Scientific Inquiry in Frankenstein

In Mary Shelley’s chilling novel Frankenstein, certain characters represent major thematic ideas that Shelley endeavors to criticize or praise. The main character, the scientist Frankenstein, is used to exemplify the consequences of uninhibited, systematic manipulation of the natural world. Similarly, the explorer Walton, whose Arctic voyage provides a framework for Frankenstein’s narrative, strengthens Shelley’s critique of this type of science by typifying the same traits at an earlier stage. On the other hand, the Creature produced artificially in Frankenstein’s laboratory demonstrates some of the horrifying effects of Frankenstein’s work. In addition, the Creature provides a contrast to the disciplines that are critiqued by Shelley through the aforementioned characters. Thus, Shelley employs the prominent figures in her novel in an effort to address two contrasting types of scientific inquiry, and the morality associated with each.

The most important characteristic of both Frankenstein and Walton is that they have an obsessive desire to use human reason to penetrate the inner workings of nature. In accordance with the Romantic ideals with which the novel is associated, Shelley criticizes this type of inquiry, and...

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