Significance of setting in Frankenstein
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Frankenstein by Mary Shelley is an intriguing novel in respect to its haunting and powerful story and its effective development. The story has many different settings, all of which have a direct correlation to the story line. Setting plays a pivotal role throughout the novel, creating feelings of loneliness and despair. Shelley strengthens the theme of isolation by setting the conclusion of her novel in the Arctic wasteland, a place of hostile and desolate environment.
We are first introduced to the theme of loneliness in the first chapter of the novel In his second letter to his sister, we learn that Walton was trapped in the Arctic and feels lonely and isolated, with no one to turn to for comfort, “I have no friend, Margaret: when I am glowing with the enthusiasm of success, there will be none to participate my joy.” (pg 19) The theme of loneliness then continues on throughout the story. From Justine to Elizabeth to Victor, all of whom have experienced the pain of isolation.
Elizabeth grows up without knowing her mother, whom had died giving birth to her. Similarly, when Justine’s father dies, she lives with her mother, who ends up treating her very badly and was often alone. These examples of abandonment represent a type of loneliness and this is embodied in the unforgiving environment of the Artic. No matter where one looks, all he sees is ice-covered tundra. In much the same way, no matter where an orphan looks, no one appears to support him or her.
One other significant example of isolation is the relationship between Victor and the monster. When Victor first sees his creation, he calls it a wretched being, “I beheld the wretch-the miserable monster whom I had created.” (pg 59) From this moment on, the monster is alone. He tries to gain acceptance and friendships among Felix’s family and elsewhere, but is rejected due to his horrifying appearance. His feeling of loneliness only intensifies as the story progresses. Upon witnessing the “death” of his earthly companion at the hands of Victor, he cries: “shall each man find a wife for his bosom…and I be alone? I have feelings of affection and they were requited by detestation and scorn.” (pg 172) The monster then exact revenge on Victor by killing Elizabeth, so that Victor too, feels as alone as the monster. Therefore, the harsh environment of the Artic provides the perfect background for the conclusion of this emotional-driven tale.
Imagery of abandonment, isolation, and loneliness is prevalent throughout Frankenstein, and Shelley masterfully interweaves these themes through characters and setting. Often, a sense of coldness is closely associated with loneliness. Someone with no companionship has no one to keep him warm. Thus, the Arctic provides a perfect location for the conclusion of this story of desertion and isolation.