Frankenstein: The Danger of Success

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein begins with a series of letters written by a man named Walton.   He is on an expedition north looking for a northern passage and is trying to solve the mystery of the compass.  While on his journey he picks up a man named Victor Frankenstein who has been pursuing an unknown being in the arctic and needs help being nursed back to health.  While aboard the ship, Victor tells his story of misfortune to Walton to warn him of a similar fate as he goes on his own journey.  Victor, a native of Geneva went to study the sciences at Ingolstadt and in his studies, succeeded in giving life to a lifeless body.  In the process, Victor became completely saturated in his work and became a recluse by ignoring his family’s letters from home.  After Victor saw the wretchedness of what he created, he was mortified and could not believe that he put life into such a despicable creature.  Later, Victor returned to his hometown only to discover that his creation murdered his younger brother, William.  Everyone in the town thought that Justine had killed William.  Victor decided not to tell the truth of the real murderer in order to avoid being called insane.

            It seems that throughout the entire reading, misery is a pattern.   Walton, although optimistic at times, confesses in his letters that he is extremely lonely longing for a friend.  Victor seems unable to escape misery once he leaves for study in Ingolstadt.  First he had a bad experience with a professor named M. Krempe who humiliated him for studying ancient scientists whose theories have been proven incorrect.  Thanks to the guidance of M. Waldman, a different professor, Victor became passionate about chemistry and anatomy and started working toward his own goal: the animation of lifeless beings.  Even while working at his own pursuits, Victor strayed away from his friends at home who begged him to write them.  Even his health declined from the obsession of his work.  One of the most significant lines in this reading is on pg. 59 when Victor said, “If the study to which you apply yourself has a tendency to weaken your affections, and to destroy your taste for those simple pleasures in which no alloy can possibly mix, than that study is certainly unlawful”.  Victor said this after he experienced all of the misfortune that came from all of his hard work.  These words would have been great advice for Victor while he was totally consumed with his work of creating his monster. Unfortunately, Victor did not have a companion or a friend to tell him that he had gone overboard in his own work.  I agree with this notion of work becoming a bad thing if it completely consumes someone.  Nothing should ever completely cause someone to neglect their own emotions, passions, and most importantly, their relationships.  Victor had the utmost love for his cousin Elizabeth but he could not once find time to communicate with her in the years that he was engrossed in creating life himself. 

            Victor was guilty of allowing his desire of achieving his goal to cloud what he truly valued in his life.  He was so interested in his own success that he lost sight of what used to give him joy in his life like nature, Elizabeth, and his best friend Clerval.  On the other side of this, Through Victor’s toils, he did make an unbelievable advancement in science.  Many great things have been accomplished by recluses who were completely consumed in their work like Vincent Van Gogh or Leonardo da Vinci.  For Victor though, his neglect of people he cared about and who cared for him ended up in his own misery beginning with the death of his brother and continuing throughout the book.  This raises the question of if it is better to be miserable and make innovative discoveries than to be happy and enjoy life without being significant in history.  One wonders will Walton, who has expressed his loneliness like Victor, take heed of Victor’s misery as he journeys to make his own discoveries for greatness?