’s Micromegas And Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein Or The Modern Prometheus Essay, Research Paper
Science Fiction, succinctly defined, is a literary genre generally characterized in form as a world of exaggerated drama which argues a social commentary using current scientific knowledge as its evidence. From the emergence in the 18th century of modern Science Fiction to the ‘birth of the book’ in the 19th century, each period is distinct, yet at times similar, in their respective techniques of elucidation. From the 18th century, Voltaire’s Micromegas, in its highly ironical form, is a perfect demonstration of the time’s combination of satire and alienation; while from the 19th century, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, is a parody of gothic literature and of Oedipus Rex. Ultimately, 18th century Science Fiction uses satire and alienation while 19th century Science Fiction deals mainly with a parody of the Oedipus Complex .
In Micromegas, Voltaire uses science to present the philosophic notion that there is an absurdity to human beliefs and actions. His work suggests that our main faults and vices are inherent to our inaccurate and misguided rationality. By mocking and belittling these faults using sarcastic and ironic devices which logically and scientifically support each other, Voltaire s work allow people to see the incoherence of their own though. He demonstrates this by commenting on the absurdity of war and God:
Those sedentary and slothful barbarians, who,
From their palaces, give orders for murdering
A million of men and then solemnly thank God for
Their success (RABKIN, 67).
At the root of his social criticism is a program of reformation. Voltaire s greatest tool in Micromegas is his ability to use alienation to make the seriousness of his argument felt without removing the sarcastic undertones of his satire. The use of alienation allows his points to be fully expressed without offending the reader. For instance, Voltaire strongly objects to the metaphysical and theological views of the world; our soul is neither spiritual nor immortal, rather, our essence is based in our thoughts. He suggests that we must consciously create a division between our faith and our powers of reason because it is impossible to ever know the omnipotent, omniscient, and eternal nature of God. Instead, the key to a proper understanding of our existence will come from an investigation of the unchangeable laws of our universe that Voltaire demonstrates through his description of a human soul:
The soul is perfection and reason, having power
To be such as it is[ ] The soul[,] is a pure spirit
Or intelligence, which has received before birth all the
Metaphysical ideas; but after that event it is obliged
To go to school and learn anew the knowledge
It hath lost (RABKIN, 68).
This anti-clerical concept could be found by many to be offensive, but by using alienation to create an alter-reality, its not a direct attack but the lesson is still learnt. Thus, Voltaire, by denouncing the hypocrisy of scholasticism, provides people with a chance for independence of thought; he allows people an opportunity to step outside of themselves and judge wether or not his commentary has merit. Ultimately, 18th Century Science Fiction is characterized by satirical writing as well as the tecknique of using alienation.
Mary Shelley s Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, is very distinct of the 18th Century style of Science Fiction which is typified by Voltaire s work; it is a parody of creation and of the Oedipus Complex . This story is about a scientist who tries to re-create the work of God and galvanize an inanimate object to give it sentience. Shelley turns Frankenstein s creation into his Doppleganger, a mirror image of the self. In the book, creator and creation are really just one self-reflecting different sides of human personality. Each shares similar pain and suffering: Frankenstein is trapped in gloom, unable to break free from the despair that his creation is causing him; and his creation, being inhuman and thus cursed to live a lonely and miserable life. Because the creation is reflective of her view on science and its benefits or lack thereof, the miserable life that both are doomed to live suggests that she believes science is going to have a negative effect on the world. From the perspective of the Oedipus Complex , the relationship between both Frankenstein and his creation is strongly reflective of the relationship Oedipus has in his family. Frankenstein, being the father figure, is endlessly pursued by his creation (Oedipus). The creation is looking for companionship, and his father refuses to build him companion and even destroys all the efforts that he had previously made:
As I looked upon him his countenance expressed
The utmost extent of malice and treachery.
I thought with a sensation of madness my promise
Of creating another like to him, and trembling
With passion, tore to pieces the thing on which I was
Engaged. The wretch saw me destroy the creature
On whose future existence he depended for happiness,
And, with a howl of evilish despair and revenge,
Withdrew (RABKIN, 117)
In this case, the Creation is fighting over the right to have a woman placed in his life and when Frankenstein refuses his creation says that he is going to visit him on his wedding night. If the creation can t have someone to be with, Frankenstein will keep on killing all of his friends and relatives until he does agree. He will continue to destroy the father s life until a woman is created for him. Shelley suggests that the Creation s longing for a better and more fruitful existence is another example in which she believes that science will turn the established order upside down. Because the Creation represents an abomination against nature, he is doomed to live a life of murderous frustration. Ultimately, Mary Shelley s Frankenstein is a 19th century Science Fiction novel that is a parody of creation and of Oedipus Rex.
Ultimately, from the birth of modern science in the 18th century through the 19th century, each period in time has different techniques of illustrating the particular social commentary. Voltaire s Micromegas deals with a combination of satire and alienation while Shelley s Frankenstein is a parody of creation and the Oedipus Complex . Therefore, 18th century uses both alienation and satire to elucidate their points while 19th century literature uses a parody of creation and the Oedipus Complex .