Is Frankenstein a critique of society?

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Frankenstein can be seen as a critique of the excess faith placed by society in science during the early nineteenth century. Society was changing rapidly at this time and science was at the forefront of these changes. Romantic artists, writers, and poets—like Mary Shelley herself—felt that something was perhaps being...

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Frankenstein can be seen as a critique of the excess faith placed by society in science during the early nineteenth century. Society was changing rapidly at this time and science was at the forefront of these changes. Romantic artists, writers, and poets—like Mary Shelley herself—felt that something was perhaps being lost in this science-driven society, humanity as a whole was being transformed and not for the better.

That's not to say that Shelley was in any way anti-science or wanted to turn the clock back to some supposedly golden age. It's simply that she thought that science could be incredibly dangerous if its enormous power for change was misused, and that's precisely what happens in Frankenstein. The title character, the archetypal mad scientist, abuses science with catastrophic consequences. Far from using his extensive scientific knowledge for the benefit of humanity, Frankenstein uses it to serve his own ends.

Though very much an individualist, Frankenstein is to some extent shaped by the values of the society in which he lives. The early nineteenth century was a time when science became almost like a god, when it seemed that it could tell us everything we needed to know about ourselves and the world in which we live. Scientists were seen in some quarters almost as magicians who could work miracles. As such, they tended to be put on a pedestal, their work unquestioned.

Frankenstein takes advantage of society's unthinking valorization of science to embark upon a hare-brained scheme that will bring chaos and suffering, both to himself and to humankind as a whole.

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