Moral values in Frankenstein Essay

This essay has a total of 3260 words and 12 pages.

moral values in Frankenstein

Moral Values in Frankenstein
It is said that every story has a moral, or sometimes if you look hard enough, there are
many different morals within one story. In the well-written novel Frankenstein, the
teenage author, Mary Shelley, teaches us about moral values. In most cases, moral values
result in a positive way, but if there is an obsession for wanting something too much, it
could turn into a negative situation. Shelley makes it evident that in most situations,
too much desire for a moral value such as knowledge, love or ambition can result in
suffering and agony for the characters in the novel.

The first moral value that leads to suffering for the characters of the novel is
knowledge. At the beginning of the story, Victor thrives on learning about natural
sciences. When he is thirteen, Victor comes upon a volume of the works of Cornelius
Agrippa. After he studies the whole works of Agrippa, he moves on to Paracelsus and
Albertus Magnus:

But here were books, and here were men who had penetrated deeper and knew more. I took
their word for all that they averred, and I became their disciple. It may appear strange
that such should arise in the eighteenth century; but while I followed the routine of
education in the schools of Geneva, I was, to a great degree, self-taught with regard to
my favorite studies. My father was not scientific, and I was left to struggle with a
child's blindness, added to a student's thirst for knowledge. Under the guidance of my
new preceptors I entered with the greatest diligence into the search of the philosopher's
stone and the elixir of life; but the latter soon obtained my undivided attention. Wealth
was an inferior object, but what glory would attend the discovery if I could banish
disease from the human frame and render man invulnerable to any but a violent death! (pp.

It is evident that this is the point in Victor's life that his knowledge about natural
sciences helps him first develop his crazy idea to create life. When Victor is seventeen,
he becomes a student at the University of Ingolstadt to study modern natural philosophy.
It is there that Victor learns everything he needs to know to make his creation, and
eventually turn his life into pure misery. M. Waldman is one of the professors that
really enhances Victor's knowledge and inspires him to go on in his experimentations:

Such were the professors words-rather let me say such the words of fate-enounced to
destroy me. As he went on I felt as if my soul were grappling with a palpable enemy; one
by one the various keys were touched which formed the mechanism of my being; chord after
chord was sounded, and soon my mind was filled with one thought, one conception, one
purpose. So much had been done, exclaimed the soul of Frankenstein-more, far more, will I
achieve; treading in the steps already marled, I will pioneer a new way, explore unknown
powers, and unfold to the world the deepest mysteries of creation. (p. 47)

Victor's studies become his soul occupation and he soon forgets the wonderful world that
surrounds him: "Winter, spring, and summer passed away during my labours; but I did not
watch the blossom or the expanding leaves-sights which before always yielded me supreme
delight-so deeply was I engrossed in my occupation" (p. 54). Victor forgets his loved
ones, which cause them great sorrow and pain, and although he does not realize it, he is
also causing himself deep suffering. Victor thrives for knowledge so much that he suffers
and experiences agony throughout the story. Another character in the novel whose thirst
for knowledge causes pain and suffering is the creature that Victor creates. The
creature's stay with the cottagers' makes him learn too much about life, especially family
and responsibility. Through the lessons to the Arabian girl, the creature learns the
English language. He then starts to understand their conversations, and he starts to
wonder who he really is. These discoveries of knowledge cause severe pain to the
creature: "'I cannot describe to you the agony that these reflections inflicted upon me;
I tried to dispel them, but sorrow only increased with knowledge. Oh, that I had forever
remained in my native wood, nor known nor felt beyond the sensations of hunger, thirst,
and heat!'" (p. 115) The creature also comes upon some books that also enhance his
knowledge of life. As the creature reads the Sorrows of Werter, he learns about death
and suicide, which begin to fill him with wonder. He also applies much of the book to his
own feelings and conditions, which leads him to the questions of who he is: "'My person
was hideous and my stature gigantic. What did this mean? Who was I? What was I? Whence
did I come? What was my destination?'" (p. 123) The creature becomes aware that he knows
nothing of his background, and is unable to find out. The volume of Plutarch's Lives
contains the histories of the first founders of the ancient republics and it "'taught high
thoughts; he elevated me above the wretched fear of my own reflections, to admire and love
the heroes of past ages'" (p. 123). This book teaches the creature about more than just
the human nature that he observes at the cottage of his protectors: "'I felt the greatest
ardour for virtue rise within me, and abhorrence for vice, as far as I understood the
signification of those terms, relative as they were, as I applied them to pleasure and
pain alone'" (pp.123-124). The last book that the creature reads also has a big effect on
his understanding of life. Paradise Lost "'excited different and far deeper emotions'"
(p. 124). As he reads this final book, the idea of God being creator makes the creature
wonder about his creator, and why he is here: "'I often referred to the several
situations, as their similarity struck me, to my own. Like Adam, I was apparently united
by no link to any other being in existence'" (p. 124). This book makes the creature want
to find out who his creator is, and why he made him to be such a miserable wretch, then
abandon him. This search to find his creator causes him a lot of agony and suffering.
Throughout his quest, he becomes very miserable and depressed. The creature's actions of
murder to get revenge on his creator Frankenstein causes sorrow to Victor and his family.
The obvious desire for knowledge throughout the novel causes a lot of agony and pain to
those who are involved with the obsession for this moral value.

Along with too much desire for knowledge in the novel, the moral value of love is also
shown with results in pain and suffering. Love for one another is a very important and
special thing to have, but when someone becomes obsessed with being loved or loving
someone, it usually turns out for the worse. Since the moment Victor and Elizabeth first
met, their bond is very strong. Victor's mother becomes quite fond of the sweet orphan,
and takes Elizabeth on as her own. Victor also takes her on to protect and love, which is
exactly what he does:

And when, on the morrow, she presented Elizabeth to me as her promised gift, I, with
childish seriousness, interpreted her words literally and looked upon Elizabeth as
mine-mine to protect, love and cherish. All praises bestowed on her I received as made to
a possession of my own. We called each other familiarly by the name of cousin. No word,
no expression could body forth the kind of relation in which she stood to me-my more than
sister, since till death she was to be mine only. (p. 35)

Even from the beginning of their relationship, there are signs of Victor's obsession with
loving Elizabeth. When Victor becomes indulged in his experiments, he almost forgets
about his loved ones. Victor tries so hard to protect Elizabeth, that he ends up hurting
her in the process. He does not tell her about his creation until it is too late. Also,
he makes her think that she is causing him suffering as shown in the letter that she
writes to him while he is in Ingolstadt:

You have traveled; you have spent several years in Ingolstadt; and I confess to you, my
friend, that when I saw you last autumn so unhappy, flying to solitude from the society of
every creature, I could not help supposing that you might regret our connection and
believe yourself bound in honour to fulfill the wishes of your parents, although they
opposed themselves to your inclinations. (pp. 178-179)

Victor's silence towards Elizabeth causes her to think that he is miserable because of
their upcoming union. Although this is not true, Victor's effort to protect Elizabeth
inflicts pain on both himself and the one he loves dearly. Victor's father also loves his
family so much that he becomes ill and weak due to the grief that he has for the deaths
and misery of his beloved. He is always looking out for the well being of his children,
including Elizabeth, and when he knows that Victor is suffering, he too feels the anguish.
When Elizabeth dies, Victor's father suffers greatly:

His eyes wandered in vacancy, for they had lost their charm and their delight-his
Elizabeth, his more than daughter, whom he doted on with all that affection which a man
feels, who in the decline of life, having few affections, clings more earnestly to those
that remain. (p. 189)

Victor's father died of grief. He could not live with the horrors that accumulate around
him in the last couple of days of his life: "He was unable to rise from his bed, and in a
few days he died in my arms" (p.189). His love for his family becomes all that he cares
about, which in turn causes him and Victor severe pain and suffering. The creature is
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