This is a novel written by Mary Shelley which uses the protagonists Frankenstein and Walton to explore issues that are experienced by people. The novel is really about Frankenstein a young scientist who is disillusioned with life as a result of his failures. The novel is written from a first person point of view where Frankenstein tells his life story to Walton. The preliminary of the novel is written using epistle form of witting where the character who introduces us to Frankenstein writes letters to his sister telling her of his journey and experiences. Frankenstein is introduced into the novel as a sickly man but one who is on the verge of destruction. Floating on an iceberg in the sea, Walton’s men try to convince him to go aboard to avert a disaster. Frankenstein refuses adamantly to go in until he is convinced to do so by the ships captain Walton. After being nursed for two days, he starts telling his story to Walton. This essay tries to answer the question ‘can science go too far?’ by analyzing how science defines life and death. In this essay, the power of science in trying to blur the separation between life and death is addressed while focusing on the differences between faith and science.
Frankenstein ruin was as a result of pursuing science in trying to discover the fantasies of earlier scientists like Agrippa. He was interested in discovering how he could banish disease and human suffering from people (Shelley 32). Frankenstein claimed to have discovered how to make life out of lifeless matter. Despite being brought up in church he asserts that with his enthusiasm in science, the spiritual meaning of life lost ground because to him, the church yard was just a place full of dead people (Shelley 40). In his understanding, life and death were reliant upon each other for either to prosper. The theme of discovery is predominant in the novel because when Frankenstein is introduced into the novel, he inquires as to where the captain was headed. Upon hearing that he was headed to discovery of a place, he agrees to board the ship. This is very strange for a man in his situation to be bothered by where the ship was going as opposed to his well being. This shows that Frankenstein despite being ruined by his enthusiasm to discover still craves to discover what the captain and his friend Walton wishes to discover.
In his endeavor to discover the cause of life, Frankenstein denied himself of essentials such as food and rest and ended up being sick. In the name of science, Frankenstein was able to with stand his loathing towards the materials of his creation (Shelley 43). This is in devotion to his belief that his discovery would do good to society despite the time it took and the pain it inflicted on his being.
Shelley uses irony to account for the theme of discovery. Frankenstein gave all including his health into discovering how to give life to lifeless matter. He tortured his body to endure long working hours and failure to nourish his body. It is ironical that such a learned fellow would fail to realize that a body needs food and rest to live. In his path to discovery of life, he condemned himself to death because by the time he finished creating his creature, his body was almost giving up due to lack of sustenance. His friends and family were dead to his memory because he did not find time to write to them and assure them of his well being. Ironic to his vast knowledge of natural philosophy, his mind was dead to reason because it was ruled by the sole obsession of creating life. Using irony, Shelley shows how Frankenstein was tormented by the sight of the creature he had created to the brink of madness.
The writer also uses poetry to emphasize on the magnitude of discovery through science (Shelley 46). Frankenstein feared the creature he had created such that he spent the night in the cold and went on a brisk walk towards the bus stop. He walked stealthily as a man who was running away from his past knowing that what he feared was behind him and daring not too look back. Use of poetry in this section shows how scientific discovery can result in trouble for the scientist as well as the whole humankind.
According to critics, the ethical issues addressed by Shelley in her novel still haunt science and technological advancement today. They argue that innovativeness in science is engendered by a drive to benefit the human race. However, along the way, many scientists lose site of the noble goals and are swept in materialistic nature of science and discovery (Hosgette 532). They go after fame seeking to be scientists who are hailed for discovery rather than applicability in the society. They also argue that Shelley was trying to show how scientists believe they have the ultimate power to disregard natural philosophy and the place of God in humankind.
Other critics see Frankenstein’s actions of creating a monster being ungodly as one states that “victor doesn’t go to the authorities to confess of his ungodly actions,” (Lunsford 176).The definition of life and death from science perspective according to Shelley is so thin almost non existence because in creating life, Frankenstein ultimately creates death in his ruin and the ruin of his family. According to Shelley, if science disregards the place of God and the role of man and woman in creation, it only leads to disaster for the human race. The very people Frankenstein wanted to save from death ends up being killed in one way or another by the monster he created. Ethically, he does not relinquish the dreams of being a great scientist by disclosing the truth to his friends or family about the danger of his creation. He is concerned with his personal reputation as he refuses to disclose his actions because he thinks people would deduce insanity.
Shelley also explores the possibility that science unlike God is not able to accept everything it creates. Frankenstein was unable to accept the creature which he had taken time to make beautiful. He even refuses to give the creature a name and bolts out of the door for fear of the creature (Shelley 45). When he is introduced into the novel, Frankenstein is perceived to be a handsome young man with good manners by Captain Walton. The definition of beautiful according to Frankenstein is different because in his creation, the creature’s interior organs are visible through its so called skin. To anyone’s imagination, this is horrifying. This brings the central question and the source of disagreement between science and religion home. Clearly, science does not have the power to create life from void and its power therefore is minute when measured against the power of God.
Other critics argue that the novel is based on the fight between two opposing poles of the social order. The conflict between the creator and the creature he creates (Benford 327). They argue that the social order and values are divided along wage and material possession in society. Frankenstein was unable to accept the creature because it was not socially acceptable. To date, scientists do not own up to their mistakes which sometimes prove costly and a danger to human life.
Benford, Criscillia. ""Listen to My Tale": Multilevel Structure, Narrative Sense Making, and the Inassimilable in Mary Shelley's Frankeinstein." Narrative, Vol. 18, No. 3 (2010): 324-348.
Hosgette, David S. "Metaphysical intersections in Frankenstein. Mary Shelley's Theistic Investigation of Scientific Materialism and Transgressive Autonomy." Christian and Literature Vol. 60. No.4 (2011): 531-561.
Lunsford, Lars. "The Devaluing of Life in Shelley's FRANKEINSTEIN." The Explicator Vol. 68, No. 3 (2010): 174-176.
Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. Frankenstein, or, The Modern Prometheus. Boston: Sever, Francis & Co., 1869.