To say that Victor Frankenstein is an unethical person is an understatement. He totally doesn’t care about ethics. He only noticed that he was doing something very wrong only when he had already done it. If the people around Victor Frankenstein had known about what he was doing, then he would definitely run out of friends and people will hate him so much. Anyone will sure be offended if they discover what Frankenstein was doing. What Victor Frankenstein had done may be offensive to some, but not everyone. Some view it as a foreshadowing of advancements in science, when men can really play God.
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a world renowned novel. It is a story about what could humans achieve if science can somewhat keep up with god in his majesty. The fictional project of Victor Frankenstein to infuse life on an inanimate body could have possibly been the inspiration for many scientific breakthroughs of today. These breakthroughs include robotics and cloning. But the novel also tells us of what could be the ethical consequences of such advancements.
Victor Frankenstein utilized dead human and animal body parts to create a living organism. In the previous sentence alone, we could already unearth three ethical violations. He has violated the dead, both human and animal rights, and the most controversial of all: he played God.
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The dead is considered sacred by virtually every culture. It is highly unethical to violate the dead not to mention that there exist many laws about violating the departed. It is commonly regarded that the dead should be left at peace. Frankenstein had dug them from their resting place for the sake of his project of infusing life into an inanimate body. He had treated the dead with no respect. The dead body parts were just scattered all around his place. He even called the dead “the lifeless thing that lay at my feet” (Shelley 39). He just laid the dead body parts all around like a dirty rag.
It is the right of every man to be left at peace, especially the dead. And no one has the right to steal. Victor had definitely stolen the bodies from their resting places. Victor Frankenstein had clearly neglected these basic human rights so it wouldn’t be more of a surprise if he violated animal rights. “I tortured a living animal to animate the lifeless clay?” (Shelley 36). What Victor Frankenstein had done is much like what big companies do today. They use animals in testing some of their product. They confine the poor animals and deprive them of their freedom. That is because their only sense of freedom is financial freedom. Because just like Victor Frankenstein, they think that as humans they have control other forms of life.
It is a cliché to say that humans always play god. The scientists of today are now performing ethically controversial procedures like human cloning. Mary Shelley had shown in her novel that very human trait of wanting to play god. Victor Frankenstein said himself “A new species shall bless me as his creator” (Shelley 36). As a matter of fact Victor Frankenstein was so into the pretend god thing that he had said to himself that a new species would recognize him as its creator and source many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to him (Shelley 36).
It could also be possible that Mary Shelley wanted to explore the issue of immortality. Many great personalities throughout history had sought immortality. All had miserably failed. It is possible that Victor Frankenstein had recognized this want so he thought that his experiments could open the possibilities for immortality. Just like the genetic engineers of today who are willing to violate some ethical standards just to achieve a clue if immortality is really possible. Scientists like Victor Frankenstein himself are driven to do whatever it takes to find such discovery. This is because they know that immortality is what everyone wants. They know everyone wants to live forever especially the rich who are wiling to spend fortunes just for them to cling unto their material possessions.
Even if we disregard the religion element in the topic of humans playing god, we would still find “playing god” as highly unethical. The scientist of today knows that when they perform cloning in humans, there could be abnormalities, and the clone has to live with those abnormalities. That is exactly what happened in the novel. The creature hated his own appearance and he has no one else to blame but his creator. “Oh! No mortal could possibly support the horror of that countenance…it became a thing such as Dante could not have conceived” (Shelley 40). The creature was of great ugliness “its unearthly ugliness rendered as almost too horrid for the human eye” (Shelley 77). The creature hated his creator but only because his creator hated him first. This hate-hate relationship just complicated both the lives of the creator and the creature.
We can also include here creation ethics. We have all heard of various creation stories, from the bible and from mythologies. In this creation stories the humans were always created by the divine. That is because these stories recognize that humans can’t really answer the question where did we come from? Humans have thought of our origin ever since we began to think. And still up to this era of modern science, the origin of life still remains a mystery.
Maybe it is juts beyond human comprehension, that’s why there is the divine. Maybe we can’t really get exact calculations. Maybe it’s even beyond mathematics and logic. The novel just tells us that we can never find any good in us playing god. We must acknowledge the fact that we are not gods, we are not perfect. The author of the novel herself recognized the fact that God is divinely superior to humans. She regarded God as a perfect creature. (Shelley 105)
A very interesting ethical was posed by the creature in the novel. What are the ethical issues that may arise if the created is killed by the creator? Can we categorize that as murder? The creature wanting to end his miserable artificial life told Victor Frankenstein “You would not call it murder if you could precipitate me into one of those ice-rifts, and destroy my frame, the work of your own hands” (Shelley 119). The creature could be ethically correct since the definition of murder is taking away the life of other living being.
After that definition of murder, people would follow that up with “only God can claim a life.” People say that because they believe in a divine plan. They believe that God claims a life because he has his reasons. And since people view God as perfect, His reasons will always be ethically correct. In that sense, God can never be a killer even though He is the one who decides on who is going to get killed. But that scenario is very different in divine proportions when it comes to the case of Victor Frankenstein and genetic engineers.
Murder will always be unethical. When we heard of a murder we always feel something deep inside being shaken. It’s like a mix of emotions that are predominantly fear and empathy. But just like God, Victor Frankenstein and genetic engineers may have their own reasons for murdering their creation, however imperfect those reasons are regardless of being ethically right or wrong.
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus: The 1818 Text. Chicago: Chicago UP,
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