The 19th century was a time of enlightenment where philosophical thought began and man's concern for a greater psychological form developed. However, during this time of enlightenment and exploration, the values of religion and ethical thought challenged science and its moral reasoning. Frankenstein could be seen as an illustration of the fear of the power of science due to these social changes; however there is evidence within the text to support other aspects such as society and religion being the focal point of fear.
On a basic level, it could be argued that Victor’s search for knowledge ultimately leads him to his transgressions and eventual demise; through the medium of science he is able to create a creature that is fearful and monstrous, this suggests the power of science is something to be feared. However, the creation of the monster could be viewed as a misuse of science, rather than an accurate demonstration of its other altruistic uses; Victor had the knowledge and power to create life however just because he could do it, doesn’t mean he should; a moral debate still applicable to modern society. Science could be seen as fearful within Frankenstein due to the reader’s (especially that of Mary Shelley’s audience) inability to understand how it works, before the 1800’s and the great amount of scientific, social and political change and development, science; especially medicine, was seen as witchcraft and something to be feared. With the age of enlightenment came more acceptance however the majority of the population was still skeptical and fearful of science as it was unknown to them. Shelley could therefore be suggesting that scientific experiments to explore the depths of the unknown are dangerous and shouldn’t be done, thus inciting fear. In Frankenstein, it demonstrates how terrible the consequences can be if scientific knowledge and power falls into the wrong hands, the way Victor is depicted at many points throughout the book suggests he is mad with delusions of grandeur and power; “a new species would bless me as its creator and source”, and if science does fall into hands such as Victor’s, there will be inevitable destruction and sadness. The power Victor gains as he creates the monster could also be something to be feared, as no human has ever been able to achieve such a thing. In contrast, Victor creates life; however modern medicine also has the power to stop death (to an extent), in essence both could be seen as “playing god” by humans deciding who lives and dies. Victor’s power could be questioned however, as he shortly deteriorates after creating the monster as he cannot handle what he has done “every night I was oppressed by a slow fever”- suggesting he is way out of his depth thus making the consequences of science fearful as no-one can handle them. Shelley also uses representations of nature throughout Frankenstein, contrasting it with science creating a dichotomy between the power of science and the power of nature; electricity is used in the creation of the monster and earlier in the book Victor describes a tree getting struck by lightning in a storm and destroying it; “I beheld a stream of fire issue from an old and beautiful oak… and nothing remained but a blasted stump”- this shows the destructive power of nature, and the electricity from the lighting paralleled with the electricity used to animate the creature demonstrates the destructive forebodings of monsters actions, only made possible by Victor’s harnessing of nature via the power of science. The sublime is often referenced throughout Frankenstein, the idea that nature is awe inspiring yet dangerous and a force to be reckoned with, Victor’s attempt at harnessing nature and taking control of life leads to his downfall and misery. A spiritual interpretation could be that Victor essentially has the power to give life, yet creates a being that turns out to be a murderer; perhaps Shelley is suggesting that you cannot disturb nature and...
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