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Setting in Frankenstein

Setting Examples in Frankenstein:

Letter IV

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"Were we among the tamer scenes of nature, I might fear to encounter your unbelief, perhaps your ridicule;..."   (Letter IV)

According to Frankenstein, the arctic is the right setting for the telling of his story. Just as the arctic presents a strange, otherworldly landscape, Frankenstein’s story contains supernatural elements which require a suspension of disbelief.

"sublime..."   (Chapter II)

In aesthetic theory, the sublime is something which inspires great awe, wonder, or ecstasy, beyond the limits of human description. These feelings of awe and appreciation of aesthetic beauty are often mixed with a deep sense of terror. For many romantics, the most sublime object was nature itself, capable of inspiring great depth of feeling. Throughout her narrative, Shelley frequently links nature and the sublime, demonstrating nature as a beautiful and powerful entity through the encounters her characters have with their natural environments.

"this is thy funeral, this thy dirge!”..."   (Chapter VII)

A dirge is a funeral lament, normally in the form of a song or a poem. Victor embraces the notion that the thunderstorm overhead is a dirge for William’s death. Once again, this description insinuates that nature is beholden to the affairs of humanity, and, more specifically, to the events of Victor’s life.

"the Môle..."   (Chapter VII)

Le Môle is a mountain of the Chablais Alps to the east of Lake Geneva (modern-day France).

"over that part of the lake which lies between the promontory of Belrive and the village of Copêt. ..."   (Chapter VII)

A promontory is similar to a headland or a peninsula. Belrive here is most likely now the Genevan suburb Collonge-Bellerive, which is separated from the village of Copet by a narrow part of of Lake Geneva.

"Salêve, the Juras, and the Alps of Savoy;..."   (Chapter VII)

The Salève is a mountain of the French Prealps, often called the "Balcony of Geneva". The Juras refers to the Jura mountain range located along the France-Switzerland border, north of the Western Alps. The Alps of Savoy is the third mountain range of this list, located in southeastern France. Frankenstein describes the loud thunderstorm echoing between these mountain ranges. By using these large mountain ranges as the ‘borders’ of this thunderstorm, Shelley creates a sense of grandiosity and magnificence for the reader. This setting further foreshadows the greater sense of terror and destruction in the coming chapters.

"I wept like a child. “Dear mountains! my own beautiful lake! how do you welcome your wanderer? Your summits are clear; the sky and lake are blue and placid. Is this to prognosticate peace, or to mock at my unhappiness?”..."   (Chapter VII)

Here, Victor wonders if the clear weather of his homeland is designed to honestly foretell—or “prognosticate”—peace, or to mock his unhappiness. In this way, Victor speaks as if nature is specifically engineered for him and him alone. This once again suggests that Victor is prideful and self-centered, and believes that he is, in some way or another, the controller or influencer of nature.

"Mont Blanc..."   (Chapter VII)

Mont Blanc is the highest mountain of the Swiss Alps and 11th highest in the world. It is significant the Victor notices Mt Blanc as he drives back from London, as this mountain will later form an integral setting for his confrontation with the creature.

"From the side where I now stood Montanvert was exactly opposite, at the distance of a league; and above it rose Mont Blanc, in awful majesty...."   (Chapter X)

Shelley’s description of the landscape of the Swiss Alps is geographically and geologically accurate. Considering that Shelley was in Switzerland at the time she wrote Frankenstein and even traversed some of the slopes around Mont Blanc, her descriptions of the setting are based on first-hand research. Montanvert, the mountain on which the action of Chapter X is set, is today known as Mer de Glace, or “sea of ice”—the exact words Shelley uses to describe its terrain.

"Suddenly a heavy storm of rain descended...."   (Chapter XXIII)

Notice how the setting of these events foreshadows the terrible events to come. The joy of his wedding and wedding night are cast against a stormy night that suggests his honeymoon will not go as he expects it to.

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