English IIH, Section 7
17 December 2013
Ever since God created Adam and Eve, man has been determined to continually advance science. It is human nature to want to develop and push the limits of knowledge. However, when creating something new, man faces an ethical dilemma. A dilemma is an undesirable or unpleasant choice where neither option is a great one. In Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, the protagonist, Dr. Frankenstein, explores the world of scientific technological advancement by creating life by hand. Dr. Frankenstein is so fascinated by the idea that he can create life that he dismisses the implications which leads to the consequence of creating a monster instead of the human that he imagined. Initially, Dr. Frankenstein’s promethean ambition blinds him, but when he is compelled to create a second creature, he is forced to face the ethical dilemma of creating life.
Dr. Frankenstein is so blinded by promethean ambition that he does not consider the ethical dilemma of giving life to a creature. When Dr. Frankenstein realizes that he can create life, he sees himself as someone who has God’s ambition and power to create humans. He states, “What had been the study and desire of the wisest men since the creation of the world was now in my grasp” (Shelley 100). Dr. Frankenstein fantasizes over the idea of having the same power as God and as a result, he never faces a dilemma. He believes that since God created such a complex and wonderful being, there is nothing wrong with him doing the same. He declares, “…..but my imagination was too exalted by my first success to permit me to doubt of my ability to give life to an animal as complex and wonderful as man” (Shelley 101). Dr. Frankenstein’s imagination takes control of his morals. Dr. Frankenstein pictures and envisions himself as someone who will not only be a father to the new being but will be the figure who the creature worships. He claims, “A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me. No father could claim the gratitude of his child so completely as I should deserve theirs” (Shelley 101-102). Like Prometheus, Dr. Frankenstein tries to improve human existence but does not consider the consequences because he only sees the quest for scientific knowledge as something positive. This ambition does not allow him to consider the ethical dilemma of creating life. He only considers it once he has seen the consequences and must create another.
During the creation of the second creature, Dr. Frankenstein wrestles with the ethical dilemma of creating life. The first creature that Dr. Frankenstein creates threatens Dr. Frankenstein, and tells him that if he does not make him a female companion, the creature will kill his friends and loved ones. It is the monster’s coercion that causes Dr. Frankenstein to face the dilemma of either creating life to save lives or to risk people’s death because he refuses to create life. After creating a monster who is both treacherous and a murderer, Dr. Frankenstein doesn’t want to construct another who could potentially cause even more harm. He explains, “I was now about to form another being of whose disposition I was alike ignorant; she might become ten thousand times more malignant than her mate and delight, for its own sake in murder and wretchedness” (Shelley 210). At this point in the novel, Dr. Frankenstein has no promethean ambition to create another creature; he has seen the abhorrent consequences of creating the first one. The drive that causes Dr. Frankenstein to create the creature is the monster’s ambition to have a companion. Despite witnessing the consequences of creating life, Dr. Frankenstein considers the ethical dilemma of whether he should create a second creature, which he begins to do.
Once the second creature is almost finished, Dr. Frankenstein resolves his ethical dilemma by destroying his work. Dr. Frankenstein realizes that although he is putting his family in danger, he cannot be responsible for sending another evil and destructive creature into the world full of people that he loves. He exclaims, “I thought with a sensation of madness on my promise of creating another like to him, and trembling with passion, tore to pieces the thing on which I was engaged” (Shelley 211). During the time that Dr. Frankenstein destroys the almost finished second creature, he realizes that it is no man’s role to create life with his own hands. When the monster warns him of what he will do to Dr. Frankenstein’s family he states, “Begone! I do break my promise; never will I create another like yourself, equal in deformity and wickedness” (Shelley 212). By the end of the novel Dr. Frankenstein understands that although he is able to create life, it does not give him the same godly power that he imagined.
Although Dr. Frankenstein doesn’t initially face an ethical dilemma due to his promethean ambition to create life, he faces the ethical dilemma of creating a second creature. Dr. Frankenstein is so fascinated with the idea that he can create life with his own two hands that he never thinks that the consequences could lead to such complicated circumstances. It is only after he witnesses his creature that he has to face the ethical dilemma of making a second creature. Dr. Frankenstein is a warning to scientists that technological advancements can lead to complications beyond our control. Today, scientists are constantly trying to learn more ways to create life by hand and expand human knowledge. It is important that scientists understand their intentions and the consequences of what they are creating.