When and where does Frankenstein take place?

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The story begins with letters written by one Captain Walton to his sister, Mrs. Saville, as he journeys toward the North Pole in an effort to make some important discoveries that he hopes will benefit humankind and confer glory on him. His first letter is written in St. Petersburgh, Russia, and his second is posted from Archangel, in Northern Russia. As he travels further north by ship, he eventually reaches the polar region, and this is when his ship becomes trapped in the ice and he meets Victor Frankenstein.

When Frankenstein begins to tell his story to Walton, the story begins in his home in Geneva, Switzerland. When he comes of age, he is sent away to college in Ingolstadt, Germany, a city in the Bavarian region of that country. Later in his life, he travels with his family to the valley of Chamounix, in southeast France. He also travels with his best friend, Henry Clerval, to the United Kingdom, visiting England and Scotland. This is where he begins to build the second creature—which he eventually destroys.

When the creature describes his experiences, he describes the woods in Germany where he met the DeLacy family, and this is where he lived for the majority of his miserable existence.

The entirety of the tale seems to take place at the end of the eighteenth century and, perhaps, carries over into the early-nineteenth century.

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The action in Frankenstein takes place all over Europe, extending into the Arctic. Some of the key locations include Frankenstein’s home on Lake Geneva; his university in Ingolstadt, Bavaria, where he creates his monster; the Orkney Islands, where Frankenstein attempts to create a mate for the monster; and Chamounix, France, a high pass in the Alps where the monster confronts Frankenstein. It can be a lot of fun to plot Frankenstein’s movements on a map or in Google Earth; there are many virtual “tours” of Frankenstein locations on the Internet.

Despite the geographic specificity of Shelley’s novel, I have to think that the real significance of place in the story is symbolic. That is, while Shelley may have personally visited many of these places, her interest in them was to evoke an emotion—Geneva as a place of tranquility, or the Alps as a physical manifestation of the sublime, or the Arctic wastes as representative of an indifferent nature, a kind of blank slate on which Frankenstein and monster pursue one another forever. In that sense, the true setting of Frankenstein is the imagination.

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The novel Frankenstein begins with the preface that describes Victor as following the monster on an iceberg somewhere close to the North Pole. However, the majority of the story takes place in Europe. Victor Frankenstein is born in Italy in 1770, moved Switzerland in 1777, and then travels to Germany in 1788 where he studies. It's also in Germany where Victor creates the monster in 1792. Once the monster is created, Victor travels back to Switzerland in 1794, where he is followed by the monster. The monster also follows Victor to London in 1795 and Scotland. The author, Mary Shelley, also writes about Holland, Paris, Russia, and a small town on the Mediterranean Sea.

So many different settings helped Shelley promote the themes of escape and pursuit in her novel.

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The novel Frankenstein is a frame story with three narrators and many settings. The novel begins in the St Petersburg, Russia when the first narrator, Robert Walton, is beginning his trip to the North Pole. It then movea to the North Pole and Victor Frankenstein appears.One could consider the North Pole as the single setting but that would be misleading. As Victor begins to narrate the story, he begins in Geneva, Switzerland,his family home and then moves to Ingolstadt,Germany, where Victor goes to study and make his monster. When the monster begins narrating the story, the setting moves back to the mountains around Ingolstadt, then to Switzerland. France, England, Scotland and then across the Alps to Russia and back to the North Pole. The novel takes place in the late 1700's.

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