I hope you don't mind seeing me again in another question by you.
Splitting up your previous question into two parts did make working on
each part easier and allowed the question to be opened to other
researchers. But I observed that no other researchers seemed
interested to take this second question, so I took it again. Here,
I've prepared another essay for you.
Title: Frankenstein and the pursuit of knowledge
Victor Frankenstein, escaping from the monster, said the above words
while he was on Captain Walton's ship. The events of the monster's
corruption and killings had already happened and Frankenstein was
reflecting on all that had happened. He surmised the monster would
want chase him next and he was running, which we know was to no vain,
and he was sinking into despair.
According to many commentaries easily found on the web, this statement
of Victor Frankenstein reflects the thoughts of Mary Shelley about the
trends of the current times. It was the early 1800's, science was in
its infancy, a new fad spreading like wildfire, and it aroused in
people the pursuit of knowledge. It was spurred by the recently
kindled interest in scientific discoveries and the recently passed
"Age of Enlightenment". This Age was a time when morality and religion
were questioned and logic and science were seen as better tools for
solving world problems. The problem seen though was that people were
passionate, as the movement was new, excited often in a way that
clouded judgment. This is the attitude that Mary Shelley tries to
portray in Victor Frankenstein.
But Mary Shelley also portrayed timeless wisdom in this chapter of her
famous work. When you look at the motivation for the creation of
Frankenstein's monster, it is part of what he said as "the pursuit of
knowledge ". The chapter of the above quote by Frankenstein also
contained his history. His childhood was marked by the pursuit for
knowledge, and it proceeded in such a fashion that it took over his
life. When given the knowledge of how to reanimate a dead body, he was
excited to try it out as soon as possible.
His passion for his work clouded his judgment, so when he animated the
monster, he was shocked rather than pleased with what he did. He had
expectations as a result of his passion, that he was to give birth to
a beautiful creature. But upon seeing something hideous, the
expectations were dashed. And to further the feelings was that the
monster was created by his own hand. The hideousness itself But as we
see, the mistake of Frankenstein was not just his creation of his
monster; it was also his rejection due to his expectations of a
perfect creation dashed to the ground. His hubris, or pride, was
affected, as well as his fears.
Knowing what his pursuit of knowledge had brought him into,
Frankenstein realizes that he had made mistakes and affirmed in his
words above that the pursuit of knowledge must itself be regulated.
Christian Scripture has a verse, "Knowledge puffs up" (1 Cor. 8:1). It
does not condemn the pursuit of knowledge per se, but warns against
leaving out of control. "Puffs up" can be taken to mean building up
the ego instead of actually helping humanity. If the pursuit of
knowledge becomes the main goal instead of the pursuit of morality, or
truth, it can lead to evil and disaster. Frankenstein's original
motive for making the monster was to help humanity, but because of the
excitement of his experimentations and discoveries, he was dragged
into an awry pursuit for knowledge, and it blinded him from treating
his creation properly when it was alive.
And Frankenstein concluded in the end. "A human being in perfection
ought always to preserve a calm and peaceful mind, and never to allow
passion or a transitory desire to disturb his tranquility." Note his
words "human being in perfection". Mary Shelley echoes what many
religions and philosophies and ordinary life itself say, that peace of
mind without uncontrolled passion is a path to perfection.
Frankenstein had actually disobeyed the latter part of his sentence
above, letting his passion to reanimate a dead body disturb his peace.
A man can have great knowledge and have peace, but when passion enters
that affects his control, the peace is disrupted. He will be driven by
his desires and obsessions, he will lose control of himself, being
able to do acts that lead to suffering. The results of his
uncontrolled passions in applying his science led to the deaths of his
brother and innocent people, and caused other innocent people
(Justine) to suffer for nothing. Victor reasoned that if he had
controlled his passion, his pursuit, none of the tragedies described
in the book would have happened.
Frankenstein described his endeavor as a "study to which you apply
yourself has a tendency to weaken your affections, and to destroy your
taste for those simple pleasures in which no ally can possibly mix".
In his studies to create the monster, he locked himself from the
world. In one part of the book, he is described as "pale" and
"emaciated" because of his labors. He was unable to enjoy being with
people, such as his family, and enjoying the simple pleasures of the
world because of his preoccupation with his tremendous obsession to
reanimate a being with forbidden science.
Captain Walton is also an example of a man with a pursuit, like
Frankenstein. He drives into cold waters, risking his and his men's
lives for something he wants, but which is probably forbidden or wrong
to yearn for. Probably he learns from Frankenstein's words after the
events in the novel, and he lives through it all.
Frankenstein applied his words to the history of the world. If men
were able to control their passions, the tragedies experiences by the
countries mentioned would not have happened. Enslavement, war, and
destruction of civilizations happen because of the amoral pursuits of
man, using his knowledge in the wrong way.
Note also that knowledge itself does not hurt. The application of the
knowledge is where it will hurt, when someone will act and use the
knowledge in some way, such as in the example of nuclear energy. Used
beneficially, it provides great benefits, such as in power generation.
But the bad side, nuclear weapons, is one example of a "Frankenstein
monster" unleashed upon the world due to man's uncontrolled passions.
Frankenstein's (and thus, Shelley's) message to the reader is that
knowledge without morality will lead to suffering. Sadly, man has not
yet learned this and it will take much time for this message of
Frankenstein to set in.
Internet references consulted:
Frankenstein, 1818, Vol. 1, Chap. 3, Frame 8:
Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley: Chapter 4 (continued)
Review of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
Silver Bullet Comic Books - Frankenstein
- With an essay about the book.
Bibliomania: Free Online Literature and Study Guides - Frankenstein
Life and Death in Frankenstein
Michael McHugh's webjournal ENLS311
Dr. Frankenstein on Scientific Morality
Google Search terms used in seaching for references:
"A human being in perfection ought always to" (quotation marks included)
"A human being in perfection" frankenstein
I hope this essay has again been satisfactory to you. If you need
anything else, or have a problem with this answer, do please post a
Request for Clarification before rating and I shall respond as soon as
I can. Thank you.