In the 1818 version of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, the only two professors mentioned during Victor Frankenstein's time at Ingolstadt College are Professor M. Krempe and Professor M. Waldman. Krempe is described as "a squat man, with a gruff voice and repulsive countenance." (Shelley, 28) Waldman, on the other hand, is described as short, but erect, with "the sweetest voice (he/Victor) had ever heard." (Shelley, 29) While both of these men are professors of natural philosophy (natural science), Krempe teaches natural philosophy and its general relations to the other sciences while Waldman lectures on the science of chemistry. Both of these men teach Victor important applications in their respective sciences and hold Victor in high esteem for his passion and accomplishments, for they lavish praise about his works and discoveries.(Shelley, 46-47) Yet both of these men do not seem to understand the inner workings of Victor Frankenstein. Overall, Professors Waldman and Krempe act as a sort of fan, rekindling the Victor's passion for natural philosophy, and also act as enablers through education, giving Victor the tools that ultimately lead to the creation of the creature.
Initial Meeting: Krempe
While authors like Cornelius Agrippa, Albertus Magnus, and Paracelsus begin setting the foundation for Victor's interest in natural philosophy, Frankenstein himself claims that the Ingolstadt professors are responsible for setting him down the path of making the creature, naming M. Krempe and M. Waldman specifically. After settling into college, Victor visits many of his professors, naming M. Krempe as one of them. Victor is met with politeness and questions of his former training, but Krempe's blunt personality is revealed as Victor lists the works he spent his time studying. He tells Victor that "every instant that you have wasted on those books is utterly and entirely lost," and softens no exclamations about wasted time and effort. (Shelley, 28) Though Krempe's demeanor suggests nothing purely spiteful, he is off-putting to Victor, who describes him as "squat," "gruff," and "repulsive," as well as "conceited". (Shelley, 29) His first encounter with Krempe is not a positive one.
Reentering of the Natural Sciences
In his youth, Victor finds the teachings of Agrippa, Magnus, and the others to be useless, and quits all pursuit of natural philosophy. Ingolstadt and Krempe are the first signals that natural sciences are to reenter Frankenstein's realm of education once more. Victor's sensitivity to Krempe's opinion infers that his former home life was met with no harsh criticism, and also leaves questions open as to the perfect balance between positive reinforcement and discipline needed when instructing a child.
Initial Meeting: Waldman
When Victor receives an invitation toi Krempe's lectures, he is less than excited about attending. Krempe explains to Victor that on the days he does not lecture, Professor Waldman is to speak. (Shelley, 29) This alone does not interest Victor for the the lectures he had previously attended at the request of his father had confounded and disgusted him, for he had caught the tail end of the lectures with no base knowledge to understand what was being taught. (Shelley, 24) Victor almost did not attend, but because Krempe gives Waldman an outstanding recommendation and Victor had been unable to visit Waldman personally, Victor decides to go to one of his lectures.
As Waldman enters the class, Victor describes him as endowed with the expression of "greatest benevolence," and physically "short, but remarkably erect." Waldman's first lecture left the greatest impression upon young Victor, igniting something inside of him.
"The Ancient teachers of thpromised impossibilities, and performed nothing. The modern masters promise very little; they know that metals cannot be transmuted, and that the elixir of life is a chimera. But these philosophers, whose hands seem only made to dabble in dirt, and their eyes to pour over the microscope or crucible, have indeed performed miracles. They penetrate into the recesses of nature, and shew how she works in her hiding places. They ascend into the heavens; they have discovered how the blood circulates, and the nature of the air we breathe. They have acquired new and almost unlimited powers; they can command the thunders of heaven, mimic the earthquake, and even mock the invisible world with its own shadows.” -Waldman (Shelley, 29)
The Lecture's Effects
This lecture is arguably the most important key to unlocking the sequence of events that follows. Such an optimistic and inspirational message rekindles the fire in Victor's mind. This shows the impression that the domestic has made of Victor because encouragement is what becomes Victor's motivation. Victor's face to face meeting with Waldman only serves to deepen his interest in the study. The genteel aspect of Waldman becomes more pronounced in private company, and the kindness and understanding displayed towards Victor’s old studies solidifies a good image of both the professor and the sciences in Victor’s mind. Sympathy, rather than scorn, plays to Victor’s nature, and Waldman is nothing if not sympathetic. Waldman recommends a wide variety of natural sciences to begin studying as well as introducing Victor to the instruments of his own lab. In the eyes of Waldman, he is equipping an eager student to learn, but in the eyes of the Victor relaying the story to Walton, he is equipping Victor to create the monster. Everything has been set in place for Victor to bring the monster into the world. In the words of Frankenstein “thus ended a day memorable to me; it decided my future destiny.” (Shelley, 30)
Introducing Henry Clerval to the Professors
While Professors Krempe and Waldman do not make an appearance while Victor Frankenstein is in the process of making the monster, they appear one last time in the novel when Victor is introducing his instructors to Henry Clerval. After considering the creation of the monster a grave mistake, anything having to do with the sciences, even remote talk, injures Frankenstein in the worst way possible. Waldman does significant damage with kind praise and acclamation of Victor’s achievements. When mistaking Victor’s pain as modesty, Waldman begins to speak on science itself to entice Victor’s interest, yet this does nothing but inflict more torment. Henry is perceptive enough to guide the conversation away from the subject, but Waldman never actually catches on to Frankenstein’s pain.
Krempe, in his blunt tone, appears to leave more damage than “the benevolent approbation of M. Waldman.” (Shelley, 47) Krempe’s praise was high and weighty to Victor, stabbing him in the worst way. Once again, the pain that appeared on Frankenstein’s countenance was counted as modesty. The one thing Victor was grateful for was that Krempe did not stay long on the topic of sciences, but rather turned to himself and his own accolades. (Shelley, 47)
Relating Krempe and Waldman to the Sciences
This scene in particular presents a lack of understanding from the Professors. The creation of the monster has a devastating effect on Frankenstein’s health and psyche, which neither Waldman nor Krempe are able to identify because they were not directly involved with Victor during the process of the making of the creature. Frankenstein’s relationships to Professor Waldman and Professor Krempe are directly related to the natural philosophies. Because Victor’s relationship to the philosophies changes, his relation to the Professors also changes.
Impact in/for Frankenstein
While very few pages are devoted to these two professors, the effect of Krempe and Waldman have on Victor is vital to the story. They are part of the chain of events which lead to the making of the monster. As teachers, they rekindle Victor's passion for the natural sciences as well as enable him to continue his studies. In the minds of Krempe and Waldman, they are encouraging and teaching Victor the secrets of natural philosophy, while in the mind of the Victor that is retelling the story, they are adding fuel that inflates Victor's mind and ego towards the creation of the monster.
It is possible that Waldman and Krempe could have been completely ignored in the writing of Frankenstein and some other link could have been used to forge the sequence of events together, but Mary Shelley makes Waldman and Krempe important. The emphasis on Krempe and Waldman is an emphasis on education.
Shelley uses education as the catalyst to spur Victor to the create the monster, but she uses it for so much more. Education is a tool that enables. Victor self-studies from books as well as learns from the professors, which give him the knowledge he needs to build the monster. Henry eventually convinces his father to let him enroll in college to learn languages for the sake of trade. The monster learns communication and rhetoric from his time with the DeLacy family, which give him the ability to relay his tale to Victor and argue for the making of a mate. (Shelley, 21, 39, 89) The knowledge learned from education gives the people the power to grow, establish themselves, and create.
Waldman and Krempe are only part of the educational influences in Frankenstein, but they are no small part. They are vital to the story told by Mary Shelley. They are the rekindling of Victor's desire to learn, they are the empowering spirit that gives Victor the tools to fulfill that desire. Most importantly, they are the link used to bring Victor from self-study to the making of the monster; the tie that Victor claims binds him to his fate.
Resources/More to Read
Chao, Shun-Liang. "Education as a Pharmakon in Mary Shelley's FRANKENSTEIN." The Explicator: 223-26. Web. 8 Mar. 2015. <http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00144940.2010.535460#abstract>
Frankenstein. Kino Lorber, Inc., 1931. Film. <http://frankensteinia.blogspot.com/2007/08/dr-waldman-edward-van-sloan.html>
Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Susan J. Wolfson. Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's Frankenstein, Or, The Modern Prometheus. 2nd ed. New York: Pearson Longman, 2007. 28-89. Print.