Science and Ethics in "Frankenstein"

Categories: Frankenstein

Two hundred years ago, Frankenstein, a novel about a science experiment gone horribly wrong, instilled panic in readers and perpetuated the now well-known trope of a mad scientist who will stop at nothing to achieve his experiment. Victor Frankenstein labors tirelessly for two years to create a hideous monster in order for him to “play God” and defy life and death. Mary Shelley uses Victor’s complete disregard of ethics to display to the reader how greatly scientists are willing to push the limits of morality for the sake of science.

This can be seen as a foreshadowing to contemporary scientific experiments.

Any reader would shudder while reading the graphic details of how Victor acquired the pieces for his creation. He went around hacking limbs off of unconsenting corpses anywhere he could find them, morgues, slaughter-houses, etc. Then he proceeded to stitch bits of flesh and organs of random humans together to create a vile creature just to prove he could create one.

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This macabre description can even imply that all of the body parts may not be human. Whilst defiling these poor victims for the sole purpose of personal gain, Frankenstein made some large immoral violations.

Most people can agree that respect is over all a universal value, especially respect for the deceased and their families. Frankenstein completely violated unknowing participants by dismembering them and fashioning them into something for his own personal gain. It is almost guaranteed they would not have wanted to be turned into such a gruesome monster that caused mass destruction.

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Victor only considered his own personal gain throughout the novel, especially when creating his monster. (example of modern science that involves disrespect for the dead and more explanation on why this is ethically immoral will be added here).

(Will probably add another violated universal value here and switch the dog example with a cloning example, I haven’t decided on one that could encompass Frankenstein without being too broad yet).

Frankenstein also broke the number one ethical taboo, “playing God.” Not only did he play God, he was obsessed with the idea of doing it, stating, “A new species shall bless me as his creator” (Shelley 36). This is furthered as the Monster compares himself to Satan, entirely alienated from his creator, God after reading Milton’s Paradise Lost. Shelley wanted to explain to readers the power scientists have and how they are abusing it for their own profit. In a very similar case to Frankenstein, Vladimir Demikhov was a scientist who transplanted quite a lot of organs into dogs that made huge medical and scientific strides in 1954. However, he became obsessed with these modifications and wanted to find out how much he could push the envelope. In 1954, Demikhov transplanted a small puppy’s head and forelegs onto the neck of an adult dog for no necessary reason, which just resulted in the creature dying in about a month and sparking immense controversy (NCBI). This not only goes against what most people would consider humane, it refutes the extremely highly revered Hippocratic Oath, in which anyone in the medical field swears to “do no harm.”

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Science and Ethics in "Frankenstein". (2021, Aug 17). Retrieved from

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