The monster that Dr. Frankenstein created posed questions and concerns for both the society in the 1880s, when Mary Shelley wrote the book, as well as for our society in our current time. Questions regarding the responsible progression of scientific research and implementation existed in both societies and were represented in the book. The “Frankenstein Effect,” which questions society’s role in fostering maladaptive traits in others existed at the time of the book and is still a question that begs to be investigated and realized.
Thirdly, the loss of focus on the humanities as important for education was present in the book and is an ever-increasing concern today.
In the book, the monster instills fear in his creator, Dr. Frankenstein. He fears the monster only after it is created, not during the creation process as seen here, the “…first enthusiasm of success. Life and death appeared to me ideal bounds.” then later, “I beheld the wretch — the miserable monster whom I had created” (Shelly 4 & 5).
This can be viewed as the fear that humans had regarding the increasing power of science to control life experiences, and to possibly control even life itself in the future. Today, are we forging ahead in our excitement of our scientific advancements without thinking carefully about the implications that may exist after their implementation? We are advancing quickly in our ability to change the DNA structures of embryos, but have we carefully thought through the implications that such research and advancements could have on individuals and society as a whole? Nuclear arms, which are already in prevalent existence, are another example of forging ahead with advancements before realizing the frightening implications that exist when such arms wind up in the hands of terrorists or individuals without structured constraints and treaties.
Now, the fear of how to navigate through the implications of the inventions of nuclear arms is similar to the fear experienced by Frankenstein trying to navigate the repercussions of his monster.
Questions regarding the “Frankenstein Effect” have also been raised by those reading the book in the 1880s as well as today. The “Frankenstein Effect” “demonstrates to us a bit about humanity and disability” (Harris). Is the “monster” created by nature or do we, as a society, create “monsters” by our treatment of those who look or think differently than what we perceive to be normal? If treated differently, with love, would the “monsters” of our society, such as the outcast and downtrodden, look differently? Would people, feeling connection, love, and caring from their fellow humans, be able to successfully navigate the difficulties that nature and even nurture may throw their way from time to time? Would they be able to see hope in problems and difficulties without turning to vices such as drugs, alcohol, and violence? Would they be more productive and happier individuals if they didn’t feel depression from the disconnection they experience from judgmental, scared, isolating, and self-centered individuals (Harris)?
Concerns over losing the study of the humanities, and the important role that those have in shaping our culture and the growth of the individual were also raised by the book. The monster used the readings of the various texts to enable his thoughts and his feelings to grow. This may reflect a fear in society of the effects of the loss of the humanities as important. What will guide the development of our youth and our culture? What will be the standard against which we measure our own growth and understanding as individuals? The monster clearly stated that these various readings helped with his growth.
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein holds many enduring, thought-provoking questions about people and societies, both during the time of her writing in the 1880s, as well as for our society of today. Is science out of control? Are we creating “monstrous situations” from toying with cloning and engineering embryos? Do we have effective measures to control against nuclear annihilation by our own creations with our own hands? Do we create our own monsters by separating and ridiculing those who might look or think differently than us? Does our fear create such monsters? Are we moving away from the important role that humanities play in the development of the individual and the culture as a whole?