Essay-style Questions: Frankenstein

1. Discuss Mary Shelley's use of nature with reference to at least two locations.

Answer

Introduction:

Direct and specific response to the question.

Recognises more than one use of nature. Establishes analytical bearings.

The two locations which best exemplify Mary Shelley's
use of nature are the Arctic region and the Alpine surroundings of Geneva.

In both, natural settings are used as a background for the main plot
and also provide the key thematic imagery of the novel.

The Arctic:

Connections between character, theme and imagery. Illustrate with key
words, phrases or images, for example, Victor Frankenstein adrift on the
ice raft.

In introducing Walton emphasise the appeal, which the Arctic landscape
holds for him.

Comment on the aspect, which the cold brilliance of the arctic light
has for Walton.

Emphasise how in the end nature defeats both men.

The Frozen Wastes of the Arctic in which the novel begins
and ends make a suitable setting for the graveyard of Victor Frankenstein's
dreams. The barren end to which his despair has brought him is reflected
in the barrenness of snow and ice.

It is also apt that Victor should meet a kindred spirit - Captain Walton
- in a place far removed from human habitation. Both value 'the great
enterprise' above the value of human life.

Captain Walton's search for a polar country 'of eternal light'
reflects the abnormal quality of his own dreams.

However, he is defeated in his great enterprise by the harsh realities
of 'the land of mist and snow'.

The powers of nature are once again to the fore after the narrative shifts
to Victor's family home in Geneva.

Ironically, the thunder and lightning, which precedes his first encounter
with the creature are regarded by him as auguries of a celestial vengeance
on his behalf.

The Alps:

Introduce the idea of Victor's egotistical view of nature.

A comparative point could be made here with Walton and the 'beauty
and delight', which he finds in the Arctic's ice and snow.

Victor's and presumption are mirrored further in his
reflections on the glacial grandeur of the Alps. Surveying the seas and
rivers of ice and the glittering cold light of the whitened peaks he feels
elevated by a 'power mighty as omnipotence' to a solitary perch
above the rest of humanity. But his delusions of grandeur are punctured
for the second time by the re-appearance of the creature.
Conclusion:

Round off with a summary of the various aspects of the topic.

In her varied use of nature, Mary Shelley therefore adds
interests as well as meaning to what is essentially a Gothic horror tale.