The Ridiculousness of Romanticism

Victor Frankenstein of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein focuses highly on nature, and how his view of nature is affected by his mood or vice versa. His constant jump from being inspired by nature to not being capable of appreciating it makes it difficult for the reader to take Frankenstein seriously, and thus leads the reader to question his character. The unreliability and distrust in Frankenstein that is created can be seen as Shelley’s personal commentary on the exaggerated literature of Romantic writers of the time period and their resulting egocentrism.

Frankenstein often dramatizes his current mental state through lofty descriptions of the natural world around him; it appears to the reader that Frankenstein is either full of joy or despondent beyond recovery. After the death of his younger brother, he escapes into the mountains where he vacationed as a child and claims his surroundings fill him with a “sublime ecstasy, that [gives] wings to the soul, and [allows] it to soar from the obscure world to light and joy”. The use of the words “soar”, “light” and “joy” when discussing the soul alludes to heaven and angels, giving Frankenstein’s trip up the mountain a transcendent and biblical quality. This is similar to Romantic writers such as Wordsworth and Shelley, in that they compare nature and their overwhelmingly inspirational experiences in nature to God and the idea of the “sublime”. However, only a paragraph later Frankenstein’s entire outlook on nature shifts with his fresh bad mood. The scenery that Frankenstein had before compared to heaven transforms into a “sombre” place with “thick wreaths” of mist and a “dark sky”, or in other words a different and more ominous “sublime”. With this word being tossed around so frequently by Frankenstein to mean both amazing and awful, the reader is given the impression that he is not to be trusted. His changeable attitude largely reflects the writings of Romantic writers such as Shelley’s husband, and helps to highlight the egocentrism involved with Romanticism. The highly dramatized use of such strong polar opposite emotions exudes a sense of egotism within the character and, as Shelley’s novel implies, the author as well. Victor is certainly a self centered character, made obvious through his constant concern that the monster is going to kill him despite the large amount of evidence that it is the people he is close to that are in trouble. Ultimately Victor Frankenstein embodies an almost laughable amount of egotism and changeability that the reader can connect to Romantic writers.

In conclusion, Frankenstein’s inability to figure out what he truly feels, as represented through his view of nature, highlights the ridiculousness of self centeredness and the sensationalization nature and everything that is both beautiful and terrifying that is the center of Romantic writing.

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