Science Within Frankenstein
Science is the knowledge gained by a systematic study, knowledge which then becomes facts or principles. In the systematic study; the first step is observation, the second step hypothesis, the third step experimentation to test the hypothesis, and lastly the conclusion whether or not the hypothesis holds true. These steps have been ingrained into every student of science, as the basic pathway to scientific discovery. This pathway does not hold the decision as to good or evil intention of the experiment. Though, there are always repercussions of scientific experiments. The story of Victor Frankenstein and the monstrous creature he created depicts this idea of science experimentation. This tense and steadily mounting horror offers a searching illumination of the human condition in its portrayal of a scientist who oversteps the bounds of conscience, and of a lonely, emotional tortured monster brought to life in an alien world. Victor recounts his fervent love for science, explaining, “Curiosity, earnest research to learn the hidden laws of nature, gladness akin to rapture, as they were unfolded to me, are among the earliest sensations I can remember” (Page 53).
Victor Frankenstein often esteemed himself a scientist of nature in contrast to those of his time who were alchemists. As such he followed the very same path which elementary school kids follow today; observation, hypothesis, experimentation, and conclusion. The first step he took in creating his monster was observation. Victor Frankenstein observed the power of nature through the destructive force of lightning. He knew the potential of such energies and developed a hypothesis based on his studies of Agrippa and Magnus. His hypothesis was that through the power of nature, he could reanimate organic tissue which his chosen mentors had claimed to achieve. Victor Frankenstein’ experimentation required a form; he then went various grave sites to claim tissue from the deceased. The creature was complete with the animating science developed by Victor Frankenstein. His hypothesis proved true in the respect that it could give life. Throughout the process he underwent to create the creature, at no time in the process was there a point to reflect as to whether or not he should create such a monster. There was no point in the process to stop and contemplate the possible outcome of his experiment and its effect on humanity. Victor Frankenstein followed the scientific process to the letter of the word, without considering any possible ramifications. There was no point, as it was not ascribed to be essential to the course of discovery. Victor Frankenstein’s creation was not completely due to his own scientific irresponsibility, it is due to the scientific community whose emphasis on the “if we can do something outweighed the decision of whether or not we should do something” approach. There is no safeguard to this question of advancement or what is beneficial to humanity. Victor Frankenstein performed his profession and found it to be lacking in this one area, and he would pay for it in the lives the creature would soon end. Victor Frankenstein’s abandonment of the monster at its creation was out of fear. At first, it was simple fear of the creature’s appearance. Soon he came to the realization that he had erred in the creation of the monster, after the fact, and wanted it to be gone. Victor cries, “I had been the author of unalterable evils; and I live in daily fear, lest the monster whom I had created should perpetrate some new wickedness” (Page 66)
Science has never been inherently evil, nor will it ever be. Science is a process of gathering knowledge. The use of the knowledge gained can be decidedly evil or beneficial. The creation of the Frankenstein monster is a result of the irresponsibility in the use of science and science itself. Victor Frankenstein can never be fully accountable for the error of creating the monster, as science itself neglects the foresight needed to avoid such errors, but he is in error in not performing that duty himself. The question of the morality of such experiments would have justified enough cause to stop most projects. Victor Frankenstein did not stop. His fervor for science had compromised his judgment. In this way science can compromise humanity, through ignorance and the belief that one could master nature. Victor could not master his creation; as such he could not hope to fully master the ability of creating life.
The science or scientist however in error did not create a wholly evil creature. The creature many times attempted to pursue a peaceful life only to be thwarted by humanity’s fear of difference. The fact that the creature did kill without remorse does not make him an evil person, rather one without a conscience. The issue of morality also is played from the point of the monster. The monster did not have the ingrained sense of a conscience that was instilled humanity through religion or society. It did not have a god to believe in as a creator, it had a human who was a fallible as he was if not more. The human was not as fit to serve as god as he thought and felt he was. With this revelation, there was no restraint in his actions since he had no fear of retribution —in life or afterlife. The creature lived without a purpose, and served none. He chose the destruction of Victor Frankenstein as his purpose in life, as he didn’t have one given by a god or man. It did not feel its actions were wrong, instead the monster believed that it was simple revenge against its creator. A revenge which he hoped his creator could satiate with the creation of a bride. Victor Frankenstein’s destruction of the bride would keep the monster on his rampage without a similar being in the world to placate his destructive urges. Victor now knew it was wrong to create life in this manner, enough to stop him from creating another. This set the monster in furthered its resolve toward the destruction of Victor Frankenstein. The monster did not start out with the hatred of man or Frankenstein; it had learned it from the humans which had surrounded it. From the story of the DeLacy’s and from his own experiences the monster learned its evil ways.
Science is not inherently evil and never will become evil. Though the knowledge gained from science can be used toward producing evil, intended or not, and can be dangerous. Mary Shelly somewhat argues the idea that ignorance is bliss when Victor warns of following his example, he states, “Learn from me . . . how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge, and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow” (Page 85).The story of Victor Frankenstein shows the irresponsibility possible in the advancement of science and furthers the caution which humanity must take when it attempts to master its environment or itself.
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. The New American Library, Inc.