Caspar_David_Friedrich_-_Wanderer_above_the_sea_of_fog

So, we have reason to believe Victor Frankenstein is a rapist.

Yes, yes, I know the victim we’re talking about isn’t a person, but nature (if that makes it any better), but let’s wrestle some more with that idea. Because I can’t help but think, “Victor may be violating nature by playing God and all, but doesn’t he also show affection for nature? Doesn’t he spend a lot of time romanticizing landscapes?” And the answer to all that is, “Yes … but not really.”

Victor does have some tender scenes with nature. Roaming the mountains, he describes how nature “congregated round me; the unstained snowy mountain-top, the glittering pinnacle, the pine woods, and ragged bare ravine; the eagle, soaring amidst the clouds — they all gathered round me, and bade me be at peace” (Shelley 90). In times like these, Victor dotes on nature and calls her (if I may continue the metaphor) a healing friend. But the lovey-doveyness quickly stops. When Victor wakes up the next morning, the rain is so heavy that he can no longer see his “mighty friends” (91), the mountaintops or the trees or the eagle. And he declares, “Still I would penetrate their misty veil, and seek them in their cloudy retreats. What were rain and storm to me?” (91).

Wait. What? Penetrate?

Sounds messed up, but any reader of Anne K. Mellor’s “A Feminist Critique of Science” shouldn’t be surprised. Mellor argues that Frankenstein is a story where “the aggressive, virile male scientist legitimately captures and enslaves a fertile but passive female nature” (Mellor 1). And based on the novel’s gendered language, it’s pretty hard to refute that. (The word “penetrate” comes back a lot more than you’d expect.)

So Victor’s definitely obsessed with raping nature, but the cool thing is nature doesn’t just take it. After he decides to mess with nature again by agreeing to make his creation a female companion, Victor accuses the sky for mocking him and asks it to “crush sensation and memory; let me become as nought” (Shelley 131). He bemoans to Walton, “I cannot describe to you how the eternal twinkling of the stars weighed upon me, and how I listened to every blast of wind, as if it were a dull, ugly siroc on its way to consume me” (131). The horrific results of his rape (the creation) now fully illuminated to him, Victor cannot even bear the mere presence of nature. Where there was once comfort now lies misery. Gone is the restorative, consoling friend. Gone is the passive, silent victim. So, yes, nature in Frankenstein may be feminine, and she may have been violated, but she’s far from submissive.

And I think Victor may want that veil back.

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