Scientific Knowledge Without Moral Restraint in Frankenstein: a Cautionary Tale

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Jones 1 Adam Jones Prof. Carmelo Tropiano EAC 268 BA October 1, 2012 Scientific Knowledge without Moral Restraint in Frankenstein: A Cautionary Tale Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is the story of a man whose scientific ambition—disguised as humanitarian concern—motivates him to seek for supernatural powers. In his attempt to reach a God-like level, he acts basically for his own interest and wants to see his name glorified by humanity. The subtitle of the novel stresses the Greek myth of the Prometheus; Victor is the one who steals the fire from the Gods, suggesting that science can find solutions to all human problems, and any borders that need to be trespassed to do so will be. To achieve this goal, he makes an extensive use of science. The scientific knowledge he acquires through his research and experiments ultimately lead him to desolation and loneliness, because he fails to follow to the moral laws necessary to keep scientific knowledge in check. The Greek mythological character Prometheus is so closely related to Victor that it is in the subtitle of the novel: The Modern Prometheus. Prometheus stole fire from the Gods to give it to humanity; he was cursed by Zeus and made to endure an eternal torture. As far as Victor is concerned, his own glory was basically a goal for him. His mother’s death and his strong feeling that her death was unjust spur him on: “The agony of losing my mother to this vile sickness, I cannot bear it” (23). Victor finds a way to achieve his goal by creating a new species which would not be prone to illness and disease; life would become “strong and beautiful” (56). He even talks about getting rid of death entirely. With his experiments he finally manages to bestow life to a dead creature: he has taken on “God-like” powers.

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