Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Another of my required reading for the Fantasy and Science Fiction course.

Frankenstein is a horror and morality novel about an ambitious scientist who wanted to create life by himself and succeeded in creating a being that tormented his life for years to come. The novel is very philosophical and hardly descriptive, it’s a point of view novel in truest sense. It derived suspense from the reader’s perceptions and nurtured horror from the thoughts of unknown.

The novel is narrated by letters and two main character, the scientist Frankenstein and the unnamed creature simply called “The Monster”. I have done an essay namely “Frankenstein : The Failure and Future of a Modern Scientist” which  I focused his occupation, the author’s perception take on him and the future of science itself. I couldn’t deny that Frankenstein, despite being caricatured heavily by Hollywood (that the monster is always mistakenly named as Frankenstein), is by itself a tale of overshadowing and a foreboding prophetic imagining to the future of science. It’s very impressive considering it was written in 1817 by a woman. Had the Victorian scientific society taken her book as something more than just gothic fiction, we could have averted most of the events in our modern society.

Frankenstein was one of the novel I had chosen in 2005 for the Literature in English SPM elective that I got an A2 in it while I was bored in Terengganu. It was either this book or the Lord of the Flies book which I read and dislike. Actually, I barely had a good opinion on this book too since I was never a fan of Frankenstein since I’m more of a fan of “The Monster”.

I do consider The Monster as a protagonist instead of antagonist. I never actually thought Frankenstein as a sympathetic character especially with many of the book’s study guides expressively said so. From the start of The Monster’s narration, one could see a creature like him as a newborn in a world where everyone including his ‘father’ and his adopted family abandoned him just because of his appearance of a corpse. He became self-aware faster and soon developed resentment to the world that wanted him dead for being different. He’s a clean slate that was corrupted by circumstances.

Although, it’s not that hard to feel empathy for the Monster but its much harder to be empathy with Frankenstein himself. Maybe because I am a scientist or more appropriately a biological scientist that I abhor his reaction to his creation. I never knew a scientist who dislike his or her work. If you’ve spent years crafting and studying it, you wouldn’t feel or anticipate superficial things that you yourself made. And I find an intense dislike for his character and the narration because he’s possibly too much pride onto himself for a person who considered being well-knowledgable. A scientist may take pride with his studies but he shall never have pride that rivalled the gods. That what Frankenstein is actually doing!

On its essence, it’s a simple novel to understand and still maintained its popularity among science fiction derivative including in paranormal genre. It’s really is a curious 19th century novel with an ability to be able to be dissected, analysed and still be relevant to the modern times. Unlike the romantic period that glorified the chic-lit of its days, Mary Shelley is one of the pioneer female author who tried to breakthrough the skepticism and two hundred years later, still succeeded.


Frankenstein : The Failure and Future of a Modern Scientist

Victor Frankenstein’s obsession to creationism grew throughout the years until he “(discovered) the cause of generation and life”. However, he became delusional by the wealth of knowledge he obtained that he strived to “(bestow) animation upon lifeless matter”. But once he succeeded in creating a creature, he became horrified of what he tirelessly had created and fled.

In reality, within each branches of science, the specificity of understanding what made a human being capable of thoughts, movement and function was not easily simplified by theoretical means. Thus in traditional sense, Frankenstein is exactly polar opposite of what a scientist is. He was devoid of logical, analytical and matured mind that it took to comprehend the meaning of life. By stereotyping the occupation of a scientist, the author had made her novel a mockery to the progressive profession.

Or is it?

The study of ethics, which was defined as the standards of conduct of scientist in their professional endeavors, had never been taken seriously by the scientific community until late 20th century. This mostly resulted from the aftermath of World War II which is an era when absolute absence of human ethics and humanity persists by scientists by advocating the necessities of violent and unnecessary human experimentations. However, these experimentations had become the root of modern medicine which is still in practice to this date but the fact that thousands to million of people had needlessly died shamed scientific communities of the world. Thus, ethics became an absolute importance in research science.

Frankenstein seek “the dissecting room and the slaughter-house” for his experimental materials and produced a being that is neither human nor a being which was carelessly abandoned but soon regained self-awareness and haunted his creator. The novel were set with an idea that the morality clashed horribly to Victorian sensibility on the scientific occupation. However, had the early 19th century academics had taken Mary Shelley seriously, the study of scientific ethics could have been started decades earlier and could possibly prevented the horrific scientific future it awaits.


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