What is the role of science in Frankenstein?

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mstultz72 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The following sciences can be found in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein:

Genetic Engineering (Cloning): taking material from one organism and splicing it into another for the purpose of generating something new.  Victor takes dead bodies and creates a new one.

Alchemy: the dark art of trying to turn lead (or other such materials) into gold.  In the novel, Victor transforms death into life.

Galvanism: the study of electricity to animate dead animals to life.  Victor harnesses lightning to breathe the spark of life into his creation.

Necromancy: black magic art of contacting and communicating with the dead.  Victor pilfer his parts from grave yards and, more or less, sells his soul to the devil to animate them.

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Doug Stuva | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Science in Shelley's Frankenstein goes too far.  Science transgresses by moving into the area of forbidden knowledge. 

Science without responsibility invades where it should not go.  Victor admirably learns and studies and progresses as a scientist, and this is a positive in the novel.  But Victor soon becomes obsessed, and his reckless and chaotic life leading up to the creation reflects the recklessness of what he is doing. 

Victor, the scientist, creates without a conscience and takes no responsibility for his actions.  Faced with what he's done, he completely rejects his creation, leading to the tragedies of the novel.  His creation needs nurturing, follow up, as we might say today.  But Victor refuses to take responsibility for his science, and tragedy results.

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