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The blindness involved in Walton’s pursuit of recognition is alarming. As the leader of a dangerous expedition, he is responsible for the lives of other men. His fervent longing for glory in his scientific pursuit endangers those men as he overlooks moral and even rational perceptions of what is possible and what is not. He seems naï¿½ve of morality, and plans to succeed even at the cost of human life because he considers this discovery worth such a sacrifice: “One man’s life or death is but a small price to pay for the acquirement of the knowledge which I sought.”
I flinched at the use of the word “I.” The knowledge he seeks appears to be for his own self-gratification. His shipmates do not agree with him: “The men, unsupported by ideas of glory and honour, can never willingly continue to endure their present hardships.” Walton’s egocentricity becomes apparent as he never once asks about his sister’s well being, despite the fact that he has not seen her for a number of years. Later as we hear Frankenstein’s story, we find that this element in Walton’s character is also mirrored in his own, as he disregards his family for years as he experiments with the principle of life. Once again the selfishness of the pursuit of glory is paramount, succeeding the search for knowledge.
Because Walton has overcome a minor problem on his expedition (the leakage) he becomes overconfident and believes that he can overcome any obstacles of nature: “”Why not still proceed over the untamed yet obedient element?” Victor Frankenstein has too much ambition for his own good: “Wealth was an inferior object, but what glory would attend the discovery…” The isolation that he experiences is very much self-inflicted. Frankenstein was self-taught in subjects that only he had interest in: the principles of life.
The major path that he followed was influenced by this solitary learning of an unconventional topic. Fastidiously studying a topic left untouched by all before him, his ignorant ambition conquers all morals as he persists searching for recognition and immortality – as a result of man’s quest for knowledge, the ultimate isolation of a being is created. It is extremely irresponsible, and proves that man may not be strong enough to deal with the “continual food for discovery and wonder.” “Now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart. Unable to endure the aspect of the being I had created, I rushed out of the room.”
The Creation is dreadfully unhappy because of this rejection and neglect, and he is even alienated from society because Victor Frankenstein blindly created him to be hideous: “I had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful! Great God!” Thoughtlessly, Frankenstein continued with his task, without considering the acceptance of the Creature into civilization. Our sympathy for the Daemon is heightened by his own obliviousness: “Alas! I did not entirely know the fatal effects of this miserable deformity.”
Also, the Daemon lives as primitive man. He does not even discover fire until he stumbles across it in the forest. As he seeks shelter near the DeLaceys’ cottage, he learns civilisation by watching and listening like a child. He learns the ways of interaction, notions of pain and joy, and the ‘Science of Words.’ I feel that this is the true wonder of discovery: “I easily perceived that, although I eagerly longed to discover myself to the cottagers, I ought not to make the attempt until I had first become master of their language.”
The Daemon’s development is rapid, though it is his own father who should have taught him these things. He is totally alone with his learning. He is so grateful for his ‘friends’ (although it is a one-sided relationship), and so remorseful for stealing, that he anonymously clears the snow from their path, helps to farm the land, and collects firewood for them; thus from a hunter-gatherer he has developed into a sentient being through his solitary self-teaching. Through these discoveries he is doing good for others. He is deeply affected when they are unhappy: “I thought (foolish wretch!) that it might be in my power to restore happiness to these deserving people.”