Tammy Oladapo1-8-18Gotis Pd.5How was the Theme ‘Knowledge is Dangerous’ Present in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein? The ever-familiar horror story of Frankenstein, not the one about a green guy with bolts in his head, but the original by Mary Shelley, tells a story of a man who nearly misses destruction after hearing the story of Victor Frankenstein. In the story, Frankenstein creates a monster and abandons it, and it later comes back to kill his family and spoil Victors happiness. As horrific as it may seem, the story is full of many themes and motifs. A theme is a recurring idea or an underlying meaning of a literary work, which may be stated directly or indirectly. One of the major themes in Frankenstein is that knowledge is dangerous, with many examples of it being spread throughout the book. The theme ‘knowledge is dangerous’ is present in Frankenstein through Walton, Victor, and the creature’s stories, showing that it causes you to neglect ethicality, it’s addictive, and it negatively changes perspectives. Robert Walton aspired to travel to the pole by sail in order to attain knowledge and glory. While he was on the sea, his boat got trapped in ice and it was then that he encountered Victor Frankenstein. Through his story the theme ‘knowledge is dangerous’ is present because it shows that knowledge causes someone to forsake their health and ethicality for a goal. One thing that Walton wanted more than anything was glory, as he set off on the dangerous trail to the north in pursuit of it. He said, “My life might’ve been passed in ease and luxury, but I preferred glory to every enticement that wealth placed in my path.” He could’ve lived a happy and peaceful life, but the glory he would’ve obtained from knowledge was all that he desired. In pursuit of this glory, he intentionally neglected his health, “voluntarily enduring cold, famine, thirst, and want of sleep” to prepare for the expedition. Not only did the pursuit of knowledge cause him to neglect his health, but he said, “how gladly I would sacrifice my fortune, my existence, my every hope, to the furtherance of my enterprise. One man’s life or death were but a small price to pay for the acquirement of the knowledge which I sought.” Walton was willing to sacrifice not just his health but his life and the lives of others in pursuit of knowledge, believing that lives were less valuable than knowledge. Through his story and his beliefs, the novel shows that knowledge is dangerous because the pursuit of it causes someone to be unreasonable and to abandon their health and ethicality, not doing what’s best for them and placing knowledge over life, which is invaluable. Victor’s story also displays the theme that knowledge is dangerous, as it shows that knowledge is addictive and obsessive, constantly leading someone to want more. After one of his professors (Professor M. Waldman) changed his view on natural philosophy, a subject which he already zealously studied, Victor always wanted to learn more, saying that “From this day natural philosophy, specifically chemistry, became my sole occupation”. After his meeting with Waldman, he obsessively strove for more knowledge in the field, obtaining rapid progression in school and succeeding with ease until he knew as much as his professors. Now that he knew everything, the pursuit of knowledge compelled him to look into how to reanimate life, and, though he disliked the subject, he succeeded. Egged on by success, he decided to pursue reanimating a body and even though he knew his actions were loathsome, he continued, saying, “who shall conceive the horrors of my secret toils”. Victor’s tale shows that as he obtained knowledge there was always something more to do and as he successfully learned, it was never sufficient for him and he always needed more in order to be satisfied. In Victor’s case, knowledge was like a dangerous drug and he was an addict, always needing more to be satisfied and not stopping until something terrible happened, which in his case was the awakening of his creature. Also, while creating his monster, Victor neglected his family and lost interest in the things he loved, such as nature. “It was a most beautiful season… but my eyes were insensible to the charms of nature. And the same feelings which made me neglect the scenes around me caused me also to forget those friends who were many miles absent, and whom I had not seen for a long time”. This shows that in his pursuit of knowledge he lost himself and became reliant on his works for survival, similar to how a drug addict needs their drugs to survive without withdrawal. In Victor’s part of Frankenstein, the addictive nature of knowledge shows how it is dangerous, as it always makes him strive for more and causes him to lose himself. As Victor say’s best, “If the study to which you apply yourself to has a tendency to weaken your affections and to destroy your tastes for those simple pleasures… then that study is certainly unlawful, unbefitting to the human mind.” Lastly, the theme ‘knowledge is dangerous’ is present throughout the creature’s story, as it provided him with an unnecessary reality check that set him on a track for destruction. The monster wasn’t always a murderous monster, but he was at one point very innocent, saying, “When I heard details of vice and bloodshed, I turned away with disgust.” However, as he learned more about human nature and society, he learned that he would never fit in and was isolated in his troubles. As he kept learning, “sorrow only increased with knowledge”. As he gained more knowledge, he realized that he was alone in his misery and everyone thought of him as a monster, saying that “Satan had his fellow companions, fellow devils, but I am solitary and abhorred.” The knowledge he gained from listening to the cottagers gave him an unnecessary reality check which led him to the path of vengeance on himself, Victor, and humankind. He said,”Cursed, cursed creator, why did I live… my feelings were those of rage and revenge”, and so he went on to ruin the life of the man who put him in a world where he could do nothing but suffer. The overly innocent creature was spoiled by knowledge and it is the knowledge that he gained that made him to become the scary, frightening monster he’s portrayed as, meaning that it’s sometimes better not to know and to withhold knowledge, or else it can change someone’s perspective drastically and cause them to do dangerous things. As knowledge made the creature into a monster, the theme ‘knowledge is dangerous’ is definitely present in his tale. Through Walton, Victor, and the Creature’s stories it shows that knowledge is dangerous because, in each of their stories, it was the pursuit and attainment of knowledge that caused things to go terribly wrong. Even though knowledge may be dangerous, this isn’t the case in all situations. The knowledge of Victor’s hardships ended up saving Walton from a similar fate, having learned not to obsessively pursue knowledge and to prioritize yourself and those you love over ambition. Frankenstein isn’t completely against knowledge, but it’s trying to say that knowledge should be pursued in moderation and if it compromises your health, well-being, and that of others, it is unhealthy and “unbefitting to the human mind.”


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