Victor Frankenstein Character in Mary Shelley’s Novel
In the pursuit of knowledge, humankind devised science as an important tool for unveiling the mysteries of life. Through science, it becomes possible to generate requisite knowledge that leads to the creation of communication devices that permit people to share information in real time, provide vaccines, and/or answer any questions on the likelihood of the occurrence of disasters such as Tsunami. In this regard, science seems like one of the noble human discourses that have no limits in terms of providing knowledge to inform human decisions and resolution of challenges that are encountered in real life. However, Victor’s quest for scientific invention in Shelley’s Frankenstein opposes this theoretical assertion.
Mary Shelley’s novel features human struggles to unveil the realities of nature through science to recreate life. An attempt to deploy scientific knowledge to create life only creates more problems to Victor Frankenstein to the extent that he abandons his apartment where he lived in isolation of his family and friends over a period of design and building of his human-like creature.
Frankenstein’s miseries of life and death have disturbed the world immensely. Where does life come from? Where does it go while one dies? Can it be reclaimed and re-installed? Victor’s attempt to create flawless people may be interpreted as an attempt to resolve these intriguing interrogatives. Unfortunately, Victor only realised that the knowledge of science had limits when the damage was already done.
Through a formal approach in the interpretation and analysis of Frankenstein, this paper confirms that even though science knowledge is responsible for the revolution of the human race, it can also be potentially dangerous if not controlled and applied properly to protect moral, social, and ethical norms of nature. Before examining the dangerousness of science and knowledge, the paper first examines the roles played by science and knowledge in Frankenstein.
Dangerousness of Science and Knowledge in Frankenstein
Victor Frankenstein portrays the dangers that are associated with undying human’s quest for knowledge. At face value, this quest appears to be presented in Frankenstein without consideration of moral and ethical matters. However, its in-depth analysis contradicts such a facial interpretation (Brooks 83). Through the novel, Shelley provides an example of a situation in which thirst for science knowledge turns disastrous through dangerous discovery of the secrets of life. Through the contradictory subtexts and language that is used in Frankenstein, the quest to alter the natural condition of the earth through science is presented as a curiosity that characterises humanity. As such, it is irremovable from the human race.
People can exploit this resource to the extent that it becomes dangerous to their own lives in the quest for perfection (Chiao 225). In Frankenstein, science serves the principal role of natural perversion as a way of satisfying the curiosity of humankind for discovery and deconstruction of its belief that it can improve lives, unless it is used appropriately.
Victor Frankenstein’s monster encompasses unsurpassed scientific discovery. Unfortunately, sorrow, devastation, and terror accompany the discovery (Bartlett 211). The discovery only amounts to punishing the monster’s innovator and creator for his ambition and thirst for knowledge. The punishment emanates from the desire to reach for information that is beyond Victor’s human ability (Vargish 327). Hence, knowledge in science becomes dangerous whenever it is deployed to pervert the natural order through human engagement in intervening divine’s work. In fact, the creature itself is terrifying even to its creator. This implies that its existence is beyond the anticipation and knowledge thresholds for humankind.
After bringing his creation to life, after many months of hard work in remoteness, the creature horrifies Victor until he disappears from his working room since it proves impossible to sleep in the same room with it. While in the other room, he is woken up by a series of nightmares only to discover the creature roaming around his bed. He dashes out and spends the rest of the night unsettled in the courtyard. In the next day, he strolls around Ingolstadt while making sure that he avoids any idea of going back to his apartment, which is haunted by the creature (Bartlett 213). In this extent, pursuit of knowledge through the aftermaths of scientific discoveries alters the natural order. Therefore, inappropriate use of science by deploying its knowledge to intervene divine responsibilities only brings human sufferings.
Satisfaction of Curiosity for Discovery
Victor’s speech in the novel encompasses a grandiose in that he opts to speak on behalf of the larger humanity. He represents people who push the limits of human capability that is allowed by nature through the desire to quench the thirst for knowledge (Vargish 333). While some people’s endeavours to enrich themselves with knowledge may become dangerous, Victor’s irresistibility in searching knowledge is evident. The basic nature of people involves pushing or surpassing the limits of the natural order. Thus, despite the fact Victor warns against irresistible curiosity for discovery that is brought about by science, he is an indicator of possible discoveries to come in the future. Such discoveries arise from the inability of people to embrace their natural limits.
Victor’s Deconstruction of the importance of Science and Knowledge
Soon after his discovery’s breakthrough, Victor quickly provides a warning to people who attempt to defy the natural order through science like him. He cautions that people should learn from him concerning the extent to which acquiring knowledge can be dangerous (Bartlett 215). However, this caution is contradictory. Victor’s advice for people to learn from him may imply that they should deploy science to explore and discover what has not been discovered before since this gap forms the major concern of science. In a paradox, he also warns against the dangers of knowledge. Knowledge comprises key components of learning processes such that one discovery leads to another.
It may also lead to efforts to correct mistakes done in the first discovery. Victor may have directly instructed people not to attempt to create anything in an effort to search more knowledge in science as a way of resolving various life mysteries. Since he did not accomplish this goal, taking or ignoring the advice is left at the discretion of the reader.
Victor asserts that people who believe that their hometown constitute the world are far better happier than those who are obsessed with quenching their thirst for knowledge. Victor glorifies simple life that is guided by information that is only available within the limits of humankind without considering any effort to extend the limits of knowledge. However, formalistically, this situation creates a mixed rejoinder in terms of the roles of science in resolving problems and mysteries of nature. Bloom claims that the use of the word ‘believe’ suggests ignorance, thus insinuating that people who believe on the capacity of their hometown to constitute the world only hold opinions that are unsupported by any empirical or factual evidence that is advanced in science knowledge discourses (25).
The pursuit of scientific discovery and knowledge is the recurrent theme in Frankenstein. All main events in the novel oscillate around this theme. In a bid to unveil the secrets of life, Frankenstein designs and constructs a monster. From the experiences of Frankenstein with his creation, the book Frankenstein warns against potential dangers of the pursuit of knowledge through corrupted and irresponsible scientific discovery. This interpretation may be valid based on the context of reflections together with recollections of Victor upon going through devastation and moments of torments.
The living thing narrates its agony and maltreatment that it encountered in Victor’s care due to his inattention, and hence its quest for retribution. From this perspective, Frankenstein may be interpreted differently. Science and knowledge are not entirely dangerous. They only become dangerous when misused so that they violate moral and ethical norms that bind the society. Thus, Frankenstein does not caution against the hunting of information, but urges researchers to become accountable for their own innovations and inventions.
Past attempts to interpret Frankenstein formalistically provide the evidence of its interpretation as a warning against too much knowledge and science. For instance, Paul Northam writes, “Most people have a sense of the extraordinary potential of contemporary biological and genetic research, yet they continue to worry about scientists invading and, perhaps, transforming the body forever” (479).
He further claims that journalists take forefronts in applauding new scientific discoveries not only in biological fields, but also in other areas of scientific studies and experiments. This observation implies that they take significant responsibilities for assuring people that the repercussions of Frankenstein are highly unlikely. Tourney exemplifies mischief in scientific discoveries by citing Dr. Victor Frankenstein’s discovery claiming that the mysteries surrounding his creation are shortened form of saying ‘take caution of science’ (412).
Interpreting Frankenstein as an admonition to those who hunt methodical information makes people (including people who rehearse it) suspicious about consequences of science. This situation restricts large possibilities of scientific research. Northam observes that not all reasonable people can condone any idea of failing to embrace achievements in genetic research, which has led to the development of effective treatment methodologies for different types of illness (Northam 480). In this context, more detailed reading and interpretation of Frankenstein becomes necessary to determine when scientific discoveries and pursuit of knowledge become dangerous.
When talking to Walton, Frankenstein is cynical about the need for discovery and knowledge. The captain narrates his voyage to North Pole where he shows how he sacrificed his fortunate, existence, and hopes to satisfy his thirst for knowledge. The breach of morality and ethical values to acquire knowledge is clear when Walton says, “One man’s life or death was but a small price to pay for the acquirement of the knowledge which I sought” (Shelly 29). Although Victor receives Walton’s enthusiasm for knowledge and discovery negatively at the beginning of the book, he is later overwhelmed to the extent he cannot resist engaging in scientific discoveries. He describes how his soul and heart are involved in scientific discoveries, which no other person apart from one who has been engaged in them can understand scientific enticements (Shelly 51).
He goes on to compare Walton’s situation with his quest for knowledge saying, “You seek knowledge and wisdom, as I once did…and I ardently hope that the gratification of your wishes may not be a serpent to sting you, as mine has been” (Shelly 31). This claim suggests that the quest for knowledge causes harm at a personal level. This observation allows a reader to associate knowledge with pain and suffering. As a result, this situation occurs when science and the quest for knowledge become corrupted.
Victor’s creature creates immense misery. It murders Victor’s family members and friends. The recollection of Victor’s sufferings paints the picture that scientific discoveries are dangerous and may lead to regrets, especially where a creation cannot be destroyed. However, through the creature’s recounts of experience and its interactions with Victor’s family members, it becomes clear that discoveries are important for people. However, when corrupted, they create sufferings. Goklany supports this claim when he asserts that scientific discoveries in biotechnology and genetic engineering improve lives, although they can be maliciously used to destroy life when used to create bio-weapons (102). Before its corruption to become malicious, Victor’s creature corresponds to the issue of misuse of biotechnological discoveries through its tales that prove incredibly helpful to people.
The creature admires cottage’s family relationships. It is also incredibly concerned with their poverty and other sufferings. In a bid to alleviate suffering, the creature willingly takes the initiative of stopping to steal their food in an effort to restore peace and happiness (Shelly 117). It also helps by cutting wood. This effort suggests that the creature is not self-centric, but compassionate and caring. Although Victor regards his creature as dangerous and one that causes harm, it cannot possess these feelings if it happens to be inherently harmful. In fact, the creature considers revealing its true nature to Victor’s family members in the belief that they will become compassionate towards it and overlook its deformities if they recognise its admiration for their virtues (Shelly 133).
Similar to any other scientific discovery, which can be utilised both positively and negatively, Victor’s creature has a benign trait. Although it causes no harm, when the creature reveals itself, it is driven away from home. Now, the scientific discovery is being perceived in a negative way.
When the creature reveals itself to the family, lethal prejudice gets into people’s eyes (Shelly 136). They end up mistreating an innocent creature that seeks kindness and compassion. Mistreatment does not stop the creature from continuing to approve positive traits of Victor’s family members. However, it worries whether it should continue having pity for men who unjustly rejects it and cannot assist it (Shelly 138). This case implies that the feeling of rejection has begun to corrupt an otherwise good discovery’s character. The creature insists that it will vow for revenge over the ingratitude, anguish, and injustice that it has tolerated (Shelly 143). Its corruption of character is even more evident when it states that it is malicious due to the miseries it has faced (Shelly 147).
The corruption of the creature’s character by people may reveal why corruption of scientific discoveries presents enormous challenges to their discoverers and users. For instance, the discovery of the internet was an important mechanism of enhancing communication between nations and organisations. When this technology is corrupted, it becomes a threat to the society. This scenario is similar to the case of Victor’s creature. In fact, through corrupted communication technologies, challenges of cyber war arise (Rid 342). The basic operation of cyber war technology is dependent on the potentiality of people to have backdoor access or illegal access to computer systems that hold sensitive data or computer systems that are deployed to control sensitive operations (James 123).
For example, advanced cyber warrior can interrupt a country’s electrical grid system, scramble the data that is used to guide military movements, and even conduct an attack of computer systems of government departments (Andress and Winterfeld 29). Instead of the internet serving to enhance communication, it becomes a crime-prone environment. In this sense, it becomes a dangerous knowledge when abused or misused.
The creature’s narration of its experience in the hands of people introduces a different paradigm for interpretation of the evil nature and dangers of scientific discoveries and knowledge. The creature’s anguish and miseries suggest that scientific knowledge presents no harm or danger. Rather, knowledge corruption by people creates danger. Ziolkowski uses this approach to interpret Frankenstein. In his book, Science, Frankenstein, and Myth, he wonders why Frankenstein’s author spends her time recapitulating the experiences of the creature. He suggests that the author wants people to know and understand that Victor’s discovery was not dangerous, and that the people made it dangerous (Ziolkowsk 42).
He continues to reveal that scientific discoveries are morally neutral and that they have pronounced ability to resolve many human miseries for the good of existence of the human race until the society corrupts them (Ziolkowsk 42). In support of Ziolkowsk’s words, the creature aids in saving a young girl who is almost drowning. It wants to become part of the society by engaging in chores that help the society such as cutting wood. It becomes dangerous when people inconsiderately fail to embrace it.
Through the demonstration of neutrality of science and knowledge unless corrupted by people, Frankenstein holds people responsible for discoveries to ensure that they are not abused or misused. Tourney maintains that the evils of science are manifested in the scientists’ actions (415) as it is the case in the Frankenstein. Therefore, condemnation of knowledge does not principally rest on its inappropriateness, but the irresponsibility of its developers. Thus, the notion of dangerous knowledge and scientific discoveries is criticised in a manner that opposes Victor’s perception that he discovered a creature that brought sufferings and miseries to the human race instead of creating better human beings.
The creature engages in indiscriminate murders and evil acts, although it does not innately possess any immoral character. The society has the responsibility of ensuring that the creation stops the evil acts. Although Frankenstein depicts Victor as a scientist who possesses an evolving moral trait, his irresponsibility in the process of discovery that later leads to corruption of his discovery and scientific knowledge made it dangerous to the existence of the human race. However, towards the book’s epilogue, Victor accepts that he must assume all the responsibilities for ensuring his discovery stops further damages. This move highlights the significance of controlling scientific knowledge in a bid to ensure it does not become corrupted.
Irresponsibility in terms of Knowledge Creation
The most crucial aspect of responsibility in Victor’s discovery occurs when he gives it life. However, he immediately abandons it implying the creation act also lead to irresponsibility. Victor’s pursuit of knowledge leads to corruption in science. He creates special human species in an effort to benefit people, although his motive is driven more by selfishness than magnificence of the value of his discovery. This case perhaps reveals why he remained in seclusion over his time of design and construction of the creature. Schoene-Harwood asserts that creating knowledge while in seclusion amounts to an act of irresponsibility (154). Hence, the only plausible way of knowledge introduction entails demonstration as measure of demystifying it. By operating in seclusion, Victor cannot evaluate the moral implications of his creation by examining its capacity to interact with the general society.
The above claim implies that mystified knowledge attracts negative societal reactions with the repercussion of corrupting the discoveries that are made using the knowledge. Negative reactions may disclose why Victor’s family reacts negatively towards the creature when it reveals its true nature. Based on his failure to consider the possibilities of corruption of his discovery, notwithstanding the perception it was inherently neutral, the scenario only sets fertile grounds for exposing Victor to the disaster of developing dangerous knowledge.
He was surprised by his invention to the extent that he let the living thing walk around Switzerland and Bavaria. This irresponsibility leads to the emergence of all troubles that are discussed in Frankenstein. Tourney asserts that such abandonment makes Victor’s creature highly susceptible to rejection by humankind (424). Ziolkowsk supports this assertion by adding that the creature could not have turned into a source of human suffering if Victor could have failed to be terrified by his discovery (43).
The claim is also true if he could have failed to embrace it with love and care. This claim insists on the need to take strict responsibility of scientific discoveries in an effort to prevent their corruption. This goal may be achieved through the development of checks to ensure that discoveries do not get in the wrong hands. Victor’s creation was meant to integrate well with people. Due to the irresponsibility on the part of its creator, this intention was not achieved since people were not aware of its character. With its abnormalities, its rejection may have been contributed by lack of knowledge that led to its creation. Victor needs to assume full responsibility for this negligence.
Immediate compassion and kindness were important when life was immediately conferred to the creature to maintain its innate good traits. Victor concludes that he failed in his responsibility for his discovery shortly before his death. He stated, “In a fit of enthusiastic madness, I created a rational creature, and was bound towards him, to assure, as far was in my power, his happiness and well-being” (Shelly 219). Thus, scientists’ negligence of their responsibility to control and manage knowledge may give rise to dreadful repercussions that are tantamount to those experienced by Victor.
Frankenstein’s call for the elimination of dangers of scientific knowledge extends beyond the immediate development of the knowledge. Scientists should also remain vigilant over their innovations through taking full responsibility of discoveries throughout the time in which such discoveries are utilised by the society. This necessity is developed in Frankenstein through the depiction of Victor as a scientist who has some developing morals. Victor decides to meet the creature face-to-face. After a long talk, he discovers that he needs to assume full responsibility of the miseries it causes (Tourney 424).
He accepts to design and construct female companion to ensure that he gives it happiness (Shelly 148). This ability is only within his power. Creating a female creature suggests that Victor could have eliminated the danger posed by his male creature completely through its isolation from humankind. However, now, Victor has developed the moral of considering the implications of scientific knowledge.
Upon the evaluation of what he is about to do, he realises that the creation of a female creature might amplify the problems posed by his original creature. Since his initial irresponsibility had made the creature develop evil habits, creating a female companion will lead to propagation of human sufferings across the world when the creatures reproduce. Victor also realises even that if he creates a female creature, there is no guarantee that the two will remain together. He contemplates that if the female creature disappears, the male creature might potentially become even more dangerous after being angered by the departure of one of its own species (Shelly 171).
Victor realises his moral obligation to ensure that knowledge protects the lives of people instead of causing more problems. Vargish contends with this assertion by adding that Victor feels justified socially in his missions of pursuit of knowledge, but later appreciates that knowledge searching must be done within the confines of the anticipated benefits to the society (Vargish 335).
Although compliance to ethical and moral norms in pursuits of knowledge is important, Victor ignores all socially established boundaries together with obligations without any perception of being an outcast. This negligence causes his harm in the future not because his innovation is dangerous, but because of irresponsibility in his discovery, that makes his knowledge potentially dangerous. Shelly speculates the characteristics of knowledge developers in the context of social obligations. The conclusion on whether knowledge is dangerous is unoptimistic. The protagonist ends up pursuing and being pursued by the creatures he designed and built using his own hands (Vargish 335). This implies that even though knowledge may not be dangerous, irresponsibility in handling it may give rise to danger on the lives of not only the intended users, but also to the brains behind scientific discoveries.
Victor’s recollections introduce a radical interrogative on the usefulness of knowledge if it does not uphold moral and social traditional structures. In the immediate understanding of Shelly’s Frankenstein, such a radical question is associated with advancement in technology, which serves to haunt the humankind. Victor mastered the technology that is required for monster creation. Vargish claims that this power seems inseparable from his freedom to realise it and/or his ability to perceive himself as an alienated and socially unfettered individual (335). He sees himself as an individual who has the ability to breach ethical boundaries to foster social progression of humankind. In this regard, technological knowledge converts people into free creators or god-like creatures that have the ability to generate life (Lunsford 175).
The capacity of knowledge to extend the boundaries of human capability makes it dangerous. The power of knowledge lures people towards ethical, moral, and emotional desert. Consequently, as evidenced by the aftermaths of Victor’s creation, this power causes death as opposed to life. Upon the realisation of this dangerous implication of irresponsible scientific knowledge, Frankenstein urges persons who have breached their ethical and moral boundaries in pursuit of scientific knowledge to take the responsibility in correcting their mistakes.
Victor destroys all the work he has done on the female creature. This way, he exemplifies the responsibility that scientists owe to the larger human society by ensuring their knowledge does not amount to increased human suffering instead of resolving the existing problems. He believes that he has a bigger responsibility (Shelly 220). However, the effects of his irresponsibility in his quest for knowledge afflict even his own immediate family when the creature maliciously kills them when he does not create a female companion. In an effort to eliminate dangerous knowledge, he attempts to destroy the creature without success. He delegates this responsibility to Walton (Shelly 220), thus suggesting that dangerous knowledge must be eliminated even if it means seeking external assistance.
Science encompasses one the most important tools for fostering the progression of humankind. However, it is also potentially dangerous when corrupted and used irresponsibly. In Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein, Victor designs and builds a human-like creature that he believes will be superior to the existing people so that its knowledge can be deployed to eliminate human flaws. Upon giving it life, he is frightened by its appearance and irresponsibly leaves it to roam around Bavaria and Switzerland. He depicts irresponsibility by failing to embrace the creature with compassion and care. After searching these two aspects in all other people without success, the creature’s otherwise innate good character is changed.
It starts destroying lives. Although Victor regrets having created the creature after it maliciously kills his family members, he accepts the importance of responsibility in handling scientific knowledge. In this extent, the paper infers that science and knowledge is good, but potentially dangerous when corrupted or irresponsibly handled.
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