Frankenstein Nature Quotes

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  • 0:00 Great and Terrible Nature
  • 1:04 Nature as the Consoling Mother
  • 2:14 Nature as Mystery and…
  • 4:04 The Nature of Ourselves
  • 5:44 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Terri Beth Miller

Terri Beth has taught college writing and literature courses since 2005 and has a PhD in literature.

As a leading figure in the Romantic Movement, Mary Shelley celebrated the beauty and power of nature. Nowhere is this more evident than in her 1818 masterpiece, 'Frankenstein.'

Great and Terrible Nature

Have you ever awakened to a rainy, miserable day and just wanted to pull up the covers and be left alone? Or maybe you've felt kind of down as you stepped outside on a balmy summer afternoon, only to feel your spirits soar in the bright sunlight and warm breezes wrapping around you? If so, then you've experienced exactly what Mary Shelley and her fellow Romantics knew: that nature is a source of tremendous beauty and power.

For all its fame as the first true sci-fi horror story in English literature, Mary Shelley's 1818 masterpiece, Frankenstein, is also a quintessentially Romantic novel, glorying in nature. Romanticism was a literary movement devoted to exploring and celebrating nature. In Frankenstein, nature herself is as much a character as Victor or his monster. Nature in Frankenstein is at once a healing and a punishing force. It's a source of wisdom and comfort, and of breathtaking fury and merciless revenge.

Nature as the Consoling Mother

Like her fellow Romantics, Shelley delights in the life-giving powers of nature. Nature for the Romantics is a maternal force, and if the human mind, body, and spirit are not to corrode, not to decay utterly, then we must never lose our connection with the natural world. Victor Frankenstein, that man of science and urbanity, acknowledges the restorative powers of nature, even through his darkest moments.

Robert Walton, the sea captain, describes Victor's capacity to still honor nature, even at the end of his miserable life. Walton says of Victor, 'Even broken in spirit as he is, no one can feel more deeply than he does the beauties of nature. The starry sky, the sea, and every sight afforded by these wonderful regions seem still to have the power of elevating his soul from the earth.'

Haven't you ever noticed that when you're sick in body or at heart, no one can comfort you like your mama, your grandma, or your favorite aunty? This is precisely what nature is for Victor and the Romantics, an eternal presence, endlessly loving and forgiving, a force with the power to soothe even the deepest hurts.

Nature as Mystery and Challenge

It is not only the Romantic side of Victor that the forces of nature appeal to, however, and this is where we start to see trouble creeping in. Because for Victor, 'nature is also a beautiful riddle to be solved.'

Victor comes of age in the late 18th century at the height of the Enlightenment, a period marked by vast scientific exploration and the emergence of modern, empirical methods. Inspired by the tenets of natural philosophy, a way of thinking that sought to unlock the mysteries of the natural world through systematic and objective observation, Victor begins to see nature not only as a nurturing mother but also as a focus of scientific research.

Victor argues that as a scientist, he 'had partially unveiled the face of Nature, but her immortal lineaments were still a wonder and a mystery. . . I had gazed upon the fortifications and impediments that seemed to keep human beings from entering the citadel of nature, and rashly and ignorantly I had repined.'

In other words, Victor despairs over the limits of his knowledge. Despite his incredible genius, there is still so much Victor can't know, so much he feels he will never understand. Rather than humbly accepting his human limitations, though, Victor's ambition is only inflamed by these frustrations. He begins to dare the impossible. He begins to dream of conquering nature, not just understanding her. He presumes to draw from nature not only her secrets but also her power; specifically, the power of life over death.

And nature, outraged, takes revenge over Victor's violation. The monster is a life force of almost supernatural proportions; capable of enormous love and equal rage; capable of providing immense help and immense destruction; a force as powerful, uncontrollable, and terrible as nature herself.

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