Selfish Ambition Frankenstein

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Selfish Ambition Frankenstein

Selfish Ambition?

The question “What makes us who we are?” has perplexed many scholars, scientists, and theorists over the years. This is a question that we still may have not found an answer to. There are theories that people are born “good”, “evil”, and as “blank slates”, but it is hard to prove any of these theories consistently. There have been countless cases of people who have grown up in “good” homes with loving parents, yet their destiny was to inflict destruction on others. On the other hand, there have been just as many cases of people who grew up on the streets without the guidance of a parental figure, but they chose to make a bad situation into a good one by growing up to do something worthwhile for mankind. For this reason, it is nearly impossible to determine what makes a human being choose the way he/she behaves. Mary Shelley (1797-1851) published a novel in 1818 to voice her opinions about determining personality and the consequences and repercussions of alienation. Shelley uses the ideas of Jean-Jacques Rousseau to make her point. Rousseau proposed the idea that man is essentially "good" in the beginning of life, but civilization and education can corrupt and warp a human mind and soul. In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (hereafter referred to as Frankenstein), Victor Frankenstein’s creature with human characteristics shows us that people are born with loving, caring, and moral feelings, but the creature demonstrates how the influence of society can change one’s outlook of others and life itself by his reactions to adversity at “birth”, and his actions after being alienated and rejected by humans several times.

In the first chapters of the book, Shelley describes a scientist who was obsessed with "doing something great" for mankind. Victor Frankenstein, an educated man of science, was completely involved with his work, which happened to be the creation of another living being with human qualities. Once Victor’s work was finally completed, he realized that he had created a “monster”, and he was terrified. Mary Shelley, supporting Rousseau's theory, definitely believed that people are born essentially with good intentions and feelings, and she shows this from the first few moments of the creature’s life. When Victor was lying terrified in his bed, the creature came i...

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... good, but can be turned to evil by society’s narrow-minded view of what is normal, and the corruption of the mind through knowledge and education. The repercussions of Victor’s and others alienation of the creature turned a caring individual to an evil one. Shelley succeeds in bringing Rousseau's theory to life, that one is born good, but he can be turned to evil through civilization and education. This story still has a great meaning for us today. Millions of people are outcast by society, not only because of physical appearance, but also because of sexual orientation, social status, and religion. Once people quit looking so narrow-mindedly at one another, the world will be a much better place, and Frankenstein's "monster" will rest in peace!

Works Cited

Mellor, Anne K. Mary Shelley - Her Life, Her Fiction, Her Monsters. New York, New York: Routledge, Chapman, & Hall, Inc., 1989. p 136.

Scott, Sir Walter. "Remarks on Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus; A Novel."

Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine 1 April 1818. 26 April 2001.

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus - 1818 Text. Ed. Marilyn Butler.

New York, New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

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