Frankenstein and Blade Runner- Human Values Remain Static as Times Change

Home / News / Frankenstein and Blade Runner- Human Values Remain Static as Times Change

Topic: Times change but human values remain static. Tiffany Tang
Times change but human values remain static. This idea that human values can transcend time is displayed in Shelley??™s gothic novel Frankenstein, published in 1818 and Ridley Scott??™s science fiction film Blade Runner, first released in 1982, as both explore the similar values held by many individuals of society. Both texts critique the value that individuals place on scientific development through characterisation. However, the film shifts the criticism of valuing pride and glory in the novel to the pursuit of economic gain as a result of the time change from the 19th century to the capitalisation of the 20th century. In both texts, the consequences of technological advancements upon nature reflect the importance placed upon nature, reflecting the influence of Romanticism on Shelley as well as the increased environmental awareness in the 20th century. However, the film focuses on the preservation of nature whilst the novel explores an appreciation of nature, an aspect of Romanticism.
Shelley warns society of the dangers of focusing on scientific advancement. Shelley addresses society as a whole through the framework of the letters between Walton and his sister Margaret through which she draws parallels between Victor Frankenstein and Walton, particularly their obsessive qualities. Walton explains his focus on the attainment of knowledge as he feels that ???there is something at work in my soul, which I do not understand. I am practically industrious- painstaking??¦??? The obsessive qualities he has suggests danger through the connotations associated with ???painstaking??™. Similarly, upon hearing of the rewards of pursuing scientific knowledge, Victor??™s mind ???was filled with one thought, one conception, one purpose??? to continue his study of natural philosophy. The repetition of ???one??™ shows Victor??™s sole focus and obsession with science. This similarity between Walton and Victor implies that Victor is not an isolated case which turns the narrative into a cautionary tale. This brings greater meaning to the reader as they learn of Victor??™s deterioration as a result of his obsession with scientific advancement.
Through Victor??™s experiences, Shelley demonstrates that the importance placed on science by an individual can lead to ruin. Victor acknowledges that as a result of the time he spent on his creation, ???his cheek had grown pale with study, and my person had become emaciated with confinement???. The noun ???confinement??? suggests how Victor feels trapped by his work despite his passion for it. There is also an indication that he experiences a decline spiritually as he ???seemed to have lost all soul or sensation but for this one pursuit??? of knowledge. The noun ???soul??™ is associated with being a part of every human being and the loss of soul indicates Victor??™s descent into becoming more animalistic, driven by passion rather than rational thought. Shelley??™s depiction of Victor??™s deterioration cautions society of the risks of placing too much importance on the pursuit of knowledge.
Similarly, the film Blade Runner illustrates the value placed by individuals on technological advancement for economic gain. Due to the differences in time, the focus of individuals has turned to financial profit rather than glory, reflecting the rise of capitalism in the 20th century. Scott critiques these values by illustrating the disadvantages of wealth. The cut to the long shot of the Tyrell Corporation, as Deckard journeys there by police car, shows the artificial golden light that reflects off the building. This golden light indicates that the Tyrell Corporation represents wealth, as the colour gold is associated with riches. This is combined with the extreme long shot of the landscape of Los Angeles to establish the immensity of the Tyrell Corporation compared with the rest of the skyscrapers as it rises above the others, suggesting superiority. The reason behind this superiority is the wealth of Tyrell, suggested by the contrast between the golden light reflecting Tyrell Corporation and the darkness the other buildings are shrouded in. Scott criticises the importance placed on wealth by society, through the depiction of the Tyrell Corporation. This is seen through the shadows created by the streaks of light streaming inside the building, an aspect of film noir that suggests that there are also disadvantages to wealth which is represented by the darkness inside opposed to the benefits of wealth, represented by the light. This is reinforced by the sparseness of the setting, with few props shown in the long shot that establishes the interior of the Tyrell Corporation as well as the echoing of the dialogue between Rachel and Deckard. This sparseness and echoing create a sense of emptiness in the building, alluding to the emptiness of wealth. Like Shelley, Scott demonstrates the preoccupation of society with scientific advancement for their own benefit though it is portrayed differently because of the change in time.
In the novel Frankenstein, nature is valued, an aspect of Romanticism. Romanticism has influenced Shelley to emphasise the importance of nature through the appreciation many characters such as Victor express for nature. In Victor??™s case, his appreciation of nature is linked with his state of mind which affirms the value of nature. This is seen as he finally notices during his recovery under Clerval??™s care that ???It was a divine spring; and the season contributed greatly to my convalescence. I felt also sentiments of joy and affection revive in my bosom; my gloom disappeared??¦??? Victor expresses his appreciation through the way he conveys the beauty of nature through the adjective ???divine??™. The adjective ???divine??™ is associated with being heavenly, illustrating the extent to which nature is valued. The importance of nature is reinforced by the healing power, illustrated through the verb ???revive??™, which Victor experiences as he acknowledges the influence of nature on his improved attitude. This restoration of the spiritual health is also mirrored in the monster??™s reviving encounter with nature that ???cheered even me by the loveliness of its sunshine and the balminess of the air. I felt emotion of gentleness and pleasure??¦??? despite his anger and misery of not being accepted by humankind. This demonstrates the power of nature to coax positive feelings in human beings as well as the way it can reinvigorate the spirit. Shelley proposes the importance of nature through the way it is portrayed as a positive influence.
Blade Runner also demonstrates the importance of nature in the 20th century. However, Scott presents a dystopic, degraded and artificial environment unlike the beauty of nature seen in Frankenstein, to reflect the modern world driven by consumerism and capitalisation. The consequences of disregarding nature are shown to illustrate the importance of nature. In the opening sequence, the film noir style of perpetual darkness is used to convey the absence of natural light. This is supported through the harsh white light from the synthetic lights on the buildings. The long shot of Los Angeles also shows the absence of flora of any kind as skyscrapers are the dominant feature. This artificial world is also created through the use of synthesisers in the music, which contributes to the sense of artificiality through the electronic sound. Scott criticises the artificiality of the world through the absence of nature. Similarly to Frankenstein, Scott demonstrates that nature is important. However, Blade Runner is more concerned with the importance of nature in maintaining a balanced world rather than its influence over the human spirit.
Both the novel Frankenstein and the film Blade Runner present similar human values despite the change from the 19th century to the 20th century. Both texts are concerned with demonstrating the importance of the environment as well as the importance placed by individuals on scientific development. However, the consequences of disregarding the environment and being incautious with scientific advancement in both texts vary. This is because Frankenstein reflects the Romantic Movement as well as the industrial revolution whilst Blade Runner is influenced by the capitalism of the 20th century. This illustrates the way human values generally remain static, though they shift in with the changes that occur with time.