Whilst texts may be fictitious constructs of composers’ imaginations, they also explore and address the societal issues of their eras. This is clearly the case with Mary Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein, which draws upon the rise of Galvanism and the Romantic Movement of the 1800’s, as well as Ridley Scott’s film Blade Runner, reflecting upon the increasing technological advances and the predominance of capitalism within the late 20th Century. Despite their differing contexts, Shelley and Scott ultimately warn us of the dire consequences of our desire for supremacy and scientific progress, concepts which link the two texts throughout time. Composed in a time of major scientific developments, including Galvani’s concept of electricity as a reanimating source, Shelley’s “Frankenstein” utilises the creative arrogance of the Romantic imagination to create a Gothic world in which the protagonist’s acquisition of the divine privilege of creation has derailed the conventional lines of authority and responsibility. 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.
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.
To the reader, it seems that Shelly consistently reminds us of the lack of responsibility on the part of Frankenstein, and the monster’s inherent innocence, who is only made evil by his circumstances. But like the reader, Shelley too, is unclear about whose behaviour is most unjustifiable and unpardonable. With reference to David Punter’s essay “Gothic and Romanticism”, Victor Frankenstein can be compared to the ‘Wanderer’, the Wanderer’s essential characteristics being that he is hero and victim both, who defies God by crossing the laws of mortality and dares to touch the untouchable. The Wanderer is never satisfied with the restrictions placed on him by an ordered society, and he ultimately suffers for his disobedience. Victor clearly fits the description of the Wanderer, as his obsessive need to create life and be its sole creator has a hint of an unnatural desperation to satisfy his ego and attain gratitude.
Although changes in context lead to changed values being reflected in texts, common concerns resonate over time and between texts. Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein (1818) and the film Bladerunner (1992), directed by Ridley Scott, both explore the consequences of an unrestrained pursuit of science and knowledge and the nature of humanity. Although both composers raise similar ideas and concerns, they are presented to the audience differently due to the differing contexts in which the two texts were composed. Mary Shelley composed her novel in the midst of the industrial revolution and during the Age of Enlightenment, while Ridley Scott developed his film at a time of unfettered capitalism and consumerism alongside technological advances in computing and genetic modification. In Frankenstein, Shelley displays the dire consequences that accompany the unrestrained pursuit of knowledge.
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.
Frankenstein and Blade Runner “By studying two texts together, we come to a heightened understanding of their meaning and significance.” Period literature and cinematography provide insight into the composer’s societal paradigm, reflecting the historical setting and contemporary issues maintained at the time. Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel, “Frankenstein”, and Ridley Scott’s 1982 film, “Blade Runner”, encapsulate distinct time frames and contexts, respectively highlighting the author’s opinions and concerns within those periods. Despite contrasting societal environments, both texts comment on the human obsession toward scientific advancement and its subsequent consequences, as well as questioning the aspects and qualities that define humanity. Being composed over 150 year apart, the congruency of the texts’ core values transcends time barriers, not only demonstrating their significance and omnipresence within the human condition but also providing new insight and perspectives through differing contextual interpretations. 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.
Summative task Values evolve with society’s perspective becoming newer and more profound; this is a result of enlightening events and innovative use of form in influential texts. Values that have advanced over time are the delicate relationships between science and nature, which ultimately defines our humanity and the ethics and morals behind the progress of science. A comparison can be made, showing the development of these values over time, between ‘Frankenstein’ a romanticised novel written by Mary Shelley in 1818, about a mad scientist named victor creating a monster. The other text, BR, is a post-modern film directed by Ridley Scott in 1982, about a Deckard, a blade runner, hunting down replicants. The texts use a variety of literary and cinematic techniques to offer a fresh perspective on the implications of scientific disregard.
Victor Frankenstein was an arrogant and ambitious scientist that wanted to play with the powers beyond human understanding and answer the ‘secret of life,’ with his “human endeavour to mock the stupendous mechanisms of the Creator of the world.” Frankenstein effectively achieved this by “bestowing animation on a lifeless matter.” Shelley throughout the fourth chapter expresses the excited and ambitious scientist during the process of seeking his answers, he thought he was about to create “a new species [that] will bless [him] as its creator and source.” However this is juxtaposed with the decline of the individual which is revealed in the next chapter, “Now that [he had] finished” he realised “the beauty of the dream had vanished and breathless horror and disgust filled [his] heart.” By answering the ‘secret of life,’ Frankenstein is forced to accept the consequences from releasing the ‘monster’ on the world. Shelley uses techniques of imagery to describe the unnamed monster “I had gazed on him while unfinished; he was ugly then, but when those muscles and joints were rendered capable of motion, it became a thing such as even Dante could not have conceived.” Shelley makes constant references to the physical and emotion price paid as a result of the individual, Victor
Their downfall due to technology gives credibility to the warning. Religious imagery within Frankenstein highlights the responsibilities associated with 'playing God'. Repeated references to Frankenstein's creature as a "wretched devil", and Victor as his "God", display Frankenstein's inability to manage the consequences of his actions. The physical ability to create life does not
The ending of the story, when Victor almost chases to monster to the north pole, is also a glimmering example of how Victor has changed internally from a Geneva, to a cold, harsh, inhuman monster. The main characters, Victor and the monster, are both interesting mixes of good, as well as evil. Victor, on the one hand, is good in the sense that he wants to understand science to further humanity. He does have an ugly side, however. For example, Victor abandons his monster after he creates it because he realizes what he has done.