The Role of Electricity in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

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Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein is a nineteenth century gothic novel that demonstrates the discovery of the nature of electricity. In the novel, electricity plays a major role in creating the life of the monster. Shelley introduces science, especially electricity as an ethical theme and shows it through the life and demise of Victor Frankenstein and his creature. The creation of the monster does lead to Victor’s demise and Shelley parallels the idea to scientific discovery and the future. With knowledge, comes great power and destruction and Shelley views science as a powerful entity but also recognizes the dangers of it, if uncontrolled. Electricity is made up of negative and positive forces pulling against one another and this duality can be applied to all aspects in Frankenstein, including the doubling of characters, good versus evil and the responsibility that Victor does not take toward the monster. Victor creates life from his own greed and in the end, the very being that he gives life to haunts him and tries to take away Victor’s life as well.

Victor first learns about electricity when he is fifteen, living near Belrive, Switzerland. He witnesses “a most violent and terrible thunder-storm…watching its progress with curiosity and delight” (Shelley 69). As Victor is watching the storm, he sees a beautiful, old oak tree be destroyed by the “stream of fire” (Shelley 69). When he sees the damage to the tree that the lightning creates, Victor asks his father about the nature and origin of thunder and lightning. His father educated Victor in the “new science” by explaining to him the various effects of this power called electricity and constructs a small electrical machine to exhibit a few experiments. After this experience with electricity, Victor becomes intrigued by it and while studying at the University of Ingolstadt, comes up with an idea to “renew life where death had apparently devoted the body to corruption” (Shelley 82). He becomes obsessed with...
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