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Science, Morality And Responsibility In Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

2026 words - 8 pages

Science vs. Morality and Responsibility in Frankenstein

The most frightening horror story can only be called such if it is believable. Nothing is so unnerving as lying awake at night with very real fears. No monster can harm you, unless the monster was genetically engineered by a mad scientist. The theme of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein - scientific investigation without consideration of morality and responsibility - is a very relevant topic in today's world. This theme, along with the less obvious themes of revenge, prejudice against deviation from the norm, and fate all make Frankenstein one of the most unique and terrifying horror novels ever.

Victor Frankenstein had a normal, if not ideal, childhood.  His father was well respected, and he had a comfortable environment in which to learn and develop.  His life began to change when he discovered a volume of works by the German physician Cornelius Agrippa.  At first this mild curiosity exploded into a genuine interest and he began to read works from other authors - Paracelsus and Albertus Magnus - scientists which had lived several centuries earlier and who modern day science had considered relics.  Later, he witnessed lightning strike down a tree and inquired as to the cause.  His father then explained it to him - electricity.  Victor's interest was again sparked, this time literally. Victor turned seventeen and went to attend the University of Ingolstadt in Germany, studying Natural Philosophy.  At Ingolstadt, Victor met with a professor who said, "The ancient teachers of this science promised impossibilities, and performed nothing.  The modern masters ... have acquired new and almost unlimited powers; they can command the thunders of heaven, mimic the earthquake, and even mock the invisible world with its own shadows."  This quote, which could indeed be interpreted as man "playing god", very much intrigued Victor.  He was fascinated - spending every waking moment in the presence of his professors and his science.  Victor read and absorbed as much information as he possibly could.The major turning point of the novel then begins; Victor endeavors to create a human being.  If he would have been unsuccessful, the novel would have ended, but the question of whether it was moral to even attempt to create life would have still remained.  Thus, the single most important and prominent theme in the novel begins - morality versus scientific discovery.

Questions of morality did not enter Victor's mind a single time before the creation of his "human being."  He did not ponder the effects of his creation.  Victor had a goal - to create life.  By doing so we would be "godlike" for just one instant.  He successfully completed his goal, but what he created was not a true human - it was taller, stronger, and freakish because it was patched from various dead bodies.  It was not up until the exact instant that the creature became alive that Victor questioned what he was doing.  When the creature moved...

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