This is a course blog for the members of EH236 at the University of South Alabama, Spring 2006.

Monday, March 06, 2006

European industrialization and "Frankenstein"

How does Shelley's novel reflect the anxieties aroused by European industrialization?
After reading about European industrialization in ‘book 5’ of the Bedford Anthology, three things became obvious to me. The first has to do with creation and/or production. During the industrialization of Europe, factories sprouted up everywhere and people flocked to them for jobs. These workers worked long days with little reward. In a sense this can be related to Frankenstein. He labored and put so much into giving a corpse life again only to have the monster destroy the people he loved. Frankenstein’s monster is comparable to the workers of the factories; workers were not respected at all and it shows in the way that they were treated. The monster on the other hand was an outcast to society. He was neither human nor an animal. Thus, it can be said that worker and monster struggled daily for survival, acceptance, and their place in society.
Secondly, industrialization is associated with scientific breakthroughs. The theory of germs in relation to disease, the development of a periodic table of elements and the groundwork and discovery of electricity are all credited to the scientists of the 19th century. The increasing conviction that nature was governed by laws was challenged by Darwin and of course this novel. Even though this book is fiction and was written for fun it still plants the thought of ‘what if’ something like recreating life is possible. Still the ‘what if’ question comes to mind, readers are discouraged by the series of misfortunes done unto Frankenstein, the creator of the monster, to think it moral to recreate life (if that was/is even possible).
Thirdly, I want to bring up slavery. By the time that Shelley wrote and published this novel (1818), Britain had already abolished slave trade in 1807 and later abolished slavery in their colonies in 1833. But slavery wasn’t only an issue to Britain, but to many other parts of the world as well. Shelley makes references to slavery in this novel, and it is kind of in the sense of one human to another, especially in the dialogues late in the novel between Frankenstein and his monster. And instead of the monster being enslaved to Frankenstein there is a reversal of roles. Frankenstein feels so much guilt and sorrow on his conscience that he can hardly function, much less be happy. Frankenstein is at the mercy of the monster, especially after he refuses to make him a mate. The monster on the other hand is confused and lost and looking to Frankenstein for answers and help, but when he is shunned, he retaliates. I believe the monster even refers to himself as the “master” and that Frankenstein is his “slave”.
After finishing reading this novel, I felt like Frankenstein was more of a monster, because he created this monster. Even though he later redeemed himself by not creating the monster’s mate, it still doesn’t erase the past. It is said that humans are made in the image of God. And isn’t it the same way in every case?

Mihee Jones


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