A Scientific Comparison Between Voltaire

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A Scientific Comparison Between Voltaire’s Micromegas And Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein Or The Modern Prometheus Essay, Research Paper Science Fiction, succinctly defined, is a literary genre generally characterized in form as a world of exaggerated drama which argues a social commentary using current scientific knowledge as its evidence. From the emergence in the 18th century of modern Science Fiction to the ‘birth of the book’ in the 19th century, each period is distinct, yet at times similar, in their respective techniques of elucidation. From the 18th century, Voltaire’s Micromegas, in its highly ironical form, is a perfect demonstration of the time’s combination of satire and alienation; while from the 19th century, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, or The Modern

Prometheus, is a parody of gothic literature and of Oedipus Rex. Ultimately, 18th century Science Fiction uses satire and alienation while 19th century Science Fiction deals mainly with a parody of the Oedipus Complex . In Micromegas, Voltaire uses science to present the philosophic notion that there is an absurdity to human beliefs and actions. His work suggests that our main faults and vices are inherent to our inaccurate and misguided rationality. By mocking and belittling these faults using sarcastic and ironic devices which logically and scientifically support each other, Voltaire s work allow people to see the incoherence of their own though. He demonstrates this by commenting on the absurdity of war and God: Those sedentary and slothful barbarians, who, From their palaces,

give orders for murdering A million of men and then solemnly thank God for Their success (RABKIN, 67). At the root of his social criticism is a program of reformation. Voltaire s greatest tool in Micromegas is his ability to use alienation to make the seriousness of his argument felt without removing the sarcastic undertones of his satire. The use of alienation allows his points to be fully expressed without offending the reader. For instance, Voltaire strongly objects to the metaphysical and theological views of the world; our soul is neither spiritual nor immortal, rather, our essence is based in our thoughts. He suggests that we must consciously create a division between our faith and our powers of reason because it is impossible to ever know the omnipotent, omniscient, and

eternal nature of God. Instead, the key to a proper understanding of our existence will come from an investigation of the unchangeable laws of our universe that Voltaire demonstrates through his description of a human soul: The soul is perfection and reason, having power To be such as it is[ ] The soul[,] is a pure spirit Or intelligence, which has received before birth all the Metaphysical ideas; but after that event it is obliged To go to school and learn anew the knowledge It hath lost (RABKIN, 68). This anti-clerical concept could be found by many to be offensive, but by using alienation to create an alter-reality, its not a direct attack but the lesson is still learnt. Thus, Voltaire, by denouncing the hypocrisy of scholasticism, provides people with a chance for

independence of thought; he allows people an opportunity to step outside of themselves and judge wether or not his commentary has merit. Ultimately, 18th Century Science Fiction is characterized by satirical writing as well as the tecknique of using alienation. Mary Shelley s Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, is very distinct of the 18th Century style of Science Fiction which is typified by Voltaire s work; it is a parody of creation and of the Oedipus Complex . This story is about a scientist who tries to re-create the work of God and galvanize an inanimate object to give it sentience. Shelley turns Frankenstein s creation into his Doppleganger, a mirror image of the self. In the book, creator and creation are really just one self-reflecting different sides of human