Derrida and Frankenstein
Mary Shelley's Frankenstein incorporates elements of science, religion, and
the fear of both. Dr. Victor Frankenstein is the obsessive and self-centered
creator of a monster centered in others. As the creature has a progenitor but
no actual parentage he is more evident as a concept than a person and will be
treated as such. As this story is positioned on the eve of empirical "actual"
science's transformation from pseudo-science and superstition, the creature
will encompass both forms of science in their mutual opposition to Nature. In
Frankenstein, alchemy, galvanism, and a crude from of empirical observation
and experimentation represent Science (capitalized [in both senses of the word])
and Science's object to "penetrate into the recesses of nature . . . ascend
into the heavens"(Frankenstein 33). The rapacious hunger of "Science"
ravages a gendered Nature and usurps the power of God (or Creation; used interchangeably
here) by "command[ing] the thunders of heaven"(ibid.). Shelley opposes
Science (embodied by the Creature) to Nature and to God/Creation. However, Shelley
separates Man, Science, Nature, and God in Frankenstein. Man creates Science
to control God's Nature in an important paradox of implication. The first implication
is that Science is somehow not "of" Nature as control is exerted by
a force/object anterior to the object controlled or manipulated. Derrida's interpretation
of Rousseau's "dangerous supplement"(Of Grammatology 149) is at work
especially within the frames of creation (as the Creature and as Man's creation
of Science). Man has created an imperfect being reinforcing God's design referentially
through its absence; he does this with a system at once imperfect and supplementary.
Man has somehow usurped God's control of Nature (however ineptly), which raises
an important group of questions: Can God be usurped? Is God present in Frankenstein?
Is Dr. Frankenstein in fact usurping God? One interpretation: God creates Nature
and within Nature is Science. Science cannot be exterior to Nature and cannot
exert control. Dr. Frankenstein is a natural aberration and is dealt with by
Nature. Second interpretation: God somehow opposes Nature by creating Science
and Nature corrects God. Third Interpretation: Man opposes Nature and God and
creates Science. Mary Shelley has created a variety of opposing circumstances
perhaps "rooted" in the 19th century "scientific" tradition.
God and Science are also alike in almost every representation in their mutual
opposition to Nature. God allows Science to arise and Science opposes nature
by the "fault" of its own existence (not unlike the Creature). In
an interesting oblique reference, this feminized Nature "repels" (literally
and figuratively) Man and "absorbs" his scientific creation.
Derrida, Jacques. Of Grammatology. Trans. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. John Hopkins University Press, 1976.
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. Bantam Classic Edition, 1981.
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