The Concepts of Knowledge and Happiness in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

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"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 60). In Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, she expresses her beliefs regarding the danger of pursuing happiness through the attainment of knowledge, because true happiness is found in the emotional connections established between people. The pursuit of knowledge is not necessarily an evil thing, but it can cause destruction when it is pursued beyond natural limits. Victor Frankenstein becomes a slave to his passion for learning in more than one way; first his life is controlled by his obsession to create life, and later he becomes a slave to the monster he has created.

Frankenstein describes the beginning of his life as a happy time with his family. During his childhood, Frankenstein was passionate about learning, but his emotional connection with Elizabeth kept him from completely engrossing himself in his studies (Shelley 38). When Frankenstein left home to study at the university of Ingolstadt, he became intent on his quest to uncover the mystery of life. He tells of working in the laboratory until sunrise and being indifferent to the beauty of the world around him (Shelley 56-63). These changes in Frankenstein's way of life represent Shelley's belief that one's passions must be controlled or the passions will eventually control the person.

Frankenstein begins his research with the good intention of helping people, but his thoughts soon turn to the quest for power over life and to be recognized as the creator of a species (Shelley 60-61). He became so caught up in his attempt to create life that he never thought about the consequences. The appearance of his creation changes in his mind from a work of beauty while he is still creating it to a hideous monster when it comes to life (Shelley...
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