Humans have always tried to surpass each other and accomplish goals. One of the greatest contests in history could arguably be between man and God, if there is such a thing. In Mary Shelleys Frankenstein, Victor Frankenstein attempts to attain the greatest knowledge of life. Victor attempts to surge beyond accepted human limits and access the secret of life. Shelley portrays a man who obtained the powers of God and wrongfully used those powers. Victors entire life was shaped and influenced by his quest for the truth. Little did he know that the more he knew, the greater his sorrows became.
The most shocking theme in Frankenstein is probably the idea of creating life in a supernatural way. Victor Frankenstein grew up reading authors such as Agrippa, Paracelsus, and Magnus. He was absolutely fascinated with natural philosophy. Natural philosophy is the genius that ha regulated my fate. (24) After going off to study at a university, Victors thirst for knowledge grew to deadly proportions. He droned over books day after day, hardly answering letters sent by his family. Victor became fascinated with the workings of the human body and continued to study in that realm. He eventually discovered a discovery so great and astonishing that he dedicated his life to fulfilling that discovery. from the midst of this darkness a sudden light broke in upon me- a light so brilliant and wondrous, yet so simplethat I alone should be reserved to discover so astonishing a secret. (37) Victor had obtained the secret that God himself had forbidden Adam and Eve to obtain. The birth of the creature did not by any means give Victor any sense of accomplishment. Upon breathing life into the creature, Victor was filled with intense revulsion. the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart." (42) By using this dark knowledge Victor had brought forth a hideous creature that he despised and loathed. Victors quest for knowledge ultimately led to the deaths of everyone whom he held dear and, eventually, himself.
In Shelley's time, the power of human reason, through science and technology, challenged many traditional precepts about the world and man's relationship with his creator. Yet at the same time, many questioned these humanist notions, stressing the limits of human capacity. Shelley details this theme in her book, making an allusion to the counter-humanist idea in chapter four when Victor warns Walton not to follow in his footsteps, saying, Learn from me, if not by my precepts, at least by my example, how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge, and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow. (38) Indeed, to Shelley and many others of her time, some riddles of nature should never be discovered by man. Even the alternate title, The Modern Prometheus, undeniably relates this point. Prometheus, a figure in Greek mythology, took fire from the gods in order to give it to man and consequently suffered eternal punishment. Clearly, Victor Frankenstein is this modern Prometheus-in a way, he stole the idea of creation from God and used it for his own ill-advised purposes. For his reckless use of such powers Victor was punished utterly and completely.
Victor had accomplished the ultimate goal of mankind: he had obtained the power of God by means of knowledge. However he also showed that some things are better left alone. By tampering with nature, Victor created a monstrosity which ultimately led to Victors downfall. Perhaps God did have a good reason for banishing Adam.