Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley, comprises and exemplifies many signature Romantic tropes. Though Shelley may integrate gothic elements into her story, the core of the novel is one of genuine and heartfelt Romanticism. Almost all Romantic ideals are overtly present and entrenched in the narrative so thoroughly that Frankenstein cannot be said to be anything but an adherent of the Romantic genre.
Among these Romantic codes are the Romantic ideal of creating “something” from nothing, the use of nature as a striking and influential force, and the Romantic reverence for the consecrated cycle of life and death.
Among the ideals most valued and sought after in the Romantic community was the idea of true stimulation, delved from one’s own imagination and brilliance. This is why the Romantics were among the first to speak out against replicating the works of others, stating that the most beautiful art is that which was “created from nothing”.
In this sagacity, Victor Frankenstein was a true Romantic; his goal of “bestowing animation upon lifeless matter” (p.
48) is the epitome of creation from oblivion. Furthermore, his desire to do as no others have done before, breaking new ground with lofty and seemingly unfeasible objectives was one thing Romantics took pride in. The success of Victor Frankenstein’s creation mirrors Mary Shelley’s credence that, with ample determination, even the ostensibly impossible can be accomplished.
One of the themes most concomitant with Romantic works is the clout and beauty of nature. When Frankenstein’s monster, lonely and abandoned, takes to the forest in an effort to track down his creator, he finds solace only in the beauty of the first of spring, claiming that he “felt emotions of gentleness and pleasure that had long appeared dead, revive within” (p. 148). This Romantic notion of nature’s altruism and spiritual healing capabilities is juxtaposed by an alternative idea tantamount with Romantics: the pure power of the natural world.
As a child, Victor Frankenstein is flabbergasted by the way that lightning exenterates a large oak tree, claiming that he had never “beheld anything so completely and utterly destroyed” (p. 32). The obliteration not only indicates the power of nature, but also foreshadows Frankenstein’s creation of the monster further in the novel. This idea of Victor Frankenstein as a Romantic may lead one to ask the question, “Why, then, did the Romantic ideals turn out so poorly in this Romantic’ novel? ” The answer is this: Frankenstein broke a fundamental rule of Romanticism; he attempted to disturb the sacrosanct cycle of life and death. He created the monster in an attempt to one day “Renew life where death had apparently devoted the body to corruption. ” (p. 48), however, in the eyes of a pious Romantic, this would be an atrocity and insult to God in accordance with Romantic devotion for all things natural, including death.
Because of this insolence for Romantic beliefs, Victor Frankenstein was mandated to pay the ultimate price. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein can, and should, be considered a true Romantic novel. Though some of the plot and setting may have been cadged from Gothic literature, the morals and principles of the book find their place with Romanticism. From intrinsic respect of all things natural, to the omnipotence of human creation and imagination, Frankenstein embodies the Romantic spirit almost immaculately.
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