Mary Shelley’s, Frankenstein, was written during a period of dramatic revolution. The failed French Revolution and Industrial Revolution seriously mark the novel with hints of moral and scientific revolution. Through Frankenstein, Shelley sends out a clear message that morally irresponsible scientific development can unleash a monster that can destroy its creator. Upon beginning the creation process, Victor Frankenstein uses the scientific advances of others to infiltrate the role of nature. “The modern masters promise very little..
But these philosophers .. have indeed performed miracles.. They penetrate into the recesses of nature and show 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 breath. They have acquired new and almost unlimited powers; they can command the thunders of heaven, mimic the earthquake, and even mock the invisible world of its own shadows”(47). Frankenstein sees these innovations as overpowering and substantially giving humans the power of god.
Frankenstein believes that through these new scientific powers human kind would be served with a positive effect. Disease could be banished and self glory could result. “what glory would attend the discovery if I could banish disease from the human frame and render man invulnerable to any but a violent death”(40)! Shelley characterizes Frankenstein as a modern a mad scientist. One who fails to look at the moral and social implications when attempting to play god. Frankenstein gets obsessed with the power to master nature and create a new life.
In creating life, and ultimately the creature, Victor Frankenstein seeks unlimited power to the extent that he is taking the place of god in relation to his creation. “A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me”(52). Frankenstein believes that there may be little end to his power. “I might in process of time renew life where death had apparently devoted the body to corruption”(53). In order to create the new life Frankenstein must look beyond moral obligation and dehumanize the act of life.
He exploits natures resources in his obsession to manipulate nature. For Frankenstein death and decay have no morality. The process is merely scientific, “I beheld the corruption of death succeed to the blooming cheek of life; I saw how the worm inherited the wonders of the eye and brain”(51). It is this vantage point which allows Frankenstein to gather the bones and body parts from dissecting rooms and slaughterhouses, and look at them as only materials for his product. He never once looks at each bone or body part as a person.
Frankenstein is not concerned with morality. There is never a question as to whether he should create life, only how to do it. “When I found so astonishing a power placed within my hands, I hesitated a long time concerning the matter to which I should employ it. Although I possessed the capacity of bestowing animation… still remained a work of inconceivable difficulty and labour”(52). Frankenstein never questions the ethics in creating a new life, he simply uses science.
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This quote is the epigraph for Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”. It expresses a central problem in this work – the problem of the responsibility of the creator towards his creature, and gives the reader the impression that the maker owes something to what he had brought into being. For the first time we are introduced to this idea in the beginning of Victor Frankenstein’s story when he tells Walton that his mother and father felt that they “owed” something to him because they had given him life.
Later on in the second chapter we can see that Victor himself had sensed an bligation of his parents to guide him when he retells how at the age of thirteen he found a book by Cornelius Agrippa, which sparked his interest in alchemy. Frankenstein recognizes that his father should have given him more guidance when he tells how his father, “looked carelessly at the title page”, and merely dismissed the work as, “sad trash”.
He states that, if instead, his father had taken the time to explain that alchemy had been disproved, then, “It is even possible that the train of my ideas would never have received the fatal impulse that led to my ruin. ” (page 38-39). But Victor never fully understands this responsibility, rejecting his creature what he thought his father owed him. This is highlighted when, having created “the fiend”, he sees the contrast between his dream and the reality of the “miserable monster” and flees from his apartment.
Then, on returning, he realizes that the creature has escaped and, as he tells Walton, “I clapped my hands for joy” (page 60). It is not until the desperate and unhappy creature has already told Frankenstein his story, begging for a mate, that he briefly feels the slightest responsibility for him. It is at this point in the novel that he thinks to himself, “And did I not as his maker, owe him all the portion of happiness that it was in my power to bestow? ” (page 132).
However, the responsibility for his fellow human beings eventually takes over, as Victor decides not to comply with the monster’s request after all. This sense of compassion for the demon completely disappears when Elizabeth is killed. The only thing that Victor can feel after that point is hate. His sole purpose in life, which used to be creating life from lifeless matter, now becomes avenging his family and riends by killing that newly created life: the monster. Victor Frankenstein can really be associated with the modern Prometheus. He defies the gods by creating life himself.
Instead of being the created, Victor takes God’s place and becomes the creator. Just as Prometheus, he gets punished for his deeds. He is, however, punished by his creation whereas Prometheus was punished by the god who he stole from. The outward appearance of the monster, which remains nameless, is described by his creator: he is created from various different body parts, e has yellow skin which “scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath”, he has lustrous, flowing black hair and white teeth, and he has a “shriveled complexion and straight black lips. Combine these features with the fact that he is also very tall and the image of a monster is complete.
This appearance turns out to be the cause of all his problems. People are frightened when they see him, which keeps the monster from making contact with them. The lonely creature asks Victor: “You, my creator, abhor me; what hope can I gather from your fellow-creatures, who owe me nothing? They spurn and hate me. (page 84) This inability of personal contact and the resulting isolation is what indirectly drives the monster to his crimes.
He tells Frankenstein: “I am malicious because I am miserable. ” The creature has, in effect, been cast out like Adam and Eve before him. He tries to communicate with people on several occasions but is constantly rejected. He has somewhat lost hope as he takes refuge in the hovel near the De Lacey’s home. The monster observes them for months, learning their language and their habits. He sees the love and care the family show towards each other, and watching them together, he lso feels emotions which he has not experienced before.
When Agatha is upset and her father comforts her, the creature recalls that he “felt sensations of a peculiar and overpowering nature: they were a mixture of pain and pleasure, such as I had never before experienced, either from hunger or cold, warmth or food… ” (page 104) At this moment he has begun to develop more sophisticated emotions as he becomes aware of others, and feels compassion, sharing their joy and sorrow. His emotions are no longer purely based on his own basic needs and his senses.
Just as a small child learns about their relationships with others, the creature also learns, although from a distance. Through reading novels like Milton’s “Paradise Lost” he starts wondering about himself and his isolation because of his apparent uniqueness: “I was apparently united by no link to any other being in existence. ” It is obvious that he longs for some kindness, protection and company. These new feelings make the monster plead Victor: “Do your duty towards me, and I will do mine towards you and the rest of mankind. (page 83)
These desires become even more evident when he reads the diary that Victor kept during his creation. From these papers, the monster learns that Victor was not at all happy with his creation. His first experience of Victor, his parent and maker is one of rejection, and this sets the pattern for his life. In all probability, the creature was reaching out, as a small child does to their mother, but his ugly appearance only frightened Victor into running away. This makes him feel even lonelier and abhorred and pushes him towards desire for destruction.
He later states that all the illings did not make him feel better. The monster says that he was “the slave, not the master, of an impulse which I detested, yet could not disobey” (page 204). He, just as Victor, reaches a point where he has no feelings left except for hatred. When he sees that his final victim, namely Victor Frankenstein, is already dead, he shows remorse. He has now accepted that there will never be any being who “pardoning my outward form, would love me for excellent qualities which I was capable of unfolding.
With an immense self-hatred, he promises Walton that he will “consume to ashes this iserable frame” so that future curious generations would not create “such another as I have been. ” The same notion for the connection between creature and creator we discover in the movie “Blade Runner”, directed by Ridley Scot. The replicants are not evil, but confused creatures of Frankenstein seeking like us all, extended life and answers for the pain and suffering caused by grief and heightened doses of emotion.
Survival is a weary task, but it is an important theme; the replicants are not human yet they want life. Towards the climax the film attempts to ring the viewers as close to the point of death as possible. “4, 5 – how to stay alive” shouts Batty chasing Deckard with a nail thrust through his hand, an attempt to retain his failing response to sensation by an infliction of harsh pain.
The viewer senses the hopelessness of Deckard’s situation when he is hung from the roof by Batty, who says: “Quite a thing to live in fear isn’t it? Rachel, one of the replicants, complicates Deckard’s task and in general there is a sense of confusion, horror in Zorra’s realistic death scene and complexity in man’s modern creations and lack of control. Technology, it seems has surpassed our ability to control and relate to it. Batty and the replicants are alone in their struggle – how to live with dangerously acute powers and sensibilities bestowed by people such as the arrogant scientist Dr. Tyrell.
They are not happy with their gift; used as slaves by humans, living in fear of death, and by the end, suffering a painful, protracted and useless end. Their inability to comprehend their own mortality and loss of experiences (“like tears in rain”) mirrors our own. This is the result of arrogant science, of playing Prometheus, and as powerful theme resonates to the consideration that human life is not dissimilar. Deckard finds in the replicants beings not very different than himself – confused, fearful and understandably dangerous when threatened.
But this merely adds strength to the theme of presenting the experience of humanity – its strange needs and compulsions – through the concept of replicants. The fact that their murder is called “retirement” draws attention to an unjust but deliberate discrimination. What people are tracking down in the Nexus Six replicants are mirrors of themselves, uffering from a lack of empathy. The replicants group awkwardly together in the shadow of death. Empathy is what makes us human; our ability to feel for others.
Deckard is not sufficiently possessed of this until he is taken to hand at the end by Batty. The Blade Runner explains this decision of the replicants in the theatrical version of the movie, saying: “I don’t know why he saved my life, maybe in those final moments he loved life more than he ever had before. Not just his life anybody’s life my life. All he wanted were the same answers the rest of us want. Where do I come from? Where am I going? How long have I got? ” In both Mary Shelley’s novel and Ridley Scot’s movie we come across the attempts of human beings to take God’s place and the results of such attempts.
The general feeling is that man is not capable of being creator of life because he is incapable of taking responsibility for his creation. In both cases the maker fails to perform his duty towards what he had given life to and this results in a disaster. Expressing the feelings of the creation are the compelling words of the monster, pleading Frankenstein to fulfill his duties: I am thy creature, and I will be even mild and docile to my natural lord and king, if thou wilt also perform thy part, the which thou owest me.
Oh, Frankenstein, be not equitable to every other, and trample upon me alone, to whom thy justice, and even thy clemency and affection, is most due. Remember, that I am thy creature; I ought to be thy Adam; but I am rather the fallen angel, whom thou drivest from joy for no misdeed. Everywhere I see bliss, from which I alone am irrevocably excluded. I was benevolent and good; misery made me a fiend. Make me happy, and I shall again be virtuous. ” (page 84)
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