The politics of Frankenstein

It all started with the eruption of a volcano in Indonesia


Frankenstein was one of the first science fiction novels, even if it looks like a work of horror.

# It all started with the eruption of a volcano in Indonesia

Tambora, rappresentazione eruzione del 1815

Around the Battle of Waterloo in June 1815, the climate seems to have changed. That June was extraordinarily rainy, an anomalous climate that probably affected the fate of the battle, creating many difficulties from a military point of view, such as heavy vehicles to be transported on the mud.

In April of that year, the Tambora volcano in Indonesia had had a very powerful eruption that had obscured the sky with its dust and caused a climate change that did not end in that year.

With the end of the Napoleonic era and the resumption of tourism in Europe, the following May Mary Shelley with a group of friends decided to travel to Geneva for visiting Lord Byron. Summer never came, due to the changes caused by the volcano’s eruption, and to pass the time on rainy days Byron proposed that everyone write a horror story. Thus Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was born.

# The frightening creature and his betrayed love


The plot revolves around Dr. Frankenstein, a scientist who decides to assemble pieces of a corpse to bring a dead body to life using galvanism which, at the time, was the basis of many scientific or pseudo-scientific theories, such as electroshock. The result is a frightening creature who is initially led to feelings of love for humanity.

But his horrible appearance triggers repulsion and disgust in people and this induces him in reaction to transform love into hate. From this point the novel slips more and more into horror settings with a chain of tragic events until the final death of the scientist and his creature.

# An increasingly monstrous new society


Frankenstein’s subtitle was “the modern Prometheus” which alludes to the aspiration of scientists to theoretically do anything.

An ambition that has never left man, and especially in vogue these days when not only science is imposing itself as a social law but also politics is turning into a new Frankenstein, who tries to overcome nature through decrees or bureaucratic rules.

A new society is thus taking shape, transforming itself into an increasingly monstrous collective body, made up of a jumble of attempts in which digital technology takes the place of galvanism.

Perhaps the same consequence of the novel could happen, where good attempts could result in a society that, although animated by the desire for collective love, precipitates into hatred and self-destruction.

The message that could be gleaned from Mary Shelley’s novel in order to make it useful for our times could be this: science and politics must have insurmountable limits, such as the laws of nature and the fundamental rights of people.

Because it is neither the task of science, nor of politics, to bring a dead body to life.