Throughout Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein, Shelley expresses her views of the time through Walton. A main consequence the acquirement of knowledge is seen to be detrimental to the lives of those whom seek it and those around it. This concern, is conveyed, on a surface level, through the way in which Walton’s desire for knowledge, more specifically, the “unexplored regions.. of the mist and snow” leads him to physical danger of being caught in the dangerous conditions of the North Pole. This idea is also portrayed through the acquirement of knowledge that the two protagonists, Victor Frankenstein and The Creature, seek.
Ultimately, leading them to the destruction of their lives and the lives around them. Throughout the novel, Victor Frankenstein is seen to seek the acquirement of knowledge which ultimately leads to the deterioration of his state and his life. The danger that corresponds with the acquirement of knowledge is portrayed through Victor’s immediate deterioration when challenging nature. “Every night I was oppressed by a slow fever, and I became nervous to a most painful degree; the fall of a leave startled me, and I shunned my fellow creatures as though I was guilty of a crime. This conveys the danger involved with gaining knowledge by the fact that although the Creature is not yet living, Frankenstein is already faced with the consequences that lead him to feel as though he was “guilty of a crime”. This foreshadows the events to come. This idea, that is Shelley’s views of the time, reflected through the novel, is further illustrated through the fact that when the creature is created he is affected inside by the outside grievances such as the death of Justine but his thoughts are forever altered from the inside. In other words, his mind is against him.
This is illustrated when Victor states “while my imagination conjured up a thousand images to torment and sting me”, exemplifies the affect that this Creature has had on him and in turn emphasises that, through the novel, Shelley agrees with Frankenstein’s view that acquiring knowledge is dangerous. Throughout the opening letters of the story, the dangers of acquiring knowledge are not able to be seen significantly at times through the fact that benefits are gained temporarily during Walton’s search. However the dangers are seen through the end result of his journey for knowledge.
Walton’s longing for the “unvisited regions” which “hurry’s [him] out of the common pathways of men” is clear through the fact that he believes he “may be wafted to a land, surpassing all others in wonders and in beauty every region hitherto discovered”. Unlike the other protagonists, he appears to be aware of the “wild seas” he is to face. This emphasises the true desire he feels for gaining of knowledge and that it may be worth the risk. The dangers of knowledge cannot be seen by Walton’s journey as he gains what he thinks is the man that he “could sympathise [with]” and “whose eyes would reply to [his]”.
This is illustrated when Walton sates that “I begin to love him as a brother” and that “his constant and deep grief fills me with sympathy and compassion”. This illustrates the form of happiness that has occurred because of his search knowledge, although it is temporary, it still offers a relief that can be seen throughout the majority of the novel. However, this relief is contrasted with grief and sorrow felt by Walton as “a gentle smile passed away from his lips”. Walton has lost “all hopes of utility and glory” as he “has lost my friend”.
Shelley uses the word “my” (friend) instead of “a” to emphasise the intense emotion and intimacy shared in the relationship. Shelley, although offering some thought that benefits can be seen contrasts this noticeably to ensure her original view that the dangers of acquiring knowledge are always evident. The dangers of acquiring knowledge are evident through the shift in the Creatures motives and values as he gains an understanding of the world around him. The Creature’s motives are seen to change vastly as he achieves an understanding of his “accursed origin”.
The idea that there are dangers in gaining knowledge is emphasised through the fact that the Creature was born innocent. His change is portrayed when the Creature states “When I discovered that he, the author at once of my existence and of unspeakable torments, dared to hope for happiness, while he accumulated wretchedness and despair on me .. Impotent envy and bitter indignation with a thirst for vengeance [filled me]” The fact that his evils only sparked “when he discovered” the isolation and seclusion that he was faced with emphasises his innocence prior to gaining knowledge.
Further illustrating the danger, is that when the Creature’s motives for life did alter, he “cast[ed] off all feeling, subdued all aguish, to riot in the excess of [his] despair”. This quote depicts the Creatures desensitised state that allowed him to lose all sense of reality. This is clear when he states “Yet when she died- nay, then I was not miserable. The above examples clearly reveal Shelley’s view that dangers are involved in acquiring knowledge.
Ultimately, Shelley is seen to agree with Frankenstein’s view that the risk of danger is associated with gaining knowledge. She expresses this view through the detrimental results that the three protagonists experience. Walton suffers the loss of his friend after journeying into the North Pole, Frankenstein ‘s life changes to misery as a result of his want to pursue the unknown and the Creature, by gaining knowledge of his situation is subjected to loss of innocence. These factors are expressed clearly by Shelley through the story of Frankenstein.