Open/Close: Romanticism & Nature in Frankenstein

I wanted to do some further research into the themes of romanticism and nature in the book, as these were two themes that I found I came up a lot when researching. I thought it would be best to look at them both, and see what I could find, and if I had any ideas surrounding the themes.

I have found lots of different sources with useful information, but I have taken out the important and useful pieces of information. I will then use this information when thinking about what key pieces of information that should be highlighted from the chapters. I can also use it as a starter for my ideas with how to set out the book, and the format that it will take.


“Time and again, the majesty and mystery of nature are invoked in the novel – especially in moments of crisis. When Dr. Frankenstein is in rage, fear, and despair, only the magnificence of the Alps can provide solace. When the monster makes his appearance, only the eternal, quiet strength of the natural world can rival him or mitigate his fearsomeness.

This focus on nature as at once wondrous, restorative, and fearsome is a direct reaction against Age of Enlightenment principles and the forces of the Industrial Revolution which coincide with them. Whereas the Age of Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution prize modernization, urbanization, and the march of civilized progress above all other things, the Romantics seek a return to and a respect for the natural world.

Another theme that is explored in Frankenstein is the individual versus society. While the Age of Enlightenment positions civilization, or the creation of highly evolved societies, as the be-all-end-all of human endeavor, the Romantics see the individual as the great and worthy thing in him- or herself alone, distinct from and, indeed, threatened by society. In contrast to the Enlightenment perspective, for the Romantics, civilization is not the greatest human good. Rather, it is a corrupting, abusive, and insincere system that deprives members of their individuality and their humanity – the uniqueness that makes them human.

When Dr. Frankenstein leaves his Alpine home to join the University, his manic pursuits begin. He is corrupted by the fervor of ambition and hubris that saturates these large university towns. This unchecked pursuit of knowledge and progress at all costs leads only to dehumanization and the destruction of the individual.

For this reason, the Romantics celebrate the so-called noble savage and the uneducated peasant – those untouched by civilization, the corruptions of the city, the perversions of ambition, and the deformations of formal learning.

The corruptions of society are most evident in the townspeople’s reactions to Frankenstein’s monster. Early on, it becomes clear that the ‘monster’ is not intrinsically malevolent. He has a naturally brilliant mind and a strong capacity for feeling, including an immense desire to love and be loved. But at every turn, he is rejected and abused, driven through the streets with blows, threats, and curses.

Romantic writers are concerned with nature, human feelings, compassion for mankind, freedom of the individual and Romantic hero, and rebellion against society.

The monster is a Romantic hero because of the rejection he must bear from normal society. Wherever he goes, the monster is chased away because of his hideous appearance and his huge size. Shelley is attempting to show the readers how many people in conventional society reject the less than average or disfigured souls who live on the borders of our society.

We cannot blame the monster for what happens to him, and Shelley elicits from the reader a sympathetic response for a creature so misunderstood. The monster tries to fit into a regular community, but because he is hideous to look at and does not know the social graces, he can never become part of mainstream society. The monster’s response is to overcompensate for his lack of learning and then shun all human contact except when necessary.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein uses many elements of both Gothic literature and Romantic literature. Being written in 1818 the novel was placed well in the romantic era. Frankenstein uses very descriptive language to create beautiful scenery but also dark suspenseful settings. The novel works very well to balance out the true gothic nature of the novel with the romantic period in which it is set in. Frankenstein has a very dark underlying theme of death and revenge. There is also an incredible amount of emotion not only in the love Victor feels but also in the hatred the monster lets fester. There are many things that make Frankenstein a romantic novel, but the true underlying theme and the overpowering dark imagery is what makes Frankenstein a gothic novel.

The way that Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein is very interesting and takes a few reads and some deeper research to understand. Upon first glance it appears a regular gothic about a monster and his creator, but after a few more reads one can see the deeper romantic influence and the critique of the romantic view. The novel is a perfect gothic which relates itself to the society it was written for and the horror it looks to instil. The dark theme and questionable actions of the main character truly bring out the gothic nature in this novel. The way Victor tries to create the future he looks for is horrific and ultimately a failure. This is used to show that the romantics are dreamers and reality will create its own future. One man cannot create life and toy with the future so easily. Destiny cannot be escaped and dreaming of a better future is futile. The novel creates a feeling of despair in the reader. One can only hope for a better future and trying to create one like Victor will only end in catastrophe. This underlying, deeper meaning of the novel is what makes Frankenstein a true gothic novel.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is well known to have been born of a ghost-story competition between friends, these friends including none other than Percy Shelley, Lord Byron and Dr John ‘The Vampyre’ Polidori.  It is recognised as a key gothic text”


In her iconic 1818 novel, Frankenstein, Mary Shelley, a leading figure in the Romantic movement, draws inspiration from the forces of nature. The Romantics view nature as both a source of bountiful creation and healing comfort, and as a force of frightening power and terrible cruelty. They also see conflict between the natural world and the forces of modernisation and scientific progress which characterise the Age of Enlightenment of the late 1700s. This is also the era in which the Industrial Revolution begins in earnest, creating a technological age that transforms how we live, work, and experience the natural world (if, in the machine age, we experience nature at all).

In Frankenstein, Shelley presents an image of nature that is at once benevolent and diabolic, breathtaking in its beauty and shattering in its brutality. The natural world is life-giving and nurturing to humans, but she is also under threat by the forces of progress. When men like Victor Frankenstein presume to violate the laws of nature and seize its power for themselves, nature becomes an instrument of swift and pitiless revenge.

There’s no dispute that Victor Frankenstein is a brilliant man. Within just a few years of study at the University of Ingolstadt in Germany, he discovers the key to life itself. He is able to tame the forces of mortality and harness the spark of life in order to create a new life.

Victor is a student of the Enlightenment-era new science. Influenced by the natural philosophers of previous generations, Enlightenment scientists believe that the answer to every mystery is locked away in the natural world. Through rigorous and systematic study of the natural world, humanity can understand everything – not only about the universe and how it works, but also about ourselves and God.

The universe, for Enlightenment scientists, is like a clock and God is the clockmaker. He set the clock into motion and then stepped back, allowing His clock to run on its own. By studying the clock, humans can learn about the clockmaker. We can discover God and His best and highest intentions for humanity and the world we are given.

So, the study of the natural world, whether that be the study of the earth or the cosmos, is the study of God. In the eyes of many Enlightenment scientists, His fingerprints are everywhere, and we need only to understand those fingerprints in order to understand everything. This knowledge includes what kind of government was best, how to overcome illness and injury, and, ultimately, how to conquer death itself.

Even if Victor Frankenstein approaches the natural world with the detached, clinical gaze on which the new science depends, he is still only human. Time and again, nature’s beauty moves Victor, particularly when he finds himself encircled by the Alps in his beloved Geneva home.

In this, Shelley echoes the Romantics’ love of nature, and the splendid power of her beauty. Nature is Victor’s only comfort when he is at his lowest, and most despairing, horrified by his creation and quaking at the thought of the monster’s revenge.

Victor finds solace in the enduring stability of the mountains and the restful quiet of Lake Geneva. This puts his suffering into perspective, and reminds him that, while his suffering is temporary, the natural world is eternal.


In the Romantic period of literature, nature was often associated with isolation in a positive way. Throughout the novel, there is a strong symbolic relationship between loneliness and nature. However, Shelley uses the relationship to show the negativity of being alone. The relationship of nature and loneliness is displayed through three characters in the story: Victor Frankenstein, his creature, and Robert Walton. At the times when the characters are alone and in need of companionship, they feel depressed, confused, and angry; they do not think clearly, and, consequently, they make wrong decisions. They seek refuge in nature, and try to use its beauty to find answers and to fill their void of friendship. Yet, none of the characters ever overcomes their bouts with loneliness because they never find true comfort in nature.


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