The outset of the book Essay
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Both ‘Frankenstein’ and ‘Flowers for Algernon’ explore the themes of parenting. Shelley describes how Victor discards his paternal role and abandons his creation, which could be likened to a son. The monster, who knows nothing about his past, or even if he has one, cannot seek guidance or learn and he has no one to go to for love and support, he soon becomes dangerous and in a way starts living up to the connotations that his appearance give him. In ‘Flowers for Algernon’, Charlie’s parents remove him from the household and leave him in the care of and uncle.
His father, Matt, finds it hard to simply ‘shrug off’ his paternal instincts towards Charlie and finds it hard to see his little boy leave, however perhaps his love for Charlie is what forces him to abandon his son, as he becomes worried for Charlie’s safety after Rose, threatens to use a kitchen knife on her own little boy, in Matt’s defence some could argue that his actions were caring, rather than callous. When Charlie was very little Rose showed great love for him, however when she finally admitted that eh couldn’t be helped and had Norma, who to her seemed ‘perfect’, she began to treat Charlie with hatred.
In both novels the reader sees how both Charlie and the monster feel neglected and betrayed by the only people they have ever wanted acceptance and love from. Unlike Charlie, the monster faces physical abuse as he roams the globe and is persecuted by everyone he encounters, even when he saves the life of a little girl he is only met by fear and is shot at by her father. The monster is left alienated by the shallow modern perceptions and ideals of society, which sadly existed both in 1818 and today. Image and beauty are so important to humans that they do not have to compassion to see past appearance.
Perhaps Shelley wanted to make a deliberate statement about shallowness, when the monster tries to befriend the cottagers he meets, it is only the blind man who talks to him, the others meet him with fear. This may just be part of the story or may have been included to comment on the shallow side of the human race and how we accept things purely on appearance. After reading and comparing both texts I do not think it possible to judge, which character suffers more? Although Charlie does suffer, he manages to meet his aspirations and has a moment of happiness, when he works hard to write the report of the treatment he receives.
However, the monster who has much more simple ambitions of finding companionship is never helped and never achieves his aims. Physically the monster suffers more as he is shot and beaten on several occasions, however Charlie is forced to have a tough journey that tests him at every opportunity, and in the end he is left in a worst state than in the outset of the book. Both Charlie and the monster are left alienated and isolated from society and finally both are left to rot. The monster is left to die alone and physically decompose; Charlie is left to mentally rot as his mind decomposes.
Both Keyes and Shelley express their reservations about science to show that when morals are cast aside of technology, suffering is inevitable. Both Charlie and the monster are seen as ‘creations’ of science’. Their creators all shared a hunger for knowledge and great ambition. In Charlie’s story Strauss and Nemur both seem totally absorbed in their work, they both seem desperate to o help and to gain recognition for their actions, there is also a sense of selfishness to the doctors, who seem to want fame, we see this at the science convention when we see how they bask in the spotlight of their own success.
Shelley’s novel shows that Victor Frankenstein was eager to learn and anxious to revive life, because of the loss he had experienced in his life (the death of his mother, while he was a teenager). Shelley manages to gain more support for Victor, as it seems that although selfish, he thought that he was working for the good of mankind and in the end had nothing to show for his sacrifices as his work was destroyed and lost.
Looking back at the texts most readers would be alike in saying that Victor suffered more for his carelessness and that he gains more sympathy then that of Nemur and Strauss, who seemed to ‘cash -in’ on their findings, without facing the consequences of their actions. Although the texts differ greatly both show that when great power is used irresponsibly the repercussions are always negative and people are left to suffer.
Initially I would agree that all of the scientists portrayed in the texts had a genuine want to help mankind but, obsession and ambition clouded their minds and made them short sighted. This want for recognition is part of human nature, along with pride, Victor shows how important credibility is, even after years of pain, when he is on the boat, the sailors want to return home yet he urges them to go on, so they wont have to return home as failures, this shows that Victor ahs not learnt much from his sad life and that he has not learnt to know limits, or respect them.
When it comes to the issue of recognition, the two texts show how time has changed, Victor didn’t seem to be motivated by the prospect of fame, and wasn’t even overly concerned that he lost all of his work, however by the 1950s, fame and celebrity were bigger issues, this would explain why both Nemur and Strauss are so desperate to produce their reports and announce to the world how amazing their findings are. Although the settings of the novels differ greatly, it is clear that both authors used a similar technique in setting the scene.
In Shelley’s time the most hostile environment was the countryside it was isolated, much of ‘Frankenstein’ is set in the great mountains of the North, or in the dramatic and highly dangerous parts of the North Pole. These settings add a sense of drama to the text as well as reflecting the theme of isolation dramatic settings were also typical of romantic, literature, for example Bram Stokers ‘Dracula’ takes place in the harsh parts of Russia.
Keyes takes a modern approach to creating a scene, he chose New York, a famous city, filled with people, he shows that even when surrounded by others it is still possible to feel alienated and face hostility. For Charlie the bustling streets are overwhelming and unwelcoming, to the monster the harsh landscapes mean that he suffers greatly and remains alone.
Though the writers differ greatly, and come from completely different times, both seem to share a common interest analyzing people and society as a whole. Both writers looked at the psychology behind science and scientists themselves, both also explore the philosophical questions that science poses. I think that both writers wanted their work to reflect their own views that it is not acceptable for scientists to ‘play God’ and to intervene with human nature.
Both texts also remind the reader about the psychology of our culture and remind us of the social stigma that surrounds both intelligence and appearance. The stories of these men are extremely interesting and raise important issues about science and human nature. Even thought they are written years apart, at completely different stages of scientific development, both writers successfully warn against taking science to far and convey the idea that science without conscience can only end tragically.