Two hundred years ago in London, on 1 January 1818, 20-year-old Mary Shelley anonymously published the first edition of her novel, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus.
Mary was 18 when she wrote the book, the genesis of which goes to the topic of galvanism and other occult ideas that were themes of conversation among Mary and her companions, particularly her lover and future husband, Percy Shelley. Mary, Percy, Lord Byron, and John Polidori competed to see who could write the best horror story. After thinking for days, Mary Shelley dreamt about a scientist who created life and was horrified. Her dream evolved into the novel’s long-famous story.
The problem with this story is that history, Hollywood, and human imagination have been unfair, if not unkind, and inaccurate regarding Victor Frankenstein’s creation. Even Victor was too quick to judge by outside appearance, unpleasant as it undoubtedly was. In Shelley’s book, the outcome of Frankenstein’s experiment is never given a name, although the creature did suggest that he was Victor’s Adam.
At first, the creation is kind and gentle and only wants to be accepted. The creature was eight feet tall and ugly and he knew it. Yet, he sought life and normalcy, but he could not achieve that due to the fearful nature of mankind, and specifically Victor Frankenstein’s fear of what might happen.
I find it interesting that even in the mind of an 18-year-old girl 200 years ago, the innate goodness of a man’s creation can be judged as evil before ever doing anything but kindnesses to others.
One hundred thirty-six years later, the first human body part/organ transplant is completed. Numerous human lives have been extended through science and organ donations and transplants. I would not say we take that for granted, but we’re getting close and for some tissue, there are insufficient donors. One organ not transplanted is the human brain. I have read that it is the one donation where the donor would be the greater beneficiary in the process.
I wonder how Mary, her husband, and their circle of friends would react to the knowledge of today’s reality, scientific knowledge, and literary fantasy if they could suddenly be here and learn about it.
Lord Byron wrote his poem Darkness about the same time as Mary Shelley wrote this book. Given the nature of the book, the poem, and earth during 1816, I do wonder if his poem came to be for similar reasons as her Frankenstein story.
‘tis a dark world after all.
Skeptically, look both ways,
yet apply judgement of others and their creations carefully.
Mind the gaps in your own humanity.