Mary Shelley's novel "Frankenstein" examines many social issues present during the Romantic Period. An analysis of its context reveals just how much it draws upon the Romantic dogma of the 1800's and how Shelley attempts to warns us of the consequences of our fixation with omnipotence and our ventures into unrestrained scientific progress. Similarly Ridley Scott's film "Blade Runner" presents a sombre view of the earth's future. It explores humanity's dislocation from the natural world as a consequence of consumerism, greed and scientific progress. Through techniques such as camera angles, symbolism, dialogue and irony the texts, although written so many years apart, share so many of the same core ideas.
The use of first person in the novel causes the responder to imagine themselves in the situation faced by the protagonist; this powerful technique is used to subconsciously force the responder to dwell on the consequences of Victor's actions, drawing them into a debate of morals and ethics in their mind. "Blade Runner" is a product of the '80s where corporate greed through overindustrialisation has severed humanity's relationship with nature. Ridley Scott extrapolated these negative and dystopian views from the values he witnessed in the 1980's society and constructed "Blade Runner" as a warning. This warning is reflected through his profound use of film noir. From the opening scene the audience is immediately submersed into a post-modern, post-industrial and post-apocalyptic city resembling hell, this scene is an exaggerated reconstruction of society in the 1980's during which time people were fearful. America and Russia were both on the brink of nuclear war and had enough atomic weapons to utterly decimate the world; this potential global destruction is reflected in the opening scene of Blade Runner. This scene shows a hell that has come to exist on earth, an urban city extends as far as can be seen, a scarred world which has been devastated by us. The rising fire columns are symbolic of the fires of hell which have sprung forth on earth through our exploitation of the world's resources though our ignorance and greed. Asian advertisements floating above the city on dirigibles serve as a constant reminder of the Asianisation of western civilization as a consequence of corporate greed.
"Frankenstein" was composed during a time of major scientific developments; this is evident as science plays a central role in the story. Shelley's "'Frankenstein" is based on the dogma of the Romantic Movement to create a world in which the protagonist's desires for the omnipotent powers of God and creation have bypassed all ideas of conventional authority. Victor's reflective words:
"how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge," can be seen as her warning of the dangers of disrespecting authority and the order of things.
The Tyrell Corporation is the ruling power in "Blade Runner", producing replicants that are "more human than human", by enabling them to have an emotional capacity. This is visible when Rachel angrily confronts Deckard:
"Are these questions testing whether I'm a replicant or a lesbian, Mr Deckard?" Ironically the replicants have a greater capacity for emotional responses, showing more compassion and love than the humans.
Shelley's use of epistolary narrative adds a subliminal layer and speculates at the consequences of what Frankenstein has done; her warning is present throughout the story, forcefully questioning the ideas of scientists and science during the Romantic era, this reinforces the dangers of humanity's desires for playing the role of 'Creator'.
"Frankenstein's" core completion imitates the Romantic Movement's influence on Shelley's ideas, and her criticisms of the French and Industrial revolutions. The imagery of the patched corpse through the lexical chain of gruesome descriptions:
"his skin lustrous black... yellow skin... watery eyes.... shriveled complexion," and repeated use of terminology associated with the horror genre for referring to the 'monster' bring about feelings of disgust for this scientific milestone.
This physical unusualness is what makes it initially seem like the monster in society. However, Shelley brings forth a sympathetic response from the audience because the monster quickly portrays itself as misunderstood. The narrative, "Frankenstein" is one that allows the audience to realise a different side to the story as readers are able to understand the reasons behind the monster's murders, thus allowing further depth in the exploration of the human nature because of the different views presented in the novel. Frankenstein overflows with letters, notes and journals as Walton's letters envelop the entire tale; Victor's story fits inside Walton's and the monster's inside Frankenstein's. This is an important aspect of the structure of the book as the various writings serve as a concrete manifestation of attitudes and emotions within the characters.
Victor's warning to Walton:
Similarly, Scott expresses his heedfulness of the state of the human race. In particular global warming, the development of genetic engineering and nuclear weapons during the Cold War. During this time people were fearful of imminent doom by nuclear war, whilst at the same time fearful of the rapid developments science had made in the field of genetics and the controversy raised by its applications. Scott's warning present in Blade Runner is of the potential outcome if we allow certain actions to be taken without consideration of the consequences. By making the audience realise that by continuing on our current path can only bring about humanity's divorce from the natural world he leads us to ask the question what humanity is and is there a place for nature in an artificial world.
Shelley's warnings are enhanced by the juxtaposition of Victor Frankenstein's relationship with nature to that of his creation, whereas Victor, due to his unhealthy immersion in science is "numb to its charms", and results in his near constant solitude. Frankenstein's creation a more intimate connection with "the pleasant showers and sunny warmth of spring," and many human qualities that Frankenstein lacks, this characterisation captures Romantics idolisation of nature, cautioning us against the dehumanising effect of removing ourselves from nature and natural order.
We can see the reflections of Shelley's beliefs and the beliefs of Romantics in the novel "Frankenstein," which looks to the social conventions of the time in order to warn us of the punishment for transgressing into the realm of God. Scott also draws upon the social conventions of his time. The dark scenes represent Scott's interpretation of the darkness within society, which in turn represents the ruthlessness of a material society.