Both texts look at the delicate balance of their relationship between nature and science. The balance is tipped when one or more characters exceed what is natural. This representation in the texts mirrors the reality of the composers’ contexts. Shelley was writing in the 19th Century, during a period of social unrest. People were enslaved by the Industrial Revolution; it drew them away from the land that had supported them and been their homes for generations and into the cities slums and ghettoes working and living in unsafe conditions. The Industrial Revolution polluted the environment and lowered the living standards for the people; making them so ill at times death resulted. In response to the earlier scientific minded Enlightenment era and their disregard for the degradation of nature, the Romanticism period evolved. The Romantics (Percy Shelley, Byron) marvelled at the natural beauty and the emotional responses evoked by nature. They protested against its destruction by the Industrial Revolution, the “mechanical” minded enlightenment and the unchecked developments in science and technology; experiments in reanimating the dead. Shelley was heavily influenced by the issues affecting society and due to her relationships with the other romantics of the time.
Frankenstein is a cautionary tale against the abuse and irresponsible use of science and natural elements. Victor Frankenstein goes completely against nature by “infusing a spark”, of life into his mangled collection of limbs to create the creature. He then takes another step away from nature and rejects responsibility to the abomination. “Now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and the breathless horror and disgust filled my heart.” Shelley suggests the horrors of the imbalance in the universal relationship with the setting. All of the science, particularly the night the creature awakened, occurred inside with artificial light, separated from the open spaces of the outside and in full view of God. “I saw the yellow eye of the creature open” (Vol 1, chapter 5). The symbolism of the yellow eyes emphasises the unhealthy and unnatural activities in the dark confides. Frankenstein would become ill for months after extended periods of time spent enclosed with science. This contrasts with the open magnificence of nature and the good health of Frankenstein. Due to the rejection, the creature craves acceptance from another. He begins to haunt Frankenstein and wreck havoc in his life and demands for his creator to construct another like himself for companionship. This demand shows the overall human desire of acceptance and love. Again Frankenstein does not take responsibility for the welfare of his creation and refuses what he craves and needs to survive and keep a grip on his humanity. The message of this pastoral text is beware of the arrogance and ambition of humans and the blatant refusal of taking responsibility for the scientific developments and the impact upon nature.
The texts forecast the trouble ahead of society if science is allowed to burn out of control, if men are allowed to act as an irresponsible Prometheus. Prometheus created men from clay and when his creations were in need, stole from the gods to give them fire. However Prometheus took responsibility for his actions. Frankenstein is punished for his lack of moral responsibility, as is Tyrell in “Blade Runner”. In contrast, the creations in both texts appear to be more human than their creators. This is demonstrated in the creature’s love of literature, compassion for others and protective instincts of children. Similarly the replicants can articulate their “humanity” and demonstrate their passion and love for life, whereas the humans are the opposite.
“Blade Runner” is set in a post apocalyptic world where the undesirable humans are left on the planet in which science and technology have over ruled nature to the point there is none left on Earth. Cloned animals appear throughout the film, symbolising different aspects of the characters; Rachel is seen with the cloned owl symbolising ironically her lack of knowledge of her true identity and Roy Batty is associated with the dove in the end of the film suggesting his hope for survival and the faith in humans being lost as it flies away into the darkened sky. Humans are copied as well. Replicants, created by the Tyrell Corporation, are smarter, faster and stronger than humans, “More human than human”. But they have a failsafe, preventing them from developing human emotions and being almost indistinguishable from human, a shortened life span. This is the reason the replicants risk “retirement” (the political correct way of saying murder) if caught returning to Earth in search of their creator for more life. Tyrell- “What... what seems to be the problem?” Batty- “Death.” Like Frankenstein, Tyrell ignores his responsibility to provide and nurture his creations. This disregard highlights his lack of humanity; while in the replicants who show compassion to one another have more humanity than their creator. The landscape is enclosed, crowded and dark, visually representing the lack of nature and mystery in the story line. Rain is a constant element in the exterior, nature trying to wash away the sins of man but unable to.
The context is different to Shelley’s in that it is the result of all of the issues in her time that were left unchecked. The 1980s witnessed the growth in cutting edge science and damages to the environment. Science moved into more ethically debatable areas of cloning animals with the possible application for human use if allowed to continue and IVF for infertile parents and the general public became alerted to global warming. Scott reflects this in his film.
The universal concern of the relationship between science and nature appears in both texts as it is in both contexts in varying degrees. Frankenstein, written in the Romanticism period was really seeing the beginning of sciences rise while the 1980s was seeing the result of that science continuing on the same path. Volume 3, chapter 7 Shelly alludes to the healing properties of nature and the hope of redemption if man takes responsibility, this contrasts with “Blade Runner’s” bleak outlook of no hope with society being too far gone.