Frankenstein and Robert Walton

975 Words Jan 31st, 2012 4 Pages
Dangerous Knowledge—An Analytical Essay on “Frankenstein”
The pursuit of discovery and knowledge are thrilling aspects of human achievement, but can also be very dangerous if not handled correctly. In Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” Shelley portrays these two aspects of accomplishment as dangerous, destructive, and even fateful. Shelley begins her novel with an ambitious seafarer named Robert Walton. Walton is determined to reach the North Pole, where he may “tread a land never before imprinted by the foot of man” (6). During his journey, he writes constantly to his sister, Margaret Saville. Unfortunately, due to the laws of nature, sheets of impassable ice enclosing on their ship soon interrupt Walton’s mission. Trapped, Walton meets
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Frankenstein fulfilled his destiny and made his creation despite his suffering and misfortunes. However, his influence on Walton is paradoxical. One moment, Frankenstein exhorts Walton’s almost-mutinous men to not stray from their path courageously, regardless of danger. The next, he serves as an abject example of the dangers of heedless scientific ambition. Walton serves as a foil to Victor, either not obsessive enough to risk almost-certain death or not courageous enough to allow his passion to drive him. Walton ultimately draws back from his treacherous mission and returns to England, having learned from Victor’s example how destructive the thirst for knowledge can be.
Finally, Robert Walton and the creature are portrayed with parallels that regard their ambition for discovery and knowledge—eventually leading to destruction. Both feel that they do not fit into society, and therefore feel that they have to change something in order to fit in. In the opening letters, Walton doubts himself in finding a real friend, even among “merchants and seamen” (9). Therefore, he makes an effort to be accepted. Walton voluntarily endures “cold, famine, thirst, and want of sleep” (7) while devoting his nights to the “study of mathematics, the theory of medicine, and…physical science” (7). Although Walton is appointed a high position in his ship by the captain, he is still in longing for a true friend. Likewise, the creature is
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