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What is the symbolism of ice in Frankenstein?

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elizabeth1994 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 3, 2012 at 8:26 PM via web

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What is the symbolism of ice in Frankenstein?

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Michelle Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 3, 2012 at 11:05 PM (Answer #1)

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The use of ice in Frankenstein has several purposes. First, it adds to the sensory elements that are needed to understand, both, the setting as well as the atmosphere of specific chapters in the novel. The part of the novel where ice is more evident at the beginning, when Captain Walton's boat is exploring the Artic and encounters ice. There, the captain and crew see the monster sledding on an iceflo from a distance. Shortly after, he rescues Victor. This is when Victor confesses his story to Walton. 

Here we see that the ice is a perfect symbol to represent the fate that Victor's life has taken. Victor's fate has led him to a life that is fruitless, barren, frozen in time, and inevitably miserable. In the frigid and lonely Artic, there is nowhere to go, nor nothing, to do but to chase, or be chased. This is the case between Victor and the creature. This particular chase begins in Switzerland, when Victor determines to kill the creature. The chase crosses country boundaries and ends up in the Artic circle, where the are found at the beginning of the story. As it goes on, the creature seems to lure Victor to that very cold and freezing spot. This is evident in one of the notes that the creature leaves for Frankenstein just to elevate his chagrin.

My reign is not yet over — you live, and my power is complete. Follow me; I seek the everlasting ices of the north, where you will feel the misery of cold and frost, to which I am impassive.

Here we note that the monster actually wants to lead Victor to a cold, desolate, barren and "dead" place, in hopes that Victor succumbs to it. The idea of darkness, coldness, and isolation is also a Gothic element of narrative. Hence, it would also be a representation of Victor's fate and of his own soul. 

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