According to the renowned philosopher Plato, “Human behaviour flows from three main sources: desire, emotion and knowledge.” Yet what does it really mean to be human? Is it determined by your attitudes, values, beliefs or emotions? The definition of a human being is constantly questioned in modern society, defining the ways cultural assumptions, attitudes, values and beliefs are conveyed. The emotional responses of Frankenstein and Blade Runner bring into question the definition of what it means to be human. The ability of both the creator and creation to have a response that signifies humanity blurs the preconceived ideas of what makes one human.
The definition of humanity is a significant fascination for modern day society, creating questionable actions through a variety of different stimuluses and texts, and the characters within, are manipulated to position readers to question this definition
Well-known author, Mary Shelley, wrote Frankenstein in 1818 based on a savage scientist, alongside his creation of a humanly monster. It explores the concept of what it means to be human. Although the scientist, Victor Frankenstein displays the particular external traits of a human, both creator and creation are viewed to develop internal humane characteristics such as emotions as the events unfold.
Under the influence of emotive techniques. Mary has positioned the audience to view both Victor and his monster as similar beings, venge filled and detached, yet from two different worlds. Towards the beginning of the novel, Victor is portrayed as thoughtless and irresponsible, producing a being of such human disgrace; he does not think about the consequences of his creations.
The monster is born into the world, feelings as though he is a burden. He is unable to take responsibility for his murderous misdeeds. The author has revealed him as having inhumane characteristics, the complete opposite of a human.
As the characters of Frankenstein and his monster proceed throughout, humane actions, thoughts and emotions are developed. Emotionally these characters begin to realise their misdoings, realising that they do not need a malicious life to be accepted. As their compassion and empathy grows the discovery of humanity become increasingly significant.
Through the evolution of the novel, Victor Frankenstein becomes fond and empathetic for those surrounding his life. He begins to realise the consequences for his actions, “did I not as his make, owe him all the portion of happiness that it was in my power to bestow?” (Shelley, 1818, p.141). The sympathetic feelings Victor has portrayed for the monster reflects humane empathy, a quality of what it means to be a human.
This develops further into, empathy for the safety of others. When the manipulative monster convinces him of this request Frankenstein’s emotive response is, “I shuddered to think that future ages might curse me as their pest, whose selfishness had not hesitates to buy its own peace at the price, perhaps, of the existence of the whole human race.” (Shelley, 1818, p. 161). Shelley positions the readers to consider what it means to be human, is it to convey an empathetic response to others?
The pain, the self-doubt, the admiration: are these the human actions that are considered acceptable in today’s society? Throughout the novel, the so-called monster displays these feelings and emotions. When overlooking a loving family he states, “I saw no cause for their unhappiness: but I was deeply affected by it” (Shelley, 1818, p.107). He experiences loneliness and sympathy for the pain of another being. The emotional response of the monster raises the question in relation to his humanity.
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Self-doubt is felt by the creature: Is this what it takes to be human? “I am malicious because I am miserable,” (Shelley, 1818, p.140) words as simple as these, creates speculation as to the definition of humanity. He thinks he is less significant than other beings, “If such lovely creatures were miserable, it was less strange that I, an imperfect and solitary being, should be wretched” (Shelley, 1818, p.107)
Both creation and creator have the ability to respond in such way that signifies humanity, positioning readers to question if humanity is determined by how you are created. Mary Shelley has mentioned this meaning through the stylistic devices of the novel. The evolution of the many characters within have allowed for the development of the themes within. Representing both the sad feelings, as well as including a biblical reference, “I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel…” (Shelley, 181, p.96). The aesthetics throughout the novel are greatly reliant on the imagery Shelley has mentioned, developing this through what she wants the readers to reflect on.
The 1982 Ridley Scott film, Blade Runner, assesses the emotion-felt lives of humanity in such a way that the themes advance into greater questioning. Highlighting the lives of the ‘artificially created humans’, the definition of what it means to be human plays a significant role within the film.
The impassioned response reflected during the film, expands into a sense of humanity. The inhumane actions, the manipulation, the consequences, as the film advances, do does the characters. Rick Deckard, the Blade Runner, the earth’s saviour in disguise. What does humanity truly mean? At the beginning, this character is portrayed as rather ungrateful and lonely, yet living his life full of wonder, questioning the meaning of humanity.
The creator of the Nexus 6 replicants, Dr Eldon Tyrell is understood as a manipulative and selfish human, making these creatures for his own amusement. Yet through the development of the film, he begins to notice the possible inhumane actions of the created. Although these creatures were internally full of emotion, this character feels for the world he lives in. “The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long,” (Eldon Tyrell, 2018). He felt for both human society as well as the artificially created humans by repeatedly explaining why he couldn’t give them more life. There was significant growth as Tyrell felt sympathetic for society, creating pathogen fatal enough to kill replicants in case of danger.
Unlike the monster of Frankenstein the synthetically developed creations within Blade Runner, have the physical features of a human being. Does this make a difference to what it means to exist as a human being? Originally, the replicants convey such inhumane and manipulative traits by manoeuvring their way into the lives of other humans.
The development of emotive behaviour increases throughout, allowing their emotions to be felt by those surrounding. As the particular replicant, Roy Batty, becomes greatly induced into the ways of society, his emotion-felt love another becomes perpetual. Thinking he deserves justice once his companion passed, his humane behaviours becomes signified. “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe… all those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain,” (Fullerton, H 2019) in this moment this character displays the actions of one with human instincts, by not taking his enemies life he reflects empathy.
Does the ability for both creator and creation to be able to convey such empathetic behaviours mean that they are human? Ridley Scott has developed and included aesthetic features and stylistic devices to add depth around the question of humanity within the film. The beautiful darkness that this film has engulfed allows the aesthetic features to supports the message communicated. The presence of a dilapidated location has developed the technique of Film Noir, by the dimmed lights, forever pouring rain, deep shadows and endless nights. There are several hidden meanings within Blade Runner, allowing question within the audience.
Both texts of Frankenstein and Blade Runner have been developed around the definition of what it means to be human. The manipulation of characters throughout worldwide texts tend to positions the themes in a way that questions the audience. Despite the absence of physical beauty, the internal emotions of both creator and creation allows the preconceived thoughts of what signifies humanity to be blurred. Yet what does it really mean to be human. Humanity is more than just your physique. It rather refers to the sentimental value given to others, yet who really knows what it means to be human.