Setting has a strong role in this novel, often reflecting the inner life of the protagonists and helping to establish mood.
Much of Frankenstein takes place in cold, remote climates. The novel opens with Walton's boat caught in the icy reaches of the Arctic, where he is exploring unknown regions with his crew. Victor and the creature have their first real meeting on an Alpine mountaintop.
Such dramatic landscapes were beloved by the Romantics. Extreme settings inspired, they believed, a sense of the Sublime, which is a mix of awe and fear that brings one closer to God's presence. Such extreme settings mirror the extreme events and emotions of the novel.
The dramatic, mountaintop encounter of Victor and the creature, for example, away from civilization, highlights the extent to which these two figures exist in a special world, alienated from human civilization. Both are extraordinary figures. They are Byronic heroes in that they are wounded and bigger than life, frozen in an epic struggle with each other that is mirrored in the dramatic, frozen landscapes in which they have their encounters. Shelley lavishes attention on the setting of Victor's and the creature's first conversation:
The field of ice is almost a league in width, but I spent nearly two hours in crossing it. The opposite mountain is a bare perpendicular rock. From the side where I now stood Montanvert was exactly opposite, at the distance of a league; and above it rose Mont Blanc, in awful majesty. I remained in a recess of the rock, gazing on this wonderful and stupendous scene. The sea, or rather the vast river of ice, wound among its dependent mountains, whose aerial summits hung over its recesses. Their icy and glittering peaks shone in the sunlight over the clouds. My heart, which was before sorrowful, now swelled with something like joy.
Other settings also show these two main characters' Romantic isolation. Victor toils alone and to the point of ill health, working on creating life from body parts. While other young men his age are out enjoying life, he is scavenging morgues for body parts. The Gothic settings of morgues and an isolated lab underline the dangers of Victor's undertakings, which pull him away from the common life and the common herd.
Likewise, though he has little choice, the creature also lives in isolation. For instance, he spends a portion of the novel sojourning in the woods, observing the De Lacey family. They have been impoverished and live simply and close to nature in their humble cottage. This apartness from a corrupt world shows their purity and illustrates the virtues of simple living, a theme beloved of the Romantics.
Even ordinary scenes in the novel have dramatic elements, such as when the Frankenstein family is vacationing near Lake Geneva. During a violent storm, lightning hits a tree. Victor recalls that the dry explanation a guest offers of the electrical force of lightning discourages him from wanting to pursue science for a time. He frames this as divine intervention into his life—which unfortunately fails to keep from his tragic path.
As we can see, Shelley often uses pathetic fallacy, in which nature or the weather corresponds to human emotions. The icy arctic, for example, reflects the icy internal isolation that both Victor and the creature experience. The drama of nature as Victor approaches the mountaintop experience, filled with memories and thunderstorms, soothes his troubled soul and elevates it to a higher level:
These sublime and magnificent scenes afforded me the greatest consolation that I was capable of receiving. They elevated me from all littleness of feeling, and although they did not remove my grief, they subdued and tranquillised it.