Frankenstein and Science Essay
The role of science in the novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley has been disputed by many scholars. Critics tried to consider the problem from different perspective stressing on the nature, science and human being. It should be mentioned that much research of the novel is based on the contemporary knowledge of the end of the 20th century.
The scientists were interested in the possibility of the relation of the novel to the real scientific issues even though much time has passed from the time of the novel writing and many discoveries were made.
One of the main reasons for considering the connection between Frankenstein with science remains emergence of the synthetic biology along with life and non-life, the natural and the artificial, and even the material and the informational (Belt 257). All these aspects impacted the desire to reconsider the novel from an absolutely new perspective which could not be dwelt upon before the real signs of the problems have not emerged.
The notion of the synthetic biology is defined by the engineering where the organism cells are used for creating a life from scratch applying to the innovative technologies. One of the main goals of this science is to make sure that people are able to control the life like they are able to control their machines.
Much attention is paid to the problem in the modern world and many scientists who want to succeed in the sphere refer to Mary Shelley’s gothic novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. The introduction to the novel sounds as following, “Frightful must it be; for supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavour to mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the world” (Shelley 2007, p. 9).
Van den Belt (2009) is sure that the discussion of the Frankenstein wihing the scientific light began possible when people developed a desire to play the role of God by means of creating a life synthetically. Cloning is one of the departments of the scientific ideas which may be also considered within the novel. The contemporary advances in the life sciences allow critics to view Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein from another perspective, analyzing each thought and idea developed in the novel (McCall 2011).
The connection of Frankenstein with science may be considered from different perspectives, however, the problem of gender and the ability to give birth as the scientific aspects are closely interconnected with the problem of feminism in the novel. Many scientists and scholars tried to view the problem of the connection between Frankenstein and science from the perspective of the feminist vision as the novel is written by a woman.
Banerjee states that “Frankenstein does bring into play the theme of reproductive creation through images that evoke female reproductive experiences” (Banerjee 2011, p. 5). Reading the episode when Frankenstein emerges, the process of “gestation and birthing on the scientist” my be considered who undergoes “midnight labours,” faints, grows “pale” and “emaciated with confinement,” and suffers from “nervous fever,” “anxiety and mental agitation” (Banerjee 2011, p. 5).
“Now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart” (Shelley 2007, p. 56) is the phrase which was the starting one for the discussion about the scientific nature of the novel. Trying to justify the scientific idea in the novel and its positive impact on the world of science, Bizony (2009) provided many arguments. It should be stated that the consideration of Frankenstein as something unnatural is a usual vision of this hero.
Still, Bizony (2009) stated that medicine has always been considered as something unnatural as only due to drugs and neither medical intrusion many people continue living and enjoy life. Frankenstein is cannot be compared with medical effect, however, he should not be considered as someone unnatural. Therefore, this is one more argument in favor of connecting between Frankenstein and science.
Many scientists are dreaming of creating a person without a man and a woman as the main participants of the process of birth. Such scientific ideas are numerous and Mary Shelley made an attempt to show what is going to happen if such a monster is going to be created in the scientific world.
She “offers a philosophical nightmare revealing the horrific consequences of methodological naturalism taken to its logical conclusion” (Hogsette 2011, p. 531) and presents the possible results of the scientific experiments. Scientists do not want to create a monster, however, they are interested in creating someone who is not born as usual people. The story in Frankenstein describes the result which may be trying to assure scientists that such approach is inappropriate.
Additionally, the novel is usually considered as the symbol of concerns people are to experience about the risks and danger of scientific experiments. The research should not be conducted in the sphere where the danger to human beings is observed. The novel by Shelley is a goods example of what may happen when the scientific ideas will become a reality (Hammond 2004).
Krischel (2011) agrees that the creation of the human being as discussed on the novel is inappropriate, however, he cannot reject the fact that the novel may be used as the Victorian science fiction with the reference to the use of electricity in medicine as it is described in the novel. The problem has been researched since 17th century.
Nowadays, it is possible to see a lot of medical equipment which applies to the use electricity for supporting human bodies living. It is impossible to say that he novel was the central factor in developing the research, there were other circumstances and arguments, however, the fact should not be rejected as well.
The research on electricity and its application continues until now. The time when the novel was written coincides with the time when the research began. Much attention was paid to the novel as to the source of inspiration, however, the scientists did not consider it as a science fiction seriously being aware of the author and her age. However, some ideas described in the novel had the scientific value, and who knows maybe some other aspects may become a part of scientific world (King & Knellwolf 2008,)
Frankenstein by Shelley is an example of the attitude of the society to the scientific research. Even though the research is necessary and it must be present as the contemporary world is constantly developing and changing and innovation is a part of this process, social opinion is to be considered as the cultural and other vision of the world may cause the contradiction to scientific discovery (Turney 2000).
Banerjee, S 2011, ‘Home is Where Mamma Is: Reframing the Science Question in Frankenstein’, Women’s Studies, vol. 40, no. 1, pp. 1-22.
Bizony, P 2009, ‘Frankenstein reclaimed’, Engineering & Technology, vol. 4, no. 5, pp. 82-85.
Hammond, K 2004, ‘Monsters of modernity: Frankenstein and modern environmentalism’, Cultural Geographies, vol. 11, no. 2, pp. 181-198.
Hogsette, DS 2011, ‘Metaphysical Intersections in Frankenstein: Mary Shelley’s Theistic Investigation of Scientific Materialism and Transgressive Autonomy’, Christianity & Literature, vol. 60, no. 4, pp. 531-559.
King, CK & Knellwolf, C 2008, Frankenstein’s Science: Experimentation and Discovery in Romantic Culture, 1780-1830, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., New York.
Krischel, M 2011, ‘Electricity in 19th Century Medicine and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein’, Auanews, vol. 16, no. 1, pp. 20-21.
McCall, B 2011, ‘Frankenstein’s Science. Edited by Christa Knellwolf and Jane Goodall’, Heythrop Journal, vol. 52, no. 2, pp. 332-333.
Shelley, M 2007, Frankenstein, Pearson Education, London.
Turney, J 2000, Frankenstein’s footsteps: Science, genetics and popular culture, Yale University Press, Yale.
van den Belt, H 2009, ‘Playing God in Frankenstein’s Footsteps: Synthetic Biology and the Meaning of Life’, Nanoethics, vol. 3, no. 3, pp. 257-268.
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