In this era of bio-technological development, which primarily focuses on AI, and consequently replaces human effort, we are reminded of Mary Shelly’s nearly 200-year-old novel “Frankenstein” which essentially raised the same question.
How far is too far? And what happens when science and ambitious experimentation are not paired up with moral responsibilities?
Frankenstein is basically the story of Victor Frankenstein – his lust for forbidden knowledge and the repercussions of his failed experiment. He narrates his own journey from an innocent youth fascinated by the prospects of science into a disillusioned, guilt-ridden man determined to destroy the fruits of his arrogant scientific endeavour.
Frankenstein is famously called “The Modern Prometheus”.
Prometheus, according to Greek mythology, was one of the Titans and he is known for his act of defiance to Zeus. He had stolen the ‘technical fire’ which had the capability of making humans artistic, spiritual and smart. Thus doing something he wasn’t supposed to. Similarly, even Frankenstein played God by attempting to create life out of non-life. Thus, going farther than humans should go. As punishment, he was, in a way, chained to the monster. It kept killing people from his family, giving Frankenstein no time and space to recover from the looming trauma.
In the end, driven by hatred, the two monsters – Victor and his Creation, move farther and farther away from human society and sanity.
While reading the novel, one is continuously forced to think- Who was the real monster?
Victor’s reckless pursuit of scientific knowledge and ignorance towards the repercussions became the primary reason for his failure.
The ideas that aren’t parented well, are the true monsters. With great power comes even greater responsibility. He knew science and mechanics but never realized the difference between reanimating a corpse and bringing life to something completely new.
One might also wonder about a possible alternative.
Even if the monster wouldn’t have been so hideous, were Frankenstein or the society in general, ready to face the outcome of his experiments?
However, there are some instances where we sympathize with Frankenstein. In the climax where the monster murders Elizabeth, Victor loses the only source of feminine warmth in his life
His miserable state when he realizes that he could never escape the Monster until he dies, feels quite personal because then it was no longer limited to his story.
Every idea of ours which cannot be manifested, haunts us for a lifetime, akin to the monster.
Another part of the novel which feels personal is the Monster’s journey. His coming into the world without any knowledge of social norms and behavioral expectations, and his gradual adoption, reminds us of the journey of humans itself and how humans are gradually being shaped by society and culture.
The book also challenges our views on who we consider criminals as the monster in the novel was a product of society.
“Injustice breeds crime”
The Monster was just a lab rat for Frankenstein and his loneliness
Quoting words of Shelley from the novel itself –
“If no man allowed any pursuit whatsoever to interfere with the tranquility of his domestic affections, Greece had not been enslaved; Caesar would have spared his country; America would have been discovered more gradually; and the empires of Mexico and Peru had not been destroyed.”
Along with acting as the primary narrator, Walton’s decision to abandon his ambition and return home, makes us realize how knowledge is neutral and how everything depends on how it is perceived and pursued.
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood” and Walton took the one we all should choose.
It will make a difference.