Question 1: Victor attributes his tragic fate to his relentless pursuit of knowledge. Do you think this is the true cause of his suffering In what ways does the novel represent the ideas made by scientific and Enlightenment discourses as dangerous and destructive
Frankenstein, a gothic novel written by Mary Shelley centres around an ambitious scientist, Victor Frankenstein and his pursuit of knowledge, narrated in the perspective of Robert Walton, an explorer determined to be the first to reach the North Pole. Victor??™s true cause of suffering is not just the unexpected consequences of his failed experiments to bring the dead back to life, but his abandonment of the creature and his moral responsibility towards it. The novel represents a critique of the discoveries and ideas made by scientific and enlightenment discourse; (the pursuit for knowledge of the creation of humans) as dangerous and destructive, through the characterisation of Victor Frankenstein and his quest for knowledge, leading to his demise and Robert Walton??™s almost suicidal attempt to reach the North Pole. The creature??™s presence in the novel warns against the consequences of the pursuit of scientific knowledge with no responsibility or moral obligation towards the end result
Victor Frankenstein??™s true cause of suffering is his failure to consider the moral implications of his actions in his reckless pursuit of knowledge. Victor believes that his suffering is punishment from the creature and god for his extensive pursuit of knowledge. In my opinion it is in fact his lack of moral obligation towards the creature and his failure to contemplate the consequence that causes his suffering and guilt. He acknowledges that his lack of knowledge of the consequences is his true cause of suffering when he says:
???Seek happiness in tranquillity and avoid ambition, even if it be only the apparently innocent one of distinguishing yourself in science and discoveries.???
Victor recognises that his lack of moral obligation towards the creature was due to his ambition and warns Robert Walton against allowing ambition to cloud his judgement. His abandonment of the creature leads to its hatred towards him and thus the deaths of those people close to him causing his anguish and distress. This confirms that Victor??™s true cause of suffering is not his relentless pursuit of knowledge, although some may be attributed to it, but his lack of moral responsibility and care towards the creature. Although Victor attributes his suffering to his relentless pursuit of knowledge, his true cause of suffering is his failure to consider the consequences of his actions and his ignorance of his moral duties regarding the creature
Victor??™s pursuit of knowledge leads to the deaths of his family, friends, the creature and himself suggesting that Enlightenment attitudes towards seeking unrestrained scientific knowledge has destructive capabilities. Victor strives to find the secret of life and believes that knowing this will help to reconcile the pain of his mother??™s death, accentuating his lack of altruism.
???So much has been done, exclaimed the soul of Frankenstein??”more, far more, will I achieve; treading in the steps already marked, I will pioneer a new way, explore unknown powers, and unfold to the world the deepest mysteries of creation.???
The glorious, assertive quality of his statement foreshadows the fact that Victor??™s passion will not be tempered by any consideration of the possible horrific consequences of his search for knowledge. This declaration furthers the parallel between Walton??™s explorations and Frankenstein??™s ventures into unknown knowledge, as both men seek to ???pioneer a new way,??? to make progress beyond established limits. Victor??™s realises the consequences of his creation after the deaths of the people close to him and when he regrets and vows vengeance against the creature we understand that Mary Shelley has indeed put an emphasis on the destructive outcomes of the unrestricted pursuit of knowledge that Enlightenment attitudes and scientific discourses encouraged. Victor just like many other scientists regrets his discovery (of life) because it destroyed his life.
???In a fit of enthusiastic madness I created a rational creature and was bound towards him to assure, as far as was in my power, his happiness and well-being . . . I refused, and I did right in refusing, to create a companion for the first creature. He showed unparalleled malignity and selfishness in evil; he destroyed my friends . . . Miserable himself that he may render no other wretched, he ought to die. The task of his destruction was mine, but I have failed.???
Scientists who created the first atomic bomb also regretted their findings after the bombing of apparently uninhabited Pacific Islands and Hiroshima and Nagasaki. J. Robert Oppenheimer the father of the atomic bomb is said to have told President Truman in 1946 that he had “blood on my hands,” and he opposed the further development of the even-more-destructive hydrogen bomb. The events in Frankenstein and the regrets of modern scientists emphasise Mary Shelley??™s attitude that the uncontrolled and immoral pursuit of knowledge is indeed extremely dangerous and destructive, in the case of the atomic bomb and damaging to the pursuer in Victor Frankenstein??™s case. The dominant Enlightenment attitudes towards the uninhibited pursuit of scientific knowledge are cautioned against in Mary Shelley??™s Frankenstein, especially through the characterisation of Victor Frankenstein and his eventual destruction
Due to his determination to reach the North Pole, Robert Walton is willing to sacrifice human life in the name of scientific progress reiterating the warning that Enlightenment views on the unrestrained quest for knowledge is indeed dangerous. Before he meets Frankenstein, Walton is prepared to surrender the lives of the sailors on his boat so that his name may go down in the pages of history as the first man to reach the North Pole.
???One man??™s life or death were but a small price to pay for the acquirement of knowledge???
Walton also believes, as Frankenstein did that the pursuit of knowledge is paramount to life itself. Neither Walton nor Frankenstein, mere human beings of the same order as the readers of the novel, should have the power to control the fates of the people around them. Walton believes that sacrificing himself and his men will bring him great success in his discoveries and pursuit for knowledge.
???What may not be expected in a country of eternal light???
During the course of the novel light represents knowledge and discovery, even during Frankenstein??™s experiments. Walton believes that in the Arctic Ocean he will discover scientific phenomena, (the nature of the North Pole) and be rewarded for his sacrifice, but he is not sacrificing only himself he is sacrificing many other men and this reinforces the idea the extensive an uncontrolled pursuit of knowledge by man can lead to dangerous and destructive consequences, especially death. Robert Walton??™s selfish and sacrificial expedition to reach the North Pole reinforces the idea that knowledge should be pursued with caution and awareness of the consequences.
Throughout the novel the creature feels that he has done something wrong to have been awoken from death, this meddles with his mind and leads him to destroy and take revenge upon his creator; the situation of the creature affirms that pursuing knowledge without limitation leads to dangerous and destructive consequences. The creature??™s suffering is a direct effect of Victor??™s abandonment, affirmed by the creature when the creature says:
???I, the miserable and the abandoned, am an abortion, to be spurned at, and kicked, and trampled on.???
This eruption of angry self-pity as the monster questions the injustice of how he has been treated compellingly captures his inner life, giving Walton and the reader a glimpse into the suffering that has motivated his crimes. This line also evokes the motif of abortion: the monster is an unwanted life, a creation abandoned and shunned by his creator. This emphasises the destructive consequences of the immoral and relentless pursuit of knowledge that were advocated by scientific and Enlightenment ideas at the time that Mary Shelley wrote the novel. John Milton??™s Paradise Lost also warns against the abandonment of a creation.
???Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay
to mould me Man; did I solicit thee
from darkness to promote me???
These lines appear on the title page of the novel and are from John Milton??™s Paradise Lost, when Adam laments his fall. The monster believes himself to be a tragic figure, comparing himself to both Adam and Satan. Like Adam, he is shunned by his creator, though he strives to be good. These rhetorical questions symbolise the hatred toward Victor for abandoning him in a world persistently hostile to him and impose responsibility for his ugliness and eventual evil upon Victor.
???Accursed creator! Why did you form a monster so hideous that even you turned from me in disgust God, in pity, made man beautiful and alluring, after his own image; but my form is a filthy type of yours, more horrid even from the very resemblance. Satan had his companions, fellow devils, to admire and encourage him, but I am solitary and abhorred.”
These words of the creature mirror those of Adam??™s in Paradise Lost and help to emphasis the suffering that the creature has gone through. His words highlight that a soul left alone and abandoned by its creator will in fact be lead to perform dangerous and destructive actions. Thus the creatures suffering helps to affirm the view that pursuit of knowledge with no restraint or moral obligation towards the end result leads to dangerous and destructive consequences. Also unlike medical and scientific trials or experiments today the creature was not given a choice to volunteer in Frankenstein??™s experiment reiterating, once again, that the pursuit of knowledge without limitation and without knowledge of the consequences can lead to dangerous and destructive effects. The creature??™s suffering and revenge is a result of Victor??™s ignorance of his moral obligation towards the creature; the creature??™s vengeance is clearly the embodiment of the perilous and harmful outcomes of an uncontrolled pursuit of knowledge
The characterisation within Mary Shelley??™s novel emphasises the dangers of scientific and enlightenment pursuits especially the aspect dealing with the pursuit of knowledge and the blurred borders of life and death. Victor Frankenstein and Robert Walton??™s dangerous and suicidal pursuit of knowledge allow readers to see the destructive implications of scientific discourse during the Enlightenment era. Victor Frankenstein??™s creature embodies the regrets of many leading scientist. Victor Frankenstein regrets making the creature just as many of the scientists who first discovered the atomic bomb and nuclear power regretted the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Today most people volunteer to participate in scientific trials while the creature is involuntarily awoken from death, thus warning future scientists against pursuing knowledge without first considering the moral and ethical consequences. The novel warns that scientific discovery should be done with a clear view of the cost to the people involved, including the scientists themselves. Mary Shelley??™s Frankenstein questions the extent to which one should pursue knowledge and stresses the dangers of dappling in the indistinct limits of life and death.