Is Frankenstein Is a Condemnation of Blind Ambition and Extreme Pursuit of “Scientific” Achievement Without Regard for Consequences and Ethical Implications?
Frankenstein was accepted by no one and he felt lost and sad in the big scary world. Frankenstein felt abandoned by his creator and he was out for revenge. Frankenstein felt that Victor owed him something considering that he brought Frankenstein into this world.
It’s not just a book about science. Moreover, focusing on Shelley’s text doesn’t explore the scope of the Frankenstein myth itself, including its message for scientists. This is one of those stories everyone knows even without having read the original: Man makes monster; monster runs amok; monster kills man. It may come as a surprise to discover that the creator, not the creature, is called Frankenstein, and that the original creature was not the shambling, grunting, green-faced lunk played by Boris Karloff in the 1931 movie but an articulate soul who meditates on John Milton’s Paradise Lost. Such misconceptions might do little justice to Shelley, but as the critic Chris Baldick has written, “That series of adaptations, allusions, accretions, analogues, parodies, and plain misreadings with follows upon Mary Shelley’s novel is not just a supplementary component of the myth; it is the myth.”That feels like a missed opportunity. Frankenstein is still frequently the first point of reference for media reports of such cutting-edge developments, just as it was when human IVF became a viable technique in the early 1970s. The “Franken” label is now a lazy journalistic cliché for a technology you should distrust, or at least regard as “weird”: Frankenfoods, Frankenbugs. The “wisdom of repugnance,” the phrase coined by the U.S. bioethicist Leon Kass and which informed the decision of the George W. Bush administration to pose drastic restrictions on federally funded stem-cell research in 2001, harked back directly to Mary Shelley’s novel.
Mary Shelley, 2000). An account of Dr Bianchini’s experiments on “Le Medicin Electrique”, reported to the Royal Society explains that “The experiments were made by Dr Bianchini assisted by several curious and learned men … who not being able to separate what was true … determined to be guided by their own experiments and it was by this most troublesome though of all the others the most sure way, that they have learned to reject a great number of what have been published as facts.” Similarly, Henry Baker’s report to the Royal Society, describing Abbe Nollet’s experiments, outlined the need for comparative studies and that “treatment should not be condemned without a fair trial” and a Belgian doctor, Professor Lambergen, describing the use of deadly nightshade for the treatment of breast cancer wrote “Administration of this plant certainly merits the attention of the medical profession; and surely one may add entitles the medicine to future trials … nevertheless the most efficacious medicines are such if its efficacy by repeated trials be approved.” In the mid 18th century James Lind conducted the first controlled trial to establish a cure for scurvy and his Treatise on the Scurvy contains what could be seen in modern terminology as the first “review of the current literature” prior to a clinical trial. Mary Shelley certainly knew of experiments with electricity (“galvanism”), probably through her parents, whose acquaintances included many experimentalists and her husband who had himself conducted his own experiments. Her introduction to the 1831 edition gives support: “perhaps a corpse would be re-animated; galvanism had given token of such things … perhaps the components parts of a creature might be manufactured … and endued with vital warmth” (p 8).
The enormous popularity of the Gothic novel had actually passed by 1816, but the genre, with its emphasis on darkness, madness, the supernatural, and strange passions, has never been fully dead.
Pultney R. A brief botanical and medical history of the selanum lethale or deadly nightshade. Philos Trans R Soc1757;50:62–88.
Lind J. A Treatise of the Scurvy. 1753. Edinburgh Royal College of Physicians library, www.rcpe.ac.uk/library/collection.html
Seymour M. Mary Shelley. London: John Murray 2000:44