How Dangerous is the Acquirement of Knowledge?
Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein
Although Mary Shelly did not have a formal education growing up motherless in the early nineteenth century, she wrote one of the greatest novels nonetheless in 1819, Frankenstein. The novel has been the basis for many motion picture movies along with many English class discussions. Within the novel Shelly shares the stories of two men from very different worlds. The reader is introduced to Robert Walton, the main narrator of the story, through letters written to his sister. Walton is on a quest to find the North Pole when his ship and crew members become stuck between sheets of ice. It is here the reader is then introduced to Victor Frankenstein who is lost and frozen in the arctic North. Victor begins to tell his story of how he ended up almost dead in the freezing weather. His story includes one of the main themes within the novel, which is the search of knowledge may lead to a dangerous outcome. The reader may think that this is a theme only for Victor, but one comes to find that both men could be involved in a dangerous adventure.
Knowledge is “the fact or condition of knowing something with familiarity gained through experience or association” (Merriam-Webster dictionary). Walton’s desire for knowledge is introduced to the reader in the fourth letter written to his sister, “One man’s life or deaths is a small price to pay for the acquirement of knowledge which I sought for the domination I should acquire and transmit over the elemental foes of our race.” (Shelly, 27). The reader can note that Walton believes the journey to the North Pole is the first priority, surpassing the safety of his crew members. “These are my enticements, and they are sufficient to conquer all fear of danger or death, to induce me to commence this laborious voyage with the joy a child feels when he embarks in a little boat,”(Shelly 14). Here Walton is acting like the young child, being selfish to the needs and safety of his crew only caring about himself and the knowledge he can attain within this adventure. After telling Victor Frankenstein this, Victor looks shocked and replies to Walton, “You seek for knowledge and wisdom, as I once did, and I ardently hope for the gratification of your wishes may not be a serpent and sting you, as mine has been.” (Shelly 28). This quote represents the guilt and regret found within Victor’s life that lead from the want and desire of knowledge.
Victor Frankenstein was a young boy, born in Naples, who wanted to explore and figure out what was just beyond his reach through science. “My temper was sometimes violent, and my passions vehement, but by some law in my temperature they were turned, not towards childish pursuits, but to an eager desire to learn… It was the secrets of heaven and earth that I desired to learn,” (Shelly 37). At the age of thirteen Victor read a work of Cornelius Agrippa‘s, a German physician who was persecuted during his life...