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

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Man vs. Nature

Some believe that Mary Shelley‘s “Frankenstein” is a desperate, angry, pleading outcry against industrialization and the destruction of humanity by modernization and advancement; and that the creature was Shelley's way of saying "where are we going?" "what have we done to man when science takes precedence over forethought?"

The changes brought about by the factory system changed drastically the whole family structure. This is especially evident from the way children and women were treated in the industrial society. Shelley starts by talking about Victor's obsession with science and how it influenced his family bond. This desire led Victor to creating life just like the desire of change led people to the age of industrialism. During the period of industrialization, families now worked on factories and mills for people they did not know. This kind of employment left the women no time for the family functions such as cooking dinners and caring for children. Families were less closely bound together than in the past - the economic link was broken. The behavior of Victor while he was creating his “wretched monster” caused similar broken ties with his family. Victor neglected his family and friends for an extended period of time.

It has been said, that throughout history, man has been trying to become a controller of nature. Industrialization was a great step towards the “progress” of man, in that he no longer needed to depend as much on nature. He could reside completely within a manufactured system, or environment. “Frankenstein” seems to lean towards the idea that man cannot completely control nature, and should not even attempt to. Instead, man should let nature take its course and not try to change the natural order of things. In the story, Victor’s monster wreaks havoc due to his depressed state of being. The monster seeks revenge. In a way, the monster represents the pollution and waste brought forth by industrialization. He causes harm, and yet he has no real Earthly position. Another way to look at it would be to compare the monster’s actions to that of industrialization. At the time, industrialization was destroying land by cutting down trees for production purposes, and to level the land to build up cities. And not to say that industrialization was all a negative aspect, for it did have its advantages; but the rapid advancement overwhelmed many people during that time period. In “Frankenstein”, the monster overwhelmed, and frightened, each person that he came in contact with. No one was certain of his demeanor.

All of this is not to say that man has no beneficial effect upon nature. It is only when he wishes to drastically change nature that he has a problem. By attempting to make things easier for humankind, he in fact makes it much harder. Nowhere else can we see that so well put as in “Frankenstein”. By attempting to “cheat” death, Victor only brings upon more of it. Therefore, man can, and does have an effect upon nature. However, just because he has the power to do something, does not necessarily mean that he must, or should.


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