On Vol 1 And 2 Of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

1471 words - 6 pages

Ishani Bhattacharya, Roll No. 181, English Hons. 3rd yearOn Volume 1 and 2 of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Or the Modern PrometheusMary Shelley, daughter of William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft, was perhaps one of the first few writers to write a gothic-horror novel that also came under the then-unexplored category of science fiction. Taking up the areas of "modern chemistry" or "chemical physiology", her novel was published in the time period when scientific revolution was at its peak, i.e. 1818. On reading of the first two volumes, there are a few distinct aspects of the narrative that come to the fore- the three-fold narration; the use of images and metaphors to describe scienti ...view middle of the document...

But when he witnesses a natural marvel i.e. electricity, his belief in them is demolished, to be replaced by an interest in chemistry and natural philosophy, inspired by the charismatic M. Waldman. The essence of this whole experiment that Frankenstein pursues with a "mad-man like" fervor is in accordance with the way science was being used as another tool for feeding the imperialistic ego in Man. "..I pursued nature to her hiding places." Frankenstein utters these words when he is in the middle of his 'experiment' to re-animate matter. He is re-iterating what his professor M. Waldman had described the practitioners of modern chemistry-"…the modern masters promise very little…but these philosophers…have indeed performed miracles. They penetrate into the recesses of nature, and shew how she works in her hiding places. They ascent into the heavens; they have discovered how the blood circulates, the nature of the air we breathe. They have acquired new and almost unlimited powers; they can command the thunders of heaven, mimic the earthquake, and even mock the invisible world with its own shadows."(Ch-2,Vol. I, pg 31)The clear sexual imagery, the aim of domination of nature inherent in these 'developments and discoveries'- Mary Shelley was one of the first to comprehend and illustrate the dangers inherent in the use of such gendered metaphors in the seventeenth century scientific revolution.1 The 'monster' Victor could not control- can be read as representative of the many scientific discoveries that destroyed the 'noble' purpose they were made for; example Gunpowder, which was invented in China to be used in fire-crackers. There are also feminist strains in Mary Shelley's critique of modern science. The dominating nature that science attained, bent on unraveling the mysteries of Nature so much so that it destroyed more than it 'created', comes from the idea that Nature is feminine. But Shelley doesn't provide the reader with only one kind of scientist. She was influenced by Erasmus Darwin, who provided her with a powerful example of what she considered to be 'good' science, a careful observation and celebration of the operations of all-creating nature with no attempt radically to change either the way nature works or the institutions of society.2 ,Yet the reader, on the first reading, immediately sympathizes with Frankenstein. After he realises the consequences of his actions, Frankenstein loses his calm nerves and his peace. Each event after that is but a step towards his doom. The many sources of happiness and normalcy in his life are snatched away from him. Filled with vengeance, his only goal is to destroy his 'creation', his "own spirit let loose from the grave". Is the narrative then of just a man chasing down his worst nightmare? No. Because the 'nightmare' here has a voice of his own; it's not just about Frankenstein.The 'monster' is the Adam-figure here, questioning his 'creator' about his loneliness, similar...


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