How is the setting important to Frankenstein?
Shelly’s novel responds to the notion of the “sublime,” central to Romanticism, that nature can inspire and reflect the human soul. I quote here from an excellent discussion by Heather Mah on the topic of landscape in Frankenstein. “Mary Shelley made use of the landscape to communicate Victor's fluctuating mentality. Because he has successfully cross over the boundary separating God from man to bring something inanimate to life, Victor has removed himself far from ordinary human-kind. He now possessed an unearthly power that sets him apart from his fellow human beings. Thus, unlike ordinary humans who find picturesque landscapes awe-inspiring, Victor finds such landscapes indifferent and incapable of curing his troubled mind. Rather he can only identify with enormous, sublime landscapes because these are the only landscapes great and powerful enough to take his mind away from his problems and to offer him some sort of comfort in his present unstable state.” She provides a fuller discussion on the topic at the url listed below.
In Frankenstein, the setting is a roadmap for how to understand the complex conflicts within the novel. Remember that Frankenstein is a frame novel. The opening scene, which features a flabbergasted Victor Frankenstein in the Russian arctic, sets the stakes of the story: a solitary scientist lost, floundering against the elements of the universe. And he is. Over the course of the story, Frankenstein plays God and loses his family, his creation, his love, and ultimately himself.
As you read, consider the narrative's sphere: public, personal, or private. When Frankenstein is in public settings, such as his school, the narrative is addressing external conflicts, conflicts Frankenstein has with society. Similarly, when he is in familiar settings, like the home, he is dealing with internal conflicts. When he or his monster is isolated, the narrative is addressing internal conflicts.