Enlightenment And Alienation In Frankenstein

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In 1784, Immanuel Kant proposed the motto of enlightenment “Sapere aude” (Dare to be wise) to appeal to “the public use of one’s reason in all matters” in “What is Enlightenment” (1). In Age of Enlightenment, natural philosophy is regarded as one of the dominant subjects where principles of enlightenment are widely utilized. In Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, Victor Frankenstein and Captain Walter are both devoted to the use of reason in different fields of natural philosophy, and their pursuits are projected to largely benefit the public, as Frankenstein recalls his ambition, “Glory would attend the discovery, if I could banish disease from the human frame and render man invulnerable to any but a violent death” (59). Walton also mentions the word…show more content…
Karl Marx defines the word ‘alienation’ in a different way in his 1844 Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, where he digs into the relationship between the proletarian and their labor. In Marx’s theory, alienation is “the transformation of people’s own labor into a power which rules them as if by a kind of natural or supra-human law” (Marx Internet Archive). If the concept is applied in a wider scope, then through alienation, what is created by human beings themselves and the process of it will in return control human beings. As well-known Western Marxists, Adorno and Horkheimer’s claim that “enlightenment reverts to mythology” is in essence an interpretation of the alienation effect of enlightenment based on Marx’s theory. Back to the novel, controlled by “the intoxicating passion” for science and the product of his own labor—the creature, Frankenstein is a victim of the…show more content…
The gigantic body and the ugly countenance, these hideous features of the creature who is assembled with the materials that Frankenstein had selected as beautiful, imply an alienated and transformative state of human beings. Marx’s theory of alienation works best here, as what is created by Frankenstein becomes what he is alienated from and largely controlled by. Again, the metaphor ‘slave’ appears in the confrontation between Frankenstein and the creature. When Frankenstein agrees to make a female creature for the creature, he feels the submission in his relationship with the creature and admits that he is the slave of the creature, saying “but through the whole period during which I was the slave of my creature I allowed myself to be governed by the impulses of the moment” (139). The creature is even more conscious of his superior power over Frankenstein, and calls himself ‘the master’ when Frankenstein breaks his promise, “Slave, I before reasoned with you, but you have proved yourself unworthy of my condescension. Remember that I have power, you believe yourself miserable, but I can make you so wretched that the light of day will be hateful to you. You are my creator, but I am your master—obey!” (148). Their mutual chase through the whole novel is also mirrored in the coexistent relationship
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