The Destructive Desire For Knowledge: Frankenstein By Mary Shelley

1309 words - 5 pages

By definition, knowledge is the fact or condition of knowing something with familiarity gained through experience or association (Merriam-Webster.com). In the novel Frankenstein, Mary Shelley considers knowledge as a “dangerous” factor. The danger of it is proved throughout the actions of the characters Robert Walton, Victor Frankenstein, and the creature. The characters all embody the theme of knowledge in different ways. Shelley supports her opinion about knowledge by using references from the Bible and Paradise Lost. She uses these references to show the relationship between God’s Adam and Frankenstein’s creature, and how nothing turns out as great as God’s creation. Mary Shelley’s goal is to teach a lesson on how destructive the desire for knowledge really is.
Robert Walton, an Artic explorer, demonstrates the idea of knowledge as “dangerous” through his letters to his sister. He shows determination while on his quest, but it is glory that he seeks the most. Walton states, “I shall satiate my ardent curiosity with the sight of a part of the world never before visited, and may tread a land never before imprinted by the foot of man”(8). The statement implies that Walton seeks “dangerous” knowledge; the type of knowledge that only God possesses. Although he wants glory, he refuses to do whatever it takes to get it. Walton expresses that by saying, “I am going to unexplored regions, to “the land of mist and snow”; but I shall kill no albatross, therefore do not be alarmed for my safety” (15). Although Walton seeks glory or forbidden knowledge, he is aware that it comes with consequences that he is not willing to face. He has no interest in betraying people or upsetting nature to get to the level of greatness that he wants. Upon hearing Frankenstein’s story, Walton’s search for glory and knowledge becomes irrelevant because he suddenly realizes the effects of knowing too much.
It is obvious to assume that a man who experiences an excellent childhood is destined for greatness. Victor Frankenstein starts off as a curious child with interest in science. He becomes extremely intelligent, but too much knowledge given to the wrong person can result in disaster. Frankenstein mentions, “My dreams were therefore disturbed by reality; and I entered with the greatest diligence into the search of the philosopher’s stone and the elixir of life” (34). His interest in the subject shows that even with all the knowledge on earth he still thirsts for more. Frankenstein’s interest in science consumes him as he drifts from curiosity to obsession. He goes on to say, “…if I could banish disease from the human frame, and render man invulnerable to any but a violent death!” (34). The statement implies that with his knowledge he desires to create things in a way that man wouldn’t dream of ordinarily. Frankenstein is going after the level of knowledge which God holds. As the novel continues, his level of knowledge changes once he realizes the effects of creating the...

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