Blade Runner and Frankenstein

Blade Runner and Frankenstein

Comparative Essay

How do the thematic concerns of your texts reflect the context in which they were written?
Intentionally or not, texts are universally shaped by the context in which they are written, and thus illuminate the values of their time. This is evident in the seminal science-­‐fiction novel Frankenstein (1818) by Mary Shelley and the avante-­‐garde film Blade Runner (1982/1992) directed by Ridley Scott. These texts, though born out of disparate contexts – one post-­‐industrial and the other post-­‐modern – nevertheless explore similar themes, including the nature of human identity and the loss of spirituality that may result from technological progress.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was written at a time when, as Frank Darvall describes, Regency England was facing “the most…dangerous disturbances, short of actual revolution…that England has known in modern time”. This social upheaval, a consequence of the French Revolution and political activism of Shelley’s time, had a fundamental influence upon her work, enticing her to explore the misconceived notion of the duality of human identity. Through character symbolism, Shelley delineates an initial ideological antithesis, depicting human identity as polarised, either Good or Evil, embodied by Victor and his monster respectively. As Lee Sterrenburg comments, the monster is introduced as a political symbol of human depravity in the wake of social revolution, heavily influenced by her mother’s 1794 work on the French Revolution and rebel ‘monsters’.

However, this conception of the essential ‘Good’ or ‘Evil’ of identity is challenged by the non-­‐linear narrative structure of Frankenstein, which forces the reader to re-­‐evaluate the existentially restricted perspective of Victor by revisiting events through the eyes of the monster. This reconsideration of identity is further encouraged by Shelley’s use of stylistic reversals, such as the counterpoint of...

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