What is the purpose of a setting in literature? Why do authors strategically think about where their story takes place? The setting in any form of literature can help set the mood or tone, place a story in context of the surroundings, provide foreshadowing, or add a sense of irony.
One of the main differences we discussed in class between Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Dave Morris’s Frankenstein is the setting in each story. As previously noted, Morris writes the story of Victor’s early experiments in Paris rather than in Ingolstadt. Unlike Ingolstadt, Paris during the French Revolution is of familiar territory, which allows the readers to make certain inferences that were absent in Shelley’s published version. Evidently, Morris chooses the setting of his Frankenstein to take place during the French Revolution for a reason.
As most of us have learned throughout our 20 years of education, the French Revolution was a period of social and political uprising that ultimately transformed French society. Traditional ideas, such as hierarchy, monarchy, and religious authority, were soon overthrown by Enlightenment principles, such as, equality, citizenship, democracy and science. For this reason, it is almost ironic that Morris chooses to create his story in revolutionary France. In both versions of Frankenstein, the monster’s initial goal after his ‘birth’ is to be accepted by those around him. Similarly to the people in revolutionary France, the monster’s only desire is to feel equal among its inhabitants, rather than being treated and viewed like an outsider. It is as if the monster is a member of the common people, fighting for equality and citizenship, against the aristocracy (or in the monster’s case, all people), that believe otherwise. It is ironic that the monster, a creature we imagine to be visually hideous and outside of the human species, appears in the novel to fight for the very same principles that sparked the French Revolution. Therefore, not only does Morris’s change of setting provide irony to his story, but it also gives the readers a frame of reference in which to relate the story.
The French Revolution influenced the progress of science by encouraging scientific research. Traditional science was founded upon tradition, faith, and religion. The Enlightenment period marked the cultural movement of intellect, replacing Plato and Aristotle with reasoning and mechanical laws. In both versions of Frankenstein, Victor’s creation of the monster was something no human was capable of at the time. Victor, going beyond tradition and conducting scientific research (the process of creating the monster), is what led him to his discovery of giving inanimate objects life. The progression of science, for example Victor’s creation of the monster, was another principle that sparked the French Revolution. Overall, I believe Morris’s decision to change the setting of Shelley’s Frankenstein was beneficial because it emphasizes different aspects of the characters’ decisions and actions.