Shaped by their distinctly different contexts, Shelley and Scott strive to convey this notion, through bold cinematic and literary techniques, characterisation and themes, of the fatal path humanity has placed itself on. Mary Shelley’s seminal novel, Frankenstein 1818, is a moral fable combining conflicting paradigms of Romantic idealism and Enlightenment rationalism. Shelley delves into these ideologies in a classic gothic horror story that presents the unequivocal issues concerning the ethics and consequences of the pursuit of knowledge and scientific experimentation. Influenced by the increasing popularity of galvanism, Shelley effectively illustrates her apprehensions through the character development of Victor Frankenstein and his juxtaposition against nature. Victor admits his deep desire for ‘immortally and power’ through ‘penetrating the secrets of nature’, which is manifested in his technological innovation of the creature, highlighting the extreme yet realistic potential for technology to create human life.
Frankenstein depicts the ambition to use science to usurp God, influenced by the eighteenth century Enlightenment movement (encouraging reasoning to understand the universe), advancements in science in the nineteenth century and the concept of restoration of life through electricity, known as 'galvanism'. Shelley's social context was focused on knowledge and self glory - concepts Shelley opposed. Frankenstein is a didactic warning against growing dependence on science. It highlights consequences of over-reliance on technology, suggesting attempts to usurp God will result in outcomes beyond human control. The Gothic genre allows the purpose to reach the audience.
As a romantic novel, Frankenstein responds to the encroachment of rationalism and the Age of Enlightenment, specifically the unknown repercussions of man’s hubristic pursuit of knowledge. Shelley’s apprehension to science, influenced by the late 18th century industrial revolution and galvanism, is encapsulated by Frankenstein as he ‘infuse[s] a spark of being,’ forming a creature that ultimately destroys him. This is an intertextual reference to the subtitle of the novel, “The Modern Prometheus”, evoking the Greek myth of man’s desire to become god and paralleling the disastrous consequences stemming from ambition. Additionally, the epistolary structure of Walton’s letters acts as a framing device to Frankenstein’s destruction, foreshadowing the result of his own journey. Shelley utilizes Walton as a foil to Frankenstein drawing comparison
However, the values remain consistent and thus via the respective forms of the text, composers explore issues relating to humanity and unchecked science. Within each text, the composers similarly explore how when scientific endeavour is pursued without a moral frame, the consequences for creator and created, and furthermore humanity, are devastating. The impact on mankind is reflected as Victor Frankenstein brings his monster into existence. This is evident through the use of high modality as he says ‘a new species would bless me as its creator’ and ‘natures would owe their being to me’. Victor’s distant and cold language reveals his overwhelming hubris and reflects the conflation of scientific and Romantic paradigms.
Mary Shelleys 20th Century text Frankenstein, and Ridley Scotts 19th Century text Blade Runner, share a variety of similarities and differences that are represented though the use of particular issues arising throughout both texts. The context in which the texts are written also have a major effect on the similarities and differences within the issues of nature, 'man playing God', rights of the creations, responsibilities of the creators, humanity and even companionship. The contexts in which these two texts were written differ from each other immensely. With Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’, it was written during a time of great change and upheaval in Europe with issues such as the questioning of religion and the state, Rise of Romanticism, Feminism and even being in the Midst of the Industrial Revolution, Whereas with Scott Ridleys 20th century ‘Blade Runner’, it was filmed in a time of great technological and medical advancements. The Blade Runner context is the science-fiction dystopic future of Los-Angeles in 2019.
Consequently, the nature of humanity and scientific progress are reflected through literary and filmic techniques, addressing the exploitation of mankind’s progress and ultimately questioning what it means to be human. By reflecting on their respective social and technological milieus, Shelley and Scott depict the detrimental repercussions of artificial construction through the parallels in ‘Frankenstein’ and ‘Blade Runner.’ In particular, the turn of the 19th century saw the fascination with Galvanism, regarding the animation of animal tissue through electricity, inciting Shelley to confront this ideology based on a ‘life force’ that would infuse life in an inanimate object. Through the first person perspective, responders are exposed to Victor Frankenstein’s obsessive behaviour in overcoming the metaphysical boundaries of ‘life principles’. Thus, by metaphorically ‘pursuing nature in all her hiding places’, Shelley questions the implications of synthetic formation through her use of a contemplative tone in acknowledging the ‘astonishing power placed within [his] hands…and the manner in which I should employ it’. She answers this through her
yThroughout the exploration of the module “Texts in Time”, we observe the connections between texts and their reflections of the constancy in human nature, whilst shifting contextual perspectives are maintained. Such a connection is demonstrated in Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel “Frankenstein” (F/stein) and Scott Ridley’s 1991 film “Bladerunner”, where both composers present a cautionary tale, warning us of the implications of science and technological advances on humanity and thus reflecting their own fears in their respective contextual eras. It is through the analysis of such values and implications that we can see the constancy of human nature throughout time. Frankenstein is a gothic inspired, fragmented epistolary, reflecting the rebellion of the Romantic Movement, which advocated the power of imagination, and ones relationship to nature. The gothic convention of sublime nature is represented thematically, through forces of good and evil leading to vengeance and murder, as well as macabre settings of graveyards and charnel houses.
Her warning of the dangers of such actions is encapsulated within Victor’s concerning words of “how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge”, whilst Shelley’s use of a fragmented epistolatory narrative adds a disturbing sense of truth and realism, foreshadowing the dark consequences of Frankenstein’s actions. Shelley’s warning is evident throughout the novel which ultimately reflects her context through the concern of scientists within her era exploiting the advancements in science. It also reinforces the dangers of our humanity’s inherent yearning to play the role of the Creator. Such a warning also exists within Scott’s “Blade Runner” where the director echoes the rise of capitalist principles through the symbolic dominance of Tyrell’s towering dwelling, a reflection of both his desire for omnipotence and commercial power. Scott’s warning of the dangers of
Identity is based on the individual characteristics by which a thing or person is recognised or known, and is impacted by various factors including human connections and the environment. A disruption of these stable elements ultimately fuels the loss of identity. Mary Shelly’s Romantic novel Frankenstein (1818) and Ridley Scott’s science fiction film Blade Runner (1992) demonstrate how a more profound and sophisticated understanding of disruption and identity arises from the consideration of the parallels between the two texts. Though Frankenstein and Blade Runner differ in context, they draw on similar philosophical and societal values of their time to simultaneously extrapolate the twofold themes of The Human Experience; what it means to be human, and the dangers of disrupting the natural order through technological advancements. Thus the linking premise is that dehumanisation or a loss of identity results once nature has been disrupted, and humanity becomes subservient to technology and scientific advancement.
When one thinks of the novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, the concepts of knowledge and science are deeply inscribed in the mind. In her work, Mary Shelley tells the story of how one man attempted to emulate the knowledge of his day. Burning with a passion to invent the science of life, Victor Frankenstein soon realizes that such a desire to go beyond current knowledge will backfire and torment the remainder of his life. In the Gothic novel Frankenstein, Mary Shelley conveys her attitudes towards science by portraying it as having the capability to exceed the bounds of human restraint. The overwhelming theme of science that is expressed in Frankenstein is that knowledge has the potential to go beyond the boundaries of human control.