Chamonix in the French Alps Essay
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Show how Mary Shelley achieves effects through the skilful use of settings in “Frankenstein”. I am going to explore how Mary Shelley uses settings and locations to great effect in her novel Frankenstein. Mary Shelley was born in 1797 and was an only child. Her father was a novelist and her mother was a feminist. However her mother died only ten days after she was born. This meant Mary did not receive much emotional support or nurture as a child. In her teens Mary ran away with the poet Percy Shelley across Europe.
They visited Switzerland and stayed at the Villa Diodati near Lake Geneva, the home of poet Lord Byron. Whilst there it rained constantly and many storms passed by with lots of thunder and lightening. The occupants decided to have a competition to write a story and this is where Mary Shelley began to write “Frankenstein”, aged only 19.
The book begins with the explorer Robert Walton and his crew trying to find a passage through the North Pole.
He then discovers a despaired Victor Frankenstein on the ice sheets. After being rescued, Victor begins to tell his story. His story starts with his childhood in Geneva, then going to university in Ingoldstadt and making the creature there. Then he talks of escaping it by going to Chamonix in the French Alps. The book ends with Victor chasing the creature to the North Pole where Victor meets Walton. I think the inclusion of the North Pole at the start of the book works well because it fits well with the creature that Frankenstein creates. The North Pole and the creature are both mysterious and isolated. Additionally Walton is trying to overcome the North Pole just like Victor is trying to cope with the creature. The use of Robert Waltons’ letters also make the story seem more plausible
Victor Frankensteins’ house in Geneva, where he grew up, is almost the complete opposite of the North Pole. His house has a happy and friendly atmosphere. It is also a spacious and relaxing. The description of ‘blue laked and snow clad mountains’ and ‘scene so beautiful and heavenly’ must have been so welcoming to Victor after spending time studying at university in Ingoldstadt where he created the creature in his lab.
When Victor tries to escape from the horror of his creature and its actions he runs off to Chamonix, in the French Alps. However the creature follows him here and tells his story. I think Chamonix is a clever location for this part of the book because it fits in well with feelings of the characters. For example Victor is isolated and defenceless just like the baron landscape and the Creature is angry and aggressive like the hostile environment. Also it is described as ‘rising like the waves of a troubled sea’ which shows also that Victor is still troubled by what might happen. This is another example of sympathetic background, when the characters mood is reflected in the setting.
The book ends with Victor pursuing the creature across Europe, Russia and eventually back to the North Pole where they meet Robert Walton. This is a fitting end to the book because it brings the book full circle back to the beginning. It is also the extreme conditions of the North Pole that finally force Victor to his death. They also destroy the moral of Waltons’ crew so much they force him to turn around. The North Pole defeats all the people there. In conclusion I think that Mary Shelley uses sympathetic background as a key effect in the book in order to make the book more interesting realistic. Also she drew on her own experiences of life and where she had been to add to the vivid detail in order to enhance the book further.