him to lash out. Just as many other Romantic characters turn towards nature as a source of inspiration, so does Victor Frankenstein. When only fifteen, Victor witnesses an incident in nature which inspires him: “As I stood at the door, on a sudden I beheld a stream of fire issue from an old and beautiful oak which stood about twenty yards from our house; and so soon as the dazzling light vanished, the oak had disappeared, and nothing remained but a blasted stump” (Shelley 26). This occurrence caused Victor to change his course of study and wander away from natural philosophy. Speaking of his change of interest, Victor states that, “All that had so long engaged my attention suddenly grew despicable. I betook myself to the mathematics and the branches of study appertaining to that science as being built upon strong foundations, and so worthy of my consideration” (Shelley 27). Another instance of inspiration through nature occurred as Victor was on the lake late at night, after the monster had caused the deaths of William and Justine. Victor says, “When I reflected upon his crimes and malice, my hatred and revenge burst all bounds of moderation” (Shelley 76). Here again, Victor uses nature as an inspiration for his decisions. Nature is not only used as a source of inspiration by Romantic characters, but also as a comforter. As stated by the Handbook to Literature, Romantic writers portray nature as “the living garment of God” (Harmon 443). Following the deaths of William and Justine, Victor experiences an immense amount of guilt. Looking for a comfort from his grief, he proceeds into the valley of Chamounix, a special place recalled from his boyhood. Upon viewing the familiar sights, he states, “These sublime and magnificent scenes afforded me the greatest consolation that I was capable of receiving. They elevated me from all littleness of feeling” (Shelley 80). Later in his journey, enjoying the tranquility of the valley, he again expresses how nature “had indeed always the effect of solemnizing my mind and causing me to forget the passing cares of life” (Shelley 81). During Victor’s trip to England, after temporarily deciding to make a companion for his monster, nature again acts as a comforting hand. At first, Victor could not enjoy the beautiful surroundings for he was, “haunted by a curse that shut up every avenue to enjoyment” (Shelley 140). Eventually though, the power of nature overcomes him and his problems: “I lay at the bottom of the boat, and as I gazed on the cloudless blue sky, I seemed to drink in a tranquillity to which I had long been a stranger” (Shelley 140). As shown here, nature has an overwhelming and soothing effect upon all Romantic characters. Emphasis upon the dark, demonic and corrupt within the human mind is one of the most powerful characteristics of the Romantic movement. Mainly focusing on guilt, which is evident inside the mind, this Romantic idea also touches on obsession and vengeance. This trait is often referred to as the ‘dark side’ of the human mind and can be identified in both main characters of Frankenstein. The dark side of the human mind is consistently emphasized in Frankenstein, and is an important Romantic trait. The most important aspect of this section of the mind is guilt, and is expressed by Victor as his own creation kills five people that he loves dearly. Upon discovery of his monsters crimes, Victor explains that, “no one can conceive the anguish I suffered” (Shelley 61). This guilt felt by Victor changes into feelings of vengeance towards his monster, and leads to his obsessive quest to destroy his creation. These aspects of the darkness within the human mind all relate to each other and help to form an important Romantic trait. Victor is not the only one that contains this characteristic though; his monster has a dark side of his mind as well. Angry at his creator’s negligence towards him, and of his forced societal education, Victor’s monster says that “for the first time the feelings of revenge and hatred filled my bosom, and I did not strive to control them” (Shelley 123). These feelings of vengeance are the first signs of the monster’s dark side. Later, after seeking out revenge upon Victor, Robert Walton finds the monster lurking over his creator’s corpse. The monster explains to the ignorant Walton that his heart “did not endure the violence of the change” from good, to forced hatred “without torture such as you cannot even imagine” (Shelley 202). Even though Victor and society caused him to be, “wrenched by misery to vice and hatred,” he still feels guilty for his vengeful deeds (Shelley 202). Thus, the considerable Romantic traits found within Frankenstein identify it as a work of the Romantic era. In the heart of Mary Shelley’s novel, is the idea of the noble savage. This concept was pioneered by Rousseau, who states in his own words that “everything is well when it comes fresh from the hands of the Maker; everything degenerates in the hands of Man” (Harmon 333). This is the result when an innocent creature is faced with man, he is corrupted.


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