Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

Frankenstein
analyzes knowledge, and the pursuit of it, in the environment of the industrial
age. The book further examines the ethical, moral, and religious effects of
science. Victor Frankenstein, the main character, is the key guide in the book
who shows the dangers of knowledge. Yet, Mary Shelley, the author, contradicts
herself within the text and seems to say that curiosity is inherent in mankind
and cannot be done away with.

 

            Frankenstein’s
monster is shown as a scientific feat; however, it seems to only bring sorrow
and devastation to the creator. It’s as if the universe decided to use
Frankenstein’s monster as a punishment towards the creator for his need, or
addiction, for knowledge. It reminds me of the story of Prometheus, he gave man
fire which was supposed to be for immortals only. This is reflected in
Frankenstein, where Victor reaches past regular mortals to obtain a secret only
meant for those with divine power. In essence, Dr. Frankenstein obtained the
power of God and made life without a man or woman.

 

            After
Victor’s discovery, he delivers a warning about the need for knowledge that he
has fallen victim to. He says, “learn from me, if not by my precepts, at least
by my example, how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge…” But even still
his statement is saturated with contradictions. Victor first demands his
listener to “learn” from him and then he warns of the danger of knowledge.
Knowledge is linked to learning, one leads to the other. Victor’s statement of
“how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge” contradicts his demand to
listen, which then means he doesn’t want the listener to take his advice.
Victor then says the man “who believes his native town to be the world,” is
“happier” than one who has a thirst for knowledge.

On the surface, it seems Victor is
glorifying the simpler, provincial life. However, there’s a condescending tone
at play. “Believes” implies ignorance; it says that a man has an opinion not
based in fact. “Native” implies a primitive person; in the time of Mary Shelley
this word would have insinuated a person was ignorant. The use of these words
is to make the nineteenth-century listener see a man who is a few steps above a
“savage”. Therefore, this subtext begins the idea that the ambitious man should
be held in higher esteem, and the need for knowledge is superior than being
content with ignorance. Even though Victor gives warning against unchecked curiosity,
he’s also an example of the many discoveries to come, the many discoveries made
possible through mankind’s inability to accept their limits.

 

 

 

 

           

            Mary
Shelley wrote Frankenstein during a
time where science was rapidly advancing. The discovery of electricity shook
the world to its core, just like scientific discoveries of today. The issues
presented in Frankenstein are still of
importance, from the discovery of AI, cloning, DNA, neuroscience and more.
Shelley’s book doesn’t condemn the idea of creating life through scientific
technology, instead, it urges readers to continue experimenting and searching for
this knowledge.