Cold Critical: Why Pragmatism is Necessary

Ambition in itself is what determines if a certain task or feat is able to be overcome. It is the fire that has guided humanity throughout time in order to achieve all that the species has throughout the course of time. Yet ambition by itself is also a dangerous thing; an open flame it can spread and burn all that it surrounds, turning everything it touches into useless ash. This is why reason is equally necessary. it provides an outlet. Reason guides ambition and ensures that it does not spiral out of control; it keeps ambition useful and productive. This is the idea Mary Shelly explores in her novel Frankenstein through the character of Victor Frankenstein. Throughout the novel, the reader bears witness to an individual who sees through tunnel vision, looking only at the goals in front of him without thinking of the possibilities that anything could go wrong.  It is Victor’s single-minded determination that allows him to accomplish all that he did in his life, yet his lack of a rationale that had been his ultimate undoing. As a result he watched all of his mistakes come to life and tear everything he loved apart. Mary Shelly argues in Frankenstein that when  an ambitious individual is completely engulfed in their profession, they lose their sense of pragmatism and often left unable to foresee the consequences of their actions, becoming the sole cause of misery for themselves and others.


As many individuals with a promising future, Victor Frankenstein dreams of the possibilities that await him in his profession and study of science. Regarded as a prodigy and having received consistent praise from his family and educators, Victor’s self esteem spikes and his ego inflates to the extent that he adopts a vision that he will become the next notable figure in science. The praise he had gotten from others had made him believe that he was capable of doing anything and everything that he had desired, causing him to believe that he was not bound by human constraints or that which nature had imposed on all living beings. He adopts ideals and imvisions all that he will become the next notable figure in science one day if he stays on the path that he is on. His excitement for such a future, almost to the extent of infatuation, causes him to relentlessly pursue his desired field of study. And the more he studied he found himself to be more knowledgeable and successful than those around him, truly believing at that point that he was guaranteed greatness and it was only a matter of time until he achieved it. This drives his motivations to make his dreams a reality and follow through all of his goals without the slightest feeling of hesitation. Victor rationalizes that in order to become a notable figure, he must accomplish a notable feat, and therefore choses to defy nature itself and create life without a woman; something unheard of. Victor is an example of an individual who had not faced a single ounce of failure in his life and therefore lacked the hesitation to question himself on his goals and whether or not they were attainable. Furthermore he displays a lack of foresight that is critical to have when an individual seeks to follow through with a task of great difficulty and reward.


And yet it is when he follows through with the task that he truly questions himself and his motivations. Seeing the ugliness that he had glorified days before it came to life, he is appalled by the sight of the creature that he and given life to and does the irrational thing and choses to flee out of fear. And in his escape he experiences the world for the first time in months. Victor sees the outside world and all that he had blinded himself to while he was occupied with his task of assembling the monster, and he sees himself as well. In his pursuit to create life, Victor had not realized that he had taken a tremendous toll on his physical health and wellbeing, and neglected the family that had loved him so dearly. It occurs to him that he is human, he has a family and he has a body, both of which need attention and to be nurtured and cared for. Seeing the damage that he had done in his absence Victor seeks to rectify the issue and prioritize all of his time away from the study of science, and towards his family completely. Yet there lies a contradiction in his new resolution,in his time attempting to reintegrate with humanity, he loses a critical aspect of it; compassion and indiscrimination. This is seen when the monster’s humanity is contrasted with Victor’s as when both characters had spent time apart from each other they had tried to become more human, one of which succeeded despite being outcasted, and the other had failed miserably despite being fully integrated. As such Victor denies his monster’s pleas for companionship and demonizes it instead, justifying himself by assigning false labels such as ‘monster’ ‘demon’. In his arrogance Victor creates the turning point in the novel, when he destroyed the monster’s unborn companion after promising to grant his wish. In doing so he damns himself essentially, by acting as the starting point for a chain of reaction of events that will result in his life spiraling towards unthinkable misery. Had Victor simply had the wisdom in mind to understand that the misery could stop then and there the story would have had a happy ending, yet he let his fear rule instead which had resulted in another outcome.


Due to his lack of compassion and understanding of human emotions and needs, Victor pays the full price of his arrogance as he watches what had embodied his ideals and beliefs destroy his family one person at a time, and consequently his life. Frankenstein is the reason that the monster had lost its sense of humanity and developed a bloodlust and vengeance. As the monster selectively kills his family and friends, Victor is left unable to do anything but watch, suffer, and blame himself, as the creature was made to be more physically capable than he. Yet the suffering does not end there, Victor was forced to chase the monster through treacherous landscapes and harsh weather causing his physical and complete mental degradation all the way to his family’s graves. This serves to humble VIctor in the cruelest way possible, a man who had defied nature paid the price of their offense by having to battle the elements themselves.Seeking to finally end the conflict that he started VIctor does seeks out his monster in the cold regions of the north and finally dies a sad and meaningless death due to the limits of his human body. In the end he dies miserable and sad, having the blood of innocents at his hands.The tragic aspect of this development is that Victor’s potential for success had gone exactly the way he wanted it to, and it had only failed because he lacked to have a strong rationale to guide him all the way though. Had Victor seen beyond what he wanted to achieve and had been more aware of the gravity of his actions on the lives of others, the story would have had a less tragic ending and Frankenstein would not have died so young, as a youthful death signifies wasted potential. Victor’s inability to be a pragmatist in complex situations that required simple solutions was his ultimate downfall, as it had all come down to a simple acceptance or denial of a critical and reasonable request by in individual whom he had given life to.


Mary Shelly Argues in Frankenstein that when an ambitious individual lets their passion control their desires, they are left blind to the consequences of their actions, and consequently pay full the price of their actions and drag others down with their failures, all due to their simple inability to think on reason. Victor Frankenstein is an example of such a character. Unable to see how his profession and studies would affect the lives on others he mindlessly pursues and allows himself to become the starting point for a chain of events that lead to an endless cycle of death and suffering. This is the central idea of the novel, as passion is extremely dangerous without a reason to guide it and suppress it when necessary. A strong rationale and sense of practicality alongside a passion  to achieve creates an unconquerable individual. There exists a delicate balance between the two as one cannot exist in harmony without the other. Reason is what allows passion to be so successful and what truly guides humanity. Because as strong as the motivations can be, they are absolutely useless without a means of execution.

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One thought on “Cold Critical: Why Pragmatism is Necessary

  1. Dear Nilave,

    I can tell you like your Frankenstein. This essay seems so thought out and well articulated, I can see that you have a passion to talk about it. To talk about reason in this piece has implications that suit it well, as the moral dilemma of the monster and Victor echoes throughout your piece. Your topic sentences in your body paragraphs function very well as introducing us to your next piece of evidence. I also enjoyed how you compared fire to your piece in your intro paragraph, as it provides imagery and a better understanding of your argument.

    One tiny thing to watch out for is just some GUMPS errors here and there. Also be sure to have enough matter in your body paragraphs, as this is where the human condition ties in.

    Amazing job!

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