Context and Background #
Mary Shelley is writing during the time when the Romantic movement was in full swing. Romanticism rejected the callous rationalism of the AGE OF REASON, just as this group had reacted against the tyranny of Superstition during the AGE OF BELIEF.
The swing towards a more humanistic attitude towards fellow mankind and the reverence for the natural over the man made is clearly depicted in Frankenstein. Shelley questions the eighteenth-century scientific rationalists’ optimism about, and trust in, knowledge as a pure good. While the Philosophers believed in the perfectibility of man through reason, the Romantics put their faith in the ‘immortal spirit’ of the individual’s emotions.
The Romantics maintained suspicions about the dark inscrutable workmanship of the Scientific and empirical attempts to improve on nature.
**Learn from me, if not by my precepts, 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. (101)
Ridley Scott illustrates the disastrous effects of man’s interference in nature, all because we failed to heed Shelley’s warning almost Two Hundred years earlier.
Shelley lived and wrote during the time of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars that raged throughout Europe yet there is little reference to these events. The role of the artist is to be above the temporal battles no matter how damaging they are to the lives of ordinary people.