The Romantic Era followed the Age of Enlightenment, a time of scientific discovery, political changes, and philosophical advancement. Romanticism challenged the rationality of the Enlightenment (Britannica). Romantic artists placed emotions above reason. In keeping with the Romantic tradition, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley challenges the benefits of science, education, and knowledge. In Frankenstein, Dr. Frankenstein, his creature, and Robert Walton are all ambitious; they have a desire for knowledge. However, this quest for knowledge brings about destruction to Dr. Frankenstein, misery to the monster, and danger to Walton. Shelley draws parallels to the Biblical story of the Fall; a catastrophe which befell mankind because of a desire for
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When he turns seventeen, Frankenstein goes to the University of Ingolstadt to study science. There, he becomes a pupil of M. Waldman, who likewise has an interest in “natural philosophy” (Shelley 930). M. Waldman declares in his lecture that modern science gives the scientist “new and almost unlimited powers” (Shelley 929). The scientist “can command the thunders of heaven, mimic the earthquake, and even mock the invisible world with its own shadows” (Shelley 929). The scientist becomes a type of god. Frankenstein desires to become a god (Keyishian). He plans to fashion a creature and give it life. He considers the “new species” which “would bless [him] as its creator and source” (Shelley 933). He realizes that if his experiment succeeds, “many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to [him]” (Shelley 933). He would be practically worshipped by his creatures. Adam was also tempted by a desire to be like God. Satan told Adam and Eve that, when they eat of the tree of knowledge, they “shall be as gods” (Genesis 3:5).
Frankenstein succeeds in applying scientific knowledge to fashion a creature. However, the results are disastrous. Immediately after his creature receives life, he is filled with “horror” at beholding the “hideous…wretch” (Shelley 935). His creature becomes a monster which is abhorred by the human race. The monster wreaks havoc and destruction; it murders all who are dear to Frankenstein. The result of Frankenstein’s knowledge is death