Victor Frankenstein was one of those brilliant scientists whose desire was to contribute to the progress of humanity. He could not be blamed for this, so why this desire destroyed his life and turned himself into a miserable man? Warning Robert, another ambitious young man, he insists that striving for knowledge, even without malice, can lead to “destruction and infallible misery.” It was his restless curiosity and ambition which ruined his career, took his beloved ones, destroyed his life, and brought yet unknown danger to the world. He understood that the world is not ready yet for such an invention.
From the very beginning of the study, when he got acquainted with works of Agrippa, Magnus, and Paracelsus, Victor was eager to “penetrate the secrets of nature.” Scientists of the past like Agrippa gripped his imagination as they regarded the process of discovery as some divine pursuit.
The modern scientists were “too practical,” too small scale. Professor M. Waldman disappointed Victor deeply telling him that the ancient scientists “promised impossibilities and performed nothing” while “the modern masters promise very little […] but perform miracles” (Frankenstein, chapter 3). Victor was reluctant to give up those great impossibilities and promised that “more, far more will I achieve; treading in the steps already marked, I will pioneer a new way, explore unknown powers, and unfold to the world the deepest mysteries of creation” (Frankenstein, chapter 3).
Pride seemed to capture Victor’s imagination just like those great ideas of the past. He promised to bring something great to the world regardless of its consequences. Later, when he finally discovered the secret of creation, Victor was driven not only by thought of immortality, he was also inspired by his possible contribution for that sake of future generations: “I was encouraged to hope my present attempts would at least lay the foundations of future success” (Frankenstein, chapter 4). He thought of the possibility to create new species, giving life to “many happy and excellent natures,” and returning to life. But that enormous inspiration was darkened by madness. He would stop at nothing to proceed – he tortured animals and desecrated graves; intended to create a great, powerful, and beautiful creature, he disfigured and destroyed so many dead bodies that used to be strong and beautiful people. Days and nights were spent in the “workshop of filthy creation,” Victor lost the contact with the outside world, including his family and friends. He warns Robert with the following words:
“If no man allowed any pursuit whatsoever to interfere with the tranquility of his domestic affections, Greece had not been enslaved, Caesar would have spared his country, America would have been discovered more gradually, and the empires of Mexico and Peru had not been destroyed” (Frankenstein, chapter 4).
In other words, no destination, however great and significant incomes it promises, should deprive a person of humanity. Being with our family and friends, for example, seems to be a minor pleasure, but it reminds us what we are living for and how far we have gone. If we draw more attention to the values shared by peoples around, we would be much more reasonable in our actions and intentions.
Beholding for the first time his creature, Victor was scared to death, so evil and lifeless it appeared. He abandoned it in laboratory leaving with unsold questions about what it is and what should it do with its life. Frankenstein convicted a crime against nature and humanity bringing to the world such a horrible creature. That was he, Frankenstein, thought of himself. However, much greater was his crime against his creature whom he failed either to kill after the creation or assume responsibility for its life. Until his very death, Victor refused to acknowledge the spark of humanity in this creature. Like Victor, the monster was reaching to beauty which he found in people surrounding him. Beautiful people can love each other and live happily together; monsters have no right to exist. So powerful the hatred in his heart was, the hatred to himself and his creator, that he killed innocent people for the sake of revenge. In my opinion, acquiring knowledge was not the ultimate mistake made by Frankenstein, but his cruelty was. However, the author appeals not only to the cruelty of the creator. In the final scene, crying over his creator’s lifeless body, the monster repents and asks: “Am I to be thought the only criminal when all humankind sinned against me?” (Frankenstein, chapter 24). Once faced human’s cruelty, he got rid of sympathy for people, which made him able to kill Frankenstein’s loved ones.
In general, the story proved the words of professor Waldman when he talked about the true value of science and discovery. Modern scientists might not be the ones whose names will be remembered by the generations; their contribution might be insignificant. But together they lead humankind to the progress much more brilliant than all of the old “great dreamers” ever imagined. Frankenstein thought that he pursued the same mysteries as all the modern science did, but he appeared to be wrong. His purpose was somewhat different. His good intentions were overshadowed by pride. His example served as a lesson for Robert who gave up his ambitions as he understood that lives of his crew and their families were at stake.
- Shelley, M. W. Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus. 1818, www.pagebypagebooks.com/Mary_Wollstonecraft_Shelley/Frankenstein. Accessed 24 May 2017.