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How far do you consider "Frankenstein" a Romantic novel?Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

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frinds | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 20, 2010 at 12:25 AM via web

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How far do you consider "Frankenstein" a Romantic novel?

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted November 20, 2010 at 6:00 AM (Answer #1)

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Misery, gloom, and despair--these are Romantic conventionalities, feelings indulged in rather than as impetus to action.  The characters, Victor Frankenstein and the creature both exemplify these Romantic conventionalities.  In addition, in his essay, "Frankenstein:  In the Context of the Romantic Era," critic George V. Griffith considers Mary Shelley's novel as respresentative of the Romantic era because it typlifies the most important ideas of the era: 

...the primacy of feeling, the dangers of the intellect, dismay over the human capacity to corrupt humans natural goodness, the agony of the questing, solitary hero, and the awesome power of the sublime...fascination with the dual nature of human nature.

Here are some illustrations of the Romantic ideas put forth by Griffith:

THE PRIMACY OF FEELING OVER INTELLECT

Victor's abandoning of the creature is actually a greater sin than his creation.  Childlike and innocent in the beginning, the creature desires only love; however, when he does not receive this love, he takes revenge in his bitterness of feeling.  In the end, however, the creature emerges as more human than his creator, Frankenstein.

THE HUMAN CAPACITY TO CORRUPT HUMAN GOODNESS

The creature is naturally good; it is only his mistreatment at the hands of others that causes him to become bitterly spiteful.  At first sight of his creator, he loves Victor; in fact, he cries after Victor dies and declares his love in the end.  After having hidden himself from the DeLaceys, the creature finally reveals himself only to be beaten and cursed and driven from them. 

In contrast to Victor Frankenstein, Henry Clerval balances his emotional and intellectual pursuits.  But, he is destroyed by the creature who demonstrates the effects human corruption in his revenge for the destruction of the half-mate by Victor.

THE AGONY OF THE QUESTING, SOLITARY HERO

Both Walton and Victor Frankenstein emplify this concept.  Their ecstacy over the prospect of frienships with other males reflects the Romantic notion of the superiority of friendship over other relationships.

THE POWER OF THE SUBLIME

The fact that Frankenstein reads Milton's Paradise Lost, Sorrows of Werter, and Plutarch's Lives indicates Shelley's awe for the sublime.  Her descriptions of Mont Blanc and the sublime beauty of the white nature are compelling and in sharp contrast to the electrical storm that generates life into the creature.

THE DUALITY OF HUMAN NATURE

Walton and Victor Frankenstein share personal traits; Henry Clerval is a foil character to Victor.  These characters demonstrate the conflicts that exist within humans.  For instance, while man would strive to challenge the limits placed upon their lives, they all suffer great loss in the striving to go beyond these limits.  For Frankenstein, to whom "life and death...appeared ideal bounds" to be exceeded, his success at his pursuits cost him family and friends.  The frame story of Walton displays another man of the same ilk, consumed by an intellectual ambition and heedless of feeling, he lives an isolated life and nearly dies.

Another facet of the concept of human nature's duality is its ability to corrupt.  A Rousseauean hero, the creature is born innocent, but is corrupted by the society with which he comes into conflict.  Furthermore, Griffith suggests that the DeLaceys, rejected from society, suggest them as the happy primitives that the Romantics idealized.

 

 

 

 

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