English Sample Thesis: Such universal values explored in Frankenstein and Blade Runner do not change over time, it is merely our perceptions The dangers of knowledge and science in the hands of flawed and short-sighted humans Frankenstein * 19th Century = Age of enlightenment, Romanticism, Shelley points out the dangers of man’s obsession with immortality and how it blinds Frankenstein of his morals * Throughout Frankenstein, the reader is left with the feeling that Victor’s obsessive desire to defeat nature, through the creation of another life, directly led to the many tragedies that befell him, “Learn from me, if not by my precept, at least by my example, how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge, and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow. * Victor – Idyllic Childhood Romanticism/nature * Obsession with Collapse of morality and humanity to the point where the definition of what it means to be human is not defined “Life, although it may only be an accumulation of anguish, is dear to me, and I will defend it.. ” (pg 100) Questions about the ambivalent nature of Batty’s role within the film are again raised by his final battle with Deckard.
On a physical level Batty is far superior to the Blade Runner – indeed his fair colouring almost mimics the Aryan ideal of a ‘superhuman’. However, as Deckard hangs off the edge of the building, Batty chooses to save his life and gives him his hand. This one deliberate act, done in the full knowledge of his own approaching death adds an element of tragic poignancy to the scene, further complicating the notion of the archetypal ‘villain’. Frankenstein and Blade Runner deal with similar content but in very different ways
Due to their difference in context, Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein and Ridley Scott’s film Blade Runner convey similar timeless values in very different ways. Both composers critique society’s pursuit for knowledge and scientific development by questioning man’s right to play god. The collapse in morality of man is also pointed out as society is becoming increasingly governed by materialism to the extent where the definition of what it means to be human is superficial.
The never ending pursuit for knowledge and scientific advancement is critiqued by Shelley in Frankenstein as she shows us the dangerous consequences of man’s attempt to play god. Walton’s longing for the “country of eternal light” represents the ideals of the Age of Enlightenment, with the light symbolising knowledge and the optimistic tone representing eighteenth-century scientific rationalists’ trust in knowledge as a pure good. It is this value that Shelley challenges through Frankenstein’s pursuit of the secret of life and ultimately, the creation of the monster.
His thirst for power is revealed through his [insert language technique here], “a new species would bless me as its creator and source” which ultimately blinds him into an obsession to play God. Frankenstein’s cautionary tone as he warns Walton of “how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow”, demonstrates to us the values of Romanticism in the eighteenth century, where one’s bond with nature will lead to a happiness unattainable by knowledge.
Shelley also questions man’s challenging of the religious paradigm of the time, where life was a God given quality, by showing us the devastating effects of playing god through Frankenstein’s realisation of his actions as the monster comes to life, “the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart”. Imagery is used to highlight the beauty with which Frankenstein saw science, but also the encroachment and ugliness of the monster, which in itself, is an extended metaphor for Industrialisation.
The ultimate consequence of his lust for knowledge is the eventual destruction of everyone close to him by the monster as he laments through a defeated and remorseful tone, “William, Justine, and Henry-they all died by my hands”. Thus Shelley shows us the devastating consequences of the blind pursuit of knowledge and obsession with playing God. The danger of scientific development without any thought is also evident in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner.
However, Blade Runner’s portrayal of this notion is different from Frankenstein’s as the setting is utilized far more to establish the destructive nature of blind advancement in science. Written during a time of radical improvements in technology and science, the 1980’s film is the exaggerated and evolved consequence of Frankenstein’s actions. The mise-en-scene of the opening sequence uses a panoramic long shot of a hellish city with flames engulfing the nightscape accompanied by a bleak atonal sound track of synthesized instruments to show us the negativity of a world dominated by technology and science.
Similar to Frankenstein, Tyrell plays God through creation of life, known as Replicants and his superiority is portrayed through the set design of his bedroom, where the fluorescent lighting from the candles create an almost spiritual atmosphere and the symbolism of chess, where he is the master chess player. His blindness to his creations’ needs is highlighted through the recurring motif of eyes.
The size of his glasses and his death by eye gouging are used to exaggerate how he has become blinded by power and greed and how similarly, mankind will fall to their demise from their continual short-sightedness to not only genetic engineering, but also globalisation and materialism which were prominent at the time. Furthermore, the juxtaposition of vibrant billboard advertisements of Coca-Cola against the bleakness of the artificial landscape emphasise on how corporations are becoming increasingly dominant which can be seen as an exaggerated reflection of the massive growth of industry in the 1980s.
And it is this difference in context which causes Scott to demonstrate the similar dangers of scientific and technological advancement without consideration of its effects to Shelley yet in a very different way. Shelley points out man’s collapse of morality in actions which has led to a superficial definition to what it means to be human. The benevolent nature of humans is pointed out through the Romantic imagery of Frankenstein’s parents as they are described as feeling a “necessity, a passion” to act as a “guardian angel to the afflicted. However, Victor’s obsession to knowledge and science resulted in a collapse of morals and he rejects his creation simply from its appearance, “Unable to endure…I rushed out of the room…I sought to avoid the wretch” which shows us how society has defined human based on appearance. However, the monster himself does display intrinsic human qualities, which is demonstrated by the use of anaphora as he empathises, “when they were unhappy, I felt depressed; when they rejoiced, I sympathized in their joys”.
And such honest and pure attributes are what allows him to be accepted by the blind old man, “I am blind and cannot judge of your countenance, but there is something in your words which persuade me you are sincere”. The blindness of the old man symbolises a literal blindness to superficiality which shows us that traditionally humans were defined by their understanding nature.
However, Safie, Agatha and Felix, whom represent the future generation, do judge the monster by his appearance and treat him as exactly that, demonstrated through the rhetorical question and their reactions, “Who can describe their horror and consternation on beholding me? Agatha fainted, Safie, rushed out of the cottage…Felix…tore me from his father”. And it is through this collapse of morals of mankind over time which has led to a superficial definition of what it means to be human. Scott also demonstrates how man’s degradation of morals has resulted in a superficial definition of what it means to be human.
The humans in Blade Runner are even more lacking in empathy and compassion compared to those in Frankenstein, highlighting on how human relationships have deteriorated. Tyrell’s lack of concern for the Replicants is emphasised through his blunt tone as he remarks, “commerce is our goal” showing us that he only cares about money. He even labels Rachael as “an experiment, nothing more” as a close-up shot shows no signs of emotion, reinforcing how man’s lack of morals has changed our definition of what it means to be human.
Society’s lack of compassion is further demonstrated through the aftermath of Deckard shooting Zhora, a replicant, with the mechanical and emotionless tone in “move on, move on” in conjunction with a medium shot portraying crowds simply walking on, showing no sign of concern. In direct contrast, Leon’s shocked facial expression shows that he, a Replicant, attains the human qualities that not even humans have which ironically shows us how Tyrell’s slogan “more human than human” is a reality with respect to the mental and emotional capacities of the Replicants.
This notion is further resonated through Roy’s moving monologue on the beauties of life that will be lost in time comparing them in simile like “tears in rain” after saving Deckard in a last act of compassion. Similar to Frankenstein’s monster, the Replicants hold human qualities that not even humans hold, yet they are treated as products that can be discarded at will. Through this, Scott questions our definition of what it means to be human as a consequence of our collapse in morality.