English Advanced: Assessment Task 3 Comparative Study of Texts and Contexts: Frankenstein and Blade Runner William Meadley Dear Mr. Ridley Scott, I Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelly am writing to you after viewing ‘Blade Runner’. I became aware that your composition and my own, ‘Frankenstein’ 1818 are very similar in themes and ideas. I also noticed similarities between characters of both our compositions, which together evoke questioning within our audience. We, as artists feel strongly about many issues affecting our world.
Issues such as industrialisation, advancing technology and science mixed with the morale argument of the extent we should pursue, especially into natural roles, if it is our role to do so. The role of humanity as an increasingly exploiting race and humanities exploitation of each other, with exampling of the impact of colonisation and expanding of empires and Corporate Capitalism. Above all I noticed that our creations are similar in that they are both cautionary tales, created to inspire thought within this world, though about these issues we seem to both feel very strongly.
I myself am very disturbed that the problems affecting my world and humanity in my world in the 19th Century seem to have not changed within the one hundred and sixty four years between our two works. Humanity as a whole needs to understand the implications and responsibilities that come with the power of knowledge and the influencing role they hold within the world. The acquisition of scientific knowledge and its possible devastating effects is a major theme within ‘Frankenstein’ and ‘Blade Runner’. It is clear that the God-like power yielded from this pursuit of knowledge is entirely detrimental.
Questions of morality, ethics and humanity occur. After reading Meditations, Sir Francis Bacon’s aphorism; “Knowledge is power” rings true with me. However John Dalberg Acton made the statement that “Power tends to corrupt”, which also holds truth. The idea that knowledge is power and power corrupts is evident within our two works, and ties in with the Promethean Myth. In both texts humanity succeed in stealing the natural powers of the gods, with devastating affects. I’m sure you can see the scintillating parallels between my Victor and the Greek titan. Prometheus successfully steals fire from the gods, however when iscovered is punished severely. This is the reason that I gave the secondary name to my novel “The Modern Prometheus”. Knowledge is a powerful and dangerous device; the individual holding the power must be responsible with it. With this theme as a major role in my novel, it is influenced by central events occurring during the 19th Century. Composed in the rise of Romanticism, it contains many of the structures of a romantic novel. Being created in 1818, during the centre of the industrial revolution and the sudden explosion of advances in science. The discovery of electricity inspired research into whether electricity could reanimate life.
I was inspired after reading the theses of Luigi Galvani, which address his experimentation with creating movement in lifeless bodies with use of electricity. This chase for new knowledge and advances in the scientific and industrial spheres lead me to question science’s role in nature and whether it is morally correct to pursue science beyond the boundaries of humanity, to take knowledge from Gods hands and use it for our own. With all of this in mind I created my novel and with it the characters Robert Walton, Victor Frankenstein and the creature, whom all share similarities with each other.
One obvious characteristic they hold is an obsessive and ardent thirst for knowledge and experience. Although for different reasons, this thirst for knowledge and understanding results in devastating affects on the characters Frankenstein and the creature. In my Frankenstein, knowledge is initially portrayed as being double edged with benefits and hazards through the first person account of the lessons the creature learns in his first experiences; “One day, when I was oppressed by cold, I found a fire which had been left by some wandering beggars, and was overcome with delight at the warmth I experienced from it.
In my joy I thrust my hand into the live embers, but quickly drew it out again with a cry of pain. How strange, I thought, that the same cause should produce such opposite effects! ” Here, the creature learns the contradictory nature of knowledge, however a more important experience teaches the creature the dangers of knowledge more subtly in a personal manner, instead of a physical lesson. The creature vows to “…become master of their language; which knowledge might enable me to make them overlook the deformity of my figure”.
After pursuing knowledge for months, he learns to read and understand speech. This directly influences him to question ‘who he is’. After discovering this by reading Frankenstein’s papers from the laboratory he learns the hazards of knowledge. “‘I sickened as I read. “Hateful the day when I received life! ” I exclaimed in agony. “Accursed Creator! Why did you form a monster so hideous that even you turned from me in disgust? ’” Again he feels the contradictory power of knowledge. This all affects and influences his envious obsession for the rest of the novel.
He ironically uses fire to destroy the cottage of the De Lacey’s in his jealousy, and later himself. Therefore knowledge is obviously powerful and influential. He uses his knowledge of fire and after understanding language; he understands himself and becomes envious. He uses both of these lessons throughout the book in destructive ways. Victor and Walton can be described similarly in their pursuit for knowledge. They are obsessive, passionate and ardent in all of their pursuits. However they are different in that Frankenstein feels the true corruptive, devastating power knowledge can implicate.
After stealing the role of nature and god’s by creating ‘the creature’, he abandons the wretched and hideous being. This is the first corruptive act of Frankenstein’s power of knowledge and also then acts as a catalyst for the successive events that later occur. At the end of his life, he gives advice to Walton, relating directly to his understanding of knowledge. “Farewell Walton! Seek happiness in tranquillity, and avoid ambition, even if it be only the apparently innocent one of distinguishing yourself in science and discoveries. Yet why do I say this? I have myself been blasted in these hopes, yet another may succeed”.
This advice shows that Frankenstein understands the perils of discovery, however is still evidently naive. He believes that it is only himself that became corrupt with the power of knowledge. Walton however learns from Frankenstein’s corruption and later ‘seeks happiness in tranquillity’ by alleviating his ambition to the North. This overall theme in my novel is created for the purpose to form ideas in the minds of the audience, ideas that I believe in. Humanity cannot control the knowledge of natural power without becoming corrupt with devastating effects.
With the rises in industrialisation and advancing technologies into the natural philosophical realm, when will we as cohesive whole question before acting? And you, Mr. Ridley Scott must believe similar ideals because you have in your cautionary tale a much more exaggerated influence of technology and industrialisation. Portrayed with a mood of pessimism, fatalism, and menace. Knowledge is definitely seen to have power in your composition; the power is then evidently seen as corruptive in a dystopic world. The opening sequence to your work is disturbing to me.
Beginning in the dim, twilight cityscape of Los Angeles, it sets the film noir ethos for the remainder of the film. It gives a first hand experience for the audience to understand the corrupt, futuristic environmental disaster humanity lives in. As fire explodes from chimneys of the dominating industrial architecture, sulphuric smoke pollutes the air and we begin to understand the magnitude of power this urban landscape has over the population. Through the use of panning aerial shots we see the towering buildings that dwarf Man symbolising the enslavement of humanity to science and technology.
This is evidently a portrayal of some issues affecting the world of 1982, the year you made your composition. Centrally affecting this world are obviously issues such as the rise of consumerism, technology, especially chemical technology and science. This is evidently a cautioning of the possible results in pursuing these issues too far. The opening establishing shot, a close up of an eye, sets the platform for the use of eyes as a symbol indicative of what it means to be human, metaphorically linked to one’s ability to see or, alternatively, an inability to see.
The sudden panning wide shot of a flying car inclusive with the techno, synthesised music further suggests the futuristic scenario. This leads to a low-angle shot of an isolated pharaoh-like pyramid, reminiscent of the power wielded by the Egyptian aristocracy. This further instigates our understanding of this dystopic scenario and begs us to question, how did this world become so corrupt? This becomes evident as the film continues; that corruption is created through the naivety of gnostic power.
This is influenced by the exploitation and capitalization within humanity and the natural world in the late 20th century, which humanity is becoming aware of after the era of colonization in expanding empires. The dominating influence of science and industrial structures brings awareness to me the absence of nature and environment in your dystopic world, which is central to my disturbance. This contrasts with my Frankenstein, in which nature features as the dominating background to the story, the main characters all similarly appreciate this natural world.
Whilst the character’s in yours, they seem oblivious of the beauty of nature. This concern can then be incorporated into the world of 1982, with the exploiting power of business and businessmen’s control over society. This further begs me to question, is humanity aware of the destructive powers knowledge possesses and the responsibilities that come with it? I am interested in the characters Dr. Eldon Tyrell and Roy Batty. There is a clear dichotomy between the characters in respect to the acquisition of scientific knowledge and its inherent consequences.
Tyrell, as the creator of the ‘Replicant’ race is directly responsible for his ‘creations’ and the consequences that arise from their actions. However, he rejects this responsibility as is emphasised by his indifference when Roy naturally seeks more life; “Well, I’m afraid that’s a little out of my jurisdiction”. Tyrell’s formal language and inhospitable tone clearly indicates his rejection of his role as a father, a creator. This naivety can be further seen through his symbolic physical blindness in the thick glasses he wears. His direct power is represented with the physical orientation of his residence.
This essentially is affected by the exploitation modern business implicate through the world and the power Corporate Capitalism has as influence in 1982. Similarly, Victor is responsible for overstepping his bounds, assuming the position of a God-like creator, and fashioning a humanoid who is capable of emotion and reason. Like Tyrell, he rejects his own responsibility for the well-being of his creation, and thus is to blame for the creature’s destructive actions. The creature states to Victor “…you do not reflect that you are the cause of its excess. ” Referring to the creature’s passionate emotions.
Together they both impose the role of creator, yet abandon their creations, exploiting their power and knowledge in detrimental ways. Roy Batty, as leader of a Replicant revolt, is new to being responsible for his actions, yet is portrayed to understand morale’s in humanity at higher level than his creator, especially depicted in Tyrell’s death scene. He states, “I have done questionable things. ” As he is a combat model, it implies that he has killed human beings. This illustrates that Roy has a conscience, and sees value, even in human life. After seeking forgiveness within his creator, Tyrell replies “Also extraordinary things”.
His naivety is proven again with the misunderstanding of Roy, praising ‘his own’ work, rather than appealing to Roy’s emotions. The Murder of Tyrell is an extremely emotional scene, which introduces pathos towards Roy, the murderer. This is constructed with focus on eyes, the ever important role of eyes in the story. Roy destroys Tyrell by compressing his skull, through his ‘metaphorically and physically blind’ eyes. Yet, the close up shot on Roy’s face and especially his eyes, in this scene, shows the most disturbing pain in any being’s face through the entire story. Roy, to me, is the most humane character in Blade Runner.
Similarly, my Frankenstein conveys the creation to hold the pathos in the novel, more so than Victor. “After the murder of Clerval…I pitied Frankenstein; my pity amounted to horror: I abhorred myself. ” This portrays his ability to accept direct responsibility. He understands the pain that comes with repercussions in his actions. Unlike Tyrell and Victor, the two human characters, their creations hold more human qualities. Therefore, what makes a human? If a being has the same, If not more human qualities, then we should not be exploiting them. However humanity continues to exploit without thought.
Evidently this discussion is inspired by any issues relating to exploitation, such as colonization, corporate capitalism and advances in sciences and technologies. Finally these themes are introduced to the audience further in both works, as cautionary tales. Similarly in both, nearing the end of the stories, a character caution’s another in the desire to teach them mistakes within humanity. Again they parallel in the themes that they are forewarning. In my Frankenstein, as stated before, Victor successfully warns Walton of the dangers knowledge possesses and to “avoid ambition”.
Though Victor has not learned the perils that come with knowledge, as seen in his statement “Yet why do I say this? I have myself been blasted in these hopes, yet another may succeed”, the hope that comes with Walton’s learned lesson creates hope in humanity of our own world. This is similar to Blade Runner in many ways. Roy also spends the last minutes of his life teaching Rick Deckard morale’s relating to humanity, their ability to exploit in corruption and their extent to pursue power. He changes the role Deckard plays from hunter, to the hunted.
This is portrayed through Roy’s howling, similar to a wolf, who then pushes Deckard to his limits in a game like chase to death. After the chase to the rooftop, he then ultimates, “Quite and experience to live in fear, isn’t it? That’s what it is to be a slave. ” Deckard begins to understand the reality that Replicant’s have the capacity to be humane, if not more humane than the current human race, stopping him from dehumanizing. This is reinforced when Roy says, “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe”, followed by a collection of emotive argon. Roy has more emotion than any other being in the film. Like my Frankenstein, this leaves us with hope in Deckard, similarly to Walton, which then in turn gives us hope in the human race. After comparing the two precautionary tales, Frankenstein and Blade Runner, I have come to the conclusion that humanity has a condition to pursue into the unknown, to always seek knowledge in the natural realm. As knowledge is power and power corrupts, I believe we need to question, before acting. My belief seems to have some hope still.
In my novel, Walton shows hope in humanity, through using knowledge, after hearing of the corruptive power it possesses in the characters Victor and the Creature. Similarly, nearly 200 years later, your composition holds hope in the future of humanity. In Deckard, hope is evoked as he learns of the similar emotions in Replicant’s and the exploitive corruption in humanity. The audience then questions ‘what it is to be human’; if Roy is more humane then Tyrell and Deckard, then does it matter if is human?
With these themes in my Romantic novel and your dystopic, film noir composition; they both have been influenced by similar issues. Rise in technologies and sciences and the extent we should pursue, industrialism and exploitation seem to be the major issues. I understand why they are so important. If in the one hundred and sixty four years between the two works, they still affect our world. Then humanity needs to be aware of these issues and their possible devastating affects. What better way to do this than with precautionary tales?
Along with Walton and Deckard, humanity needs to be aware of these issues affecting our world. Using the power of knowledge lets continue to teach humanity these lessons, which we as artists feel passionately about. So Mr. Ridley Scott, although I am disturbed that there has been no change in humanity between our two compositions, I conclude with hope filling my heart, along with Walton and Deckard that humanity has the ability to change and to think and understand before acting in the pursuit for knowledge. Sincerely, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelly.