Frankenstein Essay Prompts

Frankenstein Essay Prompts-27
“Unnatural” is not a neutral description but a morally laden term, and dangerous for that reason: Its use threatens to prejudice or shut down discussion before it begins.

“Unnatural” is not a neutral description but a morally laden term, and dangerous for that reason: Its use threatens to prejudice or shut down discussion before it begins.There’s something of this rush to judgment also in the commentary of Charles Robinson, the Frankenstein scholar who introduces the new annotated text.In her revised edition of 1831, she emphasized the Faustian aspect of the tale, writing in her introduction that she wanted to show how “supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavour to mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the world.” In other words, it was preordained that the creature would be hideous, and inevitable that its creator would recoil “horror-stricken.” That wasn’t then a character failing of Victor’s.

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Even Robert Walton, the ship’s captain who finds Victor pursuing his creature in the Arctic and whose letters describing that encounter begin and end the book, sees in him a noble, pitiable figure, “amiable and attractive” despite his wrecked and emaciated state. This could be seen as a rather exquisite piece of authorial artifice, an early example of the unreliable narrator.

It seems more likely to me that Shelley herself wasn’t clear what to make of Victor.

Such misconceptions might do little justice to Shelley, but as the critic Chris Baldick has written, “That series of adaptations, allusions, accretions, analogues, parodies, and plain misreadings with follows upon Mary Shelley’s novel is not just a supplementary component of the myth; it is the myth.” In any case, the essays in the MIT edition have surprisingly little to say about the reproductive and biomedical technologies of our age, such as assisted conception, tissue engineering, stem-cell research, cloning, genetic manipulation, and “synthetic human entities with embryo-like features”—the remarkable potential “organisms” with a Frankensteinian name. Frankenstein is still frequently the first point of reference for media reports of such cutting-edge developments, just as it was when human IVF became a viable technique in the early 1970s.

The “Franken” label is now a lazy journalistic cliché for a technology you should distrust, or at least regard as “weird”: Frankenfoods, Frankenbugs.

The moral and philosophical landscape it might have explored would be no less rich.

That Victor did not do this—that he spurned his creation the moment he had made it, merely because he judged it ugly—means that, to my mind, the conclusion we should reach is the one that the speculative-fiction author Elizabeth Bear articulates in the new volume.What she shows us is a man behaving badly, but what she seems to tell us is that he is tragic and sympathetic.All of her characters think so well of “poor, dear Victor” that we’re given pause.By accepting that Victor’s work is inherently perverted and bound to end hideously, Mellor’s accusation leaves us wondering what exactly is meant by “unnatural.” Which real-life interventions are guaranteed to produce a freak?Might that be so with IVF, as its early detractors insisted?That it was written not by an established and experienced author but by a teenager at a very difficult period in her life feels almost miraculous.It’s in fact those troubled circumstances and those flaws that have helped the book to persist, to keep on stimulating debate, and to continue attracting adaptations and variations—some good, many bad, some plain execrable.“Now that I had finished,” he says, “the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart.” He rejects the “hideous wretch” he has created, but nothing about that seems inevitable.What would have happened if Victor had instead lived up to his responsibilities by choosing to nurture his creature?To condemn Victor for violating “Mother Nature” with his “unnatural being” seems plain disturbing in the 21st century. Haldane in 1924: There is no great invention, from fire to flying, which has not been hailed as an insult to some god.Certainly it bears out the complaint of the British biologist J. But if every physical and chemical invention is a blasphemy, every biological invention is a perversion.


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