Particularly in Frankenstein's narration, the description of scenery often reflects his mental state at the time of the scene. Take, for example, the morning after he brought the monster to life and fled his home: "Morning, dismal and wet, at length dawned, and discovered to my sleepless and aching eyes the church of Ingolstadt, its white steeple and clock, which indicated the sixth hour. The porter opened the gates of the court, which had that night been my asylum, and I issued into the streets, pacing them with quick steps, as if I sought to avoid the wretch whom I feared every turning of the street would present to my view. I did not dare return to the apartment which I inhabited, but felt impelled to hurry on, although drenched by the rain which poured from a black and comfortless sky" (Volume I, Chapter 5). The loss of night's 'asylum' and the dismal, wet weather both echo Frankenstein's weariness and anxiety.
The passage of time
Imagery techniques are used to focalize the passage of time. This is what happens when Frankenstein returns home from university following the death of William, and gazes upon a portrait of his mother: "Six years had elapsed, passed as a dream but for one indelible trace, and I stood in the same place where I had last embraced my father before my departure for Ingolstadt. Beloved and venerable parent! He still remained to me. I gazed on the picture of my mother, which stood over the mantel-piece. It was an historical subject, painted at my father's desire, and represented Caroline Beaufort in an agony of despair, kneeling by the coffin of her dead father. Her garb was rustic, and her cheek pale; but there was an air of dignity and beauty, that hardly permitted the sentiment of pity" (Volume I, Chapter 7). The past-focused imagery functions as a link between Frankenstein's history and what he must cope with in the present.
Bodily manifestations of emotions
Imagery and rich descriptive language bring the inner states of Frankenstein to life. Take, for instance, the moment after Justine was wrongly sentenced to death for the death of William, when Frankenstein is overcome by guilt for his own crime of creating the monster: "The blood flowed freely in my veins, but a weight of despair and remorse pressed on my heart, which nothing could remove. Sleep fled from my eyes; I wandered like an evil spirit, for I had committed deeds of mischief beyond description horrible, and more, much more (I persuaded myself), was yet behind" (Volume I, Chapter 9).
The backdrop of nature, particularly in the scene prior to Frankenstein's mountaintop encounter with his monster, subsumes human nature within the grander, terrifying scope of the universe. This has a somewhat humbling, soothing effect on Frankenstein, as he notes in the passage prior to his encounter with the monster; "I [roamed] through the valley. I stood beside the sources of the Arveiron, which take their rise in a glacier, that with slow pace is advancing down from the summit of the hills, to barricade the valley. The abrupt sides of vast mountains were before me; the icy wall of the glacier overhung me; a few shattered pines were scattered around; and the solemn silence of this glorious presence-chamber of imperial Nature was broken only by the brawling waves, or the fall of some vast fragment, the thunder sound of the avalanche, or the cracking reverberated along the mountains of the accumulated ice, which, through the silent working of immutable laws, was ever and anon rent and torn, as if it had been but a plaything in their hands. These sublime and magnificent scenes afforded me the greatest consolation that I was capable of receiving. They elevated me from all littleness of feeling; and although they did not remove my grief, they subdued and tranquillised it" (Volume I, Chapter 10).
Frankenstein Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Frankenstein is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate the wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavoured to form? His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful!...