What is the significance of the sea to Frankenstein in Mary Shelley's book?  

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Michael Foster eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Frankenstein, the sea symbolizes the uncharted realms of science. Robert Walton has stated that he intends to conquer the sea and find the Northwest Passage, a shortcut around the continent of North America by sailing around the northern coast of Canada (unbeknownst to him, this is completely covered by ice and is thus impassable). He believes that this discovery will earn him fame and renown. When he picks up Victor Frankenstein, he is intrigued as to why this person is out in the middle of the ice in pursuit of a mysterious figure. Victor begs Walton to give up his mission to “conquer the sea” and reveal the truth in science. He tells the captain his own attempt to take command over life and death and how it led him to tragedy. The sea is a symbol of the uncontrollable nature of science and must be left alone.