Frankenstein: A Romantic Novel?

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Ashley Ammons Nila Dutta English 21, Section 008 February 17, 2005 Frankenstein: A Romantic Novel? What characterizes a piece of writing as a "Romantic" work? During the eighteenth century, writers began to move away from the cities and the technology to focus on the beauty of nature. The Romantic poets strayed from the typical didactic poems and began to place their focus on the reality and beauty of life. Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's famous novel Frankenstein has been considered by many a Romantic novel for centuries; but should it? The graphic horror and death in this novel make some question its place in the Romantic canon. Though the death is prevalent in this novel, it should be considered "Romantic" because of its traditional themes. Frankenstein contains Romantic themes including: a reverence for nature, outcasts and neglected characters, supernatural events, and most prevalent is the identification of the Shelley her characters. Shelley's first use of Romantic themes is her fascination with nature. Not as prevalent as Wordsworth or Coleridge, her use of nature is slightly subdued. Nature does not serve an all beautiful purpose as other Romantic authors. It does, however, require reverence and awe from the characters. Shelley uses nature to show the importance of a scene in her novel. During all of the crucial scenes in this novel, the recurring theme of a storm is present.


As the novel progresses and the creature begins to destroy his family and friends, Frankenstein finds himself even more outcast. He realizes that he has brought this pain and suffering upon himself; he also realizes that he is better off cut off from society because he feels this is where he belongs. Frankenstein knows that he deserves what is happening to him because of his desire to create life. The third Romantic theme seen in Frankenstein is that of the supernatural. Clearly, this novel contains this element as it would be impossible for someone to create life from dead human "spare parts." Shelley ideally entertained ideas of restoring death through Frankenstein: "Life and death appeared to me ideal bounds...if I could bestow animation upon lifeless matter, I might in process of time (although I now found it impossible) renew life where death had apparently devoted the body to corruption" (Norton Anthology, 933). The giving of life is a supernatural feat, something accomplished by a supernatural being. Shelley attempts to give Frankenstein supernatural genius in how to create life. In the end, however, Frankenstein determines he was cursed with knowledge. He was embittered slightly towards his father because his father knew the philosophers and scientists that Frankenstein was reading about. His father never took the time, however, to explain why their theories were discarded.


She waited for Victor for years, simply hoping that he would just come home to her. So unsure of his affection for him, she wrote him asking him if he loved someone else. Victor held her in high regard and wanted to marry her more than anything; but he never truly loved her as she deserved. He thought, "While I admired her understanding and fancy, I loved to tend on her, as I should on a favourite animal," (Norton Anthology, 923). Elizabeth was the ever loving, ever patient, ever faithful epitome of the perfect woman. Shelley must have felt some connection with Elizabeth because she was constantly waiting for her husband to look to her and to tend to her needs, especially after their children died. Shelley probably wondered if Percy "loved another" as Elizabeth asked Victor. This thought must have constantly plagued Shelley. Connecting with her characters, idealizing the supernatural, concentrating on the outcasts, and displaying powerful beauty in nature; Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley proves that her novel Frankenstein deserves a spot on the shelf with all of the other Romantic authors. Though it includes horrific deaths and eerie creatures, her novel is clearly presented with classic Romantic themes. Anyone to argue that this novel would not belong with other Romantic works would have to ignore the main themes that run throughout every other Romantic piece. Shelley puts a unique horror story approach on the traditionalized view of the Romantic authors.

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