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Does the Attainment ofKnowledge Corrupt and/or Improve Captain Walton, Victor and theCreature in the Novel Frankenstein?

Novels are widely used inliterature to communicate an author’s thought on certain issues inthe society. These thoughts are hidden in themes of the literarywork. Different characters are usually used in novels to give aninsight into the themes around which the novel revolves around. Inthis paper, three characters in the novel Frankenstein are discussedwith respect to how their attainment of knowledge corrupt or improvethem. Additionally, perspective literary allusion for each of thecharacter is addressed. To achieve this, the paper is based on thehypothesis that attainment of knowledge of this characters improvesand corrupts them.

Attainment of knowledge is thecentral theme in this novel. The three characters are driven by highthirst of knowledge that compels them to undertake activities thathighly endangers their life and their families. Despite theacquisition of knowledge, providing an epitome of how the threemanage to survive, the culmination of knowledge is, however depictedas blinding and hence leading to ruination. Coupled with varyingthemes, delivered from a fictional point of view, this paper willfocus on analyzing whether the attainment of knowledge does corruptor improve Captain Walton victor and the creature within thestory/novel by Mary Shelley ‘Frankenstein’.


Authoredby MaryShelley ‘Frankenstein’is a novel that was published in 1818 when Shelly was just 20 yearsold, having started writing since she was 18 years. Categorized as agothic novel, soft science fiction as well as horror fiction, thenovel was regarded as one of the earliest examples of writing stylein science fiction. The novel has also had tremendous impact to theworlds of literature having given rise to a host of horror storiesand plays.

Thenovel by sherry is focused on presenting the faltering display ofuniversal virtue and domestic affection. In Mary Shelley’s novel,the three major characters include Robert Walton, Frankensteincreation as well as Victor Frankenstein himself. The three heroes arefaced with varying cases, and are the characters depicted withenthusiasm for knowledge, different/dualist personalities, differentgoals. Their relationship can be regarded as possessive which in turnbrings out the varying impact of acquired knowledge.

Thenovel commences with the explorer Robert Walton writing letters,which are addressed to her sister. The letters talk about thenarration to Robert by a man he had rescued from an incident of icedrift. Later we see the Swiss scientist D`Amato, Victor Frankensteinsucceeds in the process of bringing to life a creature which wasrescued or made of cadavers. However, he is horrified afterdiscovering what he had created, hence running away from thelaboratory. This creature turns to be a menace for Victor as it looksfor him and instead of destroying him the creature begs him to makea replica of it. Despite Victor agreeing to work on the replicacreature, he destroys his work before the process is concluded. Thecreature gets angry with Victor and in return revenges this bykilling Victor’s bride Elizabeth as well as his best friendClerval.



Insimple reference, allusion is the aspect of making a brief butindirect reference to an individual, place, idea or political aspect.In the novel Frankenstein, the author has used a number of allusionswhich the readers are expected to read and use knowledge to make ordraw out their meaning or importance to the text/plot. To commencewith, the use of Prometheus this is a Greek mythology that createsman. Later he steals fire from Zeus intended to give the man, butlater suffers from it. In the novel Frankenstein,the use Prometheus refers to the Victor process of creating a newspecies of creatures, but later suffers from the creation.

Onthe other hand, there is the mention of the ‘Rimeof the ancient mariner’.According to this reference, Mariner imposes a curse on himself andthe fellow crew member, not to mention telling his story to everyperson willing to listen. With reference to this, the novelFrankenstein,Victor Frankenstein is likened to the mariner, with the theme beinghow the tragedy in the novel could have been avoided. Both Victor andMariner are in search of knowledge however, unlike the case withMariner, Victor’s knowledge comes along with a curse. Additionally,there is also the use of “ParadiseLost”,which is a reference to the story of Adam and Eve and theiradventures in the Garden of Eden. In the novel, the creature createdby victor makes reference of Adam and Eve when he looks forward forhis maker, Victor to make him a companion/comforter.

Oh, Frankenstein, be notequitable to every other, and trample upon me alone, to whom thyjustice, and even thy clemency and affection, is most due. Rememberthat I am thy creature I ought to be thy Adam but I am rather thefallen angel”(94)

But it was all a dreamno Eve soothed my sorrows, nor shared my thoughts I was alone. Iremembered Adam`s supplication to his Creator. But where was mine?”(127)

Finally,there is “TheDivine Comedy”which describes layers to hell, as well as sins that could lead oneto hell, in the novel the monster is described in layers


Attainment of knowledge can beconsidered to improve the character in given aspects. However CaptainWalton desire for knowledge ends up affecting his life negatively.Walton knowledge acquisition was the driving force behind Walton’sdesire to explore the north, a venture that no other man had donebefore (Britton, 8). The character improves since he maintains apicture of a hero, “tragic hero” as he focuses on achieving glory(15). Improvements are vivid through the letters the captain wrote toher sister. This in turn is a show of him being on a quest to explorethe North Pole. The character had great thirst for knowledge. During the day, he acts as normal sailor but he has a greatmotivation of gaining more educational knowledge. He wants to developa perception among people that he is a great sailor and he will sailto any length to maintain the social status.“Walton’sintellectual eye has a high focus”, which in turn is driving him toexplore a goal that would “elevate” him to “heaven” (29). However, the character later reveals feelings of loneliness and fearof failure (Shelly,49).


Attainment of knowledgecorrupts this character. CaptainWalton is corrupted bythe idea of success or rather his greatest desire to attain knowledgethat would in turn earn him social status. Tostart with, the first part of the novel displays Captain Walton sendsletters to his sister. This in turn is a show of him being on a questto explore the North Pole. Victor, a friend who Walton meetsperceives the captain as a person who focused upon achieving greataccomplishments in his travel to the north. Despitethe disappointments and feeling of loneliness he earns out of sailingto the North-pole, he won’t permit any one to recognize his trueself since he is corrupted by maintaining an image of success. Thecharacter maintains an image of a tragic hero for purposes ofglorifying himself for doing a revolutionary activity (50).CaptainWalton willingly puts his life at risk by going against nature setprinciples when he sails far north. Despitethe acquisition of knowledge being the path for Walton’s becoming agreat man it is the same knowledge that directs him towards the pathof demolition (52).



Theacquisition of knowledge looks to be a positive aspect within thecharacter’s adventure. Taking the case of Victor Frankenstein, helooks first to be a kind and goes person. One of his stand-outachievements that he is well educated, he is also sensitive as wellas being a family concerned hence being a loving man not forgettingbeing sensitive. Focusing on his development and experimentation, atfirst even his idea and reason behind the creating the monster seemsto be a noble one. Apart from their quest to gain knowledge, thesethree characters had double characters in their lives. They exhibiteddifferent faces, but usually hid one character so that other peoplenoted just one side of them. Walton operated as a sailor during theday and is willing to go to any length, putting his own life at risk,to create an image of a successful sailor. At night he studiedmedicine, physical science and mathematics, which he never let othersto learn about.

Ithought that if I could bestow animation upon lifeless matter, Imight as well in the process of time (though I now find itimpossible) give life where death had already taken course”(Shelly, 52).

Thisaspect displays Victor as a benefit of being knowledgeable and atfirst, it’s seen, as he would out his medical knowledge into gooduse. However, beneath this aspect of our definition and acquisitionof knowledge. Behind his positive trains there lie some unwanted orelse unattractive aspects which are made one as the reader doubt hisactions as well as the intentions he had while making the creature.Nevertheless, as things turn out to be his intention of creating themonster was to make himself famous or else to attain awe and fame aswell as elevate his name among the history makers.

Alight so brilliant and wondrous, yet so simple that while I becomelight-headed with the immensity behind the prospect illustrated, Iwas [surprised] that among the so many men and genius who haddirected their hard work in science, that I alone would be reservedto discover to the astonishing secret”(Shelley, 50).

Victor’sdesire to make his name among scientist shows his wealth and vastacquisition of knowledge. Despite this improving his performance as ascientist, it is the same path he goes down with, (it corrupts him).The knowledge blinds him just like it is the case with Walton, andVictor could hardly see any negative linked with his much focusedexperiment. On one side, the knowledge drives him to view only fromone side, (his desired achievement and making a name among thescientist. Putting his knowledge into use, he focuses on creatinglife). Knowledge corrupts victor to an extent he no longer caresabout them. When he left home for Germany for further studies, Victorkeeps in touch with his family, however, when is desire adacquisition of science knowledge gets better of him, he becomesnegligence of them (Family). At the time of his departure from home,his father said,

Iknow that while you are pleased with what you have attained, you willcontinue to think of us with the endless affection, and we shall hearfrom you regularly. Son, you must pardon me if I regard anyinterruption into your correspondences as a proof that your otherundertakings are equally neglected”(Shelley, 53). IMPROVEMENT

Attainment of knowledgeimproves this character in various ways. Victor creates a creaturethat improves him by taking him from one glorification to the other,however instead of rejoicing for the new venture, the new explorationtakes for each of the character’s failure (D`Amato, 132). Thecharacter seems to undergo transformation when the death of andmurder of his family commences. His ego substantially reduces and thecharacter deteriorate. He disregards his life as a consequence ofmissing his family (54). According to D’Amato, the character desireto live diminishes (135). Another instance of change is depictedwhen the character fails to be governed by his instincts to in orderto be a gentleman something that he really desired. Additionally,Victor improves his spirits as a result of the hideous creature hecreated. D`Amatoascertains thatthe character realized that he had done a terrible mistake (131).

Henry proposed a pedestriantour of the environs of Ingolstadt that I might bid a personalfarewell to the country I had so long inhabited. I acceded withpleasure to this proposition: I was fond of exercise, and Clerval hadalways been my favourite companion in the rambles of this nature thatI had taken among the scenes of my native country.CORRUPTION

Thischaracter is corrupted by the knowledge he attains. Victor tells hisfriend, Captain Walton how his focus on a search for knowledge almostended him into trouble. Focusing on the corruption from the knowledgeacquired by Victor, it is after his scientific experiment in makingthe monster that shows how much he was corrupted. After the death ofhis brother, whose death is caused by the monster, Victor hinds thetruth from the people, and instead, Justine (a young servant girlworking at Victor’s home). Victor is aware that Justine isinnocent, but instead keeps this to him and hiding the truth whichwould have acquitted him. The trust is that, it’s the monsterbehind the death which was created by Victor, and in turn showing hislevel of corruptness as a result of knowledge acquired (D`Amato,121). More so, his main reason behind his action, not to tell thetruth is that, he was ashamed of his failed experiment with themonster. The monster he built becomes his path to downfall ratherthan being famous, and in turn his knowledge is corrupt as what he isfocused upon is to protect his ego and reputation and not his family.



Theacquisition of knowledge does not make the monster better, but rathera multidimensional character and could not be easily labeled as goodor evil. At first after his creation, and at a time when he knew notwho he was or how to read and write, he was kind to the people,however, every time he came into the cottage, he was given a beatingby the people. This incident happens several times despite the act ofgoodness to the people. He is responsible for different heinousactions such and killing different people. This is after his angerand bitterness outgrows his act of kindness to the people (Sturgis,57). According to the author, the acts of kindness to the people comebefore he (monster) is equipped with knowledge of who he was. At thestart, the monster isn’t corrupted, but rather it’s the societythat corrupts him, and according to him, “ifI cannot inspire love, I will cause fear”(Shelley, 140-141). “Ifany being felt emotions of benevolence towards me, I should returnthem a hundred and a hundredfold for that one creature sake, and inwould make peace with the whole kind!”(Shelley, 141).

Thecreature caused fear and terror to the human beings, he firstencountered with, making them to flee. He tried to endear himself tothe inhabitants of the village by learning their language, and beingkind to them, but he is still rejected. He forgets that he wasforewarned by Victor Frankenstein, his creator, that his appearancewill make other human beings reject him. He decides to take revengeon human beings rejection despite his kindness and started by killinghis creator’s brother, William.


He framed the Frankensteintrusted and long serving family servant who is eventually executed.The creature demanded Victor to create a female companion for him andpromises to leave Europe once the demand is met (D`Amato, 130).Victor started to create the female, but destroyed it halfway,prompting the creature to declare vengeance on him. Without concernof the repercussions of what would be the impact of creating anothermonster, the female monster is seen as the possible companion to theearlier made monster. This is a notion that is depicted in the novel,as women characters are man’s companion. Walton’s extendeddiscussion with reference to the merits of having a male frienddepicts the aspect of homosexuality presence in the ship. Accordingto Walton, it is only a man who can understand a man (Harrison,1341).


Attainmentof knowledge corrupts the creature substantially. The need forrevenge on Victor corrupts the monster. The creature is attacked andbeaten by people who he previously perceived as kind. He embanks on asearch for Victor who had made him angry by the way he created him ina way that the society couldn’t accommodate him. The monsters killsvictor’s brother in revenge and compels Victor to create a similarcreature so that he will not be alone in the society. Failure ofVictor to abide to the instruction given by the creature makes themonster kill Victor`s loved ones. Love corrupts the monster. Hefills like an outcast in the society since no one wants to beassociated with him.

Ina direct quote, Monster:&quotI am alone and miserable man will not associate with me butone as deformed and horrible as myself would not deny herself to me.My companion must be of the same species and have the same defects.This being you must create.

Theacquisition of knowledge is a path to being corrupt, once he gainsknowledge of his surroundings the monster is in need of a companion,which is after harsh treatment of people.

Victoris requested by the monster to make him a female monster for him toget a companion. Additionally, when Victor is in the know as to whois behind his brother’s death, he doesn’t reveal but insteadkeeps to himself. This is despite Justine being innocent of theaccusations. This leads to death of the girl, as Victor chooses toprotect his reputation.


Inconclusion, the novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley an astounding onedeveloping from a story narrated by an 18year old girl. The novel hasremained an influence to many other fiction writing. However, despitethe novel holding numerous themes, the issue of knowledge acquisitionis key towards the development of the plot as well as that ofcharacter development. With reference to the three main characters inthe novel, Captain Walton, Victor, and the monster, knowledge is seenas their path to desired destiny. In the case of Victor, it isthrough his scientific experiment he plans to achieve the status inthe book of history as a great scientist. However, things turn outthe unwanted way, as each of the three desires to achieve the best interms individual desires, the acquisition of knowledge



Shelley,Mary. Frankenstein:or the Modern Prometheus.Berkshire penguin Popular Classics, 1994


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