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Themes in Frankenstein

The central concern of the book are the moral consequences of ambition. Walton and Victor may have good intentions to be “benefactors” to mankind by discovering great thing, but as a result Victor destroys himself and those around him, and Walton puts his crew a risk. They fall victims to their uncontrollable passion to realise their dreams. Both characters are only partially aware of their surroundings and what they are doing. Victor is only able to see with hindsight that his experiments on corpses are immoral and “unhallowed acts”? And Walton’s fantasy that “snow and frost are banished from the North Pole is shown in stark contrast to the real facts. Real problems occur when the ambition of Victor and Walton endanger the lives of other people. Unlike Victor, Walton abandons his “mad schemes”. He saves his crew, but reluctantly. Victor, however, is so “wrapped up” in the process of making his creature that fails even to consider what his responsibilities towards it will be once it comes alive. Victor’s ambitions are “selfish” and quite the opposite of a benefit to mankind!


Walton, Victor and the monster all begin their stories by expressing a deep desire to explain the world around them, which is like an unknown mystery waiting to be discovered. Each has a different focus. The monster wants to “discover the motives” behind the De Laceys “behaviour” and to “unravel the mystery” of language. His humble aims are human, social, and arise from necessity. Victor and Walton, however, have lofty ambitions and are prepared to sacrifice human relationships in order to fulfil them. Victor’s “eager desire” to find the “hidden laws of nature” and Walton’s “ardent” passion to explore the “undiscovered solitudes” of the North Pole take them away from their loved ones and into isolation. However, their sacrifices are much deeper and more disturbing than this.
The idea of Frankenstein as one in pursuit of lawful knowledge, knowledge not befitting the human mind was present from the beginning. Although, in the 1818 edition, Frankenstein does not refer to his creative activity as “unhallowed”, he does refer to the “unhallowed damps of the grave” and to disturbing with profane fingers the tremendous secrets of the human frame. He compares his speculations, which, at the beginning, he hoped would result in the domination of nature, with the attempt by Satan to gain omnipotence.

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