Mary Shelley's Frankenstein has been one of the most ethically criticized works for the past 200 years since it was published. The book is about a scientist, Victor Frankenstein, who creates a monster creature using dead body parts which he uses during his many experiments. The exceptionally huge creature grows lonely when abandoned by Victor. Later, the monster approaches his creator and ask him to make him a female companion. Victor, now in his right mind, cannot do that, and the monster swears for revenge. It kills many of Victor's friends and family members. Victor later dies of anguish and mental breakdown in the ice and on the hands of the monster. Many experts have come out to criticize Victor, saying that it was insane to create such a creature in the first place. Even if Victor never knew the consequences of his actions when creating the monster, ethically, he has assumed God's position hence has to suffer the consequences. Also, the victor is acting morally upright when he refuses to create the second monster. This paper is an illustration of the excellent way in which Mary Shelley illustrate ethical issues of science and faith for her audience in Frankenstein.
Assuming God's Position
Shelley shows that it is unethical for Victor to assume the role of creation hence has to suffer consequences for his actions. Religious beliefs state that God is the only creator of living things. He is responsible for all the living things and is believed to continue creating more through reproduction. Davies (1) also indicates that society has accepted that the role of creation belongs to God. However, scientists are still arguing with this fact in an attempt to create humans. Victor uses his scientific knowledge to create a monster that later caused a tragedy. He thinks that he has achieved what many scientists have not. "From the midst, this darkness a sudden light broke upon me-a light so brilliant and wondrous" (Shelley 53). Victor is full of expectations, just like any other scientist upon a discovery. Besides, he thinks that he has finally seen the light at the end of the tunnel. Victor worked for many years on his own. He separated himself from his family to attain his long term achievement. According to Haley (4), it is ethically wrong to assume the position of God. Also, the believers expect the role of creation to remain as God's, and it is immoral to impersonate the creator. The society leans on biblical faith which teaches that every sin has to be punished sooner or later. For this reason, Shelley shows how the anger of God worked upon Victor.
Victor upheld his ethical values.
After he realized that creating the monster was wrong, Victor did not give in to the monster's request to create it a female companion. According to Borland (6), Shelley incorporated theistic, and Christianity views in the creation of Victor's character. When creating the monster, the character does not seem to believe in God's existence. All he cared about is the existence of science and the desire to create a human. However, after seeing what a monster the creature that he created turned to be, Victor realized that he had done wrong. From the character description by Walton, Victor is way far from an evil man. Walton states that "Sometimes I have endeavored to discover what quality he possesses...never failing power of judgment" (Shelley 30). Walton admires the person Victor is because he possesses good judgment. Besides, Victor narrates that he at first had doubts about creating the monster (Davies 1).
Later on, when Victor is approached by the monster with the request to create it a female companion, he first accepts but later changes his mind. This first move indicates that he is compassionate for the lonely monster. The monster wants Victor to accept the responsibility for his creation and that of taking care of it. The fact that Victor feels for his creation reveals that he is not a bad person at all. However, when he started creating the female companion, the moral values strike Victor. He felt that he would rather be with his family than isolating himself again to create another monster. The change in his mind reveals that Victor was still human and was concerned with societal norms and values.
Mary Shelley sufficiently illustrates the unethical and morally upright sides of Victor Frankenstein. In a story of scientific creation, the two sides of the character are clear based on the faith and cultural beliefs of the society. Based on various experts like Davies, Haley, and Borland's opinions, society values match with biblical beliefs when it comes to the creation of humans. The sole responsibility of creation belongs to God. Therefore, Victor's decision to engage in creation was wrong hence had to be punished. Consequently, the monster that Victor created with his own hands turned to be disastrous and destroyed his family. Similarly, society believes that people who act out of the cultural norms have to suffer the consequences which come in many forms. Form another angle, and Victor is portrayed as a morally upright man. He held to his values when the monster requested for the creation of the companion. While narrating to his sister in his letters, Walton also admits that Victor was a man he admired. He has the right judgment, thus indicating that creating a monster was an act he regrets. My additional opinion is that although the ethical values revealed in Frankenstein is based on an old book, and the judgment has always been contemporary despite the audience reading the book.
Borland, F. "Leave Creation to the Creator: The Corrupt Creator in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein." 2014, pp. 1-15.
Davies, H. "Can Mary Shelley's Frankenstein be read as an early research ethics text?" Medical Humanities, vol. 30, no. 1, 2004, pp. 32-35. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15341043
Ochs, Haley C. "Frankenstein in the Twenty-First Century." (2015). https://digitalcommons.augustana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1001&context=honrstudent
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. Courier Corporation, 2013.
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