Discuss the ways in which Shelley is influenced by the Romantics' idea of nature and how this is reflected in the creature and Frankenstein's inner-self. How does it help us better understand these two characters?

Shelley was influenced by the pathetic fallacy, in which natural settings reflect human interiority, and by the sublime, the concept that extreme settings, such as mountaintops, fill us with awe and fear. Shelley puts both Frankenstein and the creature into icy, isolated, and sublime locales that help us understand the extreme nature of their circumstances as well as their loneliness and pained hearts, frozen in horror at what life has dealt them.

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The Romantics believed that the human soul could be touched by the divine through nature. Since God created nature, in its unaltered form it represented the divine. Romantics subscribed as well to theories of the sublime expressed by eighteenth-century writers: the sublime is the mix of awe and fear at the majesty of God that is experienced in dramatic natural settings, such as on mountaintops or overlooking cliffs. Romantics also often used the pathetic fallacy, in which interior human states are expressed by external settings.

It is not by accident that the creature and Victor Frankenstein have their first real encounter (seen by the reader) on a mountaintop in the Swiss Alps. Victor's description of climbing in a "steep ascent" and then crossing a glacier that seems like an ocean to him reflects how far he is entered into a wholly natural world. He is reduced to insignificance by his surroundings, showing that he should not have taken on the prerogatives of God and created life.

The peak of Mount Blanc is near him; he has crossed far from civilization. He describes the scene as follows:

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.

This dramatic, icy backdrop is a fitting setting for the creature's extended conversation with Victor. It reflects the way Victor's heart has been frozen against his creation and how he has been isolated by the experience of creating life from inanimate matter, as well as the way the creature has suffered pain and isolation from its hideous appearance. The sublime setting, which fills us with a sense of awe and fear, reflects the awe and fear of this dramatic encounter.

In nature, near a mountaintop, closer to God, the creature can fully express his anguish at his creator's and the rest of humanity's rejection of him. The creature expected more from Victor: Victor is his parent, the one who gave him life, and yet Victor abandoned him. In this lonely setting, which magnifies the loneliness of both beings, the creature demands that Victor create him a mate to relieve his loneliness.

Both Victor and the creature are closely connected to icy landscapes in the novel. Both are thrown out of the civilized world of fire: the spark of life Victor used to create the creature has led to his exile to the Arctic regions as he chases it. The creature, who once gathered firewood for the De Lacey's in the hopes of finding acceptance in human culture, must abandon that dream of warmth as he leads Victor to the icy cold of the north. In both cases, the isolated, frozen Arctic reflects their lonely states and broken hearts. Thinking of how icy and cold their surroundings often are, we can better understand how their hearts, though longing for warmth, are frozen.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on February 18, 2021
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