How is the setting important to Frankenstein?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Shelley's novel takes us from the North Pole to Geneva, the Alps, France, England, and Scotland. Two important settings are the Alps and the frozen wastes of the North Pole.

After his long, obsessive project of making a living creature from inanimate parts, Frankenstein takes a trip to Mont Blanc...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

Shelley's novel takes us from the North Pole to Geneva, the Alps, France, England, and Scotland. Two important settings are the Alps and the frozen wastes of the North Pole.

After his long, obsessive project of making a living creature from inanimate parts, Frankenstein takes a trip to Mont Blanc to heal his soul. Romantics like Mary Shelley believed nature had healing powers. They especially picked out sublime spots like Mont Blanc, the highest peak in the French Alps. The sublime is that which inspires a mixture of terror and awe in the human soul, putting the human spirit in touch with both God's power and the beauty of his creation. This is meant to impress humility on a person, who recognizes he is but a tiny speck amid the grandeur of God's nature. Of course, lack of humility is one of Frankenstein's downfalls, for he competes with God when he creates life and as consequence cannot find a healing peace in nature, even if he can identify with the power of the great mountains.

Nature mirrors mood. The frozen North, reminiscent of Dante's ninth circle of hell, reflects the hells of waste, remorse, and isolation in which both Frankenstein and his creature live. As the story opens, Frankenstein is on a ship locked in ice, symbolizing the trapped relationship he and the creature are frozen in. If Frankenstein had been able to love his creation and show it emotional warmth, neither he nor his creature would be in such a physically frozen location.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

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.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

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.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team