Themes in Frankenstein Essay

From our reading so far I can identify many themes within the novel which I will now explore and analyse in this essay. Possibly the most powerful theme shown in Volume One is the dangerous pursuit of knowledge and the possible moral consequences of ambition. From the day we first meet Victor we learn that he is an obvious over-reacher and will attempt to surge beyond any regular human limits to access the secret of life. Through Victor and his ruthless ambition Shelley makes it clear that she believes knowledge such as the type of which Victor is enthralled in can lead to no good and that it soon becomes destructive when uncontrolled. Although, not only Victor is affected by this theme, Walton too succumbs to his uncontrollable passion, saying this though; it is Victor whose obsession is bizarrely intense.

“I collected bones from charnel-houses and disturbed, with profane fingers, the tremendous secrets of the human frame. In a solitary chamber, or rather cell, at the top of the house, and separated from all the other apartments by a gallery and staircase, I kept my workshop of filthy creation: my eyeballs were starting from their sockets in attending to the details of my employment,” it is during these lines where his obsession grows immensely. In fact Victor is so deeply engrossed in the process of making his creation that he fails to consider what his responsibilities will be once it is given life, the reason for the monsters suffering of isolation later in the book.

Victor’s “eager desire” to find the “secrets of nature” and Walton’s “ardent” passion to explore “a part of the world never before visited” snatch them away from their loved ones and into isolation. Mary Shelley does not hold the position that all scientific discoveries are bad in fact she encourages the quest for knowledge however she does highlight to us that sometimes having and wishing for too much knowledge can lead to deadly consequences. She causes the reader to ask themselves, what price is too high for fulfilling the thirst for knowledge and are there indeed something’s that should be left unknown.

Friendship is obviously a theme which pervades the entire novel although we as the reader do feel it very strongly through only Volume One. Friendship is crucial and Mary Shelley shows us this through many of the relationships ending in pain, loss and suffering, this is especially true of those connected to Victor. Victor’s parents have a large part to play in his state and his way with relationships: the first new relationship Victor ever experiences is when he is a child and his parents decide to adopt Elizabeth. The night before the adoption Victor’s mother says “I have a pretty present for my Victor, tomorrow he shall have it”, implanting the idea that Elizabeth is a possession of his. It is from here on the he describes here as “more than sister”; stating his conceptions of ownership and “since death she was only to be mine”. To add to this we see Victor’s mother wish whilst on her death bed that Victor and Elizabeth should be married showing just how strongly parental pressure influences him.

Ironically though despite Victors seemingly ‘perfect’ childhood he fails to experience any sense of duty towards his creation that his own parents had felt for him. We know Victor needs friendship because of the “calm and serene joy” he feels when Clerval appears to nurse him through his sickness. Alike to Victor, Walter leaves behind his family and friends in the pursuit for glory and he frequently complains of loneliness to his sister “I have no friend”. On meeting Victor, Walton almost immediately begins to “love him as a brother” and see him as “the brother of my heart”. Walton sees Victor as a ‘brother’ in the sense that he recognizes himself in Victor. Although friendship is extremely important in Frankenstein it is idealized but then perverted through egotism: Walton does not seek a friend but someone like himself.

Another two major themes of the first volume of the novel are alienation and isolation; these are always closely intertwined throughout Frankenstein. The three main characters throughout Volume One are all affected by isolation but for very different reasons. The monsters isolation is imposed upon him by his creator who abandons him when he is first brought to life, Victor isolates himself from society and devotes all his time and effort to his desire for knowledge and Walton’s isolation is again self inflicted like Victor although Walton longs for companionship. The monsters first experience with the world is his own ‘father’ rejecting him despite the fact that he was his creator, “unable to endure the aspect of the being I had created, I rushed out of the room”. The monster never chooses to be isolated rather that others alienate him because of his hideous appearance and is left yearning for companionship and affection.

Victor too is a victim of alienation although as explained above this is self imposed; Victor avoids and rejects any family or friends who show love or affection towards him. This suggests to me that Victor is rebelling against any human ties to avoid any type of interference with the pursuit of his needs and desires. The isolation that both Victor and the monster feel is primarily caused by their alienation from others. Walton in my opinion is not as isolated as the other two characters mentioned as Walton does have his crew to rely on and his studies are not considered ‘secrets’ like Frankenstein’s are.