Frankenstein and discoveries
In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the contradictory concepts of discovery echo between Victor Frankenstein, Walton and the creature. For Victor and Walton, the initial discovery is joyful and innocent, but ends in misery and corruption. The ambitions of both Walton and Frankenstein to explore new lands and to cast scientific light on the unknown are formed with good intentions but results as a fatal disregard for the sanctity of natural boundaries. Though the idea of discovery remains idealized, human fallibility entirely corrupts all pursuit of that ideal. The corruption of discovery parallels the corruption inherent in every human life, in that a child begins as a pure and faultless creature, full of wonder, but hardens into a self-absorbed, grasping, overly ambitious adult. Shelley suggests that although the desire to excavate unknown is a natural human trait, exceeding the human limitation inspired by greed, obsession, and ambition results self-destruction and harms to the others. Walton and Frankenstein’s desire to discovery initiates as childish wonder, but gradually evolves as their obsessions. In his letters to his sister Margaret, Walton compares his feelings on the expedition to “a favorite dream of early years” (16). Walton reminds her of his uncle’s large library of “discovery” literature, tales of seamen and adventurers, all of which he studied as a child. He writes of his disappointment when his father forbade him, on his deathbed, to “embark in a seafaring life” (16). Walton’s idea of discovery consists of pure adventure and the childish pursuit of glory. “I shall satiate my ardent curiosity with the sight of part of the world never before visited; my enticements induce me to commence this laborious voyage with the joy a child feels when he embarks in a little boat on an expedition of discovery up his native river”(16). Walton’s memory of his father’s deathbed wish that his son not become a sailor reinforces the reader’s...
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