The Dangers of Science in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein cannot merely be read as a literary work of the early 19th century. It represents the workings of young Shelley's mind. Further, it represents the vast scientific discoveries of the time, combined with Mary Shelley's intuitive perception of science. She views science as a powerful entity, but also recognizes the dangers if uncontrolled. Shelley demonstrates this fear in the book as science drives Victor Frankenstein to create his monster. In the end, it is also his use of science that inevitably becomes his demise.
Mary Shelley's life experiences are blatantly displayed in her writing of Frankenstein. Her use of science in the book directly relates to the many discoveries of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, specifically the discovery of the nature of electricity. For example, Benjamin Franklin was a well-known scientist who studied the scientific properties of electricity in the 1700's. He not only performed the infamous experiment with the kite and lightning, but also studied the possible medical benefits of electricity. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is undoubtedly a product of his research of this crucial aspect in the book, electricity.
In Frankenstein, electricity serves as the very tool which creates life -- creates the monster. It gives life to the lifeless. Early medical experiments demonstrated this phenomenon as a dead frog leg jolted with the injection of electricity, serving as a bridge between electricity and biology and chemistry. This bridge, along with his study of out-dated scientific works, leads Victor Frankenstein to fantasize about the possibilities of creating life using the power of electricity and the body of a once living man. In actuality, regenerating life becomes his obsession. After much research and studying, Victor tells us this, "I succeeded in discovering the cause of generation and life; nay, more, I became myself capable of bestowing animation up on lifeless matter." Victor Frankenstein recognizes the power he holds with his knowledge, and even considers the dangers. He says, "When I found so astonishing a power placed within my hands, I hesitated a long time concerning the manner in which I should employ it." This acknowledgment of the danger is significant as it displays Victor's conscious and his willingness to disregard it, or his inability to obey it.
It is Frankenstein's discovery of creating life that introduces the duality of science, of electricity, of even Victor Frankenstein himself. Scientific experiments are performed for a purpose, yet a reverse, commonly negative, affect is nearly always introduced. Just as science can end up creating dual reactions, electricity holds this same power. Electricity holds the power of magnetism -- the negative and positive forces pulling away from each other. This example of electricity's duality can be applied to many aspects of Frankenstein, including good...