Did Victor Frankenstein try to create life in a test tube?Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Mary Shelley's original title for Frankenstein was Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus; Prometheus was the Titan god who was entrusted with the task of molding man out of clay.  Added to this concept of creation from matter, Mrs. Shelley and her husband both were intrigued with the ideas of Eramus Darwin, a scientist whose ideas concerning biological evolution prefigured those of his more famous grandson, Charles Darwin.  Also, Mary and Percy Shelley attended a lecture by Andrew Crosse, a British scientist whose experiments with electricity greatly interested them.

With these influences in mind, as well as the historical context of the novel, it seems more appropriate to believe that Frankenstein molded his creature and charged him with electricity than having created him in a test tube.  After all, Dolly the sheep was "created" much later than Shelley's time.  In fact, in the novel itself, Victor relates how he used cadavers' flesh and bones to create his creature:

I collected bones from charnel-houses; ....The dissecting room and the slaughterhouse furnished many of my materials....

Frankenstein's more "filthy creation" as himself calls it serves Shelley's gothic theme, as well as the Romantics antipathy for science.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In the most rudimentary of ways, Victor did seek to create life in a test tube.  Perhaps, the more appropriate reading would be creating life in an isolated laboratory.  One of the most stunning elements of the novel is its exploration of how the pursuit of purely scientific endeavors immediately moves into realms of ethical conduct.  The question, as Victor found out too late, is not whether one can do it, but rather if one should.  This critique of science was ahead of its time, and Mary Shelley's argument helps to allow the reader to assess Victor and his endeavors in a larger light, applying to all scientists and the very nature of science.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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This sort of depends on how you mean this question.  Literally, Victor did not try to create life in a test tube.  But figuratively, you can say he did.

Literally, Victor is not creating life from chemicals that he puts together in a test tube or anything like that.  Instead, he has gone out to slaughterhouses and morgues and such and has gotten various body parts and put them together somehow.  We are not really told how he does this or how he gets them to come to life.

Figuratively, he is creating life in a test tube because he is doing it through scientific experiments and techniques.

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