The outstanding piece of work that Mary Shelley created with her novel Frankenstein is still a significant influence on several writings and movies that we can see in the industry. It is particularly the case in the genre of Sci-fi where we can see some great similitudes with Shelley’s work. However, even though the genre called Science-Fiction became immensely popularized throughout the last years and had become an important part of the novel and film industry, we often forget where its origin came from and who are the pioneer that influenced this genre. Thus, I would like to dedicate an article divided into two parts that will first start by explaining the characteristics and origins of Sci-Fi and in the second part talked about how Frankenstein was the first true work of this genre.
As technology develops far beyond our wildest dreams, one must take into consideration the ethics of certain advancements. Artificial intelligence has been on the minds of every software and computer engineer for the better part of 40 years, and has been pondered by philosophers, scientists, and science-fiction authors for well over 200 years.
Assuming humanity is indeed capable of “playing God” and creating the spark of life, the ethics of the situation must be closely analysed and taken with extreme caution. The Frankenstein Monster serves as Artificial Intelligence in the flesh, as it surpasses humanity in nearly every aspect, and given the opportunity, would annihilate the human race due to our fearful nature.
According the article “Rage against the AI machine”, humanity must automatically integrate AI robots into society to ensure their cooperation as well as our survival. This however only functions under the assumption that artificial intelligence functions as well as harbors the same emotions as humans, much like the Frankenstein Monster.
Source & Further Reading:
“No human being could have passed a happier childhood than myself. My parents were possessed by the very spirit of kindness and indulgence. We felt that they were not the tyrants to rule our lot according to their caprice, but the agents and creators of all the many delights which we enjoyed. When I mingled with other families, I distinctly discerned how peculiarly fortunate my lot was, and gratitude assisted the development of filial love.”
-Frankenstein, Chapter 2
Could there be a different meaning behind Frankenstein’s childhood? One that contrasts directly with his creation? Victor’s childhood life was distinguished by his parents who cared and loved for him. In a sense, the monster’s “childhood” if we may, antitheses with his own.
“One man’s life or death were but a small price to pay for the acquirement of the knowledge which I sought, for the dominion I should acquire and transmit over the elemental foes of our race.”
-Walton, Letter 4
Here Robert is writing to his sister about how important his goals are. Could he possibly be saying that it’s ok of if a man dies in the name of science as long as he fulfills his principles of scientific achievements? Walton is starting to go some-what mad. Is there possibly a foreshadowing effect?
“When night came again I found, with pleasure, that the fire gave light as well as heat and that the discovery of this element was useful to me in my food, for I found some of the offals that the travellers had left had been roasted, and tasted much more savoury than the berries I gathered from the trees. I tried, therefore, to dress my food in the same manner, placing it on the live embers. I found that the berries were spoiled by this operation, and the nuts and roots much improved.”
Just like his creator, is he attempting to comprehend the existence of acquiring scientific results by repeated, varied attempts which are continued until success?
-The Monster, Chapter 11
“Cursed, cursed creator! Why did I live? Why, in that instant, did I not extinguish the spark of existence which you had so wantonly bestowed? I know not; despair had not yet taken possession of me; my feelings were those of rage and revenge. I could with pleasure have destroyed the cottage and its inhabitants and have glutted myself with their shrieks and misery.”
The Monster, Chapter 16
The phrase “The spark of existence which you had so wantonly bestowed” ressembles a lot like a disapproval of people having babies, mainly taking into account that the word “wanton” is used when defining excessive sexual activity, which in the past meant that the family tended to have an”immoderate” amount babies.
While writing Frankenstein, Shelley drew inspiration (intentionally or not) from the vast repertoire of Norse Mythology. There are many parallels between the characters found within the novel, notably Frankenstein and his Monster. It could be argued that Frankenstein’s Monster is an adaptation of Loki, the Norse Jötunn god of Mischief, and Frankenstein is an adaptation of Thor, the Norse god of Thunder. Through extensive analysis, it is apparent that the climax of the story is very similar to the events leading to the Ragnarok, the Norse Apocalypse, all the way down to symbolic representations.
Firstly, it is important to understand the general context of the Ragnarok. In this case, a specific part of it is observed: when Thor ventures into Niflheim, an icebound wasteland, home to all the evil creatures conspiring towards the end of the world. Symbolically, Frankenstein resembles Thor as he is associated with lightning, adventurousness (through scientific exploits and breaking boundaries). The Monster, represents Loki, as he is quite similar to a Jötunn (Ice Giants) in terms of physique. His actions also resemble Loki as they are meant to cause chaos and lead to the demise of the Hero (Frankenstein).
Upon reaching the arctic wasteland in pursuit of the Monster, Frankenstein’s means of transportation (Sled-Dogs) fails him. This could be interpreted as a representation of Fenrir, Loki’s wolf son, being the first obstacle in his quest. Frankenstein then finds shelter on an expedition ship, thus conquering the sea, which could be interpreted as Jörmungandr (the Sea-Serpent). Unfortunately, as Jörmungandr’s poison kills Thor after the battle, the frostbite and illness claim Frankenstein.
The Monster, now in his solitude, is punished for his crimes in a similar fashion as Loki. The Norse Trickster God was bound by chains for eternity, where poison is dripped onto his head. His wife is there to collect the poison in a bowl before it damages Loki, but when she leaves to empty said bowl, Loki is left to writhe in pain as the poison drips onto him. Similarly, the Monster is left to writhe in agony as the absence of his wife renders him unable to mitigate the emotional pain caused by eternal loneliness.
Frankenstein is a novel written by the English author Mary Shelley in 1818 tells the story of Victor Frankenstein, a youthful scientist who creates an incongruous but wise creature in an eccentric scientific experimentation. Even though alchemy and the alchemists, are hardly referred to in the novel, they are essential to the persistence of the plot. It is the alchemists and their notions, predominantly those of Paracelsus and the thought of the elixir of life, that drive Victor Frankenstein to pursue the idea of life through science, eventually leading Victor to the creation of the beast in Frankenstein.
Paracelsus was a Swiss alchemist and physician who perceived and used alchemic treatment above all other ideas of alchemy to help people. Paracelsus. This treatment would be able to lengthen the life of man by curing them, and consequently allow them to live an improved life. It was believed that the elixir of life, a goal of many alchemists, was the ultimate cordial that would allow a person to live forever. Considering this, an individual can asses something similar to Victor’s idea in Frankenstein. Victor himself pursues the legendary elixir in the novel. Wealth meant nothing to him compared to what glory would follow the discovery. He wanted to remove illness from human existence completely.
A contemporary fallacy is that alchemy is the act of transfiguring objects such as wood and metal into gold and silver for material gain. In Frankenstein, the natural attitude that is mentioned views alchemists as those who wished to uncover the mystery of life and the creation of lifeless objects in addition to those who pursued to restore the human soul to excellence. Through viewing alchemy in such way, Victor desires to use the alchemy he learns from his educators to eliminate the state of death. This objective is not for wealth but for the benefit of the people.