The pursuit of knowledge is the very heart of Frankenstein. Mary Shelley depicts how the very pursuit, thirst for knowledge ruined one man’s life. Victor’s life is consumed by a want for more knowledge and Mary Shelley shows the before and after effects of that relentless pursuit. Robert Walton life could also be ruined by an endless need for more knowledge. The ruthless pursuit of knowledge, of reaching for a distant light proves dangerous to both Victor and Robert. The monster, Victor’s act of creation, eventually results in the destruction of everyone dear to him and Robert’s expedition is dangerously encased sheets of ice. It is here that the two characters pursuit of knowledge diverges.
Victor’s telling of his story shows the dark path his need for knowledge led him down and ultimately his obsessive hatred of the monster, his creation, leads to his death. It is the telling of Victor’s story that pulls Robert back from his single minded mission and shows him the destruction that can lead from a blinded need for knowledge. Although the monster’s learning experiences and knowledge are not as advanced as Victor and Robert’s it is significant in this book. The monster’s thirst for knowledge was driven by a need for acceptance and understanding of his creation and ultimate rejection.
Chapter 10: It’s More Than Just Rain or Snow
Mary Shelley uses the weather as a metaphor throughout Frankenstein. It is coupled with Victor’s sickness as a foreshadowing of coming events. The storm that occurred on the night of William’s murder is an example, a foreshadowing, of the misery caused by the monster that night. Another example of seasons and the effects of them on this story is seen when both Victor and the monster feel the lifting of their spirits during warm weather. The Alps show a spiritual awakening and self-reflection, whereas, the cold and stormy weather of the north arctic or the rain of Victor’s wedding night show depression and thoughts of death. Both examples underscore the desperation of Victor and the monster’s circumstances and remind them of their own coming doom. It is clear that the weather directly corresponds to the attitudes and feelings of the characters.
Chapter 11…More Than It’s Going to Hurt You: Concerning Violence The use of gloomy imagery reveals the creature’s feelings of abandonment and how much his pain was greater than that of Victor’s. The creature goes through a great deal of hatred brought on by his feelings of suffering and abandonment. As the book develops Shelley uncovers levels of sadness in the creature. An observation discovered through Mary Shelley’s writing style is how she uncovers the sense of sadness in the creature. His feeling of abandonment is seen when he talks of his emotions to Victor stating, “Be calm! I entreat you to hear me, before you give vent to your hatred on my devoted head.
Have I not suffered enough that you seek to increase my misery? Life, although it may only be an accumulation of anguish, is dear to me, and I will defend it” (68-69). The theme of no one listening to the monster, thereby excluding him from society, is scene throughout the book. During this passage between the creature and Victor, he explains his feelings throughout his journeys using dark imagery in his attempt to make Victor understand what he felt inside. An attempt to show Victor that his pain was greater and would hurt him more than any pain he inflicted upon Victor. The creature says that even though his life is an “accumulation of anguish”, he will continue to live because he cares about his life even though no one else does.
Chapter 12: Is That a Symbol?
Touches of violent imagery are given to the reader throughout the book. The violent side of the creature is unleashed and shown to the reader as he tries to find a moment of acceptance by the human community. An excellent example of this is the portion of the monster’s story where he is sharing the cottage with the Delacy family. After being rejected by society, the monster took refuge in a little barn adjacent to a small, humble cottage. Through a gap between the barn and the cottage the monster observed their behavior. He was amazed that despite their poor circumstances the Delacy family still maintained a loving relationship.
The creature remarks, “When I slept, or was absent, the forms of the venerable blind father, the gentle Agatha, and the excellent Felix flitted before me. I looked upon them as superior beings, who would be the arbiters of my future destiny. I formed in my imagination a thousand pictures of presenting myself to them, and their reception of me. I imagined that they would be disgusted, until, by my gentle demeanor and conciliating words, I should first win their favor, and afterwards their love” (72).
Chapter 19: Geography Matters…
In a person’s life social geography plays a huge role. Included in social geography are segregation, economics, class, and race. All which play a part in how a person lives and how they are treated by society. In addition to the fore mentioned factors, a person’s looks play a part in how they are looked upon by society. Deformities, monstrosity, can directly affect where a person lives and even their class. In Frankenstein, Shelley used the monster’s looks to single him out in society. The origins of his looks were the unnatural manner of his creations, and it was this origin of his looks that made everyone want to get out of his path, to cross the street to avoid contact.
The monster was immediately abandoned by Victor without any direction and left to deal with preconceived prejudices people had based on his looks and no personal knowledge of his situation. The monster’s lack of knowledge as how to handle these reactions from society pushed him to commit crimes. The monster said, “I, the miserable and the abandoned, am an abortion, to be spurned at, and kicked, and trampled on” (Shelley 19). This eruption of self-pity by the monster in questioning the injustice of his treatment by society and his creator displays his inner life, giving Walton and the reader a look into the monster’s suffering and his motivation behind his crimes.
Chapter 20…So Does Season
The changes in Victor’s physical and mental state seem to mirror the changes of the seasons, or maybe these states are simply affected by the change of the seasons. An example of this would be the period in which Clerval nursed Victor back to health. During this period the season changed to spring and could be seen as signs of new beginnings. Clerval helps Victor regain his physical health and re-discover his love for the natural world he lost during his quest for creating new life. Shelley’s use of the excerpt that “Winter, Spring, and Summer passed away” during Victor’s work, does more than just inform the reader of the passing of time buts reminds the reader of the imagery relating to each of the seasons.
In addition, the phrase “passed away” indicates that time Victor could have spent enjoying nature “died” while he was closed off in his laboratory. Furthermore, the excerpt describes that “The leaves of that year withered before my work drew near to a close…” The use of the word “withered” hints to Victor’s body becoming frail and unhealthy during that time. The imagery showed that Victor was in an unhealthy state of body and mind.
Chapter 25: Don’t Read With Your Eyes
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, as many other works of its time, have been taken apart and studied repeatedly for underlying meaning by the author. Scholars look for an understanding of what they believe Shelley’s views and what message she was trying to give to the reader. So many have taken apart this novel, analyzing it over and over again, from many different angles, yet her work still remains a puzzle to solve. Could this perhaps be the result of over-analysis? Are scholars looking too carefully and too deeply for a meaning more elaborate than a story told by a teenager?
Mary Shelley was eighteen at the time she wrote Frankenstein. Taking into account her age, is it more likely that Shelley was not commenting on social aspects but expressing feelings felt by all teenagers. Almost all of us can relate to a time when we were young and misunderstood by our parents. A time when feelings of isolation, separation and being misunderstood, were common experiences. These feelings being attributed to the monster could be nothing more than the feelings that Shelley was herself feeling at the time.
Foster, Thomas C. How to Read Literature Like a Professor: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading between the Lines. New York: Quill, 2003. Print. Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. Frankenstein or, The Modern Prometheus. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1984.