Why The Climax of Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" Is Set in the Arctic

Essay by ducttape799High School, 10th gradeA+, May 2004

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One of the most dominant leitmotifs of Frankenstein is that of loneliness. From his first breath, the creature feels abandoned and isolated. The story is riddled with examples of orphans, from Justine to Elizabeth to Caroline, all of whom have experienced the extreme pain of aloneness. The monster seems to embody loneliness itself, and by the story's conclusion, both he and Victor live with only the company of their hatred for each other. Shelley skillfully continues and showcases the theme of loneliness by setting the conclusion of her novel in the Arctic, a desolate, hostile, and mercilessly isolated environment.

Death and loneliness are not unknown to the Frankenstein family. Caroline's father "died in her arms, leaving her an orphan and a beggar" (18). This vicious blow encourages her, later in life, to adopt children in similar situations, such as Elizabeth and Justine. Although a family had taken in Elizabeth, they suffered from abject poverty, and she was, like Caroline, "an orphan and a beggar" (20).

Eventually, her striking blond hair brings about her adoption into the Frankenstein family. When Justine's father dies, she lives with her mother, who "treated her very ill" (49). A parent who does not love her child is no parent at all, and thus, Justine, too, is a sort of orphan. These examples of parentless children evoke sympathy and compassion from readers; their abandonment represents the worst kind of loneliness. This sense is embodied in the bitter, unforgiving Arctic. No matter where one looks, all he sees is barren, ice-covered tundra. In much the same way, no matter where an orphan looks, no one appears to support him or her.

The instant he infuses "a spark of being into the lifeless thing" (42) that will become the monster, Frankenstein sees he has committed...