Romanticism, travel literature, Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, urban spaces, landscapes


Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein features a surprisingly extensive variety of locations through which Victor Frankenstein travels, ranging from the vibrant cities of London and Oxford to the isolated Orkney islands and Arctic lands. Scholars have analyzed the roles which some of these settings, namely, the Alps and the Arctic, play in the novel, and many have noted the importance of travel to the text. However, little scholarship exists assessing how Victor’s travels as a whole impact him, as well as their collective purpose within the story. Given the prominence of travel in Shelley’s text, as well as the fact that travel is an important theme of Romantic literature in general, I seek to provide an explanation for the function of travel in Frankenstein by examining the full range of the novel’s settings and their effects on Victor. Specifically, by looking at travel, as several literary scholars have described it, as a process of “self-discovery,” I argue that Victor’s travels serve to reveal, to himself and to readers, his alienation from humanity and nature. Not only does he find himself in increasingly isolated locations over the course of his journeys, but his experiences in the settings themselves also reveal various ways in which he is isolated. He discovers his alienation from humanity by traveling to urban spaces, in which he discovers his failure to have sympathy with the masses of society and to live up to the ideals of human behavior. Meanwhile, he discovers his alienation from nature by traveling through wilderness spaces, which Shelley continually portrays as in opposition to him. Thus, Victor’s traveling is the means by which Shelley communicates his complete separation from the world which ultimately results from his aberrant application of scientific study in the formation of the sentient Creature.

Issue and Volume

Volume 16, Issue 2



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