Frankenstein and the Essence Of the Romantic Quest

Victor Frankenstein, like many Romantics, relies upon his unusual capacity for sensitivity and creativity to aid him in his ambitions. In contrast to Robert Walton, who ventures to the North Pole to find "beauty and delight" (Shelley 15) amidst desolation, Victor desires to create a better race as a gift to mankind. Although he and Walton appear, at first glance, to be undertaking entirely different quests, the underlying motive is the same: both men long for spiritual exaltation (the elevation of their minds and souls above those of other men).

The characters of Walton and Frankenstein are shaped by Romantic idealism, as manifested in their pursuit of discovery through scientific investigation and adventure. The essential difference between the two men lies in the way in which they attempt to accomplish their respective goals. Curious and determined, Walton sets out to "tread a land never before imprinted by the foot of man" in an effort to live up to his Romantic ideals. While he describes his motivations as "sufficient to conquer all fear of danger or death" (16), Shelley portrays Walton as a compassionate character from the very beginning. Despite his deep investment in his voyage, his concern...

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