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Frankenstein, A Romantic Work.

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12/10/03 Frankenstein, A Romantic Work It is hard to imagine that the novel of a twenty-year old author, written almost two centuries ago, could make such mark on the field of Literature. Written as a Romantic commentary on the progression of the Industrial Revolution, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein captures themes that seem as relevant today as they were at the dawn of the nineteenth century. As the early promises of the Industrial Revolution created despair and environmental degradation alongside scientific and mechanical innovation, the Romantic Movement cautioned society through an emphasis on the beauties of nature and a glorious past. Frankenstein captured these themes, warning of the dangers to the natural world that could arise from the unbound pursuit of knowledge and the selfish capitalism of an industrial age. A student of the history of the nineteenth century, and the Romantic Movement in particular, is keenly aware of the extent to which Romantic artists and authors were reacting to the changing world around them. The tremendous potential promised by the beginnings of industrialization, and the early advancements that were made, gave hope to science and knowledge being able to cure all of humanity's ills. New agricultural techniques created an unprecedented abundance of food; new machines changed the way people worked, reduced their workload, and produced products never before imagined; Science was beginning to explain the mysteries of life, and reduce the ever-present threat of death by disease. ...read more.


Do you share my madness? Have you drunk also of the intoxicating draught?" (Shelley 13) The two instantly recognize that they are kindred spirits and Victor begins to relate his destructive pursuit of ambition and glory. Walton decides that his quest for discovery and glory must be postponed in order to insure the safety of his crew, showing that the pursuit of knowledge must be tempered with self-restraint. Whereas the great minds of the Enlightenment has placed great value on the pursuit and acquisition of knowledge, the Romantics cautioned that knowledge, unrestrained by a proper respect for the natural order, could lead to despair. There are several episodes in the book that point to the destructive power of knowledge that does not respect proper boundaries. The reader's impression of Victor undergoes a transformation from a light, idyllic childhood, to a darker, more solitary figure pursing his passion by moonlight at Ingolstadt. His retelling of the story takes on a rushed, obsessive mood as he talks of nights in graveyards and charnel houses, foraging in the ground for human flesh and body parts. He remarks, "I seem to have lost all soul or sensation but for this one pursuit."(Shelley 39) In his obsessive pursuit of knowledge and the power to create life, Frankenstein oversteps the boundaries of nature. ...read more.


Similarly, Victor had noble intentions when he began his research, but a lack of self-restraint meant the outcome was destructive. Shelley was alarmed by "the absence of conscience, or awareness of implicit obligation to provide safeguards in scientific creations." (Neal) She was concerned about the long-term effects as Victor/mankind focused on his ability to manipulate nature, and lost sight of the bigger picture. The creation that held so much promise in the beginning, whether it was Shelley's monster or the Industrial Revolution's machines and science, had become a scourge upon society and a threat to its very existence. Shelley issues an eerie warning as the monster threatens the lives of Victor's loved ones, "Remember that I have power...you are my creator, but I am the master." (Shelley 152). The countless adaptations of Frankenstein that have been drawn from the original, fail to capture the essence of the story and the societal conflict it addressed. Victor Frankenstein's desire to challenge the laws of nature led him down a path of self-destruction. His pursuit of knowledge and glory consumed him as he lost sight of the larger purpose, and lost respect for the natural world. Shelley intended his story to be a lesson to a rapidly changing society. Originally applied to the Industrial Revolution, these same lessons are still appropriate to a contemporary society engaged in a Technological Revolution. ...read more.

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