Why do you think Frankenstein has become such an important reference in the modern world? As a 19th Century text, Frankenstein written by Mary Shelley, has remained remarkably relevant to today’s society. Due to the context written in the middle of the industrial revolution era, the novel embodies a strong message as well as a clear warning as to the dangerous repercussions of using science to continue or enhance life. The text has had the ability to play on societal fears towards scientific discovery and although man has long abandoned the ideal of ‘brining back the dead’, the idea of ‘playing god’ still remains.
Having grown up by parents who were known as radical romantics, Shelley was unavoidable connected to the romantic movement which had a strong concern for industrialisation. To highlight the warning to her audience of the implications of discovering “a land never before imprinted by the foot of man”, Shelley uses the structure of the text in itself as a foreshadowing device, where Walton’s character is allegorically used to represent the reader. While written in epistolary format, Walton represents mans undeniable thirst for glory and discovery as he writes to his sister telling her of the things he experiences while on his voyage.
Like Walton, the audience is positioned to be at the beginning of their journey and are unaware of the ramifications of this obsession. It is through the introduction of Victor, who has completed his undertaking and is facing the consequences of his actions that Shelly dramatises the effects of this desire for discovery, and the resulting destruction it can lead to which essentially acts as a warning. For example, this is stressed when Frankenstein first meets Walton stating “I ardently hope that the gratification of your wishes may not be a serpent to sting you, as mine has been. By using the symbol of the serpent, Shelly draws upon her contextual beliefs by presenting the ideas of sin, deception and “the fangs of remorse” that this desire can lead to.
Alternatively, Shelly also argues that it is also the abuse of science that leads to the monstrous circumstances. The composer utilizes fire as a reoccurring motif to communicate the dangers of both human progression, human invention and the duality of man. As the monster is investigating ife, he finds that fire both warms you, but also burns you as he states “How strange, I thought, that the same cause should produce such opposite effects”. Shelley is commenting that some things, like man, can be good and evil, depending on how much care you take in approaching them. Despite being written in the 19th century, Frankenstein still draws upon mans hunger to ‘play god’ through the use of the parallels to Prometheus. After stealing fire from the gods, Prometheus was then punished with an eagle to eat his liver everyday for the rest of eternity suffering in pain.
Frankenstein parallels this as he suffers from a similar from of prolonged torment after taking life into his own hands and playing god. These corresponding tales allow the audience to understand that it is a dangerous path to trespass into immortal territory by playing god. Mary Shelley has positioned readers of Frankenstein to consider the consequences of perusing science and knowledge to obtain mans obsession of creation and life. She has used the text as a warning to society which is still relevant to today as curiosity is embedded in the human characteristic.