Contents Index

Was man . . . base

The Creature's education in and through the simultaneity of contraries (see 2.5.3 and note) leads him to a large political and social realm that is difficult for him to assess. He is hardly the first to have such a reaction. This sentence resonates with the same sense of frustration with the contradictions of the human condition expressed by Byron's Manfred (Manfred was begun in the summer of 1816) in a similar Alpine setting to that in which the Creature speaks.
How beautiful is all this visible world!
How glorious in its action and itself;
But we, who name ourselves its sovereigns, we,
Half deity, half dust, alike unfit
To sink or soar, with our mix'd essence make
A conflict of its elements, and breathe
The breath of degradation and of pride,
Contending with low wants and lofty will
Till our mortality predominates,
And men are--what they name not to themselves,
And trust not to each other.
-- I.ii.36-47