Some the above-mentioned principles of Romanticism. She used many

Some people in the 18th century believed that science and
reason was a tool which humans should use to improve their living conditions.
They supported the idea that science and reason can be used for the
improvisation of the society forever. This period was known as the Age of
Enlightenment Period. After a series of events such as mass movements and
industrial revolution in England, a new period called the Romantic Period
followed. Romanticist believed that the advances that were created in the
Enlightenment Period were creating a society that was oppressing and conforming.
They believed that science didn’t have the ability to authentically understand
the world. Romanticists cherished values from the past which were gradually
disappearing. They believed in the importance of imagination, beauty of nature,
rejection of industrialization, interest in the past, individualism, emphasis
on individual experience on the “sublime”, etc. Mary Shelley, a novelist, lived
among practitioners who believed in the above-mentioned principles of
Romanticism. She used many of these principles in her novel called
‘Frankenstein’ to reflect Romanticism. Frankenstein is considered as one of the
most authentic Romantic works. Readers can observe an extensive use of nature
throughout the entire novel. In the following paper, I will discuss how Shelley
specifically used nature to reflect Romanticism in her novel “Frankenstein”.

To begin with, Shelley uses sublime experience to reflect Romanticism in
Frankenstein. The sublime seems to have become inseparable from the domination
of nature (Heringman, 2011). Thunderstorms are
amongst the main examples of sublime and nature as it’s elements consist of
both beauty and danger that results in the occurrence of mixed emotions in the
observer such as terror and wonderment. In the novel, Victor’s interest in Science peaked after observing the thunderstorm
which made him question his father about electricity and its various
applications. The evidence of thunderstorm boosting his interest in the novel
is when Shelley writes “I remained, while the storm lasted, watching its
progress with curiosity and delight” and “The catastrophe of this tree excited
my extreme astonishment and I eagerly inquired of my father the nature and
origin of thunder and lightning” (Frankenstein, page 29). In ordinary contexts,
individuals would try to protect themselves from thunderstorms as it is
perceived as dangerous. However, in the novel, Victor emotions transcended his
rational thoughts. Instead of being just scared, he was curious and astonished
as well. In addition, when Victor reaches the top of Montanvert, he says “From the side where I
now stood Montanvert was exactly opposite, at the distance of a league; and
above it rose Mont Blanc, in awful majesty” (Frankenstein, page 83). ‘Awful’ to
describe Victor’s amazement towards the glaciers and the use of ‘majesty’
allowed Shelley to capture the sublime moment and highlight the divine experience
of Victor. Shelley’s emphasis on
Victor’s unique experience of the sublime reflects one of the characteristics
of Romantic literature.

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Furthermore, the use of nature as a therapeutic substance in the novel
displays Romanticism. Romanticists believe that
one can find joy through peaceful seclusion of nature (Pfau &
Gleckner, 1998).
The main characters in Frankenstein, Victor and the monster, use nature
as a source to temporarily escape the oppression they are facing. It gives them
peace and helps uplift their moods. For instance, from the lines, “The sea, or
rather the vast river of ice, wound among its dependent mountains, whose aerial
summits hung over its recesses. Their icy and glittering peaks shone in the
sunlight over the clouds. My heart, which was before sorrowful, now swelled
with something like joy” (Frankenstein, page 83), it can be seen that Victor
attains consolation in nature. Instead of people, Victor’s main strength is the
nature which helps him stay positive and keeps him sane despite all the ongoing
torment in his life. Thus, to overcome the grief of the death of his family and
friends for a while, he avoids humans and seeks the help of nature to find
relaxation and comfort. Furthermore, the connection between the monster and
nature is presented when the monster seeks nature’s help for protection while
facing unjustness from the society. He loitered in forests, hid in caves, and
finally isolated himself by going far away on the earth to an icy and frozen
place after he realized he will never be accepted by people due to his
appearance. During the hiding process, the forests seemed beautiful to him and
the animals gave him a sense of acceptance and belonging. The nature helped
alleviate his loneliness and gave him peace, acting as a healing agent for him.
Shelley’s idea of building a connection between the characters and the nature
along with the characters’ appreciation of nature reproduces Romanticism
feature in the novel.

Additionally, nature acts as a teacher in Frankenstein. According to
Wordsworth, “nature” is a numinous and educative force (Richardson,
2004).
Romanticists relied on nature because it was a teacher, a source of guidance
and a mother to them. In Frankenstein, Victor goes against nature by creating
an unnatural being that serves motive in the natural world. One of the reasons
why he creates the monster is to try to replace God. He also refuses to take
responsibility of the creature he created which poses danger to the society. According
to Romantics, the natural world is a powerful force. As a result of all his
misdoings, he becomes one of the victims in the novel and karma gets back to
him. He gets punished for his sins due to which he realizes the evil he had
done. Similar to Prometheus, Victor spends his entire life in agony as a punishment
for his offence against the laws of nature.

Moreover, a natural description of Victor’s
nostalgia exhibits a feature of Romanticism in the novel. Romanticism and nostalgia
are so frequently associated as to be nearly synonymous (Goodman,
2008). Romantics disliked the
idea of modernism and thus would reminisce the past. In Frankenstein, Victor’s
nostalgia can be sensed when Victor says, “I feel exquisite pleasure in dwelling on the
recollections of childhood  … I find
it arise, like a mountain river, from ignoble and almost forgotten sources;
but, swelling as it proceeded, it became the torrent which, in its course, has
swept away all my hopes and joys” (Frankenstein, page 27). Instead of
associating Victor’s childhood and his feelings in a rational discourse such as
through dialogues with other characters in the novel, Shelley opted to use
imagery of nature such as “a mountain river”. By associating human feelings
with imageries of the nature, Shelley effectively reproduces the Romantic
effect in her novel.

Likewise, the characters’ different perspectives on
nature also demonstrates Romanticism in the novel. From the beginning of the
novel, the role of nature visible. It starts off with Walton who indicates his
intent to visit North Pole. In the first letter, Walton writes “I try in vain to be
persuaded that the pole is the seat of frost and desolation; it ever presents
itself to my imagination as the region of beauty and delight” (Frankenstein,
page 4). On the other hand, Victor says “Covered with ice, it was only to be
distinguished from land by its superior wildness and ruggedness” (Frankenstein,
page 186). It can be seen that one thing is described in different manners by
Walton and Victor due to the difference in the way they look at it. It may be
written in this way to display one of the important principles of Romanticism
which is “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” (Prickett, 2016). Shelley used this
technique to demonstrate that beauty is subjective and depends on a person’s
point of view. A thing might be beautiful to one but plain to the other.

Finally, Shelley’s attempt to show Victor’s
personality through comparison with nature reflects Romanticism in the novel.
As previously mentioned, nature only had a temporary effect on Victor. He saw
himself equal or superior in status to nature, not inferior. This can be spotted
by the readers when Victor states, “Wandering spirits, if indeed ye wander, and
do not rest in your narrow beds, allow me this faint happiness, or take me, as
your companion, away from the joys of life” (Frankenstein, page 83). He uses
the word ‘narrow beds’ instead of ‘wide or spacious beds’ to show the lower
ranking of the nature from his perspective. Instead of treating nature as a
mother or a teacher, he sees it as a companion instead. This observation
implies that the reason why nature had a temporary effect on Victor was because
of his self-obsessed and egoistic personality. Readers also get the idea that
the reason of Victor’s misdoings is his character itself. Such a comparison
between the nature and Victor’s personality shows Shelley’s advice to the
readers to respect nature and the power it possess unlike Victor. Respecting
nature is one of the key elements of Romanticism.

To summarize, Shelley’s vast application of nature
in the characters’ worlds in Frankenstein makes the novel a praiseworthy and an
authentic example of one of the best Romantic works till date. The
above-mentioned points show how Shelley used nature in various ways in her
novel to reflect Romanticism. For instance, she describes the character’s unique
individual experiences to sublime nature to reflect Romanticism. Additionally,
making nature a healing substance, giving it a role of a teacher and an
appreciative attitude towards the nature by the characters also displays
Romanticism in the novel. Last but not least, describing the character’s past
with the imagery of nature, showing different perspectives of characters
towards the same thing and advising readers to respect nature and i’s power
further displays Romanticism in Frankenstein. One can see that nature plays a
very important role in Romanticism. It is seen as very pure and is a source to
renew the spirits of a person. These ideas and beliefs of the Romanticists from
the 18th century are not obsolete. They continue living with us even
today through various ways such as people’s opposition to destroying or
spoiling natural landscape, the goal of environmentalists which is conserving
and preserving the environment, appreciating nature and protecting historical
heritages.

References

Goodman, K. (2008). 10 – Romantic poetry and the science of
nostalgia. Cambridge University Press, 195-216.
Heringman, N. (2011). Rt-Romantic Rocks Aesthetic
Geology Z. Cornell University Press.
Pfau, T., & Gleckner, R. F. (1998). Lessons of
Romanticism: A Critical Companion. Duke University Press.
Prickett, S. (2016). The Romantics. Routledge.
Richardson, A. (2004). Literature, Education, and
Romanticism: Reading as Social Practice, 1780-1832. Cambridge University
Press.
Shelley, M. (1818). Frankenstein . Lackington,
Hughes, Harding, Mavor, & Jones.