Study Guide

Frankenstein Exploration

By Mary Shelley


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Walton doesn't exactly start his first letter by writing, "The North Pole … the Final Frontier. These are the voyages of the S.S. Prometheus," but he might as well. Like Victor, Walton is definitely trying to boldly go where no man has gone before. Only, unlike Star Trek, their journeys don't end up in mutual tolerance and reflective captain's logs: Victor's ends in tragedy, and Walton's ends in defeat. Frankenstein might not be completely anti-science, but we're pretty sure Shelley would have agreed with the Prime Directive.

Questions About Exploration

  1. Some critics have suggested that exploration in Frankenstein is a metaphor for the scientific method. True, or not so true? How so?
  2. After Victor dies, Walton gives up on his exploration and returns to England. What's up with that?
  3. What is the distinction between exploration and obsession? Why might these two things have such different outcomes? According to Frankenstein, can a person be committed to an endeavor without being obsessed?

Chew on This

Walton's desire for geographic exploration has the same potential for catastrophic results as Victor's studies in alchemy and science. Shelley's warning, therefore, extends far further than to purely scientific fields.

Shelley would have refused to get a smartphone and spent a lot of time muttering about how the Internet was ruining civilization.