Continual food for discovery and wonder

Categories: Frankenstein

Frankenstein declares that in a "scientific pursuit there is continual food for discovery and wonder." Is this the impression with which Shelley's varied presentation of "scientific pursuit" in the novel leaves you? Helen Williams Mary Shelley does indeed give a varied manifestation of "scientific pursuit.

" It is presented to us in the form of narrative technique, and the relation of the tales of Victor Frankenstein - the scientist, Robert Walton the explorer and the Daemon - a product of "scientific pursuit." Of course each character has his own opinion on the subject and thus the reader is left to draw from the novel his or her own judgment.

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is written in several different narrative frames, the first being Captain Robert Walton's letters to his sister in England, whilst he is on a voyage of discovery to the North Pole. He relates the sightings of the creature and the discovery of Victor Frankenstein in his letters. At the end of the final letter, Walton introduces Victor's tale, and we are then assured that the main narrator throughout the novel will be Walton, and that the tale of Victor (and later the tale of the Daemon) will be related through him.

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This theme of lecturing happens to be ongoing throughout the novel. Frankenstein's Creation tells him: "Listen to my tale: when you have heard that, abandon or commiserate me, as you shall judge that I deserve. But hear me. The guilty are allowed, by human laws, bloody as they are, to speak in their own defence before they are condemned.

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Telling stories is the essential ingredient to the future success of each of the characters in this novel. We can derive from his letters that Walton's values and morals aren't ideal, but from listening to the story of Victor Frankenstein, we assume that Walton can reassess his life and change its course. This lecturing allows another perspective to be taken into account. Personally, the fact that these people of supposed high intelligence (scientist and explorer) are having to learn from each other gives me the impression that they are not to be trusted in the unveiling of science which for so long has been a mystery.

As Walton talks to him, Frankenstein immediately recognises the fatal defects of Walton's character that were so much like his own. He then begins to confide his story to Walton, in hopes of dissuading him from his aims: "You may deduce an apt moral from my tale; one that may direct you." The reader can then deduce that Frankenstein's story is one of misused ambition (in the matter of scientific discovery) to gain recognition. In his letters, we also find out Walton's aims and aspirations, and the plans for his voyage of discovery. Walton seems to be very self-satisfied with his plans, and we get the feeling of pride when he says: "I shall satiate my ardent curiosity with the sight of a part of the world never before visited, and may tread a land never before imprinted by the foot of man."

Of course this is the typical use of dramatic irony by Shelley in the Victorian era when "pride comes before a fall" was a phrase commonly used. This stimulates a feeling of foreboding in the reader, a kind of preparation for what is to come in this field of discovery. It is now that we are introduced to his 'thirst for knowledge' and begin to worry about what is to become of it in the hands of a proud man. The desire to find out the unknown and to be the first to discover the unseen is a tragic flaw of both Walton and the Victor Frankenstein, and from the very first letter, the theme of glory is heavily established. Walton states: "I preferred glory."

Although the field of discovery is different for each character, they are bound by an insatiable thirst for knowledge. Each man avidly desires to reveal the indefinite, selfishly to provide them with immortality by the means of eternal fame. Glory was the downfall of Frankenstein, and is a potentially dangerous failing in Walton's character: "But success shall crown my endeavours." This selfish pursuit seems to override the pursuit where there is "continual food for discovery and wonder." I find this very worrying. Scientific discovery seems not to be a wonderful thing, but more of a claim to fame.

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Continual food for discovery and wonder. (2020, Jun 01). Retrieved from

Continual food for discovery and wonder
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