“This is the time I have called the Age of Wonder, and with any luck we have not yet quite grown out of it” – Richard Holmes, in The Age of Wonder.

            Victor Frankenstein embodies the idea of a scientist consumed by a passion of ‘wonder.’ He takes the ideas of the mechanical arts a step further, and creates an autonomous life. What this being he has created actually is can be debated. Nonetheless, Victor can be seen as the first eugenicist of the literature read in the class thus far. We have read about mechanical artist, such as Robinson Crusoe, and liberal artist, such as Prospero, but never were we introduced to a technological artist who can create a new life. This feat of Victor is quite telling of the social consciousness, ideological development, and wonder of the period. It speaks multitudes of a society continuing the journey of redeeming itself from the Fall to pre-Fall Adamic nature, mimicking God’s ability to create life, maybe, with the hope to extend one’s life, and extending its mastery of the natural laws. As we read, Victor did have a desire for the “…search of the philosopher’s stone and the elixir of life” (22). Victor also says, “… what glory would attend the discovery, if I could banish disease from the human frame, and render man invulnerable to any but a violent death” (22). Hence, there is definitely a wonder of the nature of existence, and the hope to cure diseases and evade death.

Moreover, his fancies also bring up the possible questions that may have been circulating at the time about the soul, questions that have been examined by the ancients. If Victor created a living being, what is its life-force (soul)? What animates the creature? And how can it help him in his fantastical quest of immortality? What new information would such a creation provide? In the end, his creation seems to reveal more about the human condition than provide answers for eternal life. The quote below seems to summarize what his studies of natural science provided him, that is, a fiery desire to ‘wonder.’

            “Natural philosophy is the genius that has regulated my fate…” – Victor Frankenstein

            Victor’s remarks, while narrating his tale to Mr. Walton, are also quite telling, and his beliefs of the two arts are revealed. He states, “If, instead of this remark, my father had taken the pains to explain to me, that the principles of Agrippa had been entirely exploded, and that a modern system of science had been introduced, which possessed much greater powers than the ancient, because the powers of the latter were chimerical, while those of the former were real and practical; under such circumstances, I should certainly have thrown Agrippa aside, and, with my imagination warmed as it was, should probably have applied myself to the more rational theory of chemistry which has resulted from modern discoveries” (21). But he still desired for the unexplainable, the things that science cannot account for. Victor says, “The natural phaenomena that take place every day before our eyes did not escape my examinations” (22) and, when told that his ideas of natural philosophy were outdated, “I was required to exchange chimeras of boundless grandeur for realities of little worth” (27). But there was one science that combined his ideology with the new, Chemistry. Chemistry, for Victor, seems to combine his passion of the unexplainable with the mechanical, with the hope of manipulating the unexplainable through practical measures, because some of the things believed unexplainable (lightening, earthquakes) were already being decoded in understandable, hard scientific, evidence-based ways. As Professor Waldman tells him, “[Chemist] They have acquired new and almost unlimited powers; they can command the thunders of heaven, mimic the earthquake, and even mock the invisible world with its own shadows” (28). Hence, Chemistry was a branch of natural philosophy that combined the fanciful with mechanical manipulation. It inspired awe, yet, still made itself appear to be measurable and replicable. It was a bridge that might help him to achieve his goals of immortality.

On an end note, this train of thought Victor treaded resembles the philosophies of modern medicine, making Victor out to be some sort of fanciful physician, exploring different scientific innovations of the time. Kind of like the way chemist in drug companies develop different drugs based on natural occurring chemicals, mixing them up, and then patenting them, then selling it to the American public. I am sure that the powers that be are searching for an eternal life pill, but until they find it we will still be left in a state of ‘wonder’!

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