The obsession that we are exposed to within Mary Shelley’s epistolary novel is of monomaniacal ambition that provides a forewarning of the dangers in relation to scientific advancement emerging from the industrial revolution. Within this gothic horror, the main character, Victor, experiences detrimental impacts due to the omnipotent desire and tribulations of rebelling against God. This sole ambition to create a being is his hamartia, which is linked to the very catalytic creature of his downfall. Through a close analysis of context of Shelley’s work, what is revealed is the intended subliminal message of dehumanization, through the means of obsessive nature.
Shelly intentionally utilises Walton's letters to reveal that his obsession with the secrets of magnetism is developed from reading travel narratives as a boy. Similarly, Victor Frankenstein's preoccupation with discovering the secret of life, emerges from his reading of scientific principles and anthological books as a young boy.
Walton functions as the conduit through which the reader hears the story of Victor and his monster. However, he also plays a role that parallels Victor’s in many ways. Like Victor, Walton is an explorer, pursuing that “country of eternal light”—unpossessed knowledge. We are exposed to the isolation of Walton and his loss of touch with humanity. In many ways, Walton’s experience parallels much of Victor’s compulsive behaviours. Of value to the study of obsession is Walton’s own assessment of Victor upon first meeting him, describing him as a man on the “brink of destruction”, his eyes full of “an expression of wildness and even madness”. Whilst similarities can be drawn between these protagonists, Walton is able to recognise the danger of such an obsessive nature and consequently alters his outcome.
Victors pursuit of scientific knowledge reveals a great deal about his perceptions of science in general. The dangers of desire for omnipotence and rebelling against god is a key concern within this work. Shelley draws similarities between Victor and the Greek titan Prometheus, to question the values individuals began to place in the power of mankind. The rapid societal shift away from romantic ideal of the natural environment and toward the Enlightenments, places emphasis of science and reason. This is clearly encapsulated in the accumulation of bucolic imagery “unstained snowy mountain tops, fill my sublime ecstasy” revealing the opportunities of spiritual headings and self discovery, which came as an appreciation of nature. This is contrasted with the ominous pathetic fallacy “The rain depressed me...black and comfortless sky” highlights the immoral manner of Victors fixation on scientific knowledge.
The creature is undoubtedly a direct result of Victor’s obsession. The “grotesque & monstrous” being was left with no guidance, becoming completely exposed to societal barriers and the harsh realities of his creator. Playing with power beyond hierarchy of the human nature exposes us to the many implications Shelley is subliminally conveying of such issues. “greater than his nature will allow” Victor is a fundamental…