Science, Technology, and Morality as Perceived in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

analytical Essay
1968 words
1968 words

In Frankenstein, Mary Shelley challenges the motives and ethical uncertainties of the scientific developments of her time. This critique has become increasingly relevant as modern scientists endeavor into previously unimagined realms of the natural world through the use of cloning and genetic engineering. Through careful analysis, we can see how the novel illustrates both the potential dangers of these exploits and the irony of the conflicts between science and creationism.

Prior to the birth of the story, Mary Shelley had begun to learn of advancements and speculation in the scientific world of the early nineteenth century; in Frankenstein's introduction, editor M. K. Joseph asserts that "Mary Shelley wrote in the infancy of modern science, when its enormous possibilities were just beginning to be seen" (xii). Interest in electricity, premature concepts of evolution, and other post-Enlightenment developments seized the attention of Mary and her lover, English writer Percy Shelley. Scientific news and rumors provided as numerous topics for discussion between the Shelleys and their peers: "Many and long were the conversations between Byron and [Percy] Shelley . . . various philosophical doctrines were discussed, and among others the principle of life, and whether there was any probability of its ever being discovered and communicated," wrote Shelley in her 1831 introduction.

Marylin Butler, in her article "The first Frankenstein and Radical Science," describes how William Lawrence, a physician, lecturer, and friend to the Shelleys, may have had a profound influence on the Shelleys' perceptions and opinions of science. Butler reports how Lawrence was a passionate student of "materialist science," a re...

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...ngman York Press, 1992.

Garber, Frederick. The Autonomy of the Self from Richardson to Huysmans. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982.

Kass, Leon R. Toward a More Natural Science. New York: The Free Press, 1985.

Levine, George. The Endurance of Frankenstein. Los Angeles: Moers, 1974.

Nelkin, Dorothy. "Genetics, God, and Sacred DNA." Society May/June 1996: 22-25.

Patterson, Arthur Paul. A Frankenstein Study.

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980.

Smith, Christopher. Frankenstein as Prometheus.

Spark, Muriel. Mary Shelly. New York: Dutton, 1987.

Williams, Bill. On Shelley's Use of Nature Imagery.

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes how mary shelley challenges the motives and ethical uncertainties of the scientific developments of her time in frankenstein.
  • Analyzes how mary shelley's interest in electricity, premature concepts of evolution, and other post-enlightenment developments seized the attention of mary and her lover, percy.
  • Analyzes how marylin butler's article, "the first frankenstein and radical science," describes how william lawrence, a physician, lecturer, and friend to the shelleys, may have had profound influence on their perceptions of science.
  • Analyzes how butler's assertion may hold true as we examine the classic novel for indications of shelley’s influences. frankenstein attempts to meld the values of science and religion.
  • Opines that mary shelley chose to impart a symbolic meaning with respect to the scientific efforts of her era, but the question remains: what was her intended message?
  • Analyzes how shelley's 1818 preface states that she has endeavored to preserve the truth of the basic principles of human nature, while not scrupulously innovating upon their combinations.
  • Analyzes how shelley uses frankenstein and walton to depict two different outcomes of the same story.
  • Analyzes how victor frankenstein plays an active role in the plot and provides us with clues to the story's meaning. with an upper-middle class upbringing, he is allowed time to pursue his own interests.
  • Opines that their inquiries were directed to the metaphysical, or, in its highest sense, the physical secrets of the world.
  • Analyzes how frankenstein develops an obsessive desire to understand the fundamental laws of the cosmos through his education at the university at ingolstadt.
  • Analyzes shelley's theme of reckless pursuit of knowledge, which may generate consequences of dire proportions, as illustrated by leon kass in toward a more natural science.
  • Analyzes frankenstein's lust for greatness and the power of his ego. he dreams of a scientific accomplishment which will secure his place in history.
  • Analyzes how shelley suggests a powerful and dangerous objective of science: the quest for immortality. frankenstein's design to bestow life upon the nonliving can only represent the innate human fear of death.
  • Analyzes how shelley's ideas are insinuated through frankenstein, while kass' observation is more blatant: "indeed, prolongation of healthy and vigorous life is perhaps the central goal and meaning of the modern scientific project."
  • Analyzes how dorothy nelkin's essay "genetics, god, and sacred dna" articulates the similarities between historically opposed ideologies.
  • Analyzes shelley's subtle parody of the tension by playing with suggestions made by the proponents of science/religion merger in the post-enlightenment era.
  • Analyzes how shelley implies that it is electricity that excites frankenstein's interest and which he uses to animate the monster.
  • Analyzes how shelley's mirroring of character between frankenstein and walton serves as a contrast between her fears and her hopes for the future of science.
  • Analyzes how frankenstein expresses shelley's concern that scientists will not learn from their mistakes, but rather, allow progress to consume and destroy humankind.
  • Opines that a human being in perfection should always preserve calm and peaceful mind, and never allow passion or transitory desire to disturb his tranquillity.
  • Analyzes how walton chooses the future which shelley hopes for. feeling the pressure and needs of his fellow human beings, he acquiesces to their wishes to forsake.
  • Analyzes how shelley cautions us to take great care when wielding the powerful sword of science. the progress of space exploration, sub-atomic studies, and genetic engineering may reveal issues never imagined.
  • Cites bloom, harold, butler, marylin, botting, fred, boyd, stephen, and garber.
  • Cites kass, leon r., levine, george, and nelkin, dorothy.
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