Victor’s driving, obsessive ambition ruined his life and led to his own death and the murder of his loved ones. Illustrate how ambition affects not only Victor and Robert Walton, but also the creature in Frankenstein. Thesis Statement: Ambition and the quest for knowledge is a fatal flaw in the characters of Victor Frankenstein, Robert Walton, and the creature.
In Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel, ‘Frankenstein’, a recurring motif of ambition and the quest for knowledge is present among the characters of Victor Frankenstein, Robert Walton and the creature. Victor’s obsessive ambition is his fatal flaw, ruining his life and leading to the murder of his loved ones and eventually his own death.
Robert Walton shares a similar ambition along with the creature with their desire and quest for knowledge. Shelley illustrates the ambitions of these characters through their parallel quests to obtain knowledge at the cost of their own wellbeing and safety. Their obsessive and ambitious nature becomes the fatal flaw of these three characters relating to ideas of Romanticism presented in the novel. Growing up, Victor was overwhelmed by the power of nature with its beauty “majestic and wondrous scenes which surrounded our Swiss home” and the power of nature “watching its progress with curiosity and delight” as lighting struck a tree obliterating it.
From this event stems the beginning of Victor’s ambition in natural philosophy with the ancient scholars Cornelius Agrippa and Paracelsus fascinating him. Victor had always had a fascination with the natural world shown through his recount of his adolescence ‘The world was to me a secret which I desired to divine’ and further on ‘it was the secrets of heaven and earth that I desired to learn’. Both of these quotes have religious allusions of ‘divinity’ and ‘heaven’ emphasising Victor’s obsession and ambition in natural philosophies. Following his quest for knowledge in natural philosophy, Victor attends the University of Ingolstadt where he meets M. Waldman, who greatly influences Victor’s studies where he “explained to me the uses of his various machines, instructing me what to procure” and lectures Victor on chemistry.
Victor begins to possess an unnatural drive in his quest for knowledge where he begins intense study and experimentation, “These thoughts supported my spirits, while I pursued my undertaking with unremitting ardour. My cheek had grown pale from study, and my person had become emaciated with confinement” eventually isolating himself from his friends and family. As the seasons passed Victor’s obsession with his studies continued to grow, “And the same feelings which made me neglect the scenes around me caused me also to forget those friends who were so many miles absent, and whom I had not seen for so long a time” highlighting how his ambition is a fatal flaw, neglecting the outside world and his loved ones. Victor’s ambition to research and attempt to create life drains him of health and sensibility, “Every night I was oppressed by a slow fever, and I became nervous to a most painful degree” which is ironic to the goal he wishes to achieve.
Shelly’s use of irony illuminates how Victor’s obsessive ambition has become a fatal flaw. Victor’s blindness to what his end result will produce is immediately revealed when his final work is a hideous creature. Victor, through repulsion, neglects caring for the creature in its blank slate, gradually fuelling the ambition it feels for revenge. With the monster isolated, he begins to learn, “I learned to distinguish between the operations of my various senses” becoming inquisitive and wanting to learn more. The monster’s ambition begins when observes the Delacey family, realising that “…knowledge might enable me to make them overlook the deformity of my figure” and gaining momentum with the murder of his first victim, Frankenstein’s younger brother William “Frankenstein! You belong then to my enemy… you shall be my first victim.” As his murders stay within Frankenstein’s close friends and family, the monster realises his ultimate goal to torture his creator causing him to succumb to insanity. The monster’s ambition becomes a fatal flaw as it blinds him until it is too late and he has killed Frankenstein.
Overcome with remorse it is seen how Frankenstein’s creation is more human than him. Before Frankenstein’s death, the monster and his mad chase lead them to the North Pole where Robert Walton picks up the close to death Victor. Robert can be seen as the least ambitious of the three yet is still blinded by his obsession to find the alleged route to the North Pole. This blindness causes him to leave his friends and sister and risk the safety of himself and crew on board. With the arrival of Frankenstein, Robert soon thereafter realises he should abandon his quest and return to safety for the welfare of himself and crew.
Robert is able to overcome his fatal flaw of obsessive ambition before it potentially claimed his life as well. Through showing obsessive ambition through the characters of Victor Frankenstein, Robert Walton and the creature, Shelley illustrates how their fatal flaw affects the wellbeing of them all, leading to the down fall of all three, the death of Victor and the monster and Robert realising his goal will cost him his life.