Myth of the 'Noble Savage' Illustrated in Mary Shelly's Frankenstein and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther

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Political philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau is often attributed to the discussion of the “noble savage,” and the existence of natural man. Throughout numerous works of literature, the theme of the “noble savage” is prevalent and enduring, providing indirect authors’ commentary through the actions and development of various characters. Two such novels are Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther. In both novels, Shelly and Goethe demonstrate strong Romantic ideals, while developing various characters using Rousseau’s myth.

Shelly’s Frankenstein follows a young doctor, Victor Frankenstein, who sets out to engineer a working humanlike being. Throughout the novel, Shelly uses
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Victor becomes increasingly guilty about his role in his brother’s death, yet does not confess, due to his fear of being labeled insane. In addition, as Victor travels through the countryside, nature has a dramatic effect on his mood, further supporting the Romantic ideals of Rousseau’s myth. As the novel progresses, Victor becomes increasingly guilt ridden, nervous and often ill. This instance demonstrates Rousseau’s myth, as it shows Victor’s dramatic changes as a result of his experiences throughout the book.

In addition to Shelly’s characterization of Victor, the Monster is also used as an example of Rousseau’s myth. Upon creation, the Monster’s mind is completely blank, and generally good. However, he is forced to attempt to integrate himself into human society, due to Victor’s abandonment of him. This is evident when the Monster isolated from society, as most humans are made uncomfortable and afraid by his appearance. As a result, the Monster attempts to stay away from humans, yet begins observing a group of humans living in a cottage. Through his observations, the Monster learns about human culture and society, obtaining the ability to speak, and was “deeply affected” (Shelly 91) by the humans’ displays of emotions. The Monster also “admired [admires] the perfect form of my [his] cottagers” (Shelly 94) and sympathy for the humans, who, according to his account, live in poverty, by bringing them firewood. As a result, however,

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