Scientific Morality in Frankenstein

In: English and Literature

Submitted By dwang08
Words 1255
Pages 6
Scientific Morality in Frankenstein

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a late nineteenth century novel about a scientist named Victor Frankenstein who creates a living person from dead body parts and gives it life through the power of magic and alchemy. It serves as a cautionary tale that sheds light on the ethical boundaries of scientific experimentation and the potential consequences of ignoring those boundaries for the sake of knowledge alone. Although science is not inherently good or evil, it can be used as a tool for both in the hands of imperfect humans. Victor Frankenstein betrays the scientific code of ethics when he creates a man that society can never accept. Victor, as a scientist, follows the very same path which elementary school children follow today when learning the scientific method; observation, hypothesis, experimentation, and conclusion. Victor Frankenstein observes the power of nature through the destructive force of lightning. He sees the potential of such energies and develops a hypothesis based on his studies of Agrippa and Magnus (German scholars and philosophers), who he looks to as mentors. His hypothesis is that through the power of nature, he can reanimate organic tissue with the use of alchemy which his chosen mentors have claimed to achieve. Victor Frankenstein’s experimentation requires a form, which leads him to the charnel houses to claim tissue from the deceased. His hypothesis proves true, and a monster is born.
Throughout the process of his experimentation, Frankenstein has multiple opportunities to stop and contemplate the possible outcome of his experiment and its effect on humanity, but he does not do so. He follows the scientific process to the letter, without trepidation as to his actions. The question of morality is ignored due to its irrelevance to the pursuit of objective knowledge. Victor Frankenstein’s monster…...

Similar Documents

Frankenstein

...Frankenstein When one makes a decision, the consequences of that decision can affect one for the rest of one’s life. When one makes a good decision, one will have good consequences. When one makes a bad decision, one will have bad consequences. In Frankenstein, a Gothic science fiction novel, written by Mary Shelley, Victor Frankenstein discovers the consequences of making bad decisions and how he must be responsible for his actions. He learns that even though his intentions were good, the outcomes were destructive. The theme of good intentions can have destructive outcomes is expressed when Victor goes to Ingolstadt. While he is there, he studies alchemy and modern science. By studying science, he learns about life. He is fascinated by the secret of life and decides that he wants to create life from a dead body. He visits morgues for the necessary body parts for his scientific experiment. When he begins his scientific experiment, he neglects his health, family, friends, and schoolwork. When the scientific experiment is finished, the grotesque appearance of the monster horrifies Victor. He runs out of his apartment, leaving his eight-foot monster behind. While he is out, he runs into his best friend, Henry. Henry takes Victor back to his apartment. Because he was neglecting his health, he falls ill with a fever. The theme of good intentions can have destructive outcomes is also expressed when the monster he created results in the destruction of everyone around him. When...

Words: 320 - Pages: 2

Frankenstein

...Monster Speaks" N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Jan. 2013. Baldick, Chris. In Frankenstein’s Shadow: Myth, Monstrosity, and Nineteenth-Century Writing. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1987. Bernard E. Rollin. Frankenstein Syndrome: Ethical and Social Issues in the Genetic Engineering of Animals. Cambridge University Press, 1995. Betty T. Bennett. Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley: An Introduction. Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998. Bloom, Harold, ed.Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1987. Caroline J.S. Picart. The Cinematic Rebirths of Frankenstein: Universal, Hammer and Beyond. Praeger, 2001. Dorothy Nelkin and M. Susan Lindee. The DNA Mystique: The Gene as a Cultural Icon. Henry Holt & Company, 1996. Forry, Steven Earl. Hideous Progenies: Dramatizations of Frankenstein from the Nineteenth Century to the Present. University of Pennsylvania Press, 1990. Frankenstein: Complete, Authoritative Text with Biographical, Historical, and Cultural Contexts, Critical History, and Essays from Contemporary Critics, 2nd ed. Johanna M. Smith, ed. St. Martin's Press, 2000. "Frankenstein." Literature.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Jan. 2013. "Frankenstein Quotes." By Mary Shelley. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Jan. 2013. Goldberg, M. A. "Moral and Myth in Mrs. Shelley's Frankenstein. In Keats-Shelley Journal, Vol. 8, 1959, pp. 27-38. John Williams. Mary Shelley: A Literary Life. St. Martin's Press, Inc., 2000. Jon Turney. Frankenstein's Footsteps: Science, Genetics and......

Words: 674 - Pages: 3

Frankenstein

...Frankenstein Human morality is a product of evolution by heritable variation and natural selection. It is fully part of the natural world but is none the worse for that – on the contrary. In the last sentence of On the Origin of Species, Darwin states that “there is grandeur in this view of life… on which endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved.” The beautiful and wonderful forms include true moral agents who respond to real moral facts and who form a natural moral community. Their existence contributes to the grandeur of Darwin’s evolutionary view of life. What is a moral agent? A moral agent is a decision maker who chooses between right and wrong and is, therefore, morally responsible for his acts. In this essay I will argue that creature in Marry Shelly’s novel Frankenstein is not a moral agent. The monster in Marry Shelly’s novel Frankenstein is Victor Frankenstein's creation, assembled from old body parts and strange chemicals, spirited by the mysterious spark of life. He awakes eight feet tall and enormously strong but with the mind of a baby. Abandoned by his creator and confused, he tries to get accepted into society, only to be rejected. Looking at his reflection, he realizes his grotesqueness, a characteristic that hides his gentleness from society. He seeks revenge on his creator, killing Victor's younger brother. Later, after Victor destroys his work on the female monster, the monster murders Victor's best friend and...

Words: 793 - Pages: 4

Frankenstein

...Humanity has many definitions. One definition is kindness or compassion to other humans. In Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, many themes are explored but one is highlighted through out the book. The strongest of all the themes explored is isolation and the impact it has when humanity is lacking in ones life. This major idea of isolation and the absence of humanity is demonstrated through out the book. Victor isolates himself from his family and fellow students, as well as his friends. The monster is isolated and treated cruelly from beginning to end. Victor is one of the characters who isolates himself from the other characters in the book. This is shown due to his hunger in the pursuit of knowledge, and the immense amount of time in which he spends in carrying out his scientific experiments. Although the whole time Victor blames the monster for his isolation, he in fact chooses this path for himself. Mary Shelly writes, “From this day natural philosophy, and particularly chemistry,… became nearly my sole occupation.” (pg 45) By never visiting his family or corresponding to them he shows that this is his choice alone. Shelly exhibits this also, “Two years passed in this manner in which I paid no visit to Geneva, but was engaged heart and soul, in the pursuit of some discoveries, which I hoped to make.” (pg 45) Most of victor’s life struggles and problems stem from his isolation towards his family unit. The creation of the monster and the fact that he kept it a secret......

Words: 659 - Pages: 3

Frankenstein Essay

...Shelley’s gothic novel Frankenstein and Scott’s film Blade Runner explore similar issues in vastly different contexts. They present the same issues; governed by the same values and perspectives. Both explore a dilemma that continues to be significant in the 21st century: the ethical and moral tension between the fear of humanity’s abuse of technology and the incredible potential for technology to extend life and even defy death. Shelley and Scott have crafted texts that portray individuals who challenged the established values of their time by considering the consequences to individuals who use technology to create life. These texts both emphasise the negative effect of progress on humanity and the natural environment through the use of language and visual forms and features. In Shelley’s novel, the exciting potential of technology that was becoming apparent in the nineteenth century had fascinated the young scientist Frankenstein. Desiring to challenge morality, he uses his new-found knowledge to fashion a creature out of human body parts who has great strength, but whose appearance is so monstrous that Frankenstein flees his laboratory in terror. The persona of Victor depicts humanities further obsession and greed for knowledge and power as he isolates himself from society. He marvels ‘It was the secrets of heaven and earth that I desire to learn’ uses of the juxtaposition of heaven and earth shows Victor’s understanding of the implication of his actions. Shelley uses......

Words: 937 - Pages: 4

Frankenstein

...Frankenstein by Mary Shelley Key facts full title ·  Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus author · Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley type of work · Novel genre · Gothic science fiction language · English time and place written · Switzerland, 1816, and London, 1816–1817 date of first publication · January 1, 1818 publisher · Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor, & Jones narrator · The primary narrator is Robert Walton, who, in his letters, quotes Victor Frankenstein’s first-person narrative at length; Victor, in turn, quotes the monster’s first-person narrative; in addition, the lesser characters Elizabeth Lavenza and Alphonse Frankenstein narrate parts of the story through their letters to Victor. climax · The murder of Elizabeth Lavenza on the night of her wedding to Victor Frankenstein in Chapter 23 protagonist · Victor Frankenstein antagonist · Frankenstein’s monster setting (time) · Eighteenth century setting (place) · Geneva; the Swiss Alps; Ingolstadt; England and Scotland; the northern ice point of view · The point of view shifts with the narration, from Robert Walton to Victor Frankenstein to Frankenstein’s monster, then back to Walton, with a few digressions in the form of letters from Elizabeth Lavenza and Alphonse Frankenstein. falling action · After the murder of Elizabeth Lavenza, when Victor Frankenstein chases the monster to the northern ice, is rescued by Robert Walton, narrates his story, and......

Words: 51140 - Pages: 205

Frankenstein

...4: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley Forbidden knowledge From the beginning of humanity, a thirst for knowledge was born within the human soul. This thirst made it essential for the human mind to seek knowledge constantly and discover new things. We want to know everything. And it has been a great journey for mankind in the field of technology and science; the achievements that humanity has managed to accomplish in the different fields of knowledge are outstanding. Over the past few centuries, the intellectuals of society have made countless advances in science and the development of technology, which, to different degrees, have all benefited mankind. Our thirst for knowledge is what has kept and still keeps us moving forward, and it is what separates us from our ancestors and makes the present life different than the ancient one; without it we wouldn’t have the full-of-technology, modern life we have today. Every scientific discovery is the result of man’s hunger for and dedication to acquiring knowledge, information, and power. However, the innate curiosity and desire for understanding in an individual can grow so immense that his or her moral and ethical boundaries erode, which might result in tragic and disastrous results for all who are involved. Despite that there is a huge number of fields in which humans can seek knowledge, forbidden knowledge have always been attractive for some. The secrets of life and death stand as the most tempting, and in Frankenstein we......

Words: 1602 - Pages: 7

Frankenstein- Marginalisation of Women

...Frankenstein  Science AO2 Unrestrained scientific desire: ‘they penetrate into the recesses of nature and show how she works in her hiding places’ • ‘they ascend into the heavens’ ‘new and almost unlimited powers’ ‘penetrate’ ‘command’ ‘mimic’ • ‘with fervour’ • ‘performed miracles’ • ‘unfold to the world the deepest mysteries of creation’ • ‘secret’ ‘hidden laws’ • How dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge’ Power: ‘as if my soul were grappling with a powerful enemy’ • ‘like a hurricane’ ‘pour a torrent of light’ • ‘pursued’ ‘unremitting ardour’ ‘clung’ ‘dedicated myself’ ‘secret toil’ ‘tremble’ ‘tortured’ • ‘one pursuit’ • ‘tread a land never before imprinted by the foot of man’ • ‘I preferred glory’ • ‘until from the midst of this darkness a sudden light broke in upon me- a light so brilliant and wondrous’ Lack of Morality: Transgression against God he mocks the power of the creator ‘torrents of light’ ‘a new species would bless me as its creator and source’ ‘many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me’ • ‘eyes insensible to the charms of nature’ • ‘Labours’ scientist in being able to mimic and usurp traditional creation methods;  existence of an immortal soul? • Responsibility for creation image reinforced ‘inarticulate sounds’ Pursuit: ‘deeply smitten with the thirst for knowledge’ • ‘Pursuit for discovery and wonder’ attracted to the tree of knowledge ‘eternal light’  back to biblical times, tree of......

Words: 2241 - Pages: 9

Frankenstein and Blade Runner

...Frankenstein/Bladerunner In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982) humanity’s manipulation of nature paradoxically erodes the human spirit and compromises integrity. Although contextually disparate, both texts explore a creator’s need to take responsibility for his creation, cautioning responders of the dangers of unrestrained scientific progress and conveying humanity’s severed relationship with nature. Where Shelley communicates with a certain ambiguity characteristic of the contradictory Age of Reason and sets her tale against a backdrop of a sublime natural world, Scott portrays a society fuelled by ecological destruction and 1980s corporate abuse. This reflects each composer’s anchoring of their visions in the socio-cultural realities of their time; a fundamental transgression of human values over time. Both texts explore the dangers of uninhibited scientific progress. In Frankenstein, Shelley fashions a gothic world where nature is tampered with and a ‘hurricane of enthusiasm’ drives the protagonist towards abandoning his conscience, prompting Shelley’s valuing of moderation. Underpinned by the Industrial Revolution and an era of scientific change, Victor embodies the obsessive passions and Romantic ego-identities of 19th century scientists. The epistolatory narrative framework adds a disquieting sense of truth to Victor’s retrospective dialogue, “how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge,” reflecting his Promethean......

Words: 1263 - Pages: 6

Frankenstein

...FRANKENSTEIN Study Guide Homework: Please write your answers on separate paper. Letters 1-4 1. Who is writing Letter 1 (and all the letters)? Robert Walton 2. To whom is he writing? What is their relationship? Mrs. Saville, his sister 3. Where is Robert Walton when he writes Letter 1? Why is he there? What are his plans? St. Petersburg, Russia. He is hiring a crew for his ship. He intends to sail to the North Pole and discover magnetism. 4. What does Robert Walton tell us about himself? He is passionately committed to discovery and adventure. He wishes he had a friend with the same sensibilities and he says he is self-taught. 5. Where is Walton now? What do you think of Walton's question "What can stop the determined heart and resolved will of man"? Walton is out to sea, sailing north. The quotation establishes the Romantic idea of the power of emotion over reason. 6. How much time has elapsed between Letter 3 and Letter 4? What "strange accident" has happened to the sailors? One month has lapsed. The accident is the ship is trapped in ice and fog. 7. Why does the man picked up by the ship say he is there? What shape is he in? The man says he is “seek[ing] one who fled from me” (11) and he asks which direction the ship is sailing. He is near death, weak and emaciated. 8. What sort of person does he seem to be? How does Walton respond to this man? The man remains silent and this creates a sense of mystery around him. Walton......

Words: 5380 - Pages: 22

Frankenstein

...FRANKENSTEIN Study Guide Homework: Please write your answers on separate paper. Letters 1-4 1. Who is writing Letter 1 (and all the letters)? Robert Walton 2. To whom is he writing? What is their relationship? Mrs. Saville, his sister 3. Where is Robert Walton when he writes Letter 1? Why is he there? What are his plans? St. Petersburg, Russia. He is hiring a crew for his ship. He intends to sail to the North Pole and discover magnetism. 4. What does Robert Walton tell us about himself? He is passionately committed to discovery and adventure. He wishes he had a friend with the same sensibilities and he says he is self-taught. 5. Where is Walton now? What do you think of Walton's question "What can stop the determined heart and resolved will of man"? Walton is out to sea, sailing north. The quotation establishes the Romantic idea of the power of emotion over reason. 6. How much time has elapsed between Letter 3 and Letter 4? What "strange accident" has happened to the sailors? One month has lapsed. The accident is the ship is trapped in ice and fog. 7. Why does the man picked up by the ship say he is there? What shape is he in? The man says he is “seek[ing] one who fled from me” (11) and he asks which direction the ship is sailing. He is near death, weak and emaciated. 8. What sort of person does he seem to be? How does Walton respond to this man? The man remains silent and this creates a sense of mystery around him. Walton......

Words: 5380 - Pages: 22

Frankenstein

...Nine English AEP Frankenstein/Science Fiction Essay (Reading and Writing Task) Topic: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is the Science Fiction text that allowed all other examples of the sub-genre to follow. Discuss this proposition with specific reference to the Drama Script and Film versions of the novel, along with any other relevant Science Fiction texts you have read or viewed. * Your essay should especially consider Shelley’s context and that of other writers you refer to, as well as your own context as a reader. * You should make specific reference to the texts you are discussing via both direct (quotations) and indirect (explanations) evidence. * Be sure to plan your response so that each paragraph has its own unified idea. A sample paragraph structure might look like the following: 1. Introduction – Thesis: e.g.: “Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is the first text which uses scientific experimentation as the basis of its plot. In doing this, it paved the way for all Science Fiction which followed…” 2. Body P1 – Author context + sub-genre features – what changes have occurred over time as a result of context? Consider Mary Shelley, H.G. Wells, Ray Bradbury 3. Body P2 – Discussion of Frankenstein 4. Body P3 – Discussion of other text e.g.: War of the Worlds (make some reference to Frankenstein as well) 5. Body P4 - Discussion of other text e.g.: There Will Come Soft Rains (make some reference to Frankenstein as well) 6.......

Words: 1268 - Pages: 6

Frankenstein

...In the Beginning There Was Frankenstein Many have said that love makes the world go around but we are left with the question of who creates love? What would life be like if we had not experienced love and, ultimately, what would each of us be like without experiencing love? The Holy Bible provides numerous examples of a perfect love from the Creator and explains that people have been created to love. Mary Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, creates questions about the responsibility of a creator, and what can happen when some basic responsibilities of a creator are ignored. The novel describes a monster and his actions due to his creator abandoning him. Throughout Mary Shelley’s novel, there is the question of who really is the monster? Victor Frankenstein, the creator of the monster, can easily be compared to the Judeo-Christian God and the story of creation found in the book of Genesis. The God referred to as the creator of all mankind is driven by love for his creation, but Victor Frankenstein is driven to create by his own personal ideas of grandiosity and ego. The Holy Bible is the account of the Judeo-Christian God’s action in the world and his purpose for all creation. The writing of the Holy Bible took place over sixteen centuries, and is the work of over forty human authors. There are sixty-six books that provide various lessons for living and moral conduct, examples of love from a Creator, and a starting point for creation. In Genesis, the...

Words: 1718 - Pages: 7

Frankenstein

...author, Frankenstein, or, The Modern Prometheus has inspired numerous adaptations, remakes and parodies across different literary genres. Reprinted again in 1831, this time with an introduction written by Mary Shelley acknowledging her authorship, Frankenstein through its discrediting of science and the omnipotence of nature, confirms ands challenges our own habitual understandings of the world around us. The habitual understanding I will be focusing on is western hegemonic rationalism and the dominance of science as the ruler and explainer of my universe in comparison to the earlier more romantic ideology of Shelley’s time. Frankenstein also carries a warning about ambition. In a society that believes ambition to be a good thing, Shelley attempts to revel catastrophic consequences for humans over come with the quest for glory and science’s obsessive and overly ambitious nature. Western hegemonic ideal is the cultural identity that has conditioned me, becoming habitual, normal and routine. However, Shelley was privileged as she was writing at the beginning of the scientific enlightenment era, and could therefore identify what would be lost if science and technology were to usurp the position of God, nature and fate. Art, emotions, passion, suffering, humility etc were to be restricted into liminal spaces, creating a world not unlike Aldous Huxley’s A Brave New World. Romantic philosophies have been endorsed in Frankenstein through the downfall of Victor due to scientific......

Words: 2067 - Pages: 9

Frankenstein

...The worlds of Frankenstein and Blade Runner are effective representations of their context and the values which were catalysts for their composition. How has your study supported this? Throughout time, literature has served well as a window into the schools of thought and social concerns of any given era of human history. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (Director’s cut), 1986, continue this trend. Frankenstein is a typical example of Gothic literature that engages with issues commonly raised during the Enlightenment and Romantic Movement. Blade Runner was composed in the early 1980’s, a time of radical change and development in areas of science and business. Despite their differing social contexts, both texts question similarly ethically driven issues. The question over man’s right to push the boundaries of science in the creation of life has transcended time, growing increasingly relevant with recent advancements in technology. The contentious issue was predominant throughout the Enlightenment period, an era characterised by significant change where reason was valued over religious faith. This contextual significance is mirrored in Shelly’s condemnation of Frankenstein’s experiment through the loathing tone of “now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart.” She furthers her argument through the monster’s description of Frankenstein as an “unfeeling, heartless creator!”,......

Words: 1159 - Pages: 5