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Perspectives On Human Nature In ‘Frankenstein’ And ‘Moby Dick’

1415 words - 6 pages

Romantic literature, at its very essence, attempts to deal with the subject of human nature (Wang, 2011). Both Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’ and Herman Melville’s ‘Moby-Dick,’ being Romantic texts, each offer their own perspective on the true essence of humanity. While their perspectives are largely similar due to the era they originated in, with both reasoning that humanity possesses an excessive pride in the desire to exceed its limits that is capable of immense devastation and corruption of others (Penguin Group, 2011; Ross, 2001), they are also somewhat different when it comes to the ability characters possess to recognise the damage they cause (eNotes.com, 2010; Macmillan Publishers Ltd., 2010), a separating factor that differentiates just how destructive each author believes human nature can be (Kim, 2011).

Beginning with the similarities ‘Frankenstein’ and ‘Moby-Dick’ possess in terms of their reflections on the human condition, the protagonists of each, Victor and Ahab respectively, both possess an evident hubris that causes them to elevate themselves to the role of God in a desire to take control of their surroundings (Penguin Group USA, 2011; Ross, 2001). This quality is evident in Victor particularly during the early stages of the novel where he wishes to excel natural limits by removing death from the world (Harris, 2008). As literary scholar Michael Cummings (2009) explains, “Victor Frankenstein believes he has the right as a scientist to pursue truth and knowledge even when his quest ventures into the domain of the divine.” However, because Victor’s pride in himself causes him to possess this belief, he subsequently fails to consider the moral impacts of his activities and thus his creation eventually wrecks destruction on those that he loves (BookRags, Inc., 2006). Ahab is similar in that he has a hubris that causes him to believe he can take control over the natural world, and take a God-like vengeance on the creature that took his leg (Ross, 2001). He declares this openly in the television miniseries, stating, “Mr. Starbuck, I am Lord God Almighty as far as you’re concerned… I can shape the elements to my purposes as surely as I can steer this ship across the ocean” (Moby-Dick, 2011). Of course, while he may believe it, in the end he is unable to take any control over the natural world, thus leading him and his ship to destruction (Fish et al., 1984, pp.23-24). It is perhaps likely that the notion of humanity possessing a pride that causes them to push their boundaries was included in both texts due to the prominent events of the Romantic Era, particularly the Industrial Revolution. With the Industrial Revolution came great changes, which saw humans exercise greater dominance over nature than ever before, something both authors warn heavily against (BookRags Inc., 2006; Kocher, 2005).

In terms of other similarities ‘Frankenstein’ and ‘Moby-Dick’ share, while they both discuss the destructive qualities of pride, they also...

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