Knowledge

Frankenstein Final Assessment - Ryan Connell

"All our knowledge begins with the senses, proceeds then to the understanding, and ends with reason. There is nothing higher than reason." - Immanuel Kant


"No man's knowledge here can go beyond his experience." - John Locke


"Knowledge is power only if man knows what facts not to bother with." - Robert Staughton Lynd

Victor Frankenstein

"It was the secrets of heaven and earth that I desired to learn; and whether it was the outward substance of things or the inner spirit of nature and the mysterious soul of man that occupied me, still my inquiries were directed to the metaphysical, or in its highest sense, the physical secrets of the world." (Shelley 23)


This quote discusses knowledge because Victor Frankenstein is talking about how he wants to learn about all the "secrets of the world." He excels at his craft because he is so determined to gain new knowledge about the world around him. You can't gain knowledge if you are not strong-willed and ambitious like Victor is throughout the whole book of Frankenstein.

The Creature

"One day, when I was oppressed by cold, I found a fire which had been left by some wandering beggars, and was overcome with delight at the warmth I experienced from it. In my joy I thrust my hand into the live embers, but quickly drew it out again with a cry of pain. How strange, I thought, that the same cause should produce such opposite effects!" (Shelley 85)


This quote describes the Creature's first interaction with fire. He stumbled upon one that was left burning and decided to touch it because it warmed him in the cold weather. As we all know, fire burns when you get too close and that is exactly what happened to the Creature. He learns not to touch fire again and in this he learns to gain knowledge from his experiences with the things he encounters during his life.

The Creature

"Through this work I obtained a cursory knowledge of history, and a view of the several empires at present existing in the world it gave me an insight into the manners, governments, and religions of the different nations of the earth. I heard of the slothful Asiatics; of the stupendous genius and mental activity of the Grecians; of the wars and wonderful virtue of the early Romans -- of their subsequent degenerating -- of the decline of that mighty empire; of chivalry, Christianity, and kings. I heard of the discovery of the American hemisphere, and wept with Safie over the hapless fate of its original inhabitants.

These wonderful narrations inspired me with strange feelings. Was man, indeed, at once so powerful, so virtuous and magnificent, yet so vicious and base?" (Shelley 100)


This excerpt by the Creature discusses how Safie and the Creature both were learning a new language through listening to someone read from a book on politics and world events. Both Safie and the Creature were able to gain a better understanding of the culture of the human population through the book. Through just observing the spoken language, the Creature was able to learn the language well enough to speak it fluently as well as read it. This quote just shows how important it is to observe when trying to gain knowledge and it can come to you easily.

The Creature

"Of what a strange nature is knowledge! It clings to the mind, when it has once seized on it, like a lichen on the rock. I wished sometimes to shake off all thought and feeling; but I learned that there was but one means to overcome the sensation of pain, and that was death -- a state which I feared yet did not understand. I admired virtue and good feelings, and loved the gentle manners and amiable qualities of my cottagers; but I was shut out from intercourse with them, except through means which I obtained by stealth, when I was unseen and unknown, and which rather increased than satisfied the desire I had of becoming one among my fellows." (Shelley 101)


The Creature directly is talking about knowledge in this excerpt from Frankenstein. He says how knowledge can be gained extremely quick and will stick with you as long as you try to learn. He explains that he learned about the sensation of pain and even death despite the fact that he was still learning their communication styles. The Creature also learns about how the family members interact with kindness and gentleness towards one another which just makes him want to be among them even more. In this part of the book, it is best summarized by saying that knowledge and learning is the key to understanding one another and living in harmony which the Creature also wanted. Yet again it just serves to show that knowledge can be gained from both hands on interaction as well as observation from afar.

Victor Frankenstein

"Are you mad, my friend?" said he; "or whither does your senseless curiosity lead you? Would you also create for yourself and the world a demoniacal enemy? Peace, peace! learn my miseries, and do not seek to increase your own." (Shelley 186)


An important part of having knowledge is knowing how to use it to your benefit. Victor Frankenstein wants Robert Walton, an adventurous captain with plans for reaching the North Pole, to be able to learn from the mistakes of Victor's past. He doesn't want Walton to strive to be famous for reaching the North Pole so much that it will mean that it will end in tragedy like Victor's life did. This quote discusses how important the line of 'just because you can, doesn't mean you should' really is when coming to terms with the drive for acquiring new knowledge.

Theme

In Mary Shelley's horror novel, Frankenstein, she focuses on how knowledge is gained and used. She shows that knowledge is gained through the experiences we go through by putting us in the perspective of the Creature. We see how the Creature comes about his knowledge which is in the form of observation from afar and hands on interactions. The Creature touches fire and learns that although it can be warm and seem inviting, it also can burn if you get too close to the flame. He studies a family in France and learns how to speak and read from just mimicking what they did. He had learned not to directly interact with the family because of his past experiences with the other townspeople. One day, the Creature decided to interact with the family regardless of what he had learned before. This ended up with him being beaten and forced to flee because the family were fearful of the ugly creature that entered their home. If the Creature had applied his previous knowledge, he would not have been attacked and feared by the family. This overarching theme of knowledge throughout the book shows just how important it is to learn, analyze, and use knowledge.

Has the Quest for Knowledge Gone Too Far?

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How it connects: Genetically Modified Organisms

Today, science is making leaps and bounds every single day. We have been developing a plethora of medicines and vaccines as well as new technologies to help diagnosis illnesses before they become life-threatening. With the advancement of technology, not everything is positive though. There is a huge debate over whether genetically modified organisms should have a place in modern science. Genetically modified organisms are organisms that have their genetics modified in laboratories to produce a desired trait. This is cause for concern as many people do not think it is moral that humans mess with genetics. Others argue that it is beneficial to use genetically modified organisms as they allow for more food to be produced which will help support the ever-growing population of humans. It also is cheaper to make genetically modified organisms which will allow food prices to drop to more affordable prices (Diaz). As you can probably see, it is a very grey area when we are expanding our limited knowledge of things such as when it comes to genetics.

Citations

Diaz, Julia M. "Genetically Modified Organism (GMO)." Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, 24 Aug. 2015. Web. 15 Nov. 2015. <http://www.britannica.com/science/genetically-modified-organism>.


"Frankenstein - Dangerous Knowledge." YouTube. YouTube, 23 July 2013. Web. 15 Nov. 2015. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sMonl57pNYc>.


Gallagher, James. "'Designer Babies' Debate Should Start, Scientists Say - BBC News." BBC News. N.p., 19 Jan. 2015. Web. 15 Nov. 2015. <http://www.bbc.com/news/health-30742774>.


Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. Frankenstein: Or, the Modern Prometheus. New York, NY. Signet, 2000. Print.

The Creature

"I soon perceived that, although the stranger uttered articulate sounds, and appeared to have a language of her own, she was neither understood by, nor herself understood, the cottagers. They made many signs which I did not comprehend; but I saw that her presence diffused gladness through the cottage, dispelling their sorrow as the sun dissipates the morning mists. Felix seemed peculiarly happy, and with smiles of delight welcomed his Arabian. Agatha, the ever-gentle Agatha, kissed the hands of the lovely stranger; and, pointing to her brother, made signs which appeared to me to mean that he had been sorrowful until she came. Some hours passed thus, while they, by their countenances, expressed joy, the cause of which I did not comprehend. Presently I found, by the frequent recurrence of some sound which the stranger repeated after them, that she was endeavouring to learn their language; and the idea instantly occurred to me that I should make use of the same instructions to the same end. The stranger learned about twenty words at the first lesson, most of them, indeed, were those which I had before understood, but I profited by the others." (Shelley 98)


This quote talks about the scene when the family, which the Creature has been observing, try to communicate with Safie, an Arabian who does not understand the language of the family. The Creature observes the interactions and tries to understand what they are talking about and the actions they are doing. Through this process he learns how to better communicate the spoken language as well as facial expressions. In order to gain knowledge, you must learn how to analyze all types of language and apply that to know how to react in the future.

Frankenstein - Dangerous Knowledge

How It Connects: Designer Babies

Currently there is a big debate on whether "designer babies" should be legal. "Designer babies" are babies who have their genetics modified so that they are able to have a desired trait. Many people are claiming that it is too unethical and immoral to do such a thing to an unborn child. Others claim that it should be allowed so that parents and doctors are able to remove a harmful disease that will be present in the child when it is born. Researchers also claim it is almost a 100% full proof designed plan to extract the genes desired. This is why it is such a hard topic to pick a side for, both show really good points (Gallagher). This brings me back to what I said above, it is a very grey area on this topic since it relates to genetics which is a source of knowledge we have not yet fully immersed ourselves in. We are still not fully aware of the consequences that will result from the actions we take when modifying genetics.