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Frankenstein: The Use and Abuse of Education
Transcript of Frankenstein: The Use and Abuse of Education
Victor's abuse of education
Victor studies chemistry but later deeply studies alchemy, even though he is warned of the danger.
Victor takes advantage of his knowledge, unknowing of the power he holds, and uses it to inadvertently cause destruction.
This destruction is the result of his creation which is the monster.
Knowing too much
In Victor's attempt to gain knowledge, Victor leaves his family and lives in solitude.
-His friends and family worry about him while he obsesses over the monster.
Henry Clerval and Education
Henry provides a different model from Victor as far as the uses of the imagination go, as Henry’s imagination does not lead him to pursue ambitious feats of glory.
He is often grounded, and can easily appreciate that which surrounds him with an eager desire to learn what he can from it.
In this way, Henry is another foil for Victor, and presents a model of education. Although his father urges him to a mercantile or commercial occupation, Henry also sees the value of a liberal or humanistic education to go with it.
How can knowledge be dangerous?
Many people believe that knowledge is power, when in fact, even a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.
Knowledge without understanding can lead to danger--people use and abuse knowledge.
For example, Victor uses his knowledge of alchemy to create new life.
Consequences of Victor's Thirst for Knowledge
The Monster swears revenge on Victor.
The monster kills Victor's loved ones.
-By trying to surpass human limits, he loses the people he loves (the monster kills Justine, Henry and William).
Victor dies while chasing the monster in the north.
The Monster and Education
The Creature educated himself in language and behavior through the study of the DeLacey's at the cottage, and books.
Negative Impact of Education on the Monster
-Education made the creature realize what an outcast and a monster he was.
-The creature was self-learned, education came through his teaching of himself.
-Born into scorn and hatred toward himself, he had no one to guide him in his experiences of what to do and feel.
Walton and Education
Unlike that of Victor and the Creature, the education Walton received over the course of the novel, had a positive impact on his future.
Victor's tale showed Walton that a great thirst for knowledge, despite the significance of such subject, was not worth dying or destroying yourself over, even though at the end, Victor tells Walton to pursue the North Pole; Victor's creation ruins his life, which Walton recognizes and does not want.
Walton stops himself from abusing his education like Victor did.
He feels that learning enlightens the soul. Henry adores the use of languages and the emotions it can evoke from a person. He appreciates the beauty of the art of writing. Henry strives to attain knowledge and sees importance in going to great lengths to receive an education.
Henry Clerval-like Walton represents the valuable and responsible use of education- he is not corrupted by it
Henry Clerval and Education
Women and Education
Marxist Perception of Frankenstein
The monster, as a product of Dr. Frankenstein's labor, has many similarities to the products of labor described by Marxism.
Marxist developed the theory that “historical materialism and economic forces were the driving force of human endeavor.”
He viewed history as a series of class struggles. “The alienation of the worker in industrial capitalist societies resulted in class warfare which was then reflected in the arts.”
The monster is similar to the Marxist theory because he is an alien to Dr. Frankenstein. Although Frankenstein created him, he knows nothing about the monster and the monster’s actions are completely alien to him.
Education, without experience will negatively impact one towards failure, while education with both experience and knowledge will positively impact one towards success.
Walton had a successful education: he was able to evaluate both knowledge and experience through Victor's story. Victor and the Creature, on the other hand, did not evaluate knowledge and lacked the experience. As a result, Walton was positively impacted and Victor and the Creature were not.
Experience is as important to a successful education as the pure knowledge that one acquires; one without the other will not work.
The weak women in Frankenstein represent society's expectations of women at the time, while the monster represents the efforts of a female minority to educate themselves.
The monster destroys the weak, traditional women in the novel. The monster is indirectly responsible for Justine's death, as he performed the murder of William, which she was charged with and executed for.
Elizabeth's death was entirely the monster's doing; he murdered her on the night of her wedding to Victor Frankenstein.
All of the weak women in the novel die as a result of the monster, while the strong, educated women remain unharmed-primarily Safie
Marxist Perception of Frankenstein
As Marx explained in his Communist Manifesto, only two true classes exist: the bourgeoisie, or the owners of the means of production, and the proletariat, or the working class.
Dr. Frankenstein is the owner of the means of production in that he owns the means of creation, for just as the bourgeoisie creates the proletariat, this doctor creates a monster that ends up attempting to kill him.
The experiment spirals out of control in the same way that oppressed people revolt: “Modern bourgeois society with its relations of production, of exchange and property, a society that has conjured up such gigantic means of production and of exchange, is like the sorcerer, who is no longer able to control the powers of the nether world whom he has called up by his spells” (Marx “Manifesto” 225).
Dr. Frankenstein is a symbol for oppressive society.
Marx, Karl and Friedrich Engels. The Communist Manifesto. London: Penguin Classics, 2002.
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. New York: Signet Classics, 1963. Print.
Similarly, the monster is a symbol for oppressed people.
He is the proletariat that revolts against the bourgeoisie in class struggle. First, his composition reflects that of the proletariat- he is created by the bourgeoisie (bones from charnel-houses, parts from dissecting rooms, and pieces from slaughter-houses)
The monster’s simple lifestyle reflects the lifestyle of the workers; he does not need the luxury of the aristocrats but only a meager amount of nutritious food to eat and a simple bed.
Thus, his very composition is symbolic of the laborers who were composed of many different types of people, larger in numbers, physically stronger, and less dependent on luxury than the upper classes.
The Monster and the People
Dr. Frankenstein and Society
Type of education possessed by Victor and Walton
Victor possesses a virtue education but not a moral education. Walton possessed the same kind of education until Victor's story changed his perception. Which had a positive impact on Walton.
As Einstein once said "Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all."
By leaving his own creation, Victor shows that he has no moral education.
Walton showed he had no moral education in the beginning of Frankenstein by not caring for the crew and their lives. He was willing to do whatever it took to get to the North Pole.
Also, possessing a moral education is important. If Victor had a moral education and didn't just abandon his creation, things would have definitely turned out different. His creation would not have wanted revenge on him.
Film vs Novel
The movie served as a visual to show Victor’s fetishizing idea of the creation.
Victor was intense and rigorous in his research for the making of the creature.
fascination was portrayed as more of an obsession
The film also illustrated the different modern ideas of times. The movie was more
fantasy oriented. The creature was created in a man-made womb. It also took several
contraptions to get the electricity that would eventually awaken the creature in the
In the novel, Victor was more fascinated with the creation of life.
The novel was reality based. The creature was created in a small corner
in Victor’s apartment where no one could see him working. It also took months for
Victor to finish his completion of the creature.
Both the novel and film highlighted the dangers of education when taken to the
extreme. It was one thing for victor to take interest in learning about life and its basic
form. However, it became a dangerous problem when Victor started to create a life of his
own. He took his studies and research pass their boundaries and ultimately led to his own
Shelly, Mary. Zakharieva, Bouriana. Case Studies in Contemporary Criticism. A Cultural
Perspective. Boston: Bedford/ St. Martin’s, 2000. Print.