Dangerous Knowledge and the Desire to Share it in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein College

From its outset, Frankenstein establishes a link between the procuring of knowledge, or the uncovering of secrets, and evil. Walton’s sister’s ‘evil forebodings’ that surround his attempt to reach the North Pole, pointed out in the very first sentence, signal immediately not only the dangers that accompany the pursuit of knowledge irresistible to a Romantic over-reacher like Walton (and of course like Frankenstein himself), but also that Walton is a character (again like Frankenstein) who is perhaps irresistibly drawn to danger. That the reader himself is implicated in this dangerous expedition into the unknown is made clear as we are positioned as the audience for the terrible secret that Walton, as the transcriber Frankenstein’s history, is going to disclose. It has been noted that, not unlike Paradise Lost, a moral exploration upon which Frankenstein heavily leans, the book is one which has gone beyond the limits of its text, and is now a product of criticism, rather than a work of literature. Mary Shelley’s description of the novel as her ‘hideous progeny’ is an indication that, quite apart from the story it tells, Frankenstein as an entity is a symbol of how a secret, once revealed, or “born”, cannot be deleted, but must...

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