In Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, how is Walton's ambition similar to Victor's?

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thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley is a story about intellectual ambition and the arrogance of scientists and explorers who are so dedicated to pursuit of knowledge that they attempt to overreach the limits of their humanity and take on nearly divine prerogatives. It is a warning that human technological and scientific expertise, if not balanced by wisdom and compassion, can lead to disaster. In a sense, both of these figures are similar to Milton's Satan (or Prometheus who usurps the power of Zeus), a glorious figure (the brightest of all the angels before his fall) who goes astray by usurping the powers that only a god has the wisdom to wield. 

Although the protagonist of the story, Victor Frankenstein, is the main focus of Shelley's critique, Robert Walton as an explorer with a similar obsession with a heroic goal of obtaining knowledge of the unknown is a quite similar character. Walton, although not creating a monster, appears as singleminded and heedless of safety of himself and others in his pursuit of the ideal of knowledge as Victor. Eventually though, at the end of the novel, Walton decides that he cannot continue to risk the lives of his sailors, and thus, unlike Victor, appears to balance the demands of common and shared humanity with the desire for knowledge and fame.  

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