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Frankenstein Romanticism: Symbols and Details

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Robert Walton is consumed by his ambition to reach the North Pole because he believes “glorious expedition” is the most valuable achievement according to his own rationale. However, Walton’s logic and unsympathetic behavior kill the crew members by refusing their request for return back to England: “You were hereafter to be hailed as the benefactors of your species, your names adored as belonging to brave men who encountered death for honour and the benefit of mankind” while crews are dying due to frostbite and cold. Likewise, the two characters show how the intellect that pushes against the limitation of human takes away the ability to sympathize with others.

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On the contrary, Elizabeth Lavenza, who is the adopted cousin of Frankenstein, symbolizes Romanticism because she values emotion and sympathizes with others. According to Coleridge, “Deep thinking,’ Coleridge wrote, ‘is attainable only by a man of deep feeling” which is same as Elizabeth’s ability to sympathize with others let her know what is right and wrong through the deep thinking. To be specific, when Frankenstein’s brother was murdered, she stands on Justine’s side by clamming “Alas! who is safe, if she be convicted of crime? I rely on her innocence as certainly as I do upon my own. If she is condemned, I never shall know joy more”. Even most of the people turned their back on her after the tangible evidence was found in Justine’s pocket, Elizabeth continues to defend her by sharing Justine’s faultless behavior she has witnessed: “I have lived in the same house with her years. During all that period she appeared to me the most amiable and benevolent of human creatures. For my own part, I do not hesitate to say that, notwithstanding all the evidence produced against her, I believe and rely on her perfect innocence”. Likewise, the author distinguishes the Romantic element from intellect by showing the comparison between three characters’ ability to sympathize when it comes to emotion.

Thirdly, the superiority of the individual to society is shown through the comparison between society and the monster. Romanticism glorifies “humble and rustic life” and focuses on “the rural scenes and rural pleasures of natal Soil” because the environment in rustic life provides more chance to expose the fundamental passions of the human without vanity. From Romanticism perspective, civilization is equal to corruption because it deprives the uniqueness of human. For instance, Frankenstein goes to the city for the forbidden knowledge which ends up with creating the monster. This shows how the city provides distorted learning and causes destruction and corruption. Moreover, society and Frankenstein recognize an innocent creature as a monster and abandon it only because of its appearance. For example, when they encounter the creature, they immediately identify it as a monster that the creator says “Unable to endure the aspect of the being I had created, I rushed out of the room, continued a long time traversing my bed chamber, unable to compose my mind to sleep”. Likewise, the way how society judges others and their emotionless perspective show the defect of civilization that is incomplete and corrupted.

On the other hand, the isolated and lonely monster who never entered into a mainstream society shows a capacity to feel and desire for affection. To be specific, when the creature first discovers fire, he feels pleasure: “One day, when I was oppressed by cold, I found a fire which had been left by some wandering beggars, and was overcome with delight at the warmth I experienced from it”. Also, the monster confesses his hatred towards civilized people to Walton: “My heart was fashioned to be susceptible of love and sympathy; and when wrenched by misery to vice and hatred it did not endure the violence of the change without torture such as you cannot even imagine”. Likewise, unlike an emotionless society, the segregated monster continuously shows substantial emotion.

In addition the monster’s loneliness allows him an imagination because according to Frankenstein Romanticism, loneliness and individualism go together with the imagination: “Wordsworth’s imagination is typically released, for instance, by the sudden apparition of a single figure, stark and solitary against a natural background; the words “solitary,” “by one self,” “alone” sound through his poems”. For example, after the monster witnessed how to give and take love with each other from the DeLacey family in the cottage, the monster expresses his loneliness: “I am alone and miserable; man will not associate with me; but one as deformed and horrible as myself would not deny herself to me. My companion must be of the same species and have the same defects. This being you must create” and then he imagines himself being part of the De Lacey’s family: “this was the hour and moment of trial which would decide my hopes or realise my fears”, “I thought, therefore, that if in the absence of his children I could gain the good will and mediation of the old De Lacey, I might by his means be tolerated by my younger protectors”. Likewise, by showing the contradiction between emotionless society and emotional monster, the novel highlights the individual power of the Romanticism that allows an imagination.

In conclusion, the author highlights the superiority of Romanticism by showing the flaws of enlightenment in comparison to the perfection of Romanticism through the contradiction between the characters who represent each movement. The characters who represent Romanticism display their ability to associate with nature, to sympathize others, and to imagine through emotion, whereas these abilities are not given to the characters with enlightenment element just as science, intellect, and society. 

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