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Romanticism and Pathetic Fallacy in Frankenstein

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Romanticism was a school of thought that Mary Shelley was evidently familiar with. It is probable that the way in which her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley expressed his devotion to the philosophies attached to its many notions, inadvertently influenced her perception of existence and the world around her. It is particularly evident in her dark interpretation of the arguably heroic tale of Prometheus. Frankenstein is built on the premise of a cautionary tale, as it delves into the mental, physical and emotional consequences that are intertwined with the manipulation of the natural realm. The Romantics were known for perceiving nature with the highest regard, and Shelley’s deviation from this ideology, as shown in Victor’s desire to harness it with logic, paints a picture of her possible attempts to free herself from her husband’s vernacular of hedonistic pursuits.

It is incredibly difficult to separate the concept of isolation from the novel, as it is a theme that is apt in communicating much of what Shelley had to note about humanity. Through the judicious construction of the dispositions harboured by Victor and the creature, Shelley draws parallels between the two characters. From the onset of the narrative, Victor subjects himself to isolation as he explores the ‘wonders’ of scientific discovery. In this place of isolation, he states that he “continually sought the attainment of one subject of pursuit”, unveiling the contemplation behind his acquired state of reclusion. Shelley’s selection of lexis establishes the depth behind Victor’s venture. The employment of the verb “Sought”, insinuates that Victor’s revelations did not come to him naturally but were rather the product of avid and relentless searching. Thus, reinforcing the notion that what he “sought” was never meant to be found. Contrary to this is the creature’s own isolation, as it is not chosen but rather imposed upon him by the rejection of others. The creature finds himself infatuated with the De Lacey family, and all that he believes they depict, that being, love, human connection, and unity. The stark difference between, what they embody and the conduct that the creature has acquired due to continual rejection is addressed through the creatures want to be a part of society. It is acknowledged by the creature that his desires are not plausible as he expresses how he “longed to join them but dared not.” When explored further it is indicated by this quotation that Shelley uses the pain of isolation, to portray an aspect of reason that is awakened within the creature. As despite his desire to join the family, he is aware of the reproach that may await him. Unlike Frankenstein he does not overlook the consequences of his actions and allow himself to be blinded by the ignorant bliss of his desires, in this instance. In particular, the use of a lexical field of desire (prevalent throughout the novel), is reiterated by the creatures “longing to join” the family, ultimately punctuating the state in which the monster finds himself ensnared by both desire and reason. Shelley’s acknowledgement of the juxtaposing notions of desire and reason, sheds light on her critical perspective of Romanticism. As the movement often prioritised self-indulgence, over objectivity and reason, a manner of existing, that Shelley may have grown to scrutinise; as it was often what fuelled the unstable disposition of her husband, Percy Shelley, as argued by some critics.

One might propose that Victor’s maddening want to be close to discovering the secrets of nature, and yet his tendency to remain infatuated by its healing properties, represent a greater conflict that Shelley sought to reveal. It can be noted that whenever Victor finds himself distraught and disconcerted beyond consolation, he retreats to the depths of nature. This is exhibited in his journey to “Chamounix” after Justine’s trial, when he attempts to run from his guilt. Shelley’s construction of Frankenstein’s conduct, when surrounded by nature, brings forward themes of human fatality, and the danger of seeking power. Upon arrival Victor’s admiration of the nature surrounding him, could be attributed to an ideology that underlines much of Romanticism. He states that the “Magnificent scenes afforded him the greatest consolation.” Thus, providing the implication that he places the natural world on a pedestal. As one continues to read however, his attitude towards nature morphs into one that is entrenched in a defiance that counters his previous admiration. As he challenges the powers of nature, it becomes apparent that his idolisation of nature may come from a self-seeking place. As opposed to continually appreciating nature, he appears to seek it out only in his times of need and insinuates that he is above the thralls of its potency. A notion that is made evident by Shelley’s employment of rhetoric, through Victor’s daring inquisition: “What were rain and storm to me?” Hence arises the interpretation that Victor harbours a naive sense of invincibility. The statement proclaimed by Victor can also be perceived in a metaphorical light, as he may be implying that regardless of what plights he may face he will persevere. The use of the nouns “Rain and storm” to establish this undertone further reinforce the emphatic role that nature plays within the novel. Regarding Shelley’s intent, she ultimately reveals a conflict that also rests within human nature, which pertains to the aspect of humanity that desires to possess power, and yet, the prevalence of an aspect that does not want the responsibility that succeeds it.

Conclusively it can be noted that Shelley’s continual use of the gothic trope of pathetic fallacy is not employed simply in a bid to set the scene, but rather, also unveils the flawed facets of human conduct in relation to the divine. The text addresses a multitude of issues concerning the role of the creator and their creation. When first created the creature reaches out for Victor, with the desire to be dependent on his creator, and is met with rejection, an encounter that marks him in unalterable manner, and leads him down a vengeful path. This is reflective of Victor’s ambivalent treatment of nature, whereby he turns to it in search of solace, and yet also devalues it through 

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Romanticism And Pathetic Fallacy In Frankenstein. (2022, February 10). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 17, 2022, from
“Romanticism And Pathetic Fallacy In Frankenstein.” GradesFixer, 10 Feb. 2022,
Romanticism And Pathetic Fallacy In Frankenstein. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 17 May 2022].
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