The Ramifications of a Fervent Passion

The story of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is brought full circle with the passing of Victor Frankenstein and the forthcoming, sacrificial death of his monster. The “cat and mouse” game played between the two is merely a prolonged torture for both, and although Victor Frankenstein has failed to learn the lesson in following one’s unbridled enthusiasm, he has at least imparted the perils of it to his final friend and ally, Cpt. Watson.

Throughout the novel, we are given instances that Victor has at least realized the repercussions of his labors and the hindsight he so wishes he had. As he reflects in the creation of his monster, while creating a possible mate for the being: “my mind was intensely fixed on the consummation of my labour, and my eyes were shut to the horror of the proceedings”. But the hindsight he exhibits is for naught, as he again makes rash actions in a fit of passion that alters his life once more, in destroying the monster’s only hope for happiness and companionship. Without once again considering the ramifications of such an act, he has doomed himself to the consequences of it, even with the warning of his enemy imparted upon him: “soon the bolt will fall which must ravish from you your happiness forever.”

Victor spends the better part of his life thinking a force other than his own leads him, whether it be divine or pure destiny. Even in his resolve to kill his creation or die, he claims, “I pursued my path towards the destruction of the daemon more as a task enjoined by heaven…” Having fully heard the Victor’s story and the perils of blindly pursuing passion, Walton finally shows resolve and humanity in deciding to head back South, in order to ensure the safety of his crew. Although he himself intended to “die rather than return shamefully,” he fully realizes the dangers apparent not only for him, but for others around him as well. This principle is hit home in the final scene, as even the monstrous and inhuman creation confirms how “the completion of my daemonical design became an insatiable passion. And now it is ended; there is my last victim!”

The conflict between the creator and his creation is resolved with the death of one of them, with the futilities of their efforts fully realized only until after. In deciding to turn around against his perceived destiny and personal pursuit, Walton has at least begun to realize that one can be in control of their own fate and can change course at will.

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Frankenstein and Further Relation to Greek Mythology

A theme central to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is the man’s lifetime pursuit for which they have a basic idea and instinct of, but without fully realizing or understanding how or why they’re searching for it in the first place. To further illustrate and give this idea greater understanding, below is a quote from the philosopher Plato, taken from The Symposium:

“According to Greek mythology, humans were originally created with four arms, four legs and a head with two faces. Fearing their power, Zeus split them into two separate parts, condemning them to spend their lives in search of their other halves.”

This is merely a shortened, summary version of the text, which involves a story concerning the creation of man and the roles of the Gods and Titans involved. But just as Mary Shelly ties in Greek mythology with the subtitle, The Modern Prometheus, I believe this idea to be relevant to the aforementioned theme of this work.

Although this story from Greek myth was more so involving the emotion of love, specifically the desire for a lifelong partner, this can also be seen as the drive of man’s ideas, thoughts, projects and pursuits, as evidenced throughout modern history, whether it be Isaac Newton’s curiosity towards the development of physics, or Nikolai Tesla’s realization of an applicable use of energy that affects us to this day. From the start of the novel, we are thrusts into Captain Walton’s ideas regarding his lifelong passion and meaning in life, especially with the journey he is about to undertake, as evidenced by the quote, “…and I feel my heart grow with enthusiasm which elates me to heaven; for nothing contributes so much to tranquillize the mind as a steady purpose.” Some men give ideas like his merely passing thought and move on with their life. But it is the want and desire that turns an idea, no matter how incredulous it may appear, past the thinking stage and into the doing stage.

This clearly represents the beginning of Victor Frankenstein, and the framework of how he delves into making his creation literally come to life. By merely mentioning his ideas of pursuit (“It was the secrets of earth and heaven that I desired to learn…”), we begin the ride of witnessing the transformation of his dream into its untimely nightmare. I like to think that as we continue reading this, more and more traces to classical Greek mythology and thought will become apparent.