Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein story was conceived in a washout of a Summer on Lake Geneva. Does this make Frankenstein a metaphor for a homeless climate refugee?
Seeing ‘Frankenstein’ through the lens of climate change
In France, they met up with Mary’s half-sister Claire, Lord Byron (Claire’s lover), and Byron’s personal physician. The group decided to spend the summer in a villa by Lake Geneva in Switzerland. Sounds nice, but the vacation turned sour quickly.
The press called it “The Year Without a Summer.” An enormous volcanic eruption in Indonesia filled the Earth’s atmosphere with ash and caused a global cooling effect that lingered for years. On Lake Geneva, “it rained and rained, and rained,” according to Charlotte Gordon, author of “Romantic Outlaws” a biography of Mary Shelley. “You can’t keep people like Byron and Shelley cooped up all day long — they get impatient, restless, up to no good,” Gordon says.
“The numbers of peasants who abandoned their farms and took to roads were described as armies on the march, tens of thousands of people,” he says. “If we think about the Syrian refugee crisis today, that gives us some sort of image.” Wood views Frankenstein’s monster as an allegory for the displaced farmers.
“The monster is shunned, abandoned, and homeless. [He’s] a kind of refugee.”
If the Tambora eruption did have a substantial effect on global climate, a claim Willis disputes, it would likely have been a cooling effect on climate rather than a warming effect.
Even if we accept the rather strained premise that Frankenstein was a “climate refugee”, it wasn’t the warmth the creature was trying to escape.