In Mary Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein, the book examines a variety of aspects of ambition—–for instance, with Victor, ambition proves to be his undoing, and, in turn, Victor’s example becomes a forewarning for Robert Walton; meanwhile, the Creature is, in a sense, Victor’s child and thus inherits facets of Victor’s ambition–but because the Creature is also a conglomerate of all the humans who embody him, he is thereby also symbolic of Mankind’s ambitions that do not fully come to realization nor fulfillment, which is why readers can identify with the Creature’s tragic elements. Frankenstein explores the repercussion of man and monster chasing ambition blindly. Victor Frankenstein discovered the obscure secret that allowed him to create life. And after Frankenstein discovered the source of human life, he became utterly absorbed in his experimental creation of a human being and it consumed his life completely. Victor’s boundless ambition and his yearning to succeed in his efforts to create life, and to have his creation praise him as his creator for the life he gave it led him to find ruin and anguish at the end of his ambition. “For this I had deprived myself of rest and health. I had desired it with an ardor that far exceeded moderation; but now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart.” (P. 42) Walton wanted to sail to the arctic because no other sailor had ever reached it or discovered its secrets. The monster was created against his will; his ambition was to requite his creation as an appalling outcast and to attain some satisfaction for crumbling the world around Victor. These three characters all acted upon the same blind ambition.
Modern man is the monster, estranged from his creator-sometimes believing his own origins to be meaningless and accidental and full of rage at the conditions of his existence. Since the monster has no name of his own, he’s not quite an autonomous fellow. Instead, he is bound to his creator. He is naught without Victor. He is as much a part of Frankenstein as he is his own self. The monster comes into the world by a pretty horrendous set of circumstances. He has the physique of a giant, yet a puerile mind. He has an amiable nature, yet his physical deformity hides his benevolence and makes everyone fear and abuse him. His own creator even rejected him because of his hideous looks. His feelings are the most deep and poignant of any characters in this novel, as well as the most conflicted. “When I looked around I saw and heard of none like me. Was I, the, a monster, a blot upon the earth from which all men fled and whom all men disowned?” (P. 105) To make matters more complicated, the monster is correlated to both Adam and Satan in Paradise Lost. This may seem slightly nebulous. The thing to keep in mind is that the idea at the heart of the monster is his duality. He has a very abstruse duality. He is at once man in his immaculate state before the Fall (the Fall = evil), and yet the manifestation of evil itself. This is starting to sound like Victor Frankenstein. Abstruse dualityâ€¦conflicting characterizationâ€¦could it be that the monster mirrors his maker in his duality? Of course, the other reason the monster turns on humans is because Victor was his last tie to humanity. The monster is one of many people in this text that is affected by loneliness, isolation, and an all around desire for companionship. Victor may have scorned him, resented him, and tried repeatedly to eradicate him, but at least he talked to the monster. At least he recognized the monster’s existence. And for a creature that spent most of his wretched life in hiding and exile, alone without anyone there for him, this can be pretty good reason to pursue Victor. Good or bad, Victor is the only relation he’s ever had and he tries desperately to cling to this relationship. Do we accuse him? Do we spite him? Do we adore him? He’s tenderhearted. He articulates well with others and he even rescues a little girl from a river. He just gets the cruelty and hatred because he’s ugly. Can we blame him if he lashes out in abrupt and absurdly violent ways? “From that moment he declared everlasting war against the species, and more than all, against Frankenstein who had formed him and sent him forth to this insupportable misery.” (P. 99) This sounds like more clashing emotions. Could it be that we, the reader, feel the equivalent duality of emotions that the monster and Victor feel for each other? One more thing, what does it mean that the monster is made out of dead-person pieces? If he’s made up out of people, then he’s essentially a person himself. But if they’re inert, then he’s never really extant in the first place. You could also say that, since he’s an aggregate of human parts, he’s also a conglomerate of human traits. This might show us the nature of his complex duality.
Modern man is also Frankenstein, furthermore estranged from his creator-usurping the powers of God and irresponsibly tinkering with nature, full of benign purpose and malignant results. Both Frankenstein and the monster begin with affable intentions and become murderers. The monster may seem more softhearted because he is by nature an outsider, whereas Frankenstein purposely removes himself from human society. When Frankenstein first becomes enthralled in his efforts to create life, collecting materials from the dissecting room and slaughterhouse, he breaks his ties with friends and family, becoming increasingly confined. His father reproaches him for this; eliciting Frankenstein to ask himself what his single-minded quest for knowledge has cost him, and whether or not it is morally acceptable. Looking back, he concludes that it is not, contrary to his credence at the time, “If no man allowed any pursuit whatsoever to interfere with the tranquility of his domestic affections, Greece had not been enslaved; Caesar would have spared his country; America would have been discovered more gradually; and the empires of Mexico and Peru had not been destroyed.” (p. 35).
Natural world is like Eden and will be corrupted through too much knowledge (science). [Proof—–Biblical Conception of “Knowledge”; man evicted from paradise for knowing too much; Prometheus reined in by Gods; novel written in Romantic era which upholds the values that Progress is Dangerous and that there must be a return to Idealized Past]. Through Victor and Walton, Frankenstein represents human beings as deeply ambitious, and yet also deeply erroneous. “The labors of men of genius, however erroneously directed, scarcely ever fail in ultimately turning to the solid advantage of mankind.” (P. 29) Both Victor and Walton fantasize of transforming society and bringing prestige to themselves through their scientific conquests. Yet their ambitions also make them ignorant. Blinded by dreams of glory, they fail to consider the repercussions of their actions. So while Victor turns himself into a god, a creator, by bringing his monster to life, this only highlights his fallibility when he is ultimately inept of fulfilling the obligation that a creator has to its creation. Victor thinks he will be like a god, but ends up the progenitor of a devil. Walton, at least, turns back from his quest to the North Pole before getting himself and his crew annihilated, after hearing Victor’s tale about the devastating aftermath of pushing the boundaries of exploration. “I will not lead you on, unguarded and ardent as I then was, to your destruction and infallible misery. 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.” (P. 33) He learns from Victor’s tragedy. After Victor dies, he turns the ship back to England, trying not to make the same mistakes that Victor made in the obsessive compulsion that destroyed his life, but he does so with the resentful conclusion that he has been deprived of the glory he originally sought.
Frankenstein is an expostulation of humanity, specifically of the human concept of technical progress, science, and enlightenment, and a deeply humanistic effort full of empathy for the human state of our own condition. Victor is a brilliant, sentimental, visionary, and accomplished young man whose studies in “natural philosophy” (p. 31) and chemistry evolve from “A fervent longing to penetrate the secrets of nature.” (p. 22). As the novel develops and the plot thickens, Frankenstein and his monster oppose each other and fight one another for the portrayal of the main protagonist of the story. We are inclined to identify with Frankenstein, whose character is admired by his immaculate friends and family and even by the ship captain, who saves him, berserk by his pursuit for vengeance, from the ice floe. He is a human being, nevertheless. Notwithstanding, regardless of his humanitarian ambition to “Banish disease from the human frame and render man invulnerable to any but a violent death!” (p. 43), Frankenstein becomes tangled in a hostile pursuit that causes him to destroy his own well-being and shun his “fellow-creatures as if…guilty of a crime” (p. 35). His irresponsibility is the stimulant, the foundation of what causes the death of those he loves most, and he falls under the ascendancy of his own creation and fails to break free from the chains that bind him.
Neither Victor nor Walton could liberate themselves from their blinding ambitions, they made it seem that all men, and notably those who pursue to raise themselves up in renown above the rest of society and even god, are in fact impetuous and “imperfect creatures” with “feeble and defective natures.” We can all learn from Victor’s last words to Walton, “Seek happiness in tranquility and avoid ambition, even if it be only the apparently innocent one of distinguishing yourself in science and discoveries.” (P. 162)