Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein is a Gothic and Romantic novel written in the early 1800s. The novel opens with Captain Robert Walton as he is sailing on his ship on the search for new and undiscovered territory. During his exploration, Robert’s ship becomes trapped in ice, and he encounters Victor Frankenstein, who looks miserable. When Robert begins to talk to Victor, Victor starts to explain his life story, which ends up being a complete tragedy. Victor tells Robert of his desire to discover the secret to life, which ultimately leads to his creation of the Creature. However, Victor’s enormous creation and his ambitions do not bring him the fame and happiness that he had hoped to receive. He only receives pain and misery. The Creature ends up destroying all of Victor’s loved ones, which leads up to Victor’s death. From the beginning when he is born, the Creature is alone with no one to raise or take care of him, and he is forced to retreat and hide from civilization and the humans who fear him. As it can be seen, Victor and the Creature share miserable lives. In Shelley’s Frankenstein, the characters of Victor and the Creature are developed through the use of Romantic elements, which greatly influenced Shelly in creating her novel.
Romanticism is basically an ideal world of freedom and a revolt against the reason, judgment, and ideals imposed on one by society. It is a “philosophical movement that redefined the fundamental ways in which people in Western cultures thought about themselves and about their world” (“Romanticism”). The origins of Romanticism date back to the late 1700s. During
this time period, great change was occurring around the world as it was experiencing enlightenment. The Romantic era was fueled by the incidents of the American Revolution (1776) and the French Revolution (1789), and it was later strengthened by the Industrial Revolution (1780s-1800s). The time period of Romanticism can also be know as “the ‘age of revolutions,’” for it was “an age of upheavals in political, economic, and social traditions,” which “witnessed the initial transformations of the Industrial Revolution” (“Romanticism”). Romanticism “was the voice of revolution at the beginning of the 19th century and the voice of the Establishment at the end of it” (Brians). Jean-Jacques Rousseau, a Swiss philosopher, was an early contributor of the Romantic era with his many theories such a the “noble savage,” which states that man is happiest in natural settings free from the restrictions imposed on him by the rules of society.
Being a huge movement that influenced Western Civilization, Romanticism has several elements and characteristics that developed over time. One important ideal of Romanticism is the preference of imagination over reason and judgment. Imagination is a great tool with many functions that gives people several abilities for creating all kinds of art, for imagination is the “ultimate ‘shaping’ or creative power” (“Romanticism”).