Please apply Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Romantic theories/beliefs to Frankenstein.

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Interestingly, evidence of Jean-Jacques Rousseau's influence upon Mary Shelley and other Romantic writers is evinced even in the descriptions of the Swiss countryside in the middle of Shelley's narrative since Rousseau's novel, Julie, contains extravangant descriptions of the natural beauty of this area. 

*But, more importantly, the character of the creature is representative of Rousseau's natural man, or man in the "state of nature."  As such, this man is moral in the sense that he has an instinctive disinclination to witness suffering; this disinclination, then, produces the emotions of compassion.  This expression of empathy of the creature as in the state of nature is evinced during his experience of the Delacey family. For instance, he is disconcerted by the tears that they shed.  He relates in noticing that the young people place food before the their father when they have none for themselves:

This trait of kindness moved me sensibly.  I had been steal a part of their store for my own consumption; but when I found that in doing this I inflicted pain on the cottagers, I abstained, and satisfied myself with berries, nuts, and roots, which I gathered from a neighbouring wood.

The creature also gathers wood for the Delaceys in the night and places this outside their door, an act of kindness that provides them time to make repairs and do other work around the cottage.

**Another aspect of Rousseau's philosophy that is evinced in the characterization of the creature is the transformation of man's self-love, or amour de soi, into a false pride effected by society, or amour-propre. This pride is an artifical one that promotes comparison of oneself with others in society, thus creating an "unwarranted fear" in the individual that causes him to take pleasure in the pain or weakness of others. When the Delacey's repel the creature, it is only then that he compares himself to others.  His desire to attain value in the eyes of the Delaceys leads him lose his own integrity and commit malevolent acts against Victor's family and friends. Beginning with Victor's inital rejection of him, the creature is forced into the amour-propre that causes him to commit evil because of humankind's attitudes and the false conditions of society.


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