Why does Mary Shelley use "Lines Written A Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey" by William Wordsworth in Chapter 18, and how does it relate to Frankenstein?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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As Victor Frankenstein and his good friend Henry Clerval travel to Enlgand, they descend the Rhine River in a boat from Straburgh to Rotterdam, where they will take a ship for London.  On this voyage, they see many ruined castles and black woods, rugged hills and precipices.  But, as they travel farther, they spot the laborers bringing in grapes in the verdant hills.  And, the mountains of Switzerland Henry finds absolutely sublime, telling Victor,

Oh, surely, the spirit that inhabits and guards this place has a soul more in harmony with man than those who pile the glacier.

When he hears the enthusiasm of Henry for the beauty of nature, Victor declares that Clerval is a "being formed in the 'very poetry of nature.'"

In the Romantic Movement, the friendship between two men was exalted as the highest form of love between two human beings.  Here, in this chapter, Victor expresses his love and appreciation for Henry, praising his wondrous appreciation of nature.  Quoting from Wordsworth's "Lines Composed A Few Miles Above Tintern," Victor alludes to the poem in which Wordsworth wrote, "I cannot paint what then I was," a line reflective of Victor, whose melancholy prevents him from enjoying the landscape as does Henry.  Nor can the gloomy Victor share with Henry the transcendental experiences in which his friend revels. For, in Chapter 19, he describes himself as "a blasted tree, [whose] bolt has entered [his]soul," a most ironic description as it recalls the giant tree Victor witnessed when he was young that excited him to the study of science. 

Sadly, at the end of the chapter, Victor reminisces and recounts the tremendous loss that the death of his friend Henry has been, saying "these ineffectual words are but a slight tribute to the unexampled worth of Henry."  Like Wordsworth, the description of the peaceful landscape in which Henry so delighted restores Victor some in mind and soul.

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