What full of darkness mainly around the

What is Romanticism? Romanticism is the movement which
occurred in literature and art within the late 18th and mid 19th
century. It emphasised an individual’s creativeness and partiality. The
romantics broke this rule of following guidelines and reasoning and went more
towards their creativity and imagination.  Romantic writers are a rebellion against
societies norms as they are more concerned about feelings, nature, freedom and
love. Romantics often write about medieval folklore and legends creating this
barrier between the rural life in comparison to the modern life. Mary Shelley was
one of the authors who lived within these concepts and many of these ideologies
are displayed in her novel Frankenstein
(Shelley, 1974).
Mary Shelley uses The Rime of the Ancient
Mariner (Wordsworth and
Coleridge, 1798) by Coleridge as an interlink within her
novel to compare and support her monster with the Ancient Mariner. This causes
a connection between the two-famous works from the Romanticism period. Byron
and Wordsworth’s poems also link to romantic literature in general and shape
this image of Romanticism. Whereas, there is an introduction to gothic elements
within Frankenstein which creates
questions as to what extent the text links to romanticism. Although it does
demonstrate that she has many different themes and motives within her work.

Frankenstein uses descriptive language to create a dark yet
thrilling setting. The themes within the novel work well together to create
this stability between the gothic and Romanticism. Although Frankenstein is a
novel full of darkness mainly around the theme of death and revenge there is a
lot of emotion which is indicated within the character Victor Frankenstein and
Frankenstein’s monster fitting into the Romantic period. Victor Frankenstein is
characterised as a self- centred person with excessive pride. This may be the
reason as to why Victor irrationally takes decisions such as creating a monster
without thinking of the flaws and the negative comebacks it could have.
Therefore, throughout the novel there is this paradox of him creating the
monster to help himself and society but this is ironic and nothing turns out
the way he expected.

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 “Frankenstein has
become a sturdy pedagogical tool for deconstructing the transcendental Romantic
imagination; in the crudest terms, Frankenstein, by the monstrosity of the
creature’s body, signals the suppression of gender in the ethos of Romantic
egotism” (Fisch, Mellor
and Schor, 1993, pg 4).  This
shows that Frankenstein has become an
education tool to analyse to what extent it links to Romanticism and how the
conquest towards gender links into this nation. Mary Shelley’s novel not only
focuses on the theme of gothic but also has wide exploration of the romantic
genre within it. Victor Frankenstein is characterised with emotions and feelings
symbolising him as a romantic. He is also a character who tends not to follow
rules as he wants to create life according to his way and the how he images it.
Victor Frankenstein wants to create a life with a bigger future rather than
looking for one like the Romantics. Victor decisions express that he may be
looking to become god “A new species would bless me as its creator and source” (Shelley, 1974, p51).
His creation of Frankenstein is so that he has someone who looks up to him, emphasising
his egoistic personalities which he has within himself. However, from a
Romantics perspective they may say although it is good to look forward into a
good future and be self- assured there is a barrier that one must not cross in
order to mould it successfully. Although, Victor creates something of his own
it backfires as the Monster responds to its creator saying “I am miserable.
You, my creator, would tear me to pieces, and triumph; remember that, and tell
me why I should pity more than he pities me?” (Shelley, 1974, p173). This contrast
between both their speech represents a distinct difference between humans and
creatures. The Monster lacks physical characteristics and the rejection is what
makes him act and believe the way he does. On a romanticist level Victor
Frankenstein’s creation symbolises that it is about romantic striving and going
against the stereotypical boundaries which were placed during that period.
Victor is not satisfied with science and wants something more which has high
expectation, boundaries and results. The characters all realise that their fate
is written for them and striving for something which is out of their hands has
its positive and negatives. Although, the novel may not strike some as a
Romantic one it shows how the character’s struggle with their emotions and
decisions. Therefore, taking these characteristics into consideration it takes
the concepts of a Romantic novel but challenges them with the dark themes and
imagery throughout. Unlike other Romanticist writers who have a optimistic
atmosphere within their writing.

 

 “As a story focusing on
aggressively male attempt to displace the female from her role as creator and
nourisher of human life, Frankenstein embodies on several levels Shelley’s
distinctive concerns as a woman in the early nineteenth century” (Fisch, Mellor and Schor, 1993,
pg 89). This is because although she is a female author she
characterises each of the women within the novel as a tool function. This is
evident through the character of Agatha; Agatha is nothing but an attraction
for the male characters within the novel and the events that take place are
usually because of an emotional attraction between her and a male character.
Agatha “listened with respect, her eyes sometimes filled with tears” (Shelley, 1974, p93)
which depicts her as a gentle and sensitive person, something that the monster
analyses from seeing her. However, “Critics have argued that Frankenstein is a
protest against Romantic titanism, against the masculine aggressiveness that
lies concealed beneath the dreams of Romantic idealism” (Fisch, Mellor and Schor, 1993, p89). This
is because they characterise Victor Frankenstein as a masculine figure who
intends to do things which are a benefit for humanity. However, his egoistic
and self-centred personality causes him to destroy not only himself as well as
the ones he is affectionate towards. This is shown through the aggressiveness
of the monster, a creation produced by Victor himself but used as a tool to
destroy him. This masculine aggressiveness is displayed when Frankenstein views
Victors possession Elizabeth (an orphan child taken in by the Frankenstein
family) as his own “I looked upon Elizabeth as mine – mine to protect, love and
cherish” (Shelley, 1974, p21).  However, the monster being well aware of this
murders Elizabeth in order to hurt victor due to the emotions and parental
neglect he has received. This shows that instead of shadowing the ideology of
Romanticism she is exposing that there is much more beneath it which revolts
against the social and artistic conventions expected. This may be the intention
behind her female characters being objectified, abused and the rejected.
However, this sense of parental neglect that the monster receives from Victor
could be symbolising Mary Shelley herself as her “adolescence was strained by
friction between herself and her stepmother” (Fisch, Mellor and Schor, 1993, p5). Mary’s parents
both had an abusive relationship as her father was a heavy drinker and she
herself was left abandoned by her husband after the birth of their child
causing to try and commit suicide twice. This corroborates why Shelley was a well-known
feminist and why her novel was based on female displacement, aggressiveness and
neglect.

Romantic writers portrayed nature as one of the important conventions
within the Romanticism period. Mary Shelley’s use of romanticising nature is an
element which is used through Frankenstein to mirror the emotions. Shelley
exemplifies the elements of romanticism when she feels “exquisite pleasure dwelling
on the recollections of childhood…he swept away all my hopes and joys: (Shelley, 1974, p38).
The use of similes within this quote to compare the mountains to that of a
“gloomy and narrow reflection” symbolises that the mountain could represent the
loss of happiness in Victors life. It could also denote how his creation of the
Monster is going to bring nothing but commotion into his life. Although it is
something which is out of his control and initial expectations. Though, Shelley
does use nature as one of her conventions and themes she combines it with
science to represent boundaries and how they can be outsmarted without rational
thinking. This is evident as Victor destroyed by nature and science in his attempt
to manipulate and control power.

Mary Shelley associated The
Ancient Mariner to her novel and incorporated a passage from the poem
within her text “Like one, that on a lonesome road…Doth close behind him tread”
(Wordsworth and Coleridge, 1798, pg188,
lines 440-445).at this point Victor Frankenstein has infused
Frankenstein but becomes horrified when it comes to life as he has created a
monster. Whereas the Mariner is drifting along the ocean in Antarctica in a sea
filled with sea monsters. This represents that they are both experiencing the
same feelings as they are lost and struggling with life. Both texts have a
theme of death as Victor gives life to the monster and the Ancient Mariner
takes life away from the Albatross which symbolises that they have no
rationality when it comes to thinking things through. This shows that both
stories romanticise and characterise nature making the monster a romantic hero
to the extent that it now must bear rejection from his creator and from
society. However, Laurie Langbauer argues that “By questioning the Promethean
politics of The Ancient Mariner Shelley may hope to break the cycle that keeps
narrators repeating the same old story of the exceptional” (Fisch, Mellor and Schor, 1993,
pg189). This is because she tries to twist things around in comparison
to other Romantic authors and poets. This is evident within the dead bodies on
the Mariner’s crew who have to wait for the spirits in order for them to have
some sort of life. Whereas, Shelley uses the dead bodies as a means of creation
and transformation of a new body. Although, this monstrous attempt brings a new
meaning to Romanticism as she works out the usual tradition it shows the
problems that can occur which is shown through the creation of the monster and
its negative effects.

 

Wordsworth on the other hand had poems which fit into the
stereotypical view on Romanticism. This is because Lyrical ballads were a major
form of literature during the Romantic movement. Wordsworth’s poems were based
on nature and emotion, being one the major themes that composed his writing. An
example is in The Prelude (Wordsworth, 2003)
“leaving behind her still, on either side,
small circles glittering idly in the moon,
until they melted all into one track
of sparkling light” (Wordsworth,
2003, Lines 364-367)
This atmospheric description and imagery of light and water makes nature seem
as though it is alive. The “circles” are personified making Wordsworth seem as
though he is on a emotional and spiritual journey. The flowing of emotions is
also evident within the layout as there is the use of enjambment. The use of
language and implications in comparison to Mary Shelley show that not only did
he convey his own thoughts and decision about the process of it whereas Mary
Shelley didn’t. Wordsworth has a means of destination within his poem as he is
aware of where he is starting and finishing off at. Whereas Mary Shelley
opposes this objective Victor creates Frankenstein but is unaware of what to do
after. Although Wordsworth and Shelley both use imagination within their
writing Wordsworth based his poetry on Romantic idea opposed to realism.

 

The lyrical Ballads
by Wordsworth and Coleridge challenged the usual ideology of Literature.
Although, some of their ideas did conflict they had theory behind them. Their
poems had the implication of being understandable for everyone as well as
having a meaning and concept which formed it. Wordsworth’s poems were based
more on language, terms and their meaning making it relatable for everyone.
Whereas, Coleridge focused more on the art of poetry and how it creates imagery
and meaning. Similarly, they both focus on nature, Wordsworth on the nature of
individuals and Coleridge on the nature of human beings which is evident within
The Ancient Mariner. This supports this idea of their poetry being an expression
of Romanticism rather than a critique.

 

In conclusion, I would argue that Frankenstein
is a critique of Romanticism rather than a expression. Even though there are
elements of Romanticism she uses them as an ultimate tool of criticism to
define the period she lived in. This is evident through the use of themes such
as corruption, nature and darkness. Shelley uses implications throughout to
support her criticism with meaning. Mary Shelley’s main criticism is presented
through Victor Frankenstein who is initially presented to the audience as the
Romantic Hero but this soon shifts to the Monster. Whereas Coleridge and
Wordsworth have pragmatically associated their poems with Romanticism using
pure imagination and purpose, constructing it together as an expressive piece.

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