It has been awhile since I’ve read Frankenstein, but it is refreshing to look at it from the science fiction perspective. For this first section of assigned reading, I kept in mind our discussion on the definition of SF as “cognitive estrangement.” My interpretation of this is: The ability to portray important values, philosophies, or moral issues through characteristics apart from our own societal or physical norms. However, in SF the stories contain characteristic changes based in science as opposed to magic or fantasy. In writing, this process can be achieved through the setting itself, character perspective, description, or perhaps all. In the case of Frankenstein, I think that Shelley shows cognitive estrangement through initial setting with Walton, and later through Victor, in both his story and his descriptions.
Walton’s little adventure to the arctic lands sets the tone for this story. It’s foggy, cold and icy, creepy and lonely. Victor even mentions that such a setting allows a listener to be fully enraptured by his story, as opposed to a cozier setting, where one might think him crazy. However, I think this setting is a small factor to the real SF essence. The meat is in Shelley’s ethical and moral issues brought to light through Victor and his creation. Are humans supposed to have ultimate knowledge like Victor gained? Was his abuse in the creation of life, or the abandonment of it? Science is forever striding forward, but has Shelley offered her personal ending to such endeavors? Victor flees the scene at the sight of his accomplishment. He successfully animates dead flesh, and sparks life in the stiff and unmoving limbs of a piecemeal corpse, yet he runs at first sight. Why? The word “animation” itself only receives a negative connotation from this point in the story and on. Previously, it was positive. For instance, there was an “active spirit of tenderness that animated both” his parents (24). Their kind treatment created a very nice childhood for young Victor, one that he denied his own creation. To conclude and keep this short, I think that Shelley, as a sort of Prometheus herself, uses the SF genre to argue serious moral/societal issues, some of which I’ve brought up. At this point in the story these issues are showing themselves through Victor and his creation, but we’ll see where it goes. On a side note, I think that the use of the word “animate” in all its forms is an interesting study for Frankenstein.