The Pursuit of Knowlege

In Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein she portrays two characters that have the same characteristics and personalities - The Pursuit of Knowlege introduction. These two characters are Victor Frankenstein and Robert Walton. Each of these characters has dreams of greatness and a plan to make it happen. Yet, the visions, thoughts, and actions of both men followed similar patterns. Both Frankenstein and Walton attempt a journey to greatness. Sometimes the pursuit of knowledge requires a higher price than one can pay. Robert Walton has a desire for knowledge and a thirst for the unknown.

In Walton’s letters he tells his sister that he hopes to help humanity and to be well known someday by finding a passage through the North Pole that would cut travel time greatly. He travels north through the thick ice to search for a passage across the North Pole. Victor Frankenstein shares this desire of knowledge as well. He shows this through his diligent study at the University of Ingolstadt. Frankenstein also goes seeking his own way in the unknown by envisioning and creating a living creature.

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His hopes mirrors that of Walton in that he also wants to help humanity and be well known by ending death through his work with the creature. Both Victor Frankenstein and Robert Walton experience bitter loneliness. Walton says in his letters that he is lonely and in need of a friend, which is due to the demands of his chosen path to fame. “To be friendless is indeed to be unfortunate”(p. 21). Frankenstein is lonely because of the focus of his work, the creature, has directly or indirectly killed his family. Misery had her dwelling in my heart, but I no longer talked on the same incoherent manner of my own crimes; sufficient for me was the consciousness”(p. 173). Both men became so consumed by their goals that their lives have little room for anything or anyone else. Sadly, both Victor Frankenstein and Robert Walton fail in achieving their goals. Frankenstein cannot control his creature and comes to hate his creation. Walton is unable to find a passage to the North Pole. Walton is forced to pull back from his mission, and give up on his dream.

Frankenstein and Walton each begin with a goal to help mankind, yet neither men is able to bring his goal to reality. Throughout their attempts, each man suffers the same. In real life we discover that the personal cost of the pursuit of knowledge is often too high a price to pay. In the word of Victor Frankenstein, “Seek happiness in tranquility and avoid ambition, even if it be only the apparently innocent one of distinguishing yourself in science and discoveries”(p. 205).

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