Frankenstein Essay Prompts

Frankenstein Essay Prompts-72
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.

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.

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One might answer that the result would have been a pretty dull and short novel. Imagine the story of Victor struggling to have the creature accepted by a society that shunned it as vile and unnatural.

We would then be reading a book about social prejudice and our preconceptions of nature—indeed, about the kind of prospect one can easily imagine for a human born by cloning today (if such as thing were scientifically possible and ethically permissible).

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.

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.It’s too often suggested—some of the commentaries in the MIT edition repeat the idea—that Frankenstein is a warning about a hubristic, overreaching science that unleashes forces it cannot control.“Victor’s error is failing to think harder about the potential repercussions of his work,” writes the bioethicist Josephine Johnston.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?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.“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? While Mary Shelley’s momentous novel was published anonymously in 1818, the commemorations began last year to mark the dark and stormy night on Lake Geneva when she (then still Mary Godwin, having eloped with her married lover Percy Shelley) conceived what she called her “hideous progeny.”In May, MIT Press will publish a new edition of the original text, “annotated for scientists, engineers, and creators of all kinds.” As well as the explanatory and expository notes throughout the book, there are accompanying essays by historians and other writers that discuss Frankenstein’s relevance and implications for science and invention today.It’s a smart idea, but treating Frankenstein as a meditation on the responsibilities of the scientist, and the dangers of ignoring them, is bound to give only a partial view of Shelley’s novel. Moreover, focusing on Shelley’s text doesn’t explore the scope of the Frankenstein myth itself, including its message for scientists.

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