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

Monday, March 06, 2006

Frankenstien vs. European Industrialization

How does Mary Shelley’s novel reflect the anxieties aroused by European industrialization? In order to effectively answer this question, I think it would be best to illustrate some of the anxieties focused around the European industrialization. Much of Europe’s industrial growth consisted of a large pool of available workers willing to accept low wages for long hours of labor in factories and mines. Many of these workers were originally displaced farmers or farm workers, forced from rural areas due to land shortages thanks to population growth and the consolidation of small farms into large agricultural estates by wealthy upper class. Countryside families moved to cities or coal-mining towns, where parents and children, some as young as five years old, went to work in tile factories or mines. The majority of households in this time period consisted of the entire family working.

Even with whole families working, few avoided poverty, crowded housing, and poor health. Women were often hired in factories because they could be paid less then men. Along with the growing health and poverty issues; the idea of furthering an individual’s education became increasingly important, especially the fields of chemistry, and other science based areas such as medicine. Industrialization was also effective in improving the progress of man kind by decreasing its dependency on nature. As well, everyone during this time starting believing in the “divine role” idea. For example, it is the father of the household to supply for all the needs of everyone in that house. Yes there were many downfalls siding with the European industrialization, but I will only discuss a few of these.

Shelley’s novel reflects an aspect from the industrialization era through the monster created by Victor. The industrialization idea I am referring to is the idea of increasing an individual’s education to further self improvement. The monster, on several occasions, tries to learn a language, geography, and human culture from the cottagers he is spying on. This example, “This was indeed a godlike science, and I ardently desired to become acquainted with it,” clearly shows that monster was seeking a wealth of knowledge and wanted to learn all that he could from the cottagers (pg. 81, Oxford Edition). The monster obviously thinks the knowledge he is gaining from the cottagers would be important for his improvement or success in the world. In my opinion, the monster does understand at this very moment that it is important to be able to communicate, or else one will fail in our world today. If the could not even communicate with any of the villagers, how must he even begin to fit in at all?

Another reflection of the industrialization era from the novel could be the “divine role” idea. The monster does this by saying “Remember that I am thy creature; I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel…” (pg 77, Oxford Edition). At this point, Victor has sole responsibility as to what happens to the monster, or what the monster may happen to do according to the “divine role” idea. The monster is informing Victor that if he remains happy, he will no longer harm any humans, and following the idea of the “divine role” Victor feels it his sole obligation to take on that task.


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