Frankenstein: Texts in Time

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Texts in Time

Analyse how Frankenstein and Blade Runner imaginatively portray individuals who challenge the established values of their time

Timeless texts inevitably explore universal debates about core human values and the social significance of these values. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982) are two such timeless texts: both present arguments in favour of enduring human values such as compassion, responsibility, empathy and humility, particularly within the context of humankind’s ambitious efforts to transform the world through technology and science. Shelley and Scott, writing nearly two centuries apart, are both particularly concerned with the potential dangers to humanity that may arise when the distinction between humans and non-humans is blurred by scientists, like Frankenstein and Tyrell, who wish to disrupt the natural order of things and to emulate God by creating ‘life forms’. While these texts are timeless they are also very much texts of their time and it is useful to consider the contexts in which they are written in order to develop an understanding of how the issues of the day impacted on the way that values were explored by the composers.

Contextual influences shape our values and way of life just as those of us living at that time challenge the values of that time. Shelley wrote Frankenstein during the Scientific Revolution not long after Galvani’s discovery of so-called ‘animal electricity’, sparking her idea of the possibilities of generating new human life. The power of the creative imagination was also a major influence on Shelley, a Romantic herself, and very influenced the renowned Romantic poets, husband Percy Shelley and friend Lord Byron. Shelley used the character of Victor Frankenstein in order to question the scientific and industrial revolutions wherein industrialists and scientists were increasingly focused on the thirst for knowledge at the expense of nature. In her text she has...
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