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Texts in Time: Frankenstein and Blade Runner

Literature must be studied and interpreted within the context of both the history of the composer and the history of the critic.

Mel Rooke

on 5 August 2010

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Transcript of Texts in Time: Frankenstein and Blade Runner

Frankenstein and Blade Runner Literature must be studied and interpreted within the context of both the history of the composer and the history of the critic. We need not only to take into account the personal context of the author but... the scientific, cultural and literature influences as well. Frankenstein and Blade Runner both draw on similar themes and values however due to the context that both texts were created in, the way in which these themes and values are presented differ. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley was firstly published anonymously in 1818 due to Mary being a female writer. It wasn't until 1831 that a second edition of Frankenstein was published that carried Mary Shelley's name and included a preface that was written by her. Mary Shelley's parents were two of the most radical writers and thinkers of the previous generation. However her mother died a few days after Mary’s birth. However a few days after Mary Shelley was born her mother died Since the monster is out to kill his creator, Victor Frankenstein; the storyline presents to the audience the idea that Mary Shelley felt responsible for her mother's (her creator's) death. On the 28th July 1814 Mary Shelley (then Godwin) ran away to France with poet Percy Shelley. Mary Shelley gave birth to 4 children from Percy Shelley but only one survived to adulthood. Her contact with death is often stated as one of her main influences in her writing of Frankenstein. But where did the idea come from? In the early 1800s, England experienced a whole year of winter. During this time Mary Shelley stayed at a house in Geneva with poets Byron and Shelley and because it was so cold they stayed indoors telling ghost stories. Mary Shelley was so affected with the idea of a story that would speak to the ideas of our nature that she had many sleepless nights dreaming. It is thought that at this time the idea of Frankenstein came to Mary Shelley in a dream. A dream about a hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then because of a machine, it was brought to life. This was not only based on Shelley’s imagination but it drew on the scientific research that was taking place during her time. Scientists at the time were immersed in the idea of electricity and creating new life. They were forever experimenting on dead bodies Mary Shelley lived in Darwin's era and was forever bombarded with his theory of evolution. 'Survival of the fittest' However scientific research was developing at the time which enabled even the weaker members of society to live a lnger life. At this time Luigi Galvani was also doing experiments with electricity, and discovered that an electric pulse through a frog's leg made it move. This brought forth excitement and many scientists such as Volta experimented with electricity to see what implications it could have for society. Scientific research also had a huge influence on Ridley Scott as he created Blade Runner. In 1978 the first test tube baby was born Further studies were still being done into stem cell research and the transplant of human organs was becoming accepted. At this time scientists were thinking seriously about the cloning of humans. However there were concerns that reproductive technology would lead to the dehumanisation of individuals and society. “More human than human is our motto” –Dr Eldon Tyrell This idea about having power that isn’t ours isn’t a new thought however and it dates back to Greek Mythology. The Modern Prometheus The Prometheus Myth is a story in the Greek mythology in which Prometheus takes it upon himself to give humans fire, although told not to by Zeus (the head of the gods). He is then punished eternally. Frankenstein is regularly regarded as the modern Prometheus because Victor Frankenstein in Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein defies the natural order and God by creating life. “I will Pioneer a new way, explore unknown powers, and unfold to the world the deepest mysteries of creation.” -Victor Frankenstein However due to the implications of his experiment he is punished by self reprisal and guilt. Both Prometheus and Victor are punished severely for their deeds. “I for saw obscurely that I was destined to become the most wretched of human beings.” –Victor (Pg 83) Both Frankenstein and Blade Runner present to their audience the consequences that science can have on society. Frankenstein uses language forms and features appropriate to a novel to show these consequences. These include; narrative, descriptive language and dialogue. The narrative alone allows us to see these consequences however dialogue is also used to create a deeper understanding of the effects they had on the characters. After defying the natural order and creating a human himself, Frankenstein is haunted with the idea that it is his fault that his friends and family are all dying. “The first hapless victims of my unhallowed art” – Victor Frankenstein (talking about Justine’s and William’s deaths) This reflects Shelley’s concerns about the effects the scientists of her time would have on society as their science dared to challenge God’s creation. Frankenstein, although an outstanding text for its time was also similar to art and other texts from the same time period. Romanticism Romanticism refers to the time period between the late 18th century and early 19th century when the writers of the time focused on nature and emotions. It reflected a connection with natural things, a hatred of industrialism and the belief that art was the way to truth instead of science.
This idea of Natural was also evident in Frankenstein. In this novel Walton unlike Frankenstein is happy to discover creation instead of actually creating. By his descriptive language of the sights he visits juxtaposed to Frankenstein’s descriptions of his created monster the audience is able to understand Shelley’s views on the implications of using power which isn’t ours, “how much happier that a man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow.” Post Christianity A term that describes the diminishing influence Christianity is having on people in the western culture In other words: God is being replaced with corporations. What is it that makes us human? The way we were created? The way we act? Our memories? Ridley Scott when creating Blade Runner drew on the ideas of scientific research of his time. Reproductive research brought up many ethical and moral debates about whether we as humans should be creating other humans without God’s influence and were test tube babies really human if they weren’t conceived the same way? In Blade Runner the “Replicants were superior in strength and agility, and at least equal in intelligence to their creators”. So what makes them less human than... You? Is it because they didn’t have a “natural birth”?
Or because they don’t have child hood memories?
These “monsters” might understand what it means to live... More than you do. “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe...All those moments will be lost in time like tears in rain” –Roy “Light, feeling, and sense will pass away; and in this condition must I find my happiness.” -Frankenstein’s monster In Blade Runner the sense of natural is no longer nature. Blade Runner is set in a futuristic world of social, ethical and environmental decay. Not even the animals in this society are “real”. Film language is the look of the film and the visual experience that is offered to the audience. Blade Runner uses techniques from film noir. Not only are the colours dim to show the decay in this “natural” world, but the storyline follows the noir codes as well. ‘A cynical male who pursues evil and corruption (Deckard), and the ‘Femme Fatale’ a beautiful women who is nothing but trouble (Rachael)’. Blade Runner presents the issues concerning the ethics of creating artificial lifelike beings And poses the questions... ‘What is it to be human?’ human? ‘If you create something are you responsible for it? And it all poses the thought that if scientific research continues the way it is... the social unit of the future will be the corporation and they will be a unit without ethics or principles. These ideas and values are derived from Ridley Scott’s context and are shown throughout the movie Blade Runner. The ideas and values presented throughout Frankenstein were derived from Mary Shelley’s context. However by no means does this mean these texts will always be received the same way. The way an audience receives a text depends also upon their own ethics and morals, social, scientific and personal contexts. What does it mean to be
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