Pursuit of rationalism and science at the expense of humanism: Analysis of "Frankenstein" by Mary Shelley
Since its inception in 1818, the novel "Frankenstein" had radically altered the horror genre of literature, for it introduced the horrors of humanity as a result of using science to attain power and control beyond humanity's capabilities -- that is, humans creating humans through scientific, not natural, production. Author Mary Shelley had introduced the theme of humanity's pursuit of rationalism and science to illustrate the state of society as she experienced it in 19th century: a society that was gradually becoming more rationalist, scientific, and objective to society's concerns and issues.
Evidently, "Frankenstein" is a novel that depicted the opposing nature of science and humanism. The characters of Victor Frankenstein and his creation, the Creature, represented science's objectiveness and detachment from human values and morals; however, Frankenstein's transition to being a humane individual once more towards the end of the novel showed Shelley's objective to illustrate humanism as most important to humanity. Cultivating a humane and moral society, for Shelley, was most important than the social and intellectual progresses associated with science.
It is thus this paper's objective to discuss and illustrate in the novel "Frankenstein" the theme of society's pursuit for science and objectivism at the expense of humanism (human-based morality). This paper reflects how objectivism resulted to the Creature, Frankenstein's creation made possible through science, and its wrath against humanity. In effect, the Creature's lack of morality and inability to experience emotions reflects science's limits in influencing and affecting human life, particularly humanity's standards of morality.
The theme of science vs. humanism was evident in the transitional phases that Frankenstein had in the novel. These two phases were identified as follows: (1) the first transitional phase was his change from being a humanist (lover of arts) to a man of science and (2) his eventual conversion to being humane again after realizing how morally wrong he had been in creating the Creature.
The first transitional phase showed Frankenstein as a lover of arts who became obsessed in attaining power over humanity by creating a human through scientific experiment. As a lover of arts, Frankenstein had displayed interest in the languages and various human cultures. As a student, he had shown aptitude for exploring cultures other than his own, and had shown delight in his discoveries of the different nature of other people's cultures, and this became evident in his admiration for Clerval (53-4):
The Persian, Arabic, and Sanskrit languages engaged his attention, and I was easily induced to enter on the same studies. Idleness had ever been irksome to me, and now that I wished to fly from reflection and hated my former studies ... Their melancholy is soothing, and their joy elevating, to a degree I never experienced in studying the authors of any other country ... How different from the manly and heroical poetry of Greece and Rome!
This passage reflects Frankenstein's outburst of emotion while expressing his admiration for the arts. At this stage, he still regarded the arts as the primary venue for human expression and attaining power, illustrating how, subsisting to the arts, his sense of morality and appreciation of human and nature remained intact.
However, his disillusionment about the inability of the arts to bring about a true sense of power and control made Frankenstein shift his studies on the sciences. Through…
Sources Used in Document:
Coleman, J. (1991). "Shelley's FRANKENSTEIN." Explicator, Vol. 63 Issue 1.
Shelley, M. (1991). Frankenstein. NY: Bantam Books.
Thompson, T. (2000). "Shelley's 'Frankenstein'." Explicator, Vol. 58 Issue 4.