Mary Shelley’s Novel “Frankenstein”
Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein is a novel that has been a classic for two centuries and is still one of the most popular books for movie adaptations, theater plays, and other artistic manifestations correlating with the original plot. Multiple films have captured the original idea of scientific exploration of human limitation and the creation of life, including the 1931 Frankenstein directed by James Whale and the 1935 sequel Bride of Frankenstein. Frankenstein touches upon multiple fascinating topics, including the human desire to overcome the limitations of being mortal, science as something incompatible with nature, and humanity in its aim to control life itself.
The first thing that is to mention about the setting of Frankenstein is the era in which the events take place. It was set in the 18th century, an era in which a certain class of people started moving away from religious teachings into a more scientific approach to life (Shelley 2). Thus, the era implies that the sanctity of life that was thought to be given by a higher power would impose a level of skepticism of scientists trying to deny any explanations involving a supernatural power. Moreover, trying to recreate life from something dead, which is how Frankenstein was brought to life, would mean that humans are able to do the impossible, hence becoming Gods. The 18th century fits the paradigm of the book and movies in terms of the human desire to break the rules established by the church and prove that God is not the answer to everything. In case a mortal is able to produce life from something dead, the whole religious paradigm that was prevalent at the time would become redundant.
As mentioned prior, Frankenstein as a character has remained relevant to this day despite the fact that the novel was published more than 200 years ago. There are multiple reasons that can explain why individuals are still interested in movies, plays, music, and other artistic expressions correlating with the book. First, humanity is still trying to combat the limitations of mortality, and Frankenstein illustrated this desire perfectly. Thus, the symbolism remains relevant as people have not gotten closer to solving the mystery of creating life from something that is lifeless, an aim that the scientist from Frankenstein managed to fulfill.
Moreover, the creature that has been created through human flesh turned out to be a monster, which exemplifies the flawed human nature. The symbol is one of the key illustrations of humanity in most classic and current literature and films, which also exemplifies the reason why it remains influential. The two centuries that have passed since the publishing of the novel have not been particularly revolutionary in terms of basic scientific aims and human desires to avoid limitations imposed by nature. This means that such topics are still relevant and will remain until the answers to these questions are found.
Artificial Man. Science Conquers Nature
The idea of an artificial human being constructed from the body parts of other people is the driving point exemplified in Frankenstein. However, there are several factors to be considered regarding this topic. First, the artificial man is a caricature of human nature as he has a brain yet no life experience and only operates based on instincts or surroundings. Thus, as humans intimidate him by threatening to light Frankenstein on fire, he is aggressive, while a girl playfully engaging in a game with him drowns by accident, implying the monster’s actions are not merely evil (Whale, Frankenstein). It is also critical to refer to the fact that Frankenstein is artificial due to the science and nature confrontation. As mentioned prior, science is the symbol of the conquering of the phenomenon that people used to attribute to supernatural powers.
In this case, the scientist is God who creates life, yet the scientific approach did not value the morality of the action of creating the creature. Thus, the aim to contribute to Frankenstein’s presence did not imply the consideration of being the only creature of this nature in the world, not being able to integrate, and not having any experience while enduring a life of an outcast. This is exemplified in the film Bride of Frankenstein when a blind man who could not see the creature was able to teach him about friendship (Whale). This illustrates that while science may have been effective in creating life, the lack of consciousness and ethics made the monster a loner who does not have the coping mechanisms to survive. Nature, however, implies that the child is born and goes through multiple stages in which they learn how to interact, love, respect, and behave, while an adult who just began existing does not have such an overview of the complexity of the world.
Science vs. Natural Ecology
Science and natural ecology are also two opposing factors based on the novel and the subsequent movies. Thus, science is portrayed as something logical, heartless, and prone to a disregard for human emotions. The scientists’ experiments were purely reliant on the aim to minimize human limitations, and an ethical approach would imply certain limitations when it comes to the objectives and the measures taken to fulfill them. Natural ecology, on the other hand, is a system in which all organisms have a place and interact with each other and with the environment where they belong. Based on this principle, people go through certain life experiences, are able to appreciate other individuals surrounding them, and have a place in the world. Frankenstein, an outcome of a scientific experiment, was the odd one out due to the fact that by definition, he is not a part of this world, which already suggests a critical limitation of interactions. Something that was not supposed to exist cannot become a part of a world in which its presence is a result of human manipulation and not a given.
Alien Life Forms
Frankenstein can be considered an alien life form despite the fact that he consists of the body parts of other humans. Thus, the topic of dealing with life forms foreign to humans is a major topic. In this case, Frankenstein is an alien life form because the monster was brought into the world through an experiment, which already implies that the scientist is responsible for creating him. However, the interactions between Frankenstein and humans have been mainly negative, which ultimately gave him the idea that he does not belong and is to behave aggressively since aggression is always directed towards him. On the other hand, when being treated with dignity, as exemplified prior, he is not necessarily a threat. This implies that treating someone differently with a level of respect and kindness creates mutuality in which even a monster can show themselves from a better side.
Frankenstein as a character is a portrayal of the human desire to overcome the limitations correlating with the natural way of life. Thus, the creation of a monster is the exemplification of a person becoming God and having control over life. Not only that the creature is a caricature of humanity, but also the fact that he was not accepted and has experienced violence before showing negative intentions illustrate that science and ethics do not always have the same goals.
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. Planet eBook, 1818. Planet eBook. Web.
Whale, James, director. Bride of Frankenstein. Universal Pictures, 1935.
Whale, James, director. Frankenstein. Universal Pictures, 1931.