In Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley, nature is often used as a restorative agent for Victor and a way to symbolize beginning and end.
Every time Victor is feeling ill or mourning someone, he turns to nature for a sense of stability, relaxation, and a way to escape the sorrows that have overcome him. Nature completes him, just like it does the cycle of the novel. The beginning had the lightning strike igniting Victor’s curiosity and the ending had the burning of the Monster and the finale to the misery he induced. The cycle began and ended with a powerful force of nature.
..fire. This relates to how there is a special pine tree where a fire is needed in order for the pinecones to release the seeds. The existing tree is burned up and life starts anew. Victor, breaking the rules of nature, created a fiend that ultimately was consumed by nature itself.
The juxtaposition of the serene scenes of nature against the recurring acts of cruelty also creates a foreshadowing effect. Each time we see Victor feeling better and enjoying himself through nature, something bad happens. The power of nature in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein functions as a symbol for rejuvenation and can act as a foreshadowing effect for those who misuse it and ignore its bounds. Victor first learned about the destructive forces of nature when a lightning bolt struck a tree, igniting his passion for the natural sciences. “We found the tree shattered in a singular manner. It was not splintered by the shock but entirely reduced to thin ribbons of wood. I never beheld something so utterly destroyed.
” (Shelley 30). This event showed Victor the magnificent capacity that nature has, and he yearned to know more about natural sciences and how one can surpass the rules that confine them. The relationship between the oak tree and lightning illustrates how nature can completely transform itself in only a blink, and this fascinated Victor far more than anything his father wanted him to pursue.
Victor wanted to learn how he could capture the immense power of electricity, and how he can translate that to accomplishing wonders never done before. This ideology directly corresponds to with the time period Frankenstein was written in. Especially in the 19th century when Mary Shelley was writing this, the concept of harnessing electricity was still new, mysterious, and enigmatic, which could be a reason why she made it such a central component. The emphasis and glorification of nature in the novel also aligns with the theme of romanticism, where nature and natural sciences create mystery and curiosity. Slowly his view of nature deteriorates to the point where he ignores it and creates a monster from the dead. Victor wanted to transcend nature in a way that hasn’t been done before, a way that made him very sick and ultimately begins and ends in flames. He compares his work to that of a hurricane when he says “no one can conceive the variety of feelings which bore me onwards, like a hurricane…the summer months passed while I was thus engaged…in one pursuit.
It was a most beautiful season; never did the fields bestow a more plentiful harvest…but my eyes were insensible to the charms of nature.” (Shelley, 81). Victor was using the sheer power of nature while completely disregarding the consequences that would result; the hurricane that formed from the whirlwind of curiosity. The immediate result of his creation was a sickness he obtained, which was more or less a mix of guilt, regret, and suffering. The role of nature in Frankenstein carries with it the element of restoration and rejuvenation. It’s almost redundant how many times Shelley incorporates this theme throughout the novel, but though overused, it’s very important for the development of Victor’s character.
For example, after the death of William and Justine, Victor found comfort in nature on the way back to Geneva when he says “I remained two days at Lausanne in this painful state of mind. I contemplated the lake; the waters were placid, all around was calm, and the snowy mountains, the ‘palaces of nature,’ were not changed. By degrees the calm and heavenly scene restored me, and I continued my journey to Geneva.
” (Shelley 68). For Victor, nature is a way for him to move on and find stability in something. Nature is his medication. Victor was deeply affected by the death of William, mostly because he knew he was to blame. He finds comfort in the water and the mountains to help him cope. When Elizabeth died, he found consolation in the rocks and fish in the shallow sea. Romanticism puts a huge emphasis on finding meaning within nature, which is why Mary Shelley repeatedly uses nature in order to heal Victor rather than people interaction.
The natural world is a beautiful haven for humanity with restorative powers and if protected, can supply people with strength and clarity. Victor found himself in danger when he tried to play the role of God and try to violate the rules of nature. If you protect nature, nature will protect you. Victor harnessed the power of nature selfishly in order to create the monster, and it ended up ruining and ultimately ending his life. The beautiful scenes of nature also contribute to a foreshadowing effect. The first example of this happening is when Victor is going home for the first time from Ingolstadt and marvels in the beauty of his home. Unfortunately, right after this moment, he saw the figure of the monster he regretfully created.
This same foreshadowing effect happens when Victor heads into the Alps. The isolation and untouched nature foreshadow the arrival of the “demon.” Each time we see a contrast between the beauty that Shelley describes through nature and the wretchedness that comes from the arrival of the monster. The most blatant example of nature-induced foreshadowing happening is when Victor says “A flash of lightning, illuminated the object…
the filthy demon to whom I had given life. Could he be the murderer of my brother?” (Shelley 50). Not only is this nature related, but the lightning connects to the electricity that created him and the lightning bolt that started all of this in the first place. In the end, the monster burns himself on a self-constructed pile, completing the nature-driven cycle of the book.
Frankenstein showcases the importance of nature by using it in many different ways, the greatest being the source of stability and support for those who see and feel the serenity of the environment. Nature is extremely important for Victor, and without it, he might have never moved on from the monstrosities that he initiated. The overall redundancy and extensive use of the capacity of nature act as a source of security and strength for Victor in a world where he has nothing left but the elements that inspired him.