The Purpose of a Setting

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.

  1. If we were reading at the time that Shelley had written the book, the French Revolution would have been very much on our minds (only 25 years in the past, which is only twice as far as we are from 9/11). Setting the story in Ingolstadt wouldn’t have prevented us from recognizing some of its import. But Morris makes this connection more evident in the adaptation, which is useful given our place in history, 200 years removed from Robespierre.

    Great analysis of how the text could relate to the politics, Amanda!

  2. I agree with you Amanda. The French revolution had a tremendous impact on the lives of people. One relation i see between the French Revolution and the creation of the monster is that of inspiration. It was led by French philosophers and its bourgeoisie class who inspired the commoners to bring about change in their lives. Victor too was inspired by books that led him to take an interest in Biology and Physiology, resulting in the creation of the monster.

  3. I had never fully thought about the connection between the novel and the French Revolution, but I can now see where the connections are. Since we were given a bit more detail on the decisions Victor made, I agree that some of his choices are much more recognizable since reading the app.

  4. I thought this was a very interesting blog post, as this one little change definitely does alter the story. These choices Victor made in the app make more sense. When Dave Morris changed the setting to the French Revolution the story and actions are a little clearer.

  5. I think this is a great blog post! Personally, I was a bit annoyed by the change of scenery, because to me it felt like Morris was trying to spoon-feed us more information that we could have figured out in the original text as well (but maybe this is my creative writing class talking). However, your arguments are great and I really like the way you brought it back to politics. It was very interesting to read and another aspect of the novel to think about.

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