Contents Index

the moral relations of things

In distinguishing so sharply between scientific and moral arenas of thought, or between metaphysics and ethics as branches of philosophy, Victor unconsciously begins to raise what is perhaps the major issue of the novel, a human being's responsibility for knowledge. His abstract nouns are themselves revealing: he is engaged by the "substance" or the "spirit," whereas what impels Clerval are the "relations" of things. Clerval implicitly looks at the universe in terms of communities, which is to say, in the largest sense, as political relations; Victor concentrates on individual matters in isolation. In respect to this dialectic it is interesting to contemplate how intrinsically committed to both its sides is Walton. That dual commitment will in the end become contradictory, leaving Walton on the horns of a dilemma, having to choose between pure science and moral obligation.