In chapter 2 of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, what does Victor's strong interest in science say about his personality?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Victor's interest in science, discussed in chapter 2, reveals curiosity, vanity, and bookishness as elements of his personality.

Victor tells us that he always remembers that his curiosity, combined with "earnest research to learn the hidden laws of nature," inspired a feeling that was more like rapture than a simple gladness.

These interests took him deep into consideration of the most essential questions, "the secrets of heaven and earth." The itch grew stronger, however, and turned toward manipulating nature and "playing God."

Victor speaks of finding a book, one day, and immersing himself in it, showing that learning from text as well as from nature was part of his scientific inclination. However, it was Agrippa's book of alchemy, not modern science, and his father chastised him for this.

Victor's passion for "natural philosophy" continued to grow, turning from a childish interest to an unstoppable force, a torrent, and he laments that it "swept away all my hopes and joys."

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

We know from this chapter that Victor's interest in how things work has endured since his childhood; he details how he "delighted in investigating" the causes of things, and that "curiosity, earnest research to learn the hidden laws of nature" awakened "gladness akin to rapture" in him. Evidently, Victor is a naturally curious person whose interest in science is tied to his desire to understand the world around him on a very deep level; he is not content simply to accept that things are the way they are because that is how they are. In this, Victor's nature is contrasted to that of others around him who might be content simply to accept what they are told.

Victor's preoccupations are lofty—he is not interested in languages or governance but "the secrets of heaven and earth" and the "mysterious soul of man." His choice of language here is telling; there is something almost Biblical about it, suggesting that Victor wishes to learn the sorts of "secrets" that normally might belong only to a higher power. Later, he reinforces this idea of science as a religion by describing himself as the "disciple" of the "learned men" whose books he read, enraptured by the fact that they had gone beyond a partial unveiling of "the face of Nature" and had attempted to plumb its depths. In his passionate devotion to science Victor is like any other devotee, wedded to his faith and curious to learn more about it than any of his predecessors.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Chapter II, of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, offers readers substantial insight into Victor's interest in science and this interest's impact on his personality.

In this chapter, Victor's initial interest in science is revealed.

Natural philosophy is the genius that has regulated my fate; I desire, therefore, in this narration, to state those facts which led to my predilection for that science.

Here, Victor defines the budding of his scientific mind. His interest in natural philosophy first began when he read Cornelius Agrippa. It was the works of Agrippa which sparked his interest.

Later in the chapter, Victor admits to his obsessive nature. Enthralled by Agrippa, Victor decided that he must read everything written by the man.

When I returned home, my first care was to procure the whole works of this author, and afterwards of Paracelsus and Albertus Magnus.

The fact that he gathered and read complete works shows his predisposition to obsession.

All of this said, Victor's predisposition to science over takes his personality. His studies and experimentation with reanimating life proves to be so consuming that he fails to care for himself or make contact with his family. Essentially, science is everything to Victor. Therefore, Victor's strong interest in science speaks to his obsessive personality and refusal to accept the advice of others (given he refuses to listen to either his father or his professors).

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial