Frankenstein's Discovery

In Mary Shelley's <I>Frankenstein</I>, the paradoxical quality of the concept of "discovery" echoes that found in Milton's <I>Paradise Lost</I>: initial discovery is joyful and innocent, but ends in misery and corruption. The ambitions of both Walton and Frankenstein (to explore new lands and to cast scientific light on the unknown, respectively) are formed with the noblest of intentions but a fatal disregard for the sanctity of natural boundaries. Though the idea of discovery remains idealized, human fallibility utterly corrupts all pursuit of that ideal. The corruption of discovery parallels the corruption inherent in every human life, in that a child begins as a pure and faultless creature, full of wonder, but hardens into a self-absorbed, grasping, overly ambitious adult. Only by novel's end does Walton recognize that he must abandon his own ambition (the mapping of previously uncharted land), out of concern for the precious lives of his crew.

The first two occurrences of the word "discovery" occur quite early in the novel, in Walton's first letter to his sister. He compares his feelings on the expedition to a child's joy (14). Walton reminds her of his...

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