25 July 2012
“Knowledge is Only Potential Power”
The day a child enters the world; they are ignorantly bliss from the world around them. But is ignorance bliss? Society is a harsh place, and none know this better than the creature in Frankenstein. The creature is given the ability to think at a far higher level than the general public, and yet the only thing he wants is to be loved. Victor Frankenstein abandons his creature, like when a parent abandons their child, because Victor is a reclusive person who cares more for knowledge than being loved. In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, knowledge is what drives Victor and the creature’s existence, while their emotions and society corrupt them.
Initially Mary Shelley alludes to the idea that ignorance is bliss when Victor says, “Learn from me, if not by my precepts, at least by my example, how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow” (Shelley 51). It’s not knowledge that is bad, it’s how a person obtains it. Knowledge is merely that, it’s not magic or corrosive or unhealthy. Knowledge and this pursuit of knowledge is what sets humans apart from animals. It could be said that the essence, or soul, of man is knowledge. The creature learns and gains knowledge, which means he has what it takes to be classified as human. Chanakya says, “Men have hunger, sleep, fear and carnal intercourse in common with the lower animals. It is only knowledge that a man has more than they. Those men who have not it may be regarded as beasts”. A monster is an ignorant beast filled with rage, while “creature” refers to being more human. The creature transforms from creature to monster to creature. In the end he does what’s right. Nothing about ignorance is bliss, if man remains ignorant he might as well be a monster. How can someone believe that ignorance is better than what makes man different. People can be unhappy, regardless of what they know. Martin Amis writes, “ Oh Christ, the exhaustion of not knowing anything. It’s so tiring and hard on the nerves. It really takes it out of you, not knowing anything. Sometimes…[I] stare at the window, I think how dismal it is, how heavy, to watch the rain and not know why it falls” (Amis). Victor Frankenstein still doesn’t learn from his mistake of abandoning the creature, instead he blames his thirst for knowledge. It’s not wrong that he creates the creature, it’s wrong that he is irresponsible with it. He loses his family members because of his irresponsibility, not because he creates the creature.
The essence that the creature has, that makes him a man, is created through his experiences. Jean-Paul Sartre says, “Existence precedes essence” (Sartre). This means that when born, man is ignorant and merely a living form. Through life experiences the being develops its essence. When Victor brings the creature to life he explains, “[I] beheld the wretch --the miserable monster whom I had created. He held up the curtain of the bed; and his eyes, if eyes they may be called, were fixed on me. His jaws opened, and he muttered some inarticulate sounds, while a grin wrinkled his cheeks. He…[had] one hand was stretched out, seemingly to detain me, but I escaped and rushed downstairs” (Shelley 56). It’s as if the creature is reaching out to Victor like a newborn to its mother. At this time he symbolizes innocence, only to transform. As the creature ages, he becomes an evil monster in search of revenge. What brings about this evil? Does knowledge bring about evil? Peoples’ actions towards the creature are what push him to the edge of insanity. The creature gets physical injuries, society pushes him away, and Victor abandons him. The creature says, “I remembered Adam’s supplication to his Creator. But where was mine? He had abandoned me, and in the bitterness of my heart I cursed...