Message and warnings given by Mary Shelley in Frankenstein
Victor Frankenstein, a young doctor, creates a monster out of dead body parts. Shattered by his mother’s death, he becomes consumed with the idea of bringing the dead back to life. He creates a monster with no plan to take care of it, so he runs away.
The monster is not born “evil” or “bloodthirsty”. In fact, he only becomes so because he is rejected by society and has no mother. When he asks Victor to create him a mate, he declines. The beast only wants to be accepted and loved. It is through rejection that he seeks revenge on his creator’s family, and eventually ends up killing his brother, William.
Since such studies of life and death had never been done, Victor was unaware of the consequences of his experiment. Once he realized it was too late. In fact, he feels sick about what he has created, and it horrifies him.
Many critics say this was reckless, unethical and irresponsible, since he had not done further research on what he would produce. This is a warning that Mary Shelley is trying to present to modern scientists. She is cautioning them to be careful when making new discoveries.
Mary Shelley’s states that “invention must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void, but out of chaos.”
The unknown creates feelings of adrenaline and anticipation.
Likewise, Victor had many questions that puzzled him on life and death that he wanted answered, which motivated his passions.
Innovators are so curious that they don’t fully examine the consequences of their experiments, as did Victor.
According to Erin Griffith, senior writer at Wired magazine “It’s a question of ‘Can we build this?’ That’s what [techies have] always asked themselves but they’ve never really asked themselves ‘Should we build this? And what are the potential negative consequences if we do?”
Shelley cautions scientists that some experiments are best to not be explored.
Consequences of Obsession
Mary Shelley is cautioning scientists to be careful when beginning new studies. It is the unknown that causes obsession for creators to find answers, even without considering the repercussions.
When Victor speaks with Captain Walton early in the book, he strongly demonstrates his burning passion: “with all the favor that warmed me, how gladly I would sacrifice my fortune, my existence, my every hope, to the furtherance of my enterprise. One man’s life or death were but a small price to pay for the acquirement of the knowledge which I sought” (Shelley, 29)
The inventors of many technological advances most likely did not assess the long term consequences of their inventions.
It is probably impossible to do so, furthermore, they have to accept that their inventions will have a life of their own.
Shelley demonstrates Victor’s regret: “torn by remorse… i beheld those i loved spend vain sorrow upon the graves of William and Justine, the first hapless victims to my unhallowed arts”(Shelley, 74)
Consequences of overworking
Often scientists prioritize their work and ignore their social life and their health.
Mary Shelley shows the consequences of over working through Victor’s dialogue. He openly says that he neglected his friends and family and forgot to take care of himself.
“And the same feelings that made me neglect the scenes around me caused me also to forget those friends who were so many miles absent, and who I had not seen for a long time.” (Shelley, 29)
Advancements in technology
Shelley uses the “monster in Frankenstein” to represent modern day technology.
Shelley warns about things from artificial intelligence to genetic editing.
Amazon’s Alexa; play music, answer questions, make phone calls etc.
What if the robot is programmed to do something destructive? Or what if it programmed to do something beneficial, but uses destructive methods? Will the robot begin to create its own “thoughts” and outsmart humans?
Similarly to Victor’s creation, today’s inventions can all have negative consequences on humanity. (social media and the internet= dependency, addiction etc.)
According to Adam Briggle, an associate professor of philosophy and religion at the University of North Texas:
“Frankenstein probably is… the story about things being too late…Once the cat is out of the bag or the genie is out of the bottle, you can’t stuff it back again. I think we’re in that situation with Facebook.”
The methods of creating life used by Dr. Frankenstein, like the cloning process, arouse a controversy of morals and ethics in society.
According to the Human Genome Project, there are three types of cloning: DNA, therapeutic and reproductive cloning.
Victor’s creation resembles reproductive cloning, using organs from host organisms.
According to Louise Harding, BA in English, professional fiction writer similarities:
- Lack of reproduction: no sexual union
- The use of genetic materials: Frankenstein uses dead body parts, cloning uses genetic material embryos
- Issues of ethics and morality: both form artificial life, goes against religious beliefs. Borrow genetic material from donor eggs or embryos–which some people believe are living human beings–in order to create life
Shelley uses this tragic situation to warn scientists of creating life. Through Victor’s discoveries, the reader sees repercussions of cloning organisms such as animals or humans.
“Who shall conceive the horrors of my secret toil as I dabbled among the unhallowed damps of the grave or tortured the living animal to animate the lifeless clay?”
The overall message is not that technology is evil, but that the inventor is responsible for their creations. In this novel, Victor desired to uncover new discoveries, but he did not take care of his creation. Through the themes of obsession, technology and the unknown, Shelley warns modern day scientists to take responsibility for their discoveries.
The unknown fascinates humanity, but it is important that we are cautious with our research as to not create or uncover anything that will endanger us.
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