Oct 26 2010

Frankenstein

Published by at 9:04 pm under Uncategorized

While reading this heart-wrenching novel, I was (obviously) trying to decide what kind of creator, or inventor, Victor Frankenstein is.  The element that struck me as unique to VF’s story was his selfishness. He got lost in his quest to produce something new and exciting that would be a manifestation and culmination of all of his hard work and toil. But he didn’t think ahead; though he mentions the potentially positive by-product of being able to conquer death, most of VF’s motivations center around his amazement at the abilities he finds he has/can develop. He describes that from the midst of the darkness of his confusion about the machinations of life and death, a dizzying, “brilliant and wondrous” light opened up his eyes and allowed him to understand the secret of human life.

This depiction is starkly antithetical to the descriptions of inventors we have read thus far. Morgan Le Fay, Prospero, Shakespeare (if we see him as a quasi-inventor in The Tempest), and Crusoe thought about their inventions. Even if they didn’t have the best of intentions (like in Prospero’s case, I would argue,), they considered the ramifications that their inventions would mean. VF did no such thing. He was hit with a flash of inspiration, and the sensation of being able to use his knowledge as tangible, real-live power was heady. He got lost in the moment, and while I sympathized immensely with him by the end of the book, no amount of remorse could make up for the narcissism that caused it all.

Shelley is making a point, albeit in a grossly exaggerated way, about the power of technology. It can slip through your fingers, even if you’re the inventor, before you can blink. This is the result of the kind of scientist that Romanticism celebrates, according to Richard Holmes. This is the perilous outcome of  what he calls “the dazzling idea of the solitary scientific ‘genius,’ thirsting and reckless for knowledge, for its own sake and perhaps at any cost.” Shelley’s VF shows just how steep that cost can be.

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