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Essay on Knowledge in Shelly’s Frankenstein

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In Shelly’s ‘Frankenstein’, the theme of Knowledge is cultivated for multiple purposes. These include the effects of scientific advances, the de-mystification of nature, nature’s revenge and social relations in the romantic era. By examining knowledge in relation to the characters of Victor, Walton and the Creature it can be seen that the theme of knowledge is used a warning against the Enlightenment and a personification of the social injustices of the time.

Frankenstein, in his Faustian quest for knowledge, comes to symbolise ‘the man of science’ within the text. His family background and social position places him as a man of the enlightenment. It is therefore arguable that Frankenstein represents the empirical strand of Enlightenment science and thus his quest for knowledge symbolises a large push for scientific knowledge in the 19th century. However, Shelly portrays Frankenstein’s project as defiling nature. This is seen in Frankenstein’s assemblage of the creature.

Thus he works within the very "citadel of nature" […] He collects "with profane fingers" pieces of the dead, his task is "loathsome," he becomes "insensible to the charms of nature," and the seasons pass unnoticed. The Monster comes into existence as a product of nature-his ingredients are one hundred percent natural-yet by the fact and process of his creation he is unnatural.

Here Brooks argues that although the components of the creature are essentially natural, the means in which they are assembled are unnatural, thus defiling natures will. For example, ‘profane’ and ‘loathsome’ seem almost evil descriptions of Frankenstein’s work. This quote also suggests that the influence of nature is lost from Fra...


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...face of social injustice.

In conclusion, Knowledge is used with ‘Frankenstein’ to criticise elements within the Romantic era. The wrath of nature incurred by Frankenstein and Walton symbolises nature’s reaction against enlightened scientists who demystify and try to measure nature for the sake of knowledge. Moreover, Frankenstein can be seen to represent the emerging capitalist elements with the enlightened society through his independence and personal drive for Knowledge rather than the improvement of the community. This can then be linked to the creature’s symbolic status as the slave, who acts in revolt due to his acquisition of knowledge, thereby educating him of his own inability to join society and informs him of his master. Therefore, it is justifiable that the theme of Knowledge is used to warn against the Enlightenment and highlight social injustices.



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