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The chief obstacle to the progress of the human race is the human race (Don Marquis).

The
acquirement of knowledge, and the subsequent progress of technology devoid of ethical and moral
influence, destructively impact upon humanitys core. This innate yearning to excel has led to the
evolution of technology and the subsequent devolution of humanity. Inevitably, the threat of
technology exceeding humanity has provoked a sense of apprehension within certain composers
who, while subject to their surrounding context, effectively explore the elements which constitute
humanity and convey similar warnings regarding the future of mankind through the use of
representations within varying forms of texts. The novel Frankenstein (F) by Mary Shelly composed
in 1818, and film Blade Runner (BR) directed by Ridley Scott in 1982, embody the above notions. A
comparative study of these texts reveals that, despite the fact that the context of composition
moulded both works, the distinct universal ideologies embedded within each text consisting of the
obsession of certain individuals to push beyond natural limitations, due to their own myopic hubris,
are ultimately identical. These conceptual links are reinforced though the use of unifying literary
allusions and a humanist discourse focusing on the tensions associated with the ethics of creation
and what constitutes humanity.
Significant texts, although subject to time, have the ability to both reflect and challenge such
constraints. Mary Shellys F is such a text as her literary, personal and historical context form the
foundations of the novel. The Romantic movement can be regarded as one of the key influences
which shape the text due to the representations of the imagination, individualism and the
enchanting appearance of nature. This movement was a reaction against the Enlightenment which
embraced reason, philosophy and science, and inspired the concept of galvanism and Darwins
theory of evolution. During this period the focus on progress increased which, by opposing
traditional beliefs, created a sense of fear amongst those who disagreed with, picking up shells
beside the great and unexplored ocean of truth. Furthermore the novel can be considered to be a
gothic and modernised version of the legend of Prometheus.
Man is the measure of all things, of the things that are that they are, and of the things that are not
that they are not.Protagoras pronouncement applies perfectly to the protagonist and tragic hero of
the novel, Victor, whose obsession led him away to a hell of intense tortures, such as no language
can describe. Victors myopic hubris of chasing nature into her hiding places as he seeks to
assume Gods prerogative, is foreshadowed by his fathers personality early in the text. His
obsession with science is cemented when, as a teenager, he witnessed lightening reduce a tree to
thin ribbons and was thus introduced to the ideas of electricity and galvanism which caused him to
set down natural history and all its progeny. When reflecting upon this event, Victor deems it as
the last effort made by the spirit of preservation to avert the storm that was even then hanging in
the stars, thus foreshadowing the subsequent events.
The film BR provides another example of how a text is subject to the deep seated influences of
contextual forces as it depicts a pessimistic view of the future which represents the striking changes
that took place during the 1980s. This dystopic text exaggerates the key issues of globalisation,
environmental chaos, technology, consumerism, commerce and population explosions. There is also
an emphasis on the absence of nature as it is only represented through synthetic animals, such as
the owl, and the motif of the constant rain which is oppressive as opposed to purifying. Scotts focus
upon the Asian ethnicity, as seen via the giant visual of the Japanese girl, alludes to the western fear
of cultural displacement and the continuous advertising of the chance to begin again on off world
colonies highlights the issue of over population. Scott utilised a distinct film noir overlay to symbolise
the dark uncertainty created when scientific progress leads to a regression of humanity as opposed
to its advancement.
The objective of scientific advancement within both texts can be separated into two categories; that
of noble intensions and that of personal greed. Although the creators in both texts aim to push the
boundaries of nature, Tyrells ruling ideology is profit as seen when he states, commerce is our goal
here at Tyrell. More human than human is our motto. Tyrells dominance is established
immediately within the Hades scene as the fires from his Aztec-like buildings are reflected by the
eye. The irony of the Tyrell buildings reminiscing Aztec temples, in combination with the symbolism
of the eye belying not a soul but the destruction of natural laws, epitomises the near total loss of
humanity and ascendancy of progress. Tyrells prevailing position is again highlighted through the
enormity of his office, as well as the contrast to the teeming populace in the streets below. While
Victors emotions fuel his reactions and decisions throughout the novel, Tyrell is dictated by his
intellect as opposed to his emotions. Despite this, both creators reject their creations, which is a
mistake that leads to their demise.
The impact of progress and the humanistic discourse of both texts is found at the core of the
representations of the creations. Ironically the question of what constitutes humanity is realised not
through the achievements of the human race, but rather through the virtues their creations possess.
Both texts can be considered to be reworks of John Miltons Paradise Lost, though F takes on a more
explicit approach, and BR utilises an implicit and figurative representation. The creature in F is a
tabula rasa whose soul, while untouched by humanities barbarity is beautiful, but whose body is
repellent. This contrasts, somewhat ironically, with Victors visual humanity but internal inhumanity.
The more the creature learns through the observations of his surroundings, in a similar way as a
child, and begins to feel the force of humanitys cruel, rejecting hand, the more he realises that he is
apparently united by no link to any other being in existence. The creature is indeed the other, or as
David Desser states, the monster, is Woman. This concept, as well as the fact that Victors demise
is a direct result of his male arrogance, allows the text to be viewed from a feminist standpoint as,
at its most profound level, is a Womans novel. The allusions to Paradise Lost are reaffirmed as the
creature vowed eternal hatred and vengeance to all mankind, and subsequently, the fallen angel
becomes a malignant devil.
Allusions to Paradise Lost and feminism are similarly found in BR, however Scotts humanistic
discourse goes further than that of F as the replicants have an understanding of passion and
empathy while being exploited as slaves. The audience is forced to sympathise with their plight and
desire for life as they, specifically Roy and Rachel, represent the potential of humanity. Roys
complex understanding of humanity, confronting aspects of emotion, and the fact that he is the
embodiment of Satan, Adam and Christ, are brought to the fore when he unleashes revenge against
his creator, as well as through the final confrontation between himself and Deckard. His image as the
redeemer is cemented in the films climatic chase sequence through the symbolism of the spike
through his right hand and release of the dove, representing redemption and the Holy Spirit, as it
flies toward the first daylight shot of this entire noir film. Degrees of feminism are also addressed as
all the female characters are quintessential femme fatales or pleasure models and the concept of
equality is never brought to the fore. Rachels realisation of being a replicant is symbolised at the
beginning of the film as she literary and symbolically comes out of the shadows of uncertainty and
into the truth, which ironically leads her to gain further humanity. Deckards realisation that he is in
fact a replicant is a significant element of the film as he picks up the artificial and mythical unicorn
and nods in accepting recognition.
Evidently, through the comparative assessment of the above texts, it is clear that the representation
and exploration of interaction between progress and humanity is a chief, universal concern. This
concern, in combination with unifying concepts, allows texts which are subject to their time to
exceed and challenge the boundaries of their contextual frameworks by resonating with newer
audiences.