I will demonstrate in this paper how Mary Shelley's Frankenstein confirms, and at the same time contradicts Darwin's ideas presented in "The Origin of the Species" and "The Decent of Man."
Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is at once, confirming, and contradictory of Charles Darwin's scientific discoveries and views on science, nature and the relation of the individual to society. Mary Shelley confirms Darwin's ideas through Frankenstein, when Dr. Frankenstein and Darwin both reject God as the creator of human life. Although this is a major theme in both works, it is the only similar idea shared between both Darwin and Frankenstein. Darwin's understanding of nature is comparable to that of Mary Shelley; although how the individual relates to society is gravely different between the two works. One of Darwin's admiring disciples, Andrew Carnegie, the author of "The Gospel of Wealth," shows us how contradictory these ideas are in relation to each other. His ideas of inheritance and the conduct of man are in disagreement with the actions of Shelley's Dr. Frankenstein.
Throughout Darwin's works the idea of the rejection of God as creator of man prevails. He alludes to prehistoric marine Ascidian larvae, as the predecessors to the later evolved human beings we are today. This would give credit for the creation of man to the process of evolution, not to the handiwork of a Supreme Being. "Species had not been independently created, but had descended, like varieties, from other species"(Appleman, 36). Darwin is showing here what conclusions he came upon about the "Origin of the Species", in which he used science to prove his theories. He is replacing God with ideas...
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...heir works, giving the power of creation to evolution and mankind. They also both present similar views on nature, seeing it as a tool for scientific exploration and not as a wonder of beauty as it is often seen today. Using the work of Andrew Carnegie to show Darwinian ideas about the individual in society, we can see that these ideas strongly contradict those which Shelley presents in Frankenstein. Overall I believe that Mary Shelley's Frankenstein exemplifies many ideas expressed in the works of Darwin, enough that they can be considered enriching of each other in terms of comparison.
Darwin, Charles. The Origin of Species. New York: Gramercy Books, 1979.
Darwin, Charles. The Descent Of Man. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1998.
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. Ed. D.L. Macdonald and Kathleen Scherf. Orchard Park, NY: Broadview Press, 1999.
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