Essay: Ethical Issues Raised by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
Mary Shelley (1797-1851) was herself a philosopher of some repute, her novel ‘Frankenstein’ is a masterpiece of gothic horror. The novel contains many elements that relate strongly with modern day dilemmas of biotechnology (Battaglia).
The plot of ‘Frankenstein’ is revealed through the device of letters an arctic explorer, Captain Walton, writes to his sister back in England. Walton writes of his discovery of Dr. Victor Frankenstein, nearly dead, on a drifting iceberg. Dr. Frankenstein recalls to him his childhood and his quest to understand nature banish death and give life to lifeless matter (Shelley).
For this purpose Dr. Frankenstein would steal into cemeteries late at night and steal body parts from newly deceased corpses. He joined disparate dead body parts together and created a living artificial man, hideous in appearance (Shelley).
The monster escaped the laboratory and Dr. Frankenstein got involved in his academic and scientific career till he heard news that his brother William had been murdered. Frankenstein heads home to Geneva where he sees a glimpse of his monster but does not tell anyone about it. A servant girl is accused of the crime and falsely admits to killing William under pressure (Shelley).
Frankenstein then comes upon his monster while hiking in the Alps, the monster tells Frankenstein how he learned to speak and love through his observation of a peasant family. He found Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ and learned to read. The monster tells Frankenstein that he is responsible for his wellbeing since he is his creator. He says that his earlier crimes were the result of loneliness, since he is grotesque and his appearance is repulsive to humans, he pleads Frankenstein to provide him with a female mate (Shelley).
Frankenstein agrees to this and starts work on a female monster, but then fears of unleashing a race of monsters upon mankind lead him to destroying all his work (Shelley).
The monster, enraged by the death of his last hope for an end to the life of solitude, swears to kill all those Dr. Frankenstein loves. He murders Dr. Frankenstein’s friend Henry Clerval in Ireland. He then kills Dr. Frankenstein’s, cousin, adopted sister and wife, Elizabeth on their wedding night (Shelley).
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