Contents Index

pursuit of knowledge

Although this appears a sensible maxim, on extended examination it tends to favor a low level of ambition and to inhibit most attempts to reach beyond a status quo. The "tranquillity" attained in this way, seeming to forestall the pursuit of excellence in a particular field of endeavor, or a concentrated exertion to achieve a particular goal, or, indeed, any real application of genius, rather assumes the appearance of passivity or inertia. Although certainly, Victor's remark questions the activities not just of himself but of his auditor, Walton, as well, and thus fits into the overall moral rationale for his narration, this blanket reversal of both of their strongest impulses is likely to create a counterthrust of ambiguity in the reader's reaction to the statement.

Behind the statement and our reaction to it lies the cosmic ambiguity of Milton's Paradise Lost, which exerts a continuing pressure on Mary Shelley's novel.