“He who knows nothing is closer to the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors”.(Thomas Jefferson).In Mary Shelly's Frankenstein, the theme of the sublime is featured throughout the text. It is seen in the use of knowledge, imagination, and solitariness which is the protagonist's primary source of power. This perpetuates their quest for glory, revenge, and what results in their own self-destruction and dehumanization. Ultimately, the final cause being irreversible harm.
Childhood is a time of freedom. However, for Victor, childhood is merely a remembrance of what is lost:
Before misfortune had tainted my mind, and changed its bright visions of extensive usefulness into gloomy and narrow reflections upon self. […] by insensible steps to my after tale of misery: for when I would account to myself for the birth of that passion, which afterwards ruled my destiny. (Shelly 21)
The birth of "passion" which Victor speaks of is that of Knowledge. His obsessive quest to construct and build life from death is the most prominent source of his own self-destruction. This thirst for knowledge enables Victor to succeed," in discovering the cause of generation and life, [he became] capable of bestowing animation upon lifeless matter"(Shelly 30). Here, Victor's creation of the monster can be seen as Victor becoming like a God. Victor's acquisition of knowledge has led him to believe he is entitled to glory, "A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me. No father could claim the gratitude of his child as completely as I could deserve theirs" (Shelly 32). He truly becomes overpowered with the idea of glory losing himself in the process. Victor becomes more and more embedded within his own glory and imagination. We see this when he states, “I had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful! - Great God! His yellow skin […] his teeth of a pearly whiteness […] his shrivelled complexion, and straight black lips” (Shelly 38). He intended to create the beautiful but instead he created the sublime.
Similarly, in Wordsworth Mont Blancs reference to sublimity, the mountain does not live up to expectations and once seen it will never be the same. Just as, once the monster is born, Victor will never be able to view his creation as he once did, “I had desired it with an ardour that exceeded moderation; but now that I finished, the beauty of the dream vanished”(Shelly 34). Here, the power of the sublime lies in the internal image and the construction of the monster in Victor’s imagination. Victor alludes through his narrative how knowledge aids in his self-destruction: “the genius that has regulated my fate” (Shelly 21) and “the fatal impulse that led to my ruin”(Shelly 21 ). It is this knowledge that is the driving force in Victor’s quest for glory, and the eventual acquisition of knowledge becomes dangerous to the self:
How dangerous is the acquirement of...