“The future is not a result of choices among alternative paths offered by the present, but a place that is created–created first in the mind and will, created next in activity. The future is not some place we are going to, but one we are creating” (John Schaar). Various decisions made in the present influence the occurrences of tomorrow. Though oblivious to the repercussions, those decisions, good or bad, can greatly influence the welfare of others in upcoming years. Mary Shelley and George Orwell present these ideas in Frankenstein and 1984. Each novel fulfills its purpose as a cautionary tale by warning of science and advancements in science, the effects of an absent family bond, and taking the place of God.
The novels warn of the ways humans improperly use knowledge acquired from science. In both stories, the characters with scientific knowledge also wield power- Victor in Frankenstein over the monster, and the Party in 1984 over the people- and because of their arrogance, use this knowledge to the detriment of those they create and protect, respectively. For example, in 1984, Syme asks Winston, “don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? . . . by the year 2050. . . not a single human being will be alive who could understand such a conversation as we are having now?… The whole climate of thought will be different . . . there will be no thought, as we understand it now”. This passage describes how the Party uses science to brainwash the citizens of Oceania and suppress individual thought. Syme further states, “Orthodoxy means not thinking-not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness”. With the development of Newspeak, the entire English language decreases to only a few words to reduce the occurrences of thoughtcrime. By reducing everything to a binary- good vs. ungood, no in-betweens exist, forcing the people of Oceania to only think like the state. This method of brainwashing keeps the society void of corruption and aids the continuation of the Party. The novel warns that science can result in an abuse of power by controlling every aspect of one’s life. In Frankenstein, Victor’s fanatical ambition to attain greater knowledge leads to an obsession over the power science gives him. For example, Victor states, “. . .my mind was filled with one thought, one conception, one purpose. So much has been done . . . far more, will I achieve; treading in the steps already marked, I will pioneer a new way, explore unknown powers, and unfold to the world the deepest mysteries of creation”. Victor idealizes scientific research without caution. His ambition leads to the death of his loved ones and ultimately himself. The novel warns that a person must not always achieve the possibilities science offers. Occasionally, the overwhelming power science possesses surpasses the ability of humans to contain it.
Both novels illustrate what happens to individuals and society when family relationships disintegrate. For example, in 1984, Winston states,”Nearly all children nowadays were horrible. What was worst of all was that by means of such organizations as the Spies they were systematically turned into ungovernable little savages, and yet this produced in them no tendency whatsoever to rebel against the discipline of the Party”. The Party recruits children into the Junior Spies, an association that encourages children to inform the Thought Police of their parent’s unorthodox ways. Due to the training they receive in the Junior Spies, children lack affection and display apathetic actions when accusing their parents of crimes. In turn, parents distrust their own children. With this, the Party ensures that the bond between child and parent no longer remains. In the novel, Orwell warns that without a familial unit, unconditional love and affection seize to exist. In Frankenstein, Victor describes his family as a happy and loving one. Although he knows what it means to have good parents, he cannot provide the same love to Frankenstein, whom he gives life to. Frankenstein, brought into the world as an “infant”, knows nothing of life. From the moment Victor looks at him, he shows disgust at the image his eyes behold and disowns Frankenstein. This remains as Frankenstein’s first memory of his experiences as a living being. Victor describes his reaction when he sees Frankenstein when he states, “I beheld the wretch—the miserable monster whom I had created. He held up the curtain of the bed; and his eyes, if eyes they may be called, were fixed on meâ€¦ He might have spoken, but I did not hear; one hand was stretched out, seemingly to detain me, but I escaped and rushed downstairs”. Frankenstein reaches out to the only thing he knows and unsuspectedly meets rejection from Victor. Victor, as a parent, cannot bestow upon Frankenstein the unconditional love and guidance that a child deserves. Later on in the novel, when Frankenstein stumbles upon the DeLacey home, he spies on the residents with envy. For the first time, he witnesses what kind of family he could have had. As Frankenstein observes the DeLacey’s, he painfully says to himself,
“But where were my friends and relations? No father had watched my infant days, no mother had blessed me with smiles and caresses; or if they had, all my past life was now a blot, a blind vacancy in which I distinguished nothing. From my earliest remembrance I had been as I then was in height and proportion. I had never yet seen a being resembling me or who claimed any intercourse with me. What was I?”.
Frankenstein, with his increasing understanding of human love, displays his grief when he thinks about how it feels to lack those who care for him. His increasing anguish turns into anger and eventually leads him to seek revenge upon Victor. Shelley alludes to her own situation with her mother, who dies 11 days after her birth, and the pain she feels living without a mother for most of her life. In the novel, Shelley warns that a child who lacks care from his/her parents takes on destructive behaviors as a result of anger towards those parents.
Each novel warns of the consequences of humans imitating God and obtaining supreme power. For example in 1984, O’Brien states, “God is power. But at the present power is only a word so far as you are concerned. It is time for you to gather some idea of what power means. The first thing you must realize is that power is collective”. O’Brien equates the Party with God, whose desires include attaining absolute power and control of the minds, bodies, and spirit of its subjects. The Party serves only itself and persecutes those who seek to limit its power. Big Brother serves as the symbol of the Party’s economic and social superiority over the citizens of Oceania. The more power the Party possesses, the more control it gains over its proletariat. Orwell, an atheist, influenced the novel with his views on God. In the novel, the absence of a god results in the creation of Big Brother. Big Brother, in this case, displays the concept of God as a father, lawgiver, supreme power, and as an archetype for slavery, where the governed must obey the dictates of the ruler. This archetype in turn displays a model for a social system, deemed to have its own internal laws, often destroying the lives of people within the system, although ignorant of their manipulation. Since Winston has no faith in God, he does not submit to the power of Big Brother. Therefore, he undergoes reprogramming in the hands of O’Brien at the end of the novel. The novel warns that as long as one takes the place of God, that person will always negate others from freedom. In Frankenstein, Victor wishes to become godlike. For example, in chapter four, he states, “no one can conceive the variety of feelings which bore me onwards . . . . Life and death appeared to me ideal bounds, which I should first break through, and pour a torrent of light into our dark world. A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me”. Victor uses his knowledge of creating life connecting the limbs of the remains of deceased humans to construct a living creature. Eventually, he realizes that he has created a monster and regrets ever having the ambition to create such a beast. In the text, Shelley uses biblical references to make comparisons between Victor and Frankenstein. For example, Frankenstein states,” I am thy creature; I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel, whom thou drivest from joy for no misdeed”. Frankenstein feels that he should receive more love from Victor as his “Father”. Frankenstein compares himself to Lucifer, God’s fallen angel, because of his rejection from society. Frankenstein realizes that he has not committed any wrongdoing; therefore, he knows that he does not deserve mistreatment from others. Later on, a despondent Frankenstein asks Victor to create a spouse for him to relieve him of his loneliness, as God created Eve to keep Adam company. Victor responds, “Begone! I do break my promise; never will I create another like yourself, equal in deformity and wickedness”, leaving Frankenstein heartbroken. The novel Frankenstein warns that a person should not try to ascend to a position of sovereignty over another and should not hold the power of life over them. Due to the imperfections of man, humans cannot withstand the responsibility of God.
1984 by George Orwell and Frankenstein by Mary Shelley warn readers of what may occur in the future with humans’ increased knowledge in the field of science, broken family bonds, and the replacement of God with men. Science can make life easier but overstepping certain boundaries results in dire consequences. Lack of parental guidance could result in a loss of the family bond and children could become psychologically damaged. One who takes the place of God denies others of human freedom and society suffers for this. Most importantly, when people decide to go down these paths, as described in 1984 and Frankenstein, one not only influence the course of his/her future, but one also shape the futures of those to whom his/her responsibilities lie.