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The Puruit of Knowledge in the Novel Frankenstein

In: English and Literature

Submitted By mill7117
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The dangers of the pursuit of knowledge is a main theme in the novel Frankenstein. This theme is most evident in the main character Victor Frankenstein. He suffers because of his pursuit of knowledge and his creation ultimately destroys his life. As the novel progresses the creature begins to change as he gains knowledge. The creature at the start is innocent and means no harm. As he gains knowledge, however, he begins to learn that he does not fit in and becomes angry. We will take a closer look at how knowledge hurts these characters throughout the novel. The knowledge that Victor is pursuing and the knowledge the creature is pursuing have fundamental differences. Victor is working to try to figure out how to cheat death. This knowledge pushes the limit of what is accepted by society. This project is an unknown realm of science and the possible consequences of success are a mystery. Victor becomes so involved with the idea, however, that he fails to consider possible consequences. Creating a menace to society had not crossed his mind. His creature is at a different intellectual level. The creature does not understand the language of humans or how human society is structured. He observes and studies human behaviors and interactions. He learns the language and more about how humans work. He is surprised about what he learns and is angered by it. The creature is not accepted in human society, and his knowledge of this changes his personality into an angry outcast seeking revenge. Mary Shelly writes Victor’s story from the point of view of Victor telling another man, Walton, about his horrific tale. Victor meets Walton in the beginning of the novel and is very ill at this time. The two are on Walton’s ship as Walton is attempting to reach the north pole. He tells Walton of his terrible tale of how his pursuit of knowledge ruined his existence. Victor Frankenstein is obsessed with the idea of the ‘secret of life’. He wants to figure out what brings dead tissue to life. His obsession begins to take over his entire life. He loses touch with the people around him and with reality, and begins to look pale and ill. As Victor says in his own words, “…the same feelings which made me neglect the scenes around me caused me also to forget those friends who were so many miles absent, and whom I had not seen for so long a time…“ (39) This very clearly paints a picture of a lonely man who has become separated from the world around him. This pursuit of the secret of life is torturing Victor Frankenstein long before anything is even created. The big idea that he is not thinking of is the potentially disastrous consequences of his work. His constant work on the project is driving him mad and nothing is going to stop his determination to be successful. After months of toil, Victor Frankenstein finally reaches his goal. He successfully brings life to old, dead body parts. When Victor looks at his creation, however, he is horrified by his creations terrible appearance. The creature is crude and grotesque, not at all what Victor had envisioned. This is the point where his new found knowledge begins to be his demise. This awful image of the creation will haunt Victor’s thoughts, keeping him up at night. The day after his mishap, Victor falls very ill. This illness symbolizes the turmoil his creation is causing. Later, Victor receives a letter about his brother’s death. Victor rushes home, and passes through the woods where his brother was strangled and he sights the monster. He becomes convinced that the creature is the killer. Victor is stunned and needs to get away for a while, heading back to Geneva where he grew up. Upon arriving in Geneva, he finds out that a nice girl, Justine Moritz, who was living with the Frankensteins had been accused of the killing. She is found guilty and sentenced to death. Victor feels extreme guilt knowing that his creation is responsible for the deaths of two people very close to him. This is another example of a negative consequence that Victor failed to consider. His creation causes him great pain, a result of his pursuit of knowledge. Victor is later on approached by the monster, where the monster admits to the killing. He asks Victor for understanding. He also requests that Victor create a companion for him, promising to move away from society if that is done. Although Victor is against the idea at first, the monster is eventually able to convince Victor to agree. However, in the middle of his project, Victor thinks of the possible consequences of creating another horrible creature. He questions why he would create another monster when his first creation has caused so much trouble. The consequences of having two creatures could be exponentially worse than only one, and it is at this point that this thought comes into Victor’s mind. Victor discontinues the second creation. The monster becomes very angry and swears his revenge on Victor. His new found knowledge is now trying to destroy his life. Victor was very worried about what the monster might do. He had a wife, Elizabeth, and he feared for her life knowing that the monster would more than likely try to harm her. It turns out his fears become reality. The creature gets at Victor by killing those around him. Victor then returns home to his father who later will die from grief. At this point Victor’s creation is responsible for four deaths. Victor now swears revenge on the creature. Victor tells Walton the remainder of his tale. Victor, who is already ill when he meets Walton, takes a turn for the worse and later dies. This is an important spot in the novel where he is finally finished off by his horrible scientific creation. His pursuit of the secret of life destroyed his life, killed those who were close to him, and in the end finished him off. It is possible, however, that the monster would not have been a menace had he not had his own pursuit of knowledge. As stated earlier, the monster has a very different type of knowledge that he pursues. He is very much like a new born when he is first created in the sense that he is innocent and clueless. This quest for basic knowledge about society and humans begins when he is disowned by Victor. After he leaves Victor, he finds himself staying nearby some cottagers. He studies the behaviors and language of the people seeking to gain knowledge of how society works. As he learns the language and learns more about society, he begins to realize that he does not fit in. He begins questioning why he was created in this world. He decides it would be a good idea to tell the cottagers the truth about his creation and his life. The cottagers become horrified and chase him out. This is another gain of the knowledge of how he does not fit in. This point is made clear in the novel where the monster says, “…was I, then, a monster, a blot upon the earth, from which all men fled and whom all men disowned? I cannot describe to you the agony that these reflections inflicted upon me: I tried to dispel them, but sorrow only increased with knowledge…“ (101) He now can understand that he is a grotesque monster, and speaks of how this knowledge is causing him terrible sorrow. He is changed from an innocent, gentle creature to an angry creature with super human strength who seeks revenge on humankind. The creature is very angry at this point having learned that he is not accepted by humans. He kills Victor’s brother. He also kills Victor’s wife. He is responsible for two other deaths and causing terrible suffering for Victor before he is responsible for the death of Victor in the end. All of these events are the result of the creature’s pursuit of knowledge. The creature is angered and changed by this new knowledge, and becomes a menace to society. The creature becoming a menace to society means that Victor’s pursuit of knowledge was dangerous, because his creation turned dangerous. Victor Frankenstein failed to consider any negative consequences of his scientific quest. The creature was too innocent to realize that he would be angered by his knowledge of society. A very important idea behind this theme is that embarking into the unknown is potentially dangerous. To connect this idea with modern times, there are scientists working on human cloning. There is no thoughts of what could happen if something goes horribly wrong, very similar to Victor Frankenstein. A good point to think about when discussing this theme is that it may be possible that there is knowledge that people cannot handle knowing.…...

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