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Playing God In Shelley's Frankenstein Essay

1644 words - 7 pages

For as long as science has existed to satisfy man's appetite for knowledge and exploration, there have been people with the belief that science is none other than man's attempt to play God. The 19th century was a time of enlightenment where philosophical thought began and man's concern to better himself in a psychological form developed.

During this time of enlightenment and exploration however, the standards of Christianity and ethical thought challenged science and its moral reasoning. Despite the large progress in society, the church's vast power led the people to fear science. However the church's fear was not just for the salvation of their church, but that science would disprove the proof of God and take God's place in society. For this to happen would bring chaos to society and give little hope to people. The thought of a life without God is daunting to most, and would create an uneasiness to life and an immense fear of death. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein through Victor Frankenstein's perilous journey shows the destruction behind man's thirst for scientific knowledge and the ethical reasons as to why man should not play God.

The pursuit of knowledge is at the heart of Frankenstein, as Victor attempts to go beyond the acceptable human limits and access the secret of life. Victor's experiment created in the name of science holds the key to which Victor believes is his future success. "The accomplishment of his toils" is a monstrous male figure created from parts of other corpses which he brings to life through his work (Frankenstein, 34). Victor's motivation for success and scientific exploration drive him to play God. "It was the secrets of heaven and earth that [he] desired to learn; and whether it was the outward substance of things or the inner spirit of nature and the mysterious soul of man that occupied [him]" (22). However, in Victor's role as God he is so enthralled with the thought of bringing life to a lifeless corpse that he ignores the moral affects that his creation will have on society. He wants so badly to understand, and potentially prevent, the mortality of man that he never thinks there may be a reason we can't create life or live forever. He thinks nothing to altering a system that has existed in the world since the inception of life. It is not until after he completes his experiment, he can only begin to understand some of the consequences. In discussing the shock of his creation Victor states, " how can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate the wretch whom with such infinite pain and care I had endeavoured to form?"(34). Much like with the current stem cell and genetics research ethical questions being raised, there are a lot of things to consider when one begins messing with the complexity of life. Life itself is complex beyond our understanding; relatively little is known today about its inner-workings. Therefore, it can be nothing better than irresponsible to create life from...

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