Frankenstein and Aspiration
In the start of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” we are introduced to Captain Robert Walton as he embarks on his journey to explore the North Pole. Throughout the voyage, he saves an odd male and brings him onto the ship, and right after befriends him. Readers do not know this yet, however this male is Victor Frankenstein, the developer of the beast. In a vital excerpt of Shelley’s story, Victor becomes aware of Walton’s great ambitions and gives him a grave warning of the risks of such ambition, comparing his inquisitiveness to drinking from a toxic cup.
Frankenstein’s aversion to such an extreme drive for discovery reveals his belief that such an objective can cause one’s complete damage. The pursuit of understanding and splendor resulting in unavoidable hazard is a recurring style throughout Frankenstein, and works as an alerting to readers to be careful of such unbridled interest. Robert Walton is generously confident in the “ultimate success” of his voyage. It is also detailed clearly previously in the book how Walton considerably desires glory, discovery, and understanding through which he might be celebrated.
Walton goes on, “to provide utterance to the burning ardour of my soul; and to say, with all the fervour that warmed me” (11 ). This shows his “burning” drive to succeed, in addition to how such a fire warms his being. Nevertheless, just like actual fire, such warmth must constantly come at the cost of destruction. Continuing, Walton then mistakenly relates, much to Frankenstein’s dismay, “how gladly I would compromise my fortune, my existence, my every hope, to the furtherance of my business” (11 ).
Walton is willing to voluntarily meet his own death for the development of understanding, at which Frankenstein can only groan, as he knows that his own doom will quickly befall him due to the fact that of the same desire he had in the past. Further highlighting his need for magnificence, Walton states that, to him, “One man’s life or death were but a little price to spend for the acquirement of the knowledge which I looked for” (11 ). For Walton, the expansion of understanding and discovery is even more important than another human life, or perhaps his own. It is at this point that Frankenstein finally responds to Walton’s harmful assertions of grandeur in anger and foreboding.
He states to Walton, “Unhappy guy! Do you share my insanity? Have you drunk likewise of the intoxicating draught? Hear me– let me expose my tale, and you will rush the cup from your lips!” (12) First calling him “unhappy,” Frankenstein warns that no happiness will originate from such pursuits. He also refers to this hunt for magnificence and understanding as “insanity.” His contrast of Walton’s hubris and total determination to drinking from a toxic cup makes yet another allusion to death, and enhances the idea that continuing along this path towards unrestrained discovery can be deadly and will just end in catastrophe.
This text is a sign of the time in which it was composed, and acts as a commentary on the progress taking place in early 1800s society, particularly in the field of science. Around this time, brand name new truths about the natural world such as the discovery of electricity and advances in biology and chemistry were appearing all the time, and knowledge was progressing at a blistering rate. Shelley’s novel serves to question the function and uses of such developments in our society, what possible costs they may sustain, and what limitations, if any, might be enforced upon them to avoid possible disaster.
In this passage, Walton demonstrates his enthusiasm and aspiration in his yearning to be effective. However, throughout, these goals are continuously shadowed by descriptions of destruction and ruin, either through pictures of fire, toxin, or perhaps the candid pointing out of human death. Throughout Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and highlighted within this passage, is a warning that with the acquisition of understanding can come major and disastrous consequences. He went into diligently into all my arguments in favour of my eventual success, and into every minute information of the steps I had taken to secure it.
I was easily led by the sympathy which he evinced to use the language of my heart; to provide utterance to the burning ardour of my soul; and to state, with all the fervour that warmed me, how happily I would sacrifice my fortune, my existence, my every hope, to the furtherance of my enterprise. One man’s life or death were but a little rate to pay for the acquirement of the knowledge which I sought for the rule I should obtain and send over the essential opponents of our race.
As I spoke, a dark gloom spread over my listener’s countenance. At first I perceived that he tried to suppress his feeling; he positioned his hands before his eyes, and my voice trembled and failed me as I beheld tears trickle fast from in between his fingers,- a groan burst from his heaving breast. I stopped briefly;- at length he spoke, in damaged accents: “Dissatisfied male! Do you share my insanity? Have you intoxicated also of the envigorating draught? Hear me,- let me reveal my tale, and you will dash the cup from your lips!” (11-12)