Monstrosity in Frankenstein Mary Shelly's Frankenstein; Or, Term Paper
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Monstrosity in Frankenstein
Mary Shelly's Frankenstein; Or, the Modern Prometheus, which is considered by many to be one of the first science-fiction novels that was ever written, is full of anti-Enlightenment sentiments, many of which are still present in society today. Shelley's novel, published first in 1818 and then edited and republished in 1831, takes a look at the conflicts between science and religion. Through this examination, Shelley provides insight into the dangers of playing God and taking the forces of nature into one's own hands. Seeing as Mary Shelley was the daughter of two well-known Enlightenment intellectual figures, it can be posited that Shelley understood the arguments and beliefs of the movement and could provide a well thought out argument against the movement. Shelley's anti-Enlightenment stance takes a look at the dangers that may arise through unsupervised educational pursuits, which include the unharnessed exploration of science and denunciation or tampering of religious beliefs, and how these dangers may impact individual perspectives and rationale.
In Frankenstein, Shelley explores Victorian fears of scientific and technological advancements, simultaneously questioning religious beliefs of creation and evolution. It can be argued that there are two different monsters in Frankenstein; moreover, it can be argued that one is naturally a monster, while the other is a monster due to the way that it was nurtured. In the novel, Victor Frankenstein's monstrosity is derived from his intense desire to harness power over creation and the destruction of life. Additionally, his attitude and treatment of his creation help to demonstrate the type of person that Frankenstein is. One of the things that contribute to Frankenstein's monstrosity is his education. In the novel, Frankenstein falls to the extreme that his is too educated and is able to pursue knowledge without supervision. Frankenstein has been given every opportunity to
pursue a thorough education, yet unlike Walton to whom he recounts his tale, does not find the need to have a partner to collaborate and discuss ideas with. Frankenstein uses his knowledge and education to further develop questions about life and death, which in turn leads him to study "natural philosophers" that include Cornelius Agrippa, Paracelsus, and Albertus Magnus. Due to a lack of actual formal guidance, Frankenstein uses these philosophers as inspiration and soon "entered with the greatest diligence into the search of the philosopher's stone and the elixir of life; but the latter soon obtained [his] undivided attention…but what glory would attend the discovery, if [he] could banish disease from the human frame, and render man invulnerable to any but a violent death!" (Shelley).
This unharnessed pursuit of knowledge was promoted by Immanuel Kant in Was ist Aufklarung? (What is Enlightenment?). In this essay, Kant argues,
Enlightenment is man's release from his self-incurred tutelage. Tutelage is man's inability to make use of his understanding without direction from another. Self-incurred is this tutelage when its cause lies not in lack of reason but in lack of resolution and courage to use it without direction from another. Sapere aude! "Have courage to use your own reason!"- that is the motto of enlightenment. (Kant)
It can be argued that separation oneself from "self-incurred tutelage" allowed Frankenstein to explore the possibility of rendering "man invulnerable to anything but a violent death." However, Frankenstein's "reason" is clouded and he cannot see the repercussions of his actions, which will haunt his physically and psychologically for the rest of his life. Not only is Frankenstein a monster for creating his Creature, but he is also a monster for abandoning it at the moment that it was "born" and for leaving the Creature to fend for itself. By doing so, Frankenstein effectively unleashed the Creature onto the world to wreak havoc and destroy the natural order of things.
It can also be…
Sources Used in Documents:
Kant, Immanuel. Was ist Aufklarung? Modern History Sourcebook. Fordham University.
Web. 3 May 2012.
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus. Project Gutenberg. Web. 3 May
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