“We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried, most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita; Vishnu is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty and, to impress him, takes on his multi-armed form and says, ‘Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.’ I suppose we all thought that, one way or another.”
“In some sort of crude sense which no vulgarity, no humor, no overstatement can quite extinguish, the physicists have known sin; and this is a knowledge which they cannot lose.”
J. Robert Oppenheimer
Was Victor Frankenstein’s big mistake to have brought his “daemon” or “fiend” to life, or was it to have abandoned him once he had come to life? Or was the mistake prior to the monster’s creation, in the attitudes and values that led Victor to begin such a project in the first place? And if Victor’s biggest mistake was to have created the monster, why didn’t he come to that realization before it was too late? Victor seems to think his mistake was to have created the monster, while the monster seems to think that Victor’s mistake was to have abandoned him, although neither Victor nor the monster hold to these positions with absolute consistency, and each can be found expressing the other opinion at various points in the text.
Your assignment is to write a 1,600 word (approximately 5 page) essay on these questions as they are treated in the 1818 text of Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein. It may help you to think about ways in which the question raised by the text of Frankenstein are or aren’t analogous to questions posed by contemporary technological advancements, such as Bill Joy’s triad of genetics, nanotechnology, and robotics (GNR). You might also want to consider J. Robert Oppenheimer’s reaction (see quotes above) when his monster, the atomic bomb, came to life. Keep your focus, however, on Frankenstein, and support the arguments throughout your paper with references to the text of Frankenstein (as I said, I’m expecting at least 80% Frankenstein content)!
I am your audience for this paper, so, unlike the Core assessment, you can assume that the audience has recently read and is familiar with Frankenstein. A printed copy of your paper is due to me at the beginning of class on Thursday 1 November 2018. It’s your choice whether to use Google Docs, Microsoft Word, or Apple Pages, but please review the paper expectations (below), and proceed accordingly.
FYW150-06 Paper Expectations
- Print papers single-sided.
- Staple papers in the upper left corner.
- Include a single-spaced header block with name, class, instructor, and date (in that order) in the upper left corner on the first page of the paper. Example:
FYW 150-06: Technology and Its Discontents
1 November 2018
- When you turn in papers for re-grading, change the date, so I can be sure that I am seeing your most recent version.
- A 5-page paper is approximately 1,600 words, scale accordingly.
- Use block paragraphs, but if you really, really, have to indent, use the MS Word (or Google Docs or Apple Pages) mechanism for doing so: do not simply space (or worse, tab) the indent.
- Do not insert two spaces after a period or colon. Our society has had that debate, and it’s over. See Farhad Manjoo, “Space Invaders”.
- If you insert page numbers (and I strongly recommend that you do), make sure to put them either in the header or footer, not the body of the paper.
- I also recommend that you include your last name in the header or footer along with the page number.