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One wouldn’t think nature can affect one’s mental health significantly, but it can. In Mary Shelley’s well-known novel, Frankenstein, the reader explores the life and troubles Victor Frankenstein has to endure after creating and abandoning his unnamed creature. In Frankenstein’s early life, he was fascinated by science and the ability to create new life. With that, he attended the University of Ingolstadt in Germany where he studied biology, galvanism, and electricity in order to create the monster who will soon bring disturbance and restlessness in Victor’s life. Because of his appearance, the creature is rejected by society and takes revenge on Victor by killing his loved ones. Both characters endure sufferings and the feeling of solitude, but they also find peace and comfort in nature. In Frankenstein, Mary Shelley uses nature as a restorative agent for both the monster and Victor where they can find a sense of tranquility within themselves while their outside world is chaotic. Mary Shelley also uses nature to show how it can also be a great, powerful force. Victor experiences nature as a powerful force first hand as he watches lightning strike an oak tree which inspires him to create the monster. Nature is demonstrated in Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein as a restorative agent and also as a great, powerful force; this can be proven through Victor’s longing for nature in times of grief, the creature’s quest for knowledge, and Victor’s obsession with science.
In the 1700’s, there was a “destructive extratropical cyclone” (Jones) that affected Germany, England, and the Netherlands. This storm that appeared caused widespread destruction in Germany and countries surrounding Germany. During this period, there was extreme rain and storms that lasted year round which could have prompted Mary Shelley to write her novel, Frankenstein, with nature and weather being an important theme throughout. Also, in Switzerland and Germany, the geography varies greatly. The landscape ranges from great plains that stretch out towards the North sea, hills and mountains with large amounts of forests, river valleys, numerous lakes, and the mountainous Alps.
In the late 1800’s, Sir Francis Galton brought to the attention of people the term “Nature versus Nurture”; this term ultimately means, how much of a person’s behavior is influenced by their genes and how much is influenced by their surrounding environment and life experience.
In Frankenstein the reader can explore the theme of nature and how it is used as a restorative agent for both Victor and the monster. Justine, a young girl who was adopted into the Frankenstein family, was accused and executed for the death of William, the youngest son of Alphonse and Caroline Frankenstein. Although it was not Victor who murdered him, he feels as though he is to blame for young William’s death, because he created the monster who did commit the murder. Victor is then drowned in the feeling of grief and feels “unusually melancholy.” The day after Justine’s execution, Victor and his family spent the day in nature near “the Arveiron and rode about the valley until evening”. Victor finds serenity in the valley and says that the magnificent and beautiful scenery of nature that passed by gave him the greatest consolation for his grief that he could ever receive. While he was in the valley, his mind wandered away from his melancholic thoughts. Watching the scenes of nature pass by him, he took it all in and let nature tranquilize his sorrowful feelings. Even after having the unimaginable pain of feeling guilty for being the “murderer” of Justine, he was still able to divert his mind from the agonizing thoughts that had wandered his mind the past month with the help of nature.
As Victor’s life corrupts around him as a result from creating new life and defying the laws of life, he finds himself finding peace and serenity in nature. After promising the creature that he will develop a female monster for him, Victor worries that creating another monster will make human life “full of terror.” After breaking his promise with the monster, the monster threatens Victor with death on his wedding night. Following a restless night, Victor receives a letter from Henry, his best friend, and he sets sail on his boat and falls asleep while on the lake. He describes the calmness presented on the lake; he says that the sky was clouded and the air was pure. All of these sensations refreshed him and he stayed longer on the water. After having the thought of death engraving itself in Victor’s mind and the restless thought of Elizabeth mourning him when he is murdered, being out on the lake brought peace to his mind and it refreshed him and his thoughts. Nature is being presented here as a restorative agent for Victor and his apprehensive emotions after being threatened with death.
Along with nature being a restorative agent for the Victor, it has the same effect for the creature as well. While the creature was visiting the woods, collecting food for himself, he came across a portmanteau which “contained several articles of dress and some books”. He “eagerly seized the prize, and returned with it” to his hovel. After possessing the books, he described the feelings he felt as an “extreme delight” and felt very enlightened. Obtaining knowledge is very important to the monster, because he was abandoned and rejected by society. There was an invisible barrier that separated him from others and being educated made him feel accepted. Just like the family he learns from throughout his life, he has a quest for knowledge. The monster explained to the reader, “I can hardly describe to you the effect of these books. They produced in me an infinity of new images and feelings that sometimes raised me to ecstasy, but more frequently sunk me into the lowest dejection”. For the creature to have an enlightened mind and obtain the knowledge he desires to have, he has to suffer in silence.
Nature is also not only a restorative agent for Victor and the creature, but it also acts as a powerful force. Nature is what prompted Victor to study electricity from the moment he watched lightning strike an oak tree. He explains to the reader, “I remained, while the storm lasted, watching its progress with curiosity and delight. As I stood at the door, on a sudden I beheld a stream of fire issue from an old and beautiful oak, which stood about twenty yards from our house; and so soon as the dazzling light vanished, the oak had disappeared, and nothing remained but a blasted stump.”
Victor was a very ambitious character, and he allowed his ambition to take over him. Rather than taking a moment to think about the consequences his actions could have made, he indulges in how far he can go with his experiments.
Nature is presented in Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein as a restorative agent for both Victor and his creature, but also as a powerful force. Nature as a restorative agent can be shown through how Victor longs for nature and its serenity after the death of Justine and William, two very important people to him. The creature finds nature to be engaging while he is on a quest for knowledge. Nature can also be shown as a powerful force when lightning strikes an oak tree, which inspires Victor to create a monster, who will soon bring chaos to his life.
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