Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein represents interplay of Enlightenment rationalism and Romantic irrationality. Essentially, Victor Frankenstein represents the Enlightenment’s ideas of rationalism, while his creation, the monster, represents the irrationality of romanticism. The Enlightenment and its rationality were focused on science, and all things that are physical. Victor represented these ideals through his constant work in his laboratory, and creation of the monster through research in chemistry and other sciences. Essentially, his fall into a life with no social skills and obsession with the monster represents a condemnation of rationalism. Shelley showed the problems with thinking completely rationally and like an Enlightenment thinker, but also showed the issues with thinking like a Romantic: irrationally. Romantics argued that “the complexity of human experience could not be explained by an inhuman rationalism,” and that is exactly what Victor attempted to do (Smith 2). By creating life and attempting to bend the rules of nature and religion, he tried to explain the complexity of human experience, such as creation, rationally. This essentially caused his downfall, as he could care less about Romantic ventures and was solely focused on rational thought.
On the other hand, the monster represented the Romantic Movement. By relying on his feelings, for example begging Victor to make him a female companion so he can be happy. Essentially, he lets emotions take over his life: “I will revenge my injuries; if I cannot inspire love, I will cause fear, and chiefly towards you my archenemy, because my creator, do I swear inextinguishable hatred” (Shelley 182). The monster even takes it so far to say he will ruin Victor’s life if he does not create someone for him to love. Through this, it’s clear that the monster had a very Romantic way of thought which also caused his downfall, due to his lack of rationality. Overall, Frankenstein still has resonance for our culture as it poses questions that are still relevant today. It questions, initially, the question of technology and science versus morality. Just because we can do something, does that mean we should? It brings up questions of the moral consequences of things such as cloning, which is, in a way, done in Frankenstein. As science becomes more and more powerful in culture and society, the idea of Frankenstein and the monster becomes more and more powerful. We continue to question more and more, is this possible? Could something like this truly happen? These questions make Mary Shelley’s timeless piece live on today and continue to live on for years to come.
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. New York: Dover Publications, 1994. Print
Smith, Andrew. Gothic Literature. 2nd ed. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2013. Questia School. Web. 31 Oct. 2014.