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Frankenstein vs Jurassic Park

How does the story of jurassic park mirror the themes, characters and conflicts within the novel Frankenstein and how do both novels address the effect of man's power within ethical decisions and dilemmas?
by

Daphne Chen

on 26 March 2010

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Transcript of Frankenstein vs Jurassic Park

Frankenstein vs. Jurassic Park Conflicts Themes Romantic Ideologies Character The Mad Scientist In Frankenstein

Mary Shelley's novel would not be as tragic without the presence of a few innocents, in order to have them get entangled unjustly yet inevitably in Victor Frankenstein's doomed pursuits. The novel portrays the Monster's young victims -- William, then Justine, then Clerval, and finally and most profoundly Elizabeth -- as gentle, harmless, and above all innocent creatures. As Victor realizes that the responsibility for their deaths lies on his shoulders, the violation of their lives reflects Victor's own loss of youthful innocence due to his faulty obsession. In Jurassic Park

The classic 'innocent victim' has always been the child, and in Jurassic Park it is no exception. In fact, both Victor Frankenstein and John Hammond (parallel characters) have the same epiphany at the same time -- when they first realize that an innocent has been put in danger by their reckless and foolhardy attempts at reining nature. For Victor, the moment he realizes that the Creature has killed William is the moment that he realizes the severity of his mistake and the journey that lies before him. Likewise, Hammond seems to tremble when he realizes that his innocent grandchildren are left defenseless on an island with dinosaurs roaming around -- dinosaurs that he created for fun and profits, that he never imagined would come to harm their creator. Thus, the innocents serve as a foil to the character of the 'mad scientist'. The Innocent Victims "While I watched the tempest, so beautiful yet terrific, I wandered on with a hasty step. This noble war in the sky elevated my spirits; I clasped my hands, and exclaimed aloud, 'William, dear angel this is thy funeral, this thy dirge'!" In Frankenstein

Victor Frankenstein is a brilliant young man whose sights are set so narrowly on one obsessive objective that his blind ambitions ultimately lead him to destruction. Mary Shelley uses her main character as a symbol of the fallibility of man's ambition, man's perception of his own power, and man's moral judgment in the face of unspeakable technology. Yet Shelley emphasizes that this technology is still nothing in the face of the raw power of God and nature. In Jurassic Park

John Hammond is in many ways Victor Frankenstein's parallel. He is the reckless creator of new life, although instead of bringing humans back to life, he resurrects extinct animals. Like Victor, Hammond comes to terms with the error of his ways. Crichton may also be commenting on the corrupting nature of business, an element that is absent from Frankenstein, in that Hammond's pursuits are not only scientific but also economic, which is frowned upon in the book and movie. "Yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should."
-- Dr. Ian Malcolm Nature's power The "Romantic Hero" ideal The dangers of the intellect In the 1800s, Romanticism was a reaction to the previous mode of thought, Rationalism, which emphasized the discovery of truth through logic, science, and thinking. Romantics like Mary Shelley believed rather in the realization of truth through being attuned to the intuition, emotions, and 'knowing' through simple 'feeling'. Frankenstein and Jurassic Park are both essentially criticisms of Rationalist thought and explores how man's intellect is fallible. Pushing the boundaries of morality with technology has caused Victor's alienation from his friends and family whom he loves, and even from God; likewise, science has done the same to John Hammond, who has to risk the lives of his own grandchildren. Victor's descent into his doomed pursuit of the monster, and Hammond's fall from grace and the shutting down of his business, parallels Adam's fall from Eden when he ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Isolation and loneliness are Romantic ideas that often crop up in Romantic literature (and especially Gothic literature). In Frankenstein, the creature is not the true monster -- nor is Victor. What ultimately leads to their downfall is their respective alienation from society; Victor, the classic introspective, on-the-fringe-of-society, regretful Romantic hero, rejects the comfort of his family and friends and thus falls deeply and inextricably into his obsession with recreating life. The monster that he creates is originally good-natured and gentle, but realizes as he is shunned from companionship and love that he is an outcast and monstrous, and turns to violence as a reaction. One can actually see this ideology in Jurassic Park as well, but not so much in one single character as in the entire group of these people stuck on an island -- isolated from the rest of society, forced to deal with their problems alone and with an almost-definitely fatal ending. One of the major tenets of Romanticism is the power and sublimity of nature (as an extension, one could look at Transcendentalism). Nature was believed to be God's creation, and thus to be one with nature was to be closer to God and his truth. Mary Shelley often describes nature and travels in Frankenstein and often explicitly points to its beauty or awesomeness. However, she also emphasizes its power in that Victor, try as hard as he may to control nature and manipulate it to his abilities and sciences, simply does not have the capability as a mere man to alter the work of God. This is reflected in Jurassic Park mostly through Dr. Malcolm, the "chaotician", whose idea of "chaos theory"is basically Romantic in ideology -- that one cannot predict the future, one cannot predict nature, no matter how much science one has. This is why the dinosaurs start to breed even though the biologists only create females, and is the same reason why Frankenstein's creature despite Frankenstein carefully selecting the body parts himself, is birthed a monster. Nature cannot be controlled by man. The Corruption of Ambition The Dangers of Technology Man vs. Nature In Frankenstein

Victor Frankenstein's ambition blinds him to the horrible implications of what he is trying to accomplish. He is concerned not with fostering relationships with those who care and love about him, but is ensnared instead by his own selfishness in achieving success and perception of his own self-importance in engineering this breakthrough. He cloisters himself in his labaratory, away from the beauty of nature and the wonders that it has to offer, drawn instead to what he can engineer himself -- which turns out to be only a perverted and horrifying form of what nature truly creates. In Jurassic Park

Crichton uses his novel to criticize not only the overreaching ambition of technology but also that of business interests that make morally and ethically wrong choices for the sake of making profits and being "on top". Dr. Malcolm, in one of the most pivotal scenes in the movie, accuses Hammond of wanting to package nature up and "sell it". Hammond, as a wealthy businessman, and even the company attorney and certainly the greedy computer programmer Dennis are all reflections of how ambition is evil in business forms as well as simply the desire to 'show off' a spectacle such as dinosaurs brought back to life. In Frankenstein

What was supposed to be a breakthrough in science that would mean conquering life and death turned out instead to be a perversity, a pale and indeed grotesque imitation of what is truly human. Victor pushed the boundaries of science and the capabilites of man too far, and Shelley's intent was to illustrate to readers how what may seem to be Rational cannot truly ever be predicted. In Jurassic Park

Likewise, the idea of Jurassic Park was presumably a benevolent one -- to allow humans to experience the wonder of dinosaurs roaming the earth, and to add to the world's knowledge of science and creation. However, man's attempt to control nature using technology goes horribly awry, and even man's own technology (such as the park's massive computer system that runs everything) fails them and puts many people in harm's way. Note: Both Frankenstein and Jurassic Park were written at times of great technological shifts; for Shelley, she was caught up in the Age of Enlightenment, when a burst of new scientific ideas and systems was disturbing some who thought that Rationalism was taking humans farther and farther away from their connection with what was truly important, like nature, God, and their own intuition and emotions. Crichton wrote Jurassic Park in the 90s, at the cusp of the internet boom and the Y2K scare, when people were awaiting the global shutdown of computer systems and disaster brought about by a world too dependent on technology. Both Victor Frankenstein and John Hammond (and his biologists and engineers) make a futile and pitiful try at harnessing nature's power with man-made technology. Nature does not literally confront them, but it is clear that man and nature are at war, or, as Dr. Malcolm would call it, man's attempt at "the rape of the natural world." Ultimately, nature overpowers man, as both Crichton and Shelley express in their novels that man should not try to play god, for the power of nature is too wide and unfathomable for us to even understand. In Frankenstein

Victor is directly in conflict with his creature (essentially a "man"). Victor believes that he will be seen as the God to his Adam, but instead he finds that he has given birth to a devil and rejects him; on the other hand, his gentle creature comes to the realization that he is hated by the world for no reason other than his looks, and thus vows to destroy the life of the man who destroyed his from the beginning. Their conflict drives the plot forward and allows Shelley to expand on the idea of revenge as a debilitating and exhausting pursuit. In Jurassic Park

Hammond and Dr. Malcolm are the two characters who most strongly disagree with each other. Hammond truly believes that he has done a service for humankind, and has good intentions, while Malcolm disapproves of both the idea of exploiting nature for business reasons as well as exploiting it at all -- simply because he believes that man is fundamentally incapable of controlling anything due to chaos. Their conflict creates the tension necessary for Crichton to create a suspenseful novel and also sets up the theme of technology's uselessness against the power of nature. "A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their beings to me. No father could claim the gratitude of his child so completely as I should deserve theirs." Man vs. Man "What is so great about discovery? It is a violent, penetrative act that scars what it explores. What you call discovery, I call the rape of the natural world." "I am malicious because I am miserable. Am I not shunned and hated by all mankind? You, my creator, would tear me to pieces and triumph; remember that, and tell me why I should pity man more than he pities me?"
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