- Created by: olivialcock
- Created on: 03-06-19 15:43
COMPARE AND CONTRAST THE WAYS IN WHICH SCIENCE CREATES SOCIAL OUTSIDERS in Frankenstein and The Handmaid’s Tale
Through their mutual explorationof the scientific domain, both Shelley’s 1818 ‘Frankenstein’ and Atwood’s 1985 ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ explore the ways in which this creates social outsiders. Although more explicitly centralised by Shelley, Atwood also explores the physical and psychological estrangement Offred feels within her own skin when Gilead trumps control over her body in the name of science. She is reduced to a merely biological function, so much so that Offred becomes increasingly outcast from self-recognition: a reality she comes to terms when she describes her body as ‘strange’and ‘outdated’. Conversely, Shelley considers the impacts of unchecked scientific experimentation on the individual, and how the creature’s aesthetical disfigurement prevents him from integrating into mainstream society. WhereasAtwood considers the impacts of scientific and technological apathy upon an individual’s position within society, Shelley more explicitlyhighlights the effects of self-imposed isolation through both Victor and Walton’s ‘secret toils’. There is a prophetic element to the content of bothnovels which heightens their impacts as warning texts. For example, whilst Percy Shelley considers the plot of Frankenstein to be ‘not of impossible occurrence’, Atwood’s novel attracted similar concern with Conor Cruise O’Brien commenting that ‘I only hope it is not prophetic’. The mutual explorationof extreme scientific practice upon the individual’s position within society casts a shadow of events potentially to follow.
Whilst bothOffred and the Creature are physically outcast from society, Offred’s position as an outsider extends much further. She experiences profound feelings of alienation within her own body, and her lack of self-control is exemplified through her ‘obligatory’visit to the doctor: a masculine embodiment of scientific exploitation. These appointments can be likened to regular check-ups women had to have in Ceausescu’s Romania as part of Decree 770. This contextual link adds a prophetic quality in the events that follow. The penetrative associations of the verbs ‘poked’and ‘prodded’are heightened through the use of onomatopoeia, which reinforces the exploitation of his power as an elite male scientist. Offred’s lack of ownership with regards to her own body comes to a pinnacle when she accepts the incontestable power the doctor holds as a man of science. She voices ‘the knowledge of his power hangs nevertheless in the air as he pats my thigh’. The noun ‘power’ in conjunction with the noun ‘thigh’ cements the inextricable link between the authoritative male scientist and the powerless female body. This highlights the commanding power of science, for the male doctor is able to render Offred a defenceless Other even within her own skin. In similarityto the Creature’s hand-crafted abnormal and ‘wretched’exterior, the fate of Offred’s body is out of her hands but rather overruled by the demands of science. She is branded‘a national resource’within the Gileadean Republic, and her function as an ‘ambulatory chalice’. Offred begins to internalise that fact…