Texts through time continue to be relevant because they appeal to a wider public through engaging in universal themes that are timeless. This can be seen in X by Y and P by Q. These texts all deal with core ideas such as hubris and the question of humanity / the use and abuse of technology and shifting definitions of humanity // particular to the periods of the 19th century, in which industrialism and rationalism changed the definitions of the human condition; as well as the period of the 1980s, in which globalisation and rapid consumerism also changed the way people identify with themselves and the world around them. Thus by examining how authors utilised timeless themes in their narratives we are able to engage with the fears of humanity throughout history.
Frankenstein is an accumulation of the concerns in the 1800s as the Industrial Revolution and technological innovations altered values and living at the time. Shelly’s novel highlights the Romantics’ fear of ‘dehumanising’ as people lost their connections to scientific advances. Threough Victor’s decline, “I the true muderer, felt the never dying worm alive in my bosom”, the symbol of the worm explores his decay in humanity the is caused by the passion for science as Romantics looked at is as a means of evil. However the sarcasm and irony in the monster’s speech, “you accuse me of murder and yet you would with a satisfied conscience, destroy your own creature.. the eternal justice of man!” evokes his compassion of the monster as it displays more humanistic traits than his creator. This display of emotion highlights the effects of mass production that caused a loss of connection to nature as people unified amongst the population with the colourless facade. Questions of humanity resonate through the monster, “I was a poor helpless, miserable wretch; I knew, and could distinguish nothing; but feeling pain invade me on all sides, I sat down and wept”. The personification enhances the emotion of the Frankenstein’s monster as it is capable of feeling that strikes the audience for its resemblance to a human. Despite being artifically created the artistic appreciation of the monster in “Remeber, that I am thy creature: I ought to be thy Adam; but I am rather the fallen angel “, demonstrating the literacy allusion to Milton that highlights the he is cultured and is very much like a human. Hence the dehumanising in the industrialised world of the Romantics caused fears of the science and technology as they caused a loss of faith and connection in individuals.
Blade Runner is an extension of the Eighties fear of globalisation and emerging technologies such as IVF, cloning and genetic engineering. In his dystopia Scott expresses his concerns about the changing definitions of humanity as a result of scientific breakthroughs. The commodification of life through the labour market and global mass consumerism can be seen in the “this was not killing it was called retirement” the verbal irony of the title is reinforced by Deckard as he carries out the retirement on Zhora. The slow motion dolly of Zhora repeatedly crashing through glass and the diagetic SFX of a heart beat dramatically reinforces the idea that Deckard is retiring a real person. Her humanity that is conveyed in the ironic “more human than human” motto of the title screen is further demonstrated by the costuming chosen by Scott. Zhora is near naked with transparent rain coat and bared flesh whilst the onlookers and Deckard is fully clothed in dark insectile colours. This visually stipulates the idea that she is more natural individual than her human counterpart. This ambiguity of product and person is further demonstrated in the final scene. Roy is a nexus 6 replicant designed for combat, he is a killing machine. Yet Scott employs the irony of Roy empathizing with Deckard he says “”quite an experience to live in fear isn’t it, that’s what it is to be a slave”. Again Scott delivers the irony of the “more human than human” motif through the introspective compassion displayed by a mere product. As such through caricatures such as Roy and Zhora Scott explores the dimensions of the commodification of human labour and individual identity in a globalised Eighties America.
In contrast the Victorian period echoed fear of the unknown science as they haunteted the predominantly spiritual public. Shelly displays this hubris in Frankenstein as people wielded the knowledge to play god. The ironic declaration, “wealth was an inferior object but what glory would attend the discovery if I could banish disease and render man invulnerable to any but a violent death!” foreshadows Frankenstein’s violent punishment as he acts as God. Shellt reflects the fear in a religious context as Darwin’s theory of evolution alarmed people of the closened boundaries between God. Further Hubris is conveyed through the hyperbole “I succeeded in discovering the cause of generation and life; nay, more, I became myself capable of bestowing animation upon lifeless matter”, conveying Victor’s vision of himself as a God like being. This attitude towards science is precisely the allegory Shelly aims to convey to the Victorian audience, as a result of reckless technological innovations such as Galvanism. Likewise his megalomania can be seen in the line, “Life and death seemed to me ideal bounds…me as its creator and source would owe their being to me”. The biblical allusion reflects Victor abuse of controlling life, foreshadowing the dire consequences of playing God. Shelly portrays her concerns at the time as the religious expressed distress towards the advances in science. Humanity will always be questioned as the actions of people gradually creep closer to god like statuses society will defy and protest against some views as seen through the influences in Shelly’s time.
In the same way, the transcended boundaries between man and God as a result of scientific endeavors in the Eighties have allowed man to play God and control/create life. In Blade Runner Scott’s portrayal of hubris is seen in a long panning shot of the city as the buildings of the Tyrell corporations are ziggurats. Such religious temples foreshadow Tyrell’s downfall as alluded by non existence of nature and the hellish fires and explosions. Hence the references to downfall come from society’s fear of the capabilities of technology as they degrad basic principles. Tyrell is depicted as a God in Blade Runner, pioneering the slavery of replicants as his autocratic tone, “Rachel is an experiment and nothing more” highlights the impact of and greed from the influences of a capitalist society making replicants a mere objects that function for the sole purpose for profits. Consequently Tyrell pays for his action as he is killed by his own creation,” the light that burns twice as bright, burns half as long”. This allegory accentuates Tyrell’s prospect as God with the power and decision to control life and death. Juxtaposed with Roy who has the physical power, this complex relationship between creator and creation demonstrates the degradation of those that defy God. Scott reflects the formation of the rights movements of his time that altered peoples moral code as technology impacted people’s lives as science allowed the confrontation of God.
Thus it can be seen in the Frankenstein and Blade Runner it can be observed how the timeless themes of themes of humanity and dangerous knowledge is manifested throughout these great periods of social and philosophical change. Such significant movements, events and concerns have influenced the writings of respective composers resonating these themes and morals that impact upon the definition of living and being human as well as connecting with the human condition, it is these ideas that have intrigued the past present and future.