“Frankenstein” is a novel written by Mary Shelley. The story is set in the 18th century when things were very different than they are now. The 18th century is known as ‘The Enlightenment’, they called it this because this was the era of transition from everyone believing in God to the new ideas of science. Many philosophers investigated attributes of science, trying to prove the unknown. People started believing the ideas that the philosophers started and the knowledge started to grow more and more, incorporating into the everyday life. I believe that Mary Shelley had an interest in these theories and they played a big part in the novel. One of the most recognised philosophers-due to his many theories- was Immanuel Kant. We came across Immanuel’s ideas repeatedly across the novel, creating great impact and understanding of the story. Kant’s theory of “human nature” played a key role in the novel as The Monster and Frankenstein demonstrated vivid examples of this theory.
Immanuel Kant’s theory of “human nature” was influenced by his curiosity of the human mind, why people think and act the way they do. He was brought up in a very religious family, however, he decided to experiment with new theories about the world. Human nature was a big interest for Kant as he wanted to have a deeper understanding of how humans connected with each other and the world around them. Kant believed that because we can act based on our own choices and thoughts rather than a generic rule, we have more freedom in the world. Likes, dislikes, experiences, they are all things we personally alter and make us different as people. One of Kant’s passions was art, he loves creating and admiring all kinds of artwork. This was how his ideas grew into theories and why his desire to share information was so strong. Immanuel believed that everybody should appreciate arts beauty the way he did. Nature is a major part of art in Kant’s eyes, it is a very powerful, captivating and life-changing piece when you stop and surround yourself in it. Once Immanuel learnt how influential nature is, he started using this in his life, taking the beauty from the outside world and inserting it into his own. Immanuel would feel a sense of escape from reality whilst isolated in nature. Everything that can overload the mind, the stresses of life, disappear, therefore you develop a more calm way of looking at things. Thus overall brings out a better version of oneself. Kant figured that it was whether you utilised nature in this way that defines you, whether your heart drove you to the beauty or not. Throughout the novel “Frankenstein” we identified many instances where both The Monster and Victor used nature as an escape from reality, which allowed them to refresh their thoughts. In these scenes, we can clearly link that Mary Shelley used Immanuel Kant’s theory to relate it to the time period and develop the characters personalities, their approach to life.
Nature played an important role in Victor Frankenstein’s life, he appreciated all of the beautiful scenery wherever he went. One of Frankenstein’s favourite places was his home, Geneva. He describes Geneva as “the majestic and wondrous scenes which surrounded our Swiss home—the sublime shapes of the mountains, the changes of the seasons, tempest and calm, the silence of winter, and the life and turbulence of our Alpine summers” Victor saw Geneva as a magical place, it was his own fairyland. Victor returned home when he felt as though he needed to clear his head. The environment allowed Victor to be drawn in, having a tunnel vision on nature only. He felt so small surrounded by the massive mountains. Frankenstein also described Geneva as “tempest” with the feeling of “turbulence”, this was because there was a lot of chaos in his life, different factors that were unpredictable overflowed his mind. However, the reader acknowledges that Victor experienced mostly amazing, eye-opening elements to the nature around him. Thus suggesting that when he was isolated in Geneva, it drew him out of the chaos and grounded him back into the moment. Victor explains how “The blue lake and snow-clad mountains—they never change” suggesting that no matter what happens in people’s lives, the physical world around us does not change. Once Victor had realised this, he believed that “our placid home and our contented hearts are regulated by the same immutable laws.” Geneva stayed as Victor’s home, the place to go back to when he felt unsteady and it would help calm him. Days kept passing by, despite the stresses he came across. “‘the palaces of nature,’ were not changed. By degrees the calm and heavenly scene restored me, and I continued my journey towards Geneva.” This quote proved the idea that the presence of nature was soothing and that it gave Victor a clear mind. Victor saw nature as a ‘palace’, giving it authority above other living things. The powerful piece of art allowed Victor to stop worrying and appreciate what he had, the home he was going back to, with a fresh mindset.
The Monster was left to fight for himself in the novel because his creator, Victor Frankenstein, left him for dead. However, The Monster could not accept this, he started to learn and grow through trial and error of his actions. He had to learn the basics of being a human from the beginning, he was a baby in the world. Therefore, The Monster couldn’t talk or understand the environment around him, who the people were or where he was, it was all a mystery to him. Home is a special place where you can always rely on safety and comfort but for The Monster, he did not have a home. The Monster was obliged to build his own life, his own home, with no support from others. Alone in nature, The Monster started to experience the traits of human beings, he was becoming more aware of who he was. His feelings developed and he realised how lonely he was “I was a poor, helpless, miserable wretch,” explaining that all he had was the “feeling pain invade me on all sides”. Therefore he had the natural human instinct and “sat down and wept.” However, whilst being out there and experiencing these emotions, “a gentle light stole over the heavens and gave me a sensation of pleasure.” The natural moonlight dispersed over The Monster, completely changing his mood. “I gazed with a kind of wonder. It moved slowly, but it enlightened my path, and I again went out in search of berries.” By being out at night, experiencing the rawness of nature, The Monster was refreshed. Once the moonlight hit The Monster, he was uplifted and had the desire to continue his quest for berries. Like Frankenstein, nature was able to rejuvenate The Monster so he was feeling better and more motivated towards his search for knowledge. Nature was The Monster’s only company, therefore it helped him experience new emotions. The Monster experiences the “loveliness of its sunshine and the balminess of the air. I felt emotions of gentleness and pleasure”. The beauty of nature allowed The Monster to feel the same connection that humans have on each other. Victor left The Monster to nobody, he had to discover these feelings alone and it was with the help of nature that the feelings “that had long appeared dead, revive within me.” Nature gave The Monster a sense of humanity.
The theory Immanuel Kant created was that nature brings out the best of people and draws them away from their worries in life. This is a very powerful theory as it gives people a way to clear their heads and calm down when nothing seems to be going in the correct direction. Mary Shelley used this theory many times throughout the novel “Frankenstein”. It is an eventful novel, the characters experience a range of emotions and by introducing Kant’s theory, it gave the characters a chance to reconnect with themselves. Two characters that displayed the ideas of this theory were Victor Frankenstein and The Monster, they both had a link to nature that benefited them. Nature allowed them to realise what they valued most while putting aside the struggles of the past.