In the first third of the novel, the environment only vaguely sets the mood of the story. When Frankenstein is young, he describes his home as majestic and wondrous (27), symbolizing the simple beauty of childhood. Cold, damp weather sets the tense mood of the creation of the monster. It’s with the return of the monster that Shelley truly ties weather and landscapes in with the emotions of the monster. All these settings feature the flexibility and nature of water and the environment, and draws connections to the monster’s current state of being and as a force of nature. It is with this event that the environment and the events are not only complementary, but inseparable.
Frankenstein rediscovers his creation in chapter ten among isolated mountains and glaciers. Glaciers are the accumulation of massive amounts of water and, given enough time, have the potential to be earth-changing, destructive behemoths. Glaciers carve out valleys and wear down mountains, yet they themselves ultimately melt down into nothing. A parallel can be drawn to the perception of the monster being a force larger than any living man and having the potential to destroy us all. He’s perceived as dangerous due to his stature, and his character is the result of an accumulation of an entire existence of abandonment and abuse.
In chapter 11, the monster describes his abandonment by Frankenstein and his discovery of his senses. Cold is a major element, serving to convey the sadness and frustration of the monster upon being sentenced to a life of loneliness. The darkness serves to provide a sense of mystery as the monster begins to discover himself and the world around him and attempts to establish an understanding of the universe. The monster finds shelter from the cold rain in a small hut. The next morning, the sun shines bright and it sets a hopeful and joyous tone for the monster’s potential future among other people (114). However, his dreams are shot down when the villagers chase him out of town, throwing him into the cold once more.
When the monster discovers Agatha and Felix, the monster takes on a more gentle, nurturing personality, displaying simple actions of affection by gathering wood and resources for them. The weather shifts from cold, dreary rain to snow—the most delicate of water’s forms. The monster is in a vulnerable state comparable to a child, observing and learning from a young couple and their father. He learns basic speech, simple agriculture and resource gathering, the beauty of music, and of human emotion. He sees others in a vulnerable state similar to his and is bewildered by their unhappiness since, unlike him, they have others to love, but learns that human emotions are complex and can be the result of many factors. He comes to learn of the stress of hunger and conflict, and acts to aid them in any way possible.
As the monster’s attachment to these people strengthens, spring comes and sets a warmer tone of regrowth and new hope. The monster continues learning from the couple, but the story takes a downturn as he learns more of human interactions and realize he knows nothing about his origins or even status as a normal human being.
While the monster has only been a prominent character for four brief paragraphs so far, it’s quite evident that the world around him will shape him, and he in turn will shape the world. Every experience and every encounter is another drop of water in the glacier that is the monster’s existence, leaving him with the potential to either be a force for good or a destroyer of humanity. So far, it seems that Shelley is making a case that nature is the most profound determining factor in an individual’s personality. The monster’s nature is neutral at his genesis, but our conditioned fear of the unusual result in others treating him badly, which may result in a corruption of his personality and further reason for people to have disdain for him. A snowball effect.