February 14, 2007
“But Sorrow Only Increased with Knowledge:” A Critique on Romantic Ideals in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
Romantics, individuals living during 1789-1830, expressed their ideas and imaginations in attempt to escape the conformity and imitation of the past Neo-Classical era. These individuals focused on surpassing the boundaries of human nature as well as their personal experiences spiritually, psychologically, physically and emotionally. These choices made by humans started to push the limits of physical nature using the acquirement of knowledge to its fullest extent. We discover multiple characters in this novel Frankenstein published in 1818 that replicate ideal Romantic figures. It is through Walton’s letters home that re-telling of their experiences and downfalls in ways that give us perception to understand this critique of the current Romantic beliefs that supported innovative choice and the creativeness of using abstract though. Mary Shelley uses her epistolary novel to communicate the image of light describing idealistic knowledge and innovation as dangerous potential upon its use in efforts to critique Romanticism.
One of the ways Shelley criticizes Romanticism and the destructiveness of knowledge is by indirectly voicing her attitude at her character’s cost. She enters this quote in the beginning of the novel with Victor speaking in attempt to aware Walton of his overreaching mission and the portentous repercussions of doing so. Victor says, “You seek for knowledge and wisdom, as I once did; and I ardently hope that the gratification of your wishes may not be a serpent to sting you, as mine has been” (31) which is awareness to what has been the effect of his challenges and punishment for taunting such inhuman capabilities. Sitting on a boat, the close to dead, Victor explains how the many misfortunes he has encountered due to his supposedly God-like acts have lead to death and his own ultimate...