Victor Frankenstein an exaggeration of the worst tendencies of science?
he an example of the misrepresentation of scientists?
created the character of Victor Frankenstein through her experiences
with modern science. A woman familiar with contemporary science
who might have read popular science texts or even attended lectures,
she used her knowledge to create a character who, while pushing
the boundaries of possibility, could potentially be a real person.
Victor's task of bringing life to a human corpse using electricity
was not completely implausible.
a young age, Victor was fascinated by science and was influenced
by alchemy and what was known as the "old science."
Authors such as Cornelius Agrippa, Albertus Magnus and Paracelsus
represented Victor's perceptions of science especially in regards
to the Renaissance and Middle Ages.
Victor first saw an oak tree struck by lightning, he began
to take a different outlook of the studies of science. A visit
from a natural philosopher spurred Victor to delve into the
practices of the "new" science of electricity and
studying at the University of Ingolstadt as a student of chemistry,
Victor went on to perform his own projects from the knowledge
he received: the secret of life. In particular, he used his
talent to create his creation of life from death - The monster.
for the reader to begin to form negative opinions regarding Victor
and his experiments as well as his own mental capacity.This shift
in opinion allows Shelley to further manipulate the character of Victor
Frankenstein as he transitions from a healthy and happy family man
to an obsessed and sickly man who separates himself from his family.
did intense research in trying to create his new life form.
He even visited cemeteries late at night to gather body parts
to aid in the construction of his creation.
the point at which Mary Shelley begins to portray Victor in
a stereotypical manner. She plays off the notion that scientists
were not only loners, but also mad and unstable in the mind.
She delves into Victor's obsessive and compulsive nature to
complete his work at any cost.
De Monstro Nato Lutetiae
Anno Domini, 1605
National Library of Medicine Collection
also portrayed him as an arrogant, unstable man dabbling with
something that was dangerous and unknown. She showed his moodiness,
his uncertainty and his selfishness. But,
she presented him as educated man doing cutting edge medical
work that could change the world as well. Granted, many of
his methods were unorthodox; as were many practices of that
time, but his work could potentially be earth shattering.
Frankenstein was, in some ways, reflective of the consistently
growing and changing field of medicine in the eighteenth and
nineteenth centuries. He was interested in pursuing the boundaries
between life and death. He felt that his work could pave the
way for even greater practices of medicine and solve many
of the world's problems.
in the end, he was not successful. Despite the fact that he created
life from death, his methods and intentions were not pure and just.
His work ends up not being done for a greater good. Instead his
personal wants and needs flood his experimentation.
could argue that Victor was destined for failure because of his
unorthodox methods of practice, but most would agree that Victor
had not fully researched and examined all the aspects of his work.
He did not take careful consideration as to the repercussions of
success, should he achieve it. Perhaps the story of Frankenstein
can serve as a lesson, even today, regarding just how science and
medicine can affect an individual and their work.