Themes Raised in Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Frankenstein is a novel written by British author Mary Shelley in 1818. The novel describes the story of a young gifted scientist, Victor Frankenstein, who created a living creature as an unorthodox experiment. Frankensteins creation occurred to be hideous and, therefore, rejected by the scientist and humanity (Shelley 28). This alienation became a driving force for the creatures revenge through murders. In Frankenstein, Shelly addresses numerous themes such as prejudice, revenge, society and isolation, nature, and death, to name just a few. Still, the most essential theme discussed in the novel is one of ethics in science. The dilemma is that, on the one hand, science is, by definition, about thinking and acting beyond the existing borders as it is the only way to discover something new. However, on the other hand, the results of scientific developments are unpredictable. The current paper argues that Shellys appeal to the audience is that science is not almighty, and scholars should not try to perform such duties of God as, for example, giving a life for a creature. Besides, regardless of what the outcomes are, scientists should bear responsibility for their actions.
The ethical debate on science, described in Frankenstein, does not lose its actuality up till now. What is more, in the 21st century it has become even more topical due to numerous inventions and scientific developments. The most burning dilemma considers the issue of life and death, as it has already been mentioned. Such procedures as abortions, euthanasia, extracorporal fertilization, transplantation, bioengineering, and cloning raise debates on whether it is ethical or not to give or take away lives in an unnatural way. The example of Victor Frankenstein illustrates that people should not try to “play God” (Shafer par. 5). Nevertheless, many people are currently alive due to clinical intervention which would be impossible without new technologies. Thus, doctors who save peoples lives, and innovators who develop various technologies that affect peoples longevity, to some extent, act like God by postponing the death of individuals. Based on Frankensteins experience, it could be claimed that scientists should foremost think of the ethics of their actions.
Concerning the topic of Frankensteins ethical dilemmas, it should be mentioned that, in the novel, Shelley illustrates the power of science to blur the line between life and death. Frankenstein notes that “Life and death appeared to me ideal bounds, which I should first breakthrough” and creates a living being out of dead pieces (Shelley 26). Therefore, it could be concluded that the scientist eradicates the difference between life and death by returning to life dead scattered parts and uniting them as the monster (Peters 147). The protagonist of Shelleys novel managed to “renew life where death had devoted the body to corruption” (Shelley 26). This way, the fuzziness of distinctions between life and death is evident in the novel since Frankenstein refutes the fact that once something is dead, it could not revive again in the real, not mythological, circumstances.
The problem with the creator and his creation is exacerbated by the fact that the former appeared to be unable to provide the latter with a decent life. Frankenstein’s creature was horrendous and separated from society because of this reason. The scientist created a being that was doomed to suffer. This point returns us to the problem of the creators responsibility for what is being produced. Frankenstein wanted his experiment to be successful and the only goal he was pursuing is giving life to the artificially created creature. He did not take into consideration the fact that life is a more complex phenomenon than simply breathing and moving the body. The life of a sentient being is also about interaction with others and inclusion in the society of self-like creatures. Frankensteins monster was single and rejected even by the father. Thus, Victor Frankenstein illustrates that scientists should not be short-sighted. Instead, they should think about how the object that they created would behave in society, whether it would be harmful to others and for itself.
To sum up, it should be noted that Frankenstein could be viewed as a guide for scientists, researchers, and experimentalist that they should not forget to focus on the ethical side of their developments as well. Even though Frankenstein tried to conquer death, he finally failed to do so and proved that his capacity to control life is limited (Neel 421). Shelley illustrates that the attempt to erase the bound between life and death does not lead to any decent results. The further science develops, the more burning remains the debates about the permissibility of humans to decide the questions of life and death. Thus, it seems that Shelleys novel would never become outdated. At the same time, Shelleys view on ethics and morality in science and the link between the latter and religion is not the truth in the first instance. Her opinion could be disproved by those who suppose that there is no higher power than people and that people are free to do whatever they want for the sake of technological and scientific progress. Nevertheless, one should not forget that in any case a creator should be answerable for the consequences of the experiment and should never reject the creation.
Neel, Alexandra. “Still Life in Frankenstein.” Novel: A Forum on Fiction, vol. 48, no. 3, 2015, pp. 421–445.
Peters, Ted. “Playing God with Frankenstein.” Theology and Science, vol. 16, no. 2, 2018, pp. 145-150.
Shafer, Audrey. “.” Stanford Medicine, 2018. Web.
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. Broadview Press, 2012.
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