Dr. Frankenstein’s limited education and exposure to books of ancient science, rather than his hubris, seems to be his primary weakness. The hubris might also come from the natural philosophers he esteems. Without the audaciousness of ancient scientists, influenced by their pre-Christian values and beliefs, Frankenstein admits that he wouldn’t have pursued his project. He not only models their methods but also their value-system, which to a Christian/Victorian audience is particularly immoral. Thus, the belief and ambition he possesses in endeavoring to create life results from a sequestered self-education. Moreover, the influence of a limited education is a running theme in the text. Even the narrator accounts that his exposure to his uncle’s library, primarily comprised of “history of voyages” (13), leads him on an ambitious expedition of cross the North Pacific Ocean. Both the narrator and Dr. Frankenstein are blinded by their ambition as they want to conquer the unconquerable, and in endeavoring to do so, they neglect others or fail to foresee the dire consequences of their actions. Dr. Frankenstein, particularly, neglects his domestic duties – his self-education and the will it has instilled in him to reach beyond his means has also prevented him from cultivating a sense of duty toward family and friends. Frankenstein, though gothic in style and presentation, is still a very domestic novel, concerned with education and morality.
Frankenstein attributes the failure of his education, or its failure for reform, to a lack of proper guidance, which he doe not receive from his father. When his father tells him the work of Cornelius Agrippa is trash but does not explain why it is the case, Frankenstein faults him for his mislead beliefs. The neglect from his father, his limited education, and his passion for the natural philosophers becomes an underlying reason for why he pursues the unthinkable. He narrates,
My father looked carelessly at the title page of my book, and said, ‘Ah! Cornelius Agrippa! My dear Victor, do not waste your time upon this; it is sad trash.’ If, instead of this remark, my father had taken the pains to explain tome 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 practice; under such circumstances, I should certainly have thrown Agrippa arise…It is even possible that the train of my ideas would never have received the fatal impulse that led to my ruin. (34)
He is taken by these natural philosophers and their more wild imaginations and attitudes toward creation. Frankenstein notes that such reading went unsupervised as his father was not a man of science and the Geneva school system did little to guide his passion for science. Thus, he is, like the main narrator, “self taught” (35).
He receives a little guidance on entering university from a professor with congenial and soft manners, M. Waldman, whose counterpart is M. Krempe. M. Krempe, described as “uncouth,” dismisses his interest in ancient science, telling him he must abandon these notions completely and adopt modern science. Like the rebuke from his father, this severe dismissal has the opposite effect and Frankenstein pursues the same line of study with more fever. It is M. Krempe’s harsh manner, and not merely harsh words, that fail to influence Frankenstein. He is taken by M. Waldman, because this professor proves to be a gentleman “for there was a certain dignity in his mien” (43). Moreover, M. Waldman’s praise of the ancients rouses Frankenstein’s passion further, which “enounced to destroy him” (42). M. Waldman is careful in giving praise to ancient scientist as he claims they “promise impossibilities, and performed nothing” (42). Yet, Frankenstein only seems to apprehend his praise through a blurred lens that always sees the natural world in “grand” terms. It is enough of a push for him as such praise comes from a man who is a gentleman of manners and conduct.
Frankenstein is definitely a gothic horror, and rightly, belongs to that genre of writing. However, there are hints, and some of these are significant, that make the story more domestic – concerned with the harmony of the family and relations of a smaller town. This is particularly evident with Frankenstein becomes so infatuated and intent on completing his project that he forgets everyone around him, including the most important and consequential people in in his life.