Frankenstien and Knowledge
By Emma Torell
Walton's View of Knowledge
"I feel my heart glow with an enthusiasm which elevates me to heaven, for nothing contributes so much to tranquillize the mind as a steady purpose — a point on which the soul may fix its intellectual eye." (Letter 1)
Walton is commenting on how fulfilling intellectual pursuit is. He compares it to elevation to heaven. It treats the acquisition of knowledge as something divine and godly.
Victor's Take On Knowledge
"Whence, I often asked myself, did the principle of life proceed? It was a bold question, and one which has ever been considered as a mystery; yet with how many things are we upon the brink of becoming acquainted, if cowardice or carelessness did not restrain our inquiries." (Chapter 4)
Here, Victor is almost condemning himself, not for seeking knowledge, but for going about it the wrong way. He argues that it is fear and lack of care which hold us back and prevents us from figuring out the mysteries of life. It could be said that it was Victor's own cowardice and carelessness that turned his experiment into a disaster. If hadn't run away in fear at the sight of the creature and instead cared for and protected it, the monster might not have become a monster. If Victor had taken more care in his research and preparation, perhaps he would have would ended up with a wholly different result.
“Learn from me, if not by my precepts, at least by my example, how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow.” (Chapter 4)
Here is an example of Victor's condemnation of science and knowledge. He claims that knowledge is dangerous and that it only increases one's pain. Though, in light of the previous quote, it seems that Victor only feels this way because of his failure. It's not that knowledge is evil, but that it is likely that Victor didn't have enough power to utilize it safely. His problems lie with himself and not with science.
"Man," I cried, "how ignorant art thou in thy pride of wisdom! Cease; you know not what it is you say." (Chapter 23)
In this brief quote, Victor states what he feels humanity's view on wisdom and learning is. He claims that man is stupid and unknowing and he chastises them for it.
The Creature's Perception of Knowledge
“I cannot describe to you the agony that these reflections inflicted upon me; I tried to dispel them, but sorrow only increased with knowledge. Oh, that I had forever remained in my native wood, nor known nor felt beyond the sensations of hunger, thirst, and heat!” (Chapter 13)
In this passage, the monster is explaining how his agony increased with each new thing he learned. With his loss of innocence, he learns that his is a miserable life. He discovers that the world is a difficult place and there is no one can protect him from its harshness. Here, as with Victor, the Monster's plight lies not with knowledge itself, but with the world around him. His situation would have been the same regardless of how much he knew about it. He would still experience cold and hunger and thirst. The only thing that knowledge brought was an ever tormenting "Why?". The creature wondered why he must suffer while all around him there were people who were safe and warm and fed. All knowledge brought, was the understanding that his plight was unique.
“He had come forth from the hands of God a perfect creature, happy and prosperous, guarded by the especial care of his Creator; he was allowed to converse with and acquire knowledge from beings of a superior nature, but I was wretched, helpless, and alone.” (The monster discussing the influence of Paradise Lost in Chapter 15)
In this portion, the creature compares himself to Adam. The monster reasons that part of what made Adam a happier creature was how much God doted on him. On of the things that God did for Adam, was educate him and share some of his vast, godly knowledge with is creation. The creature believes, that he is miserable because his creator did not stay to care for and teach him.
These two quotes show the monster's contradictory view of learning and knowledge. It seems that he feels that when things are learned abruptly and without a guiding hand (as seen in the first quote) it cause misery and suffering. Conversely, when knowledge is handed down by a friendly guardian, it is pleasant and beneficial.
Knowledge and the Internet
There's so much information, it is overwhelming. Overall, it seems that people are learning more (and more people are learning) in modern times, than they did in the days of Mary Shelley. It has opened access for a lot more people to learn and grow as people. Let's just hope that they are careful about what they do with it, unlike Victor Frankenstein.