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Mary Shelley develops the character Victor Frankenstein, a young chemist who discovers the secrets of creating life, with an unending thirst for knowledge. His studies and desires lead him to build a Creature which wreaks havoc on Victor and all he loves. However, this tale is not one of steady decline, but a roller coaster of emotion, for both Victor Frankenstein and his Creature. Throughout Frankenstein, Mary Shelley uses vivid descriptions of seasons and weather as a symbol for happiness and hope, or lack thereof, to demonstrate how each character faces the highs and lows inevitable in life.
Directly following his creation, the creature suffers unbearable pain and misery, continuing through the first two winters of his hopeless life. First off, as soon as the creature enters the world, he begins to feel cold; “Before I had quitted your apartment, on a sensation of cold, I had covered myself with some clothes, but these were insufficient to secure me from the dews of night. I was a poor, helpless, miserable wretch” (119). The creature has no parent to care for him, and does not understand why he feels no warmth. Additionally, the gaping hole left by Victor’s absence creates a metaphorical cold in the creature’s heart. His loneliness induces a far worse misery than any physical cold. Additionally, once winter returns a year later, the creature distresses to see the leaves fall, as his hopes for acceptance plummet; “Autumn passed thus. I saw, with surprise and grief, the leaves decay and fall, and nature again assume the barren and bleak appearance it had worn when I first beheld the woods” (156). The creature does not yet understand the seasons, he is scared to relive the cold and suffering he first endured a year prior. His lack of comfort and a parental figure makes him more desperate for compassion and company. He longs to reveal himself to the villagers, but still does not believe they will accept him. This cold endured by the miserable creature is a symbol for a low point of his life.
On the other hand, nature distracts Victor from his troubles, and demonstrates that one going through a difficult time can still feel happiness from simple pleasures. To begin, on his trip to Chamounix, summer brings Victor joy; “The very winds whispered in soothing accents, and maternal Nature bade me weep no more.” (108). Rather than worrying about his creation on the loose, Victor is reminded of all that is good in the world. Elements of nature such as this add romanticism to the novel, taking on a more idealistic view of Victor’s strange predicament. Later on, while traveling through Switzerland with Henry, Victor again loses focus on his true situation; “I, depressed in mind, and my spirits continually agitated by gloomy feelings, even I was pleased,” (188). Looking past all of the stress and sorrow he faces, Victor sees the good in nature and the world. The Swiss mountains insight awe in him and distract him from his true problems. Victor’s ignorant bliss demonstrates that summertime and warmth can permeate the deepest and darkest depressions.
Victor’s most stressful encounters with the creature often occur in harsh, cold climates. These settings symbolize the physical and metaphorical cold forced upon Victor, that the creature is immune to. Initially leading up to his meeting with the Creature, Victor already feels cold and uncomfortable; “The air was cold, and the rain again began to descend; we entered the hut, the fiend with an air of exultation, I with a heavy heart and depressed spirits” (117). Even before the creature tells his story, Victor suffers from the cold while the heartless Creature does not feel any discomfort. This marks the beginning of Victor’s dilemma that he never solves. Moreover, Victor’s unfortunate demise is met up north in a miserably cold setting; “Follow me; I seek the everlasting ices of the north, where you will feel the misery of cold and frost, to which I am impassive” (253). The creature is cold-hearted and can endure the harsh climate more than Victor. This is the end of Victor’s hope. All his family is dead, and he will soon die from the harsh climate. The relentless cold is a direct representation of his lack of hope and happiness.
Within Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, nature imagery seen in climate and time of year are utilized as a representation for a character’s attitude, illustrating how everyone has up’s and down’s in life. Winter stole the Creature’s hope, and summer distracted Victor from the stress and deep depression through which he was suffering. One must remember that the future is always a mystery, and its result can never be foretold. Even the smallest ray of light can brighten a world of misery.
Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft, Friedrich Schiller, and Charles Brockden Brown. Frankenstein:, Or, The Modern Prometheus. London: Henry Colburn and Richard Bentley … Bell and Bradfute, Edinburgh, 1831. Print.
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