Group Discussion: Science
The origins of Mary Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein, were greatly influenced by the dilemmas and experiences in her life. These new discoveries allowed her to create ideas for her novel, and the people of our current time can now delve into the roots of Frankenstein, connecting the novel to scientific advancements and history.
- Charles Darwin publishes On the Origin of the Species by Means of Natural Selection in 1859. This book is about organic evolution; how plants and animals evolved over time, and produced stronger offspring each generation, producing the idea of “Surival of the Fittest”. This relates to Frankenstein in the way that the Monster evolves over time. He has a human brain that develops as he “grows” in the mind, being at first innocent and oblivious, to learning the language and knowledge of mankind. He was created with a stronger digestive system than humans, and much larger, relating to the scenario of the Monster’s possible offspring if Victor Frankenstein did not destroy his female companion, and that his offspring would inherit the stronger points to survive in the area they would have live in.
- Charles Darwin publishes The Descent of the Man in 1871. It was not accepted at the time because it talked about humans as creatures of nature and not as special beings. This destroyed the very common and accepted theory of the hierarchy of living beings, where God and the Angels were above humans, and animals, plants, and Satan were below. This novel demonstrates how mankind are not superior to anything, and should be considered to be one with nature. However, nature can be both dark and light, just as humans are. This reminds me of the quote, “Was man, indeed, at once so powerful, so virtuous and magnificent, yet so vicious and base?” Humans in nature can give light to others, but they can also take away that light. Victor most likely had no intention of creating such a hideous monster; he wanted to achieve his dream of reviving an inanimate body. However, he turned away from the “thing” he created, giving in to humans’ dark emotions, instead of nurturing the Monster as his own. The Descent of Man also relates to the quote, “Accursed creator! Why did you from a monster so hideous that even you turned from me in disgust? God, in pity, made man beautiful and alluring, after his own image; but my form is a filthy type of yours, more horrid even from the very resemblance. Satan had his companions, fellow devils, to admire and encourage him, but I am solitary and abhorred. ” In Frankenstein, the Monster views his creator at the same level of God; Victor is a human being, blessed with the appearances of God himself. Satan, although cast out of Heaven, and into the Underworld, has his fellow devils, whereas the Monster did not fit anywhere in the triangle hierarchy. If mankind viewed themselves as one with nature, just as Darwin’s idea, the Monster would not have been cast out, and gained the love and nurting he yearned for.
- Frankenstein was written in 1818, and the book was influenced by a scientific dilema involving the first battery and whether electricity could reanimate a dead body. Italian surgeon Luigi Galvani dissected a frog near a static electricty machine, noticing, when touched with metal, had violent spasms, which led Galvani to believe that the electricity actually resided in the frog itself. Then came Alessandro Volta, who thought the electricity came from the two metals used in the arc, and that the frog was acting as a conductor. These two scientists were conducting experiments to reanimate dead bodies, when Galvani’s nephew also stepped in, and continued his uncle’s research. He stimulated a dead body of an executed prisoner with enough electricity that one eye opened. Spectics at the time thought he was actually reviving the dead body. Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein while being influenced by all the scientific advancedments in her time, giving birth to the idea of the Monster being brought to life with electricity. The discoveries and ideas during her time formed the roots and origins of Mary Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein.