Use of Storm Imagery in Villette and Frankenstein

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The Romantic and Victorian periods saw a flowering of imagery: for the Romantics, because it often proved the best way to express their vague philosophical yearnings and ideas; for the Victorians, because societal taboos all too often prevented discussion of topics unless they were "coded" in acceptable images. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Charlotte Brontké's Villette, despite springing from these two different periods of literature, share a type of symbol. In each "bildingsroman," storms provide a dominant textual metaphor for violent and confusing turning points in the main character's development. For Lucy Snowe, storms usher her along in her development from shy, frigid nursemaid to more open, self-sufficient school-mistress: though fearful and traumatic, the storms, and experiences, tend to mold and enhance her personality. But for Victor Frankenstein, storms punctuate his relationship with his horrid creation, and show his steady dissolution towards tragedy and attempted revenge. Villette practically opens with a storm: after the initial exposition, Lucy tells of how "it was a wet night; the rain lashed the panes, and the wind sounded angry and restless" on the evening when Polly Home first arrived. This admittedly minor change in her life still presages, in its stormy accompaniment, the larger turning-points in her life that storms are to indicate. Indeed, Lucy's stay with Polly and the Brettons is immediately followed by her famous and unexplained "shipwreck" image that begins Chapter IV. Whether it represents forced incest or merely financial reversals and deaths in the family, it is this storm which produces much of the cool reserve and surfeit of reason that troubles Lucy through the rest of the novel.... ... middle of paper ... ...xiles at Home: A Story of Literature in Nineteenth Century America. Lanham: University Press of America, Inc., 1984. Mellor, Anne K. Mary Shelley. Her Life, her Fiction, her Monsters. Methuen. New York, London, 1988. Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein New American Library edition, 1983. Patterson, Arthur Paul A. Frankenstein Study. You may wish to place the following quotes at the beginning of the paper for a stronger impact. "These strange accents in the storm -- this restless, hopeless cry -- denote a coming state of the atmosphere unpropitious to life." (Bronté, p. 46) "This almost miraculous change of inclination and will was... the last effort made by the spirit of preservation to avert the storm that was even then hanging in the stars and ready to envelop me." (Shelley, p. 41)

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