Contents Index

senseless curiosity

This phrase represents another instance of the complexity of verbal resonance we encounter late in Mary Shelley's novel. It was, as Victor Frankenstein himself acknowledged, curiosity about the Creature he pursued (Letter 4.4) that first animated the interest of Walton and his crew. In the very beginning Walton had characterized his driving passion as an "ardent curiosity" (Letter 1.2), and it is this trait that most obviously links him with the obsessive scientific pursuits that Victor early on associated with the realm of the "lawless" (1.7.1). Yet, it is the same trait that compels Victor to listen to the Creature's naration (2.2.7) below Mont Blanc and that will restrain Walton from attacking him (Walton 13) upon his reappearance in the final pages. Thus, what leads to an antisocial solipsism can also be an instrument for transcending rigid barriers and reestablishing social relationships through sympathy. The strongly oppositional ways in which curiosity functions in the novel may suggest that this most human (and Romantic) attribute is inherently neither good nor bad, but is merely an instrument, neutral in itself, that should never be dissociated from our common "sense" of the ends it pursues.