Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay
To mould me Man, did I solicit thee From darkness to promote me? - Paradise Lost
In Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, the subtitle "The Modern Prometheus" is attached to the name of the novel. Indeed, there exists a correlation between the mythological titan who is punished for stealing the dangerous knowledge of fire for humanity and Victor Frankenstein, a man whose ruthless quest for forbidden knowledge of life drives him to utter destruction. Like Prometheus, Frankenstein is a rebel against divine authority and pushes the boundary of bioethics. Victor attempts to step beyond the accepted human limits and discover the secret of life. "I will pioneer a new way, explore unknown powers, and unfold to the world the deepest mysteries of creation." Thus Frankenstein is driven by an obsessive thirst for unexplored knowledge, disregarding the consequences but paying for them later. Quite accordingly, Prometheus is also punished for his actions when Zeus learns of his transgressions of divine authority. The fate of Victor Frankenstein is ironic in the sense that in his quest to create a human being, he loses his own humanity. He shuts himself off completely from the outside world during his endeavors, only to be eventually driven by his animalistic urges of revenge to a primal battle with his creation in the cold Arctic. Frankenstein tells Robert Walton, "Learn from me, if not by my precepts, at least by my example, how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge." 2.
In Robert Walton's letters to his sister, Mary Shelley reveals an in-depth look at his character. Walton confesses his feelings of loneliness and isolation, even from his own crew. He is too sophisticated to befriend any of his shipmates and too uneducated to fully express his feelings with another. Much like Victor, Walton is obsessed with knowing what no one else knows. He desires to obtain nature's secrets and reveals himself as a romantic, with a "love for the marvelous, a belief in the marvelous." Also like Frankenstein, Robert Walton is driven to "some great purpose." In Walton's case, he is driven to discover a northern passage to the Pacific, finding the Earth's points of magnetism, and setting foot on undiscovered land. This unhealthy obsession has the potential to overbear his common sense and practicality as a captain, possibly leading him to overlook danger in order to accomplish his goal. Such a heedless outlook would endanger his life as well as jeopardizing the welfare of his crew. 3.
With the many similarities between Frankenstein and Walton, it comes with no surprise that Walton admires Frankenstein. "My affection for my guest increases every day." Walton appreciates how eloquently Frankenstein can articulate his thoughts, an ability that he himself lacks. Walton feels much sympathy for Frankenstein and briefly discusses his own life. Victor has an "intuitive judgment
unequalled for clearness and precision, and an expression of voice
are soul-subduing." Victor tells Walton that he was at one time just as hungry for dangerous knowledge, but it lead to his demise. He heeds Walton to be careful and to at least learn from his example. 4.
Chapter three indicates to the reader that upon arriving at Ingolstadt, the professors tell Victor that he has been wasting his time studying the works of ancient idealistic alchemists. As a result, Victor decides to further the field of natural sciences and becomes determined to "pioneer a new way, explore unknown powers, and unfold to the world the deepest mysteries of creation." Such a resolute determination is admirable in any person, but Victor Frankenstein seems to go too far in his quest for knowledge. He oversteps the boundaries of science and morality without heeding the consequences. As Frankenstein...
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