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During the nineteenth century, the Romantics held the conviction that poetry is superior to science and that intuition,imagination, and emotion are superior to reason. As such a Romantic, Mary Shelley places at the heart of her novel, Frankenstein, the question whether science works for the good of man, or whether it possesses a dark side. Shelley's answer seems to be that science is ethically neutral, but it has the capacity to work for good or evil in human hands; therefore, the responsibilty lies with man.
The reader cannot help noticing how much better a person Victor Frankenstein is when he lives with his family, deriving inspiration and pleasure from the beauty of their love and the beautiful mountains and lakes that compose his environment. When he devotes himself to his scientific creation of a being, Victor loses his own humanity. For, he selfishlessly does not reveal his creation of the "monster," even when it costs him the lives of family and friends. Instead, it is the creature who weeps and feels deep emotion when Victor himself dies.
Additionally, Darwinism and the embrace of new modes of thinking such as evolution, scientific discoveries, and the advent of medical progress, began to form questions on religion and what society typically believed in.
Contrastingly, these new ideas awoke the feeling of embrace for the traditional religious views, sort of like a romantic way.This is typical of the Romantic and Gothic literature style.
Scientists in the Romantic era (late 1700s and early 1800s) were all looking to turn lead into gold. The study of alchemy was devoted to this chemical process, and it consumed the attentions of the public and academic communities alike. Today, it sounds like a get-rich-quick scheme, but then it seemed feasible. It was a kind of Midas touch. Or like trying to discover the Fountain of Youth.
So, this process crossed over into the biological sciences. The quest became trying to find the secret to everlasting life or how to re-animate life from death. It had been done with insects and small animals, I think, and so scientists and authors played with the idea of doing it with humans. As you know, this idea has become a reality today with human and animal cloning and genetic engineering.
In terms of literature, there was a resurgence in classicism. Many Romantic authors and poets fell in love with ancient Greek and Roman mythology, much of which were concerned with the creations of the earth, human life, and fire. The subtitle for Frankenstein, in fact, is The Modern Prometheus. Prometheus is the god who gave mankind the secret of fire and was forever punished by Zeus for it. So, Mary Shelley creates a new work of art from an ancient mythical concept.
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