Playing God in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein Essay
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In his Poetics, Aristotle defines the tragic hero as a man of high social status who invites the gods to punish him through overbearing pride and/or presumption – hubris. It would be simple to assign the label of hubristic tragic hero to Victor Frankenstein, but such assignment of a label would be an oversimplification. The gods in Greek drama punish, albeit harshly, in an outright manner. The tragic figure is aware that the gods have forsaken him, and he resigns to live his life under the demands of retribution. Victor Frankenstein’s fate is not so simple; fate is crueler to Victor and more spiteful than he could ever be to the heavens. The question that precedes all others, however, is who is or what acts as god in…show more content…
Christianity made humanity’s views on nature and God anthropocentric; man was “the sole subject, speaker, and rational sovereign of the natural order” (Manes 21). By removing the godly powers from nature, it becomes open to exploit and experimentation.
Western scientists, beginning around the thirteenth century, took this one step further.
They began making discoveries and formulating experiments under the pretext of discovering how God’s creatures operate. The danger suspected by naturalists proved true – men of science began to feel that nature belonged to them and that if God had allowed them to get so close to nature and its functions, that they were obviously allowed to play with it as they pleased:
As technologies enabling dramatic transformations of the natural order increasingly appeared in the modern period, and as a new and much more powerful knowledge of what was believed to be the true order of nature began to emerge in the science of
Galileo, Newton and their successors, is it so surprising that Westerners came to think of themselves as “lords of creation” with a possibility, and a mandate, to expand human powers over nature …? (Kaufman 9)
It is therefore not surprising that a man of Victor Frankenstein’s time, education, and passions would succumb to such a mentality. Victor himself explains his fascination with these scientists: They penetrate into the recesses of nature, and show how she works in her
Theme of Playing God in Frankenstein
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Life or Death
If you create something should you be able to kill it? The notion of playing god like Victor did with the creatures in Frankenstein is comparative to the same issue the courts have with abortion laws. Various angles of abortion can be quite overwhelming as well as who makes the final decision. Many governments have struggled to strike what they believe to be a balance between the rights of pregnant women and the rights of fetuses. Before life is started, generally, an individual has thought about whether or not they want to create life. All life is created whether it is the creatures in Frankenstein or development of a fetus. Once life has been created choosing to end that life can cause many issues. The struggle of choosing between life and death could be avoided by an individual evaluating the results of creating a life before starting the process.
There are many factors to be evaluated before initiating the process of creating life. Most individuals know whether they are ready to create life. The choice is a big decision that effects the rest of their life. The book Frankenstein starts by presenting Victor Frankenstein as an individual with a craving to create life. However, he does not choose to persuade this creation the normal way (having a child), instead he chooses to create a life from the parts of deceased individuals. Victor had many years to think about creating the monster, but never thought of the consequences of his action. Also, later in the novel Victor chooses to begin creating another creature without fully thinking about what will happen if this creature is created. In the real world individuals think about having children many times in their life. People think about when to have children and when they will be able to provide the best life for their children. Though some individuals many believe they are ready to create life, after the process has been started individuals can change their mind.
Once the process of life has been initiated, individuals have a lot to consider. When Victor begins creating the first creature he is excited at the possibility of bringing his creation to life. He has no thoughts of destroying the creature at this time. However, once the creature is brought to life, and Victor realizes the monstrosity he has created, Victor wishes to abandon the creature.
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Playing God Frankenstein Abortion Laws Having Children Pregnant Women Victor Frankenstein Choosing Real World Ready Creatures
Victor stated, "For this I had deprived myself of rest and health. I had desired it with an ardour that far exceeded moderation; but now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart" (Shelley, pg. 42). Later in the novel when Victor has agreed to create a companion for the monster Victor has second thoughts after beginning the creation. Victor decides to destroy the second creature and hunt and kill the first monster. Victor's choices with the monsters are similar to the current issue of abortion. In the United States when women find out they are pregnant they have the option of keeping the child or having an abortion. "Polls find that two-thirds of Americans say abortion should be legal during the first trimester, but that drops to 8 percent in the third trimester" (Abortion, Para. 12). Keeping the child would be similar to what Victor did with the first monster. Aborting the fetus would be similar to what Victor did to the second creature in the novel Frankenstein. While there are two sides to the argument, the argument all together could be avoided if people where to think more about the consequences of their actions.
The resolution the having to choose life or death for a creature or a fetus is to not get into the situation in the first place. Victor said,
Great God! If for one instant I had thought what might be the hellish intention of my fiendish adversary, I would rather have banished myself forever from my native country and wandered a friendless outcast over the earth than have consented to this miserable marriage. (Shelley 22, pg. 174)
This shows that Victor feels that if he would have thought about the consequences of his creation he would have not participated in the creation of the creature. Women and men have also voiced their opinion in wanting to plan for the future. Individuals are taking a more active role in participating in protected sex to prevent pregnancy. Abortions have been on the decline and some possible causes for the decline are, "widespread use of reliable contraceptives, a decline in teen pregnancies and the overall aging of the population" (Abortion, Para. 7). In the novel Frankenstein and in real life it is evident that planning for the creation of life helps to eliminate the choice between life and death.
Frankenstein is a good example of how a great idea can go bad because of not thinking of the aftermath or the consequences. This can not only pertain to a person's life but also in simple choices you make throughout the day. Unlike Victor, you should evaluate every factory before making a big decision. In the case of someone's well being, the scenario should be played out over and over before making the final choice. If Victor would have taken these steps before creating the creature, maybe he would have lived a longer and happier life. In other cases sometimes the resolution to a situation is to avoid the situation altogether. In today's fast paced society it is important to learn from mistakes, like Victor's, and take the proper steps to insure they don't happen to you.
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. Ed. Candace Ward. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1994.
"Abortion." Public Agenda 2006. 01 December 2006 .