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Character Comparison in Science Fiction Works Essay

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Updated: Aug 15th, 2021

Introduction

Analyzing literary works is quite a complicated matter which presupposes some educational background of the reader and his or her ability to understand properly the underlying symbols and signs expressed by the author of this or that work by various means and tropes. The creations of science fiction genre of literature are characterized by their specific features which are not typical of works of any other style. Science fiction works are distinguished by attempts to predict future modeling all possible and impossible ways of its development; another their common feature is that scientific facts or hypothesis are mixed in them with fantastic events, unreal creatures and their mysterious properties.

The difference between science fiction and other genres of literature becomes evident – science fiction depicts unreal or hypothetically possible (under certain conditions including the development of science and compliance with the laws of nature) events while other literary styles deal either with absolutely real matters (historical literature, detectives, psychological novels, etc.) or with absolutely unreal ones (fantasy genre in which the events are depicted that could not take place in reality under no circumstances).

Character Comparison

Taking into account all the above said we are going to carefully analyze the two science fiction works or, to be more exact, analyze and compare their characters. These literary masterpieces are “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley and “Oryx and Crake” by Margaret Atwood. In order to understand more properly the plot of these books and the traits the authors gave to their main characters, let us provide certain information about the authors.

Mary Shelley was an English fiction, drama and novel writer (1797 – 1851). “Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus” published in 1818 is her most famous fiction work which combines the above enumerated features characteristic to the science fiction with novelist skills of the author. She is also famous for such novels as “Matilda”, “The Last Man” and others. Margaret Atwood is the representative of the modern science fiction.

She is a Canadian fiction and fantasy writer, interested in the fields of scientific progress, genetic engineering and its consequences for the future of the mankind. Her worldwide famous works are “The Edible Woman” (1970), “The Handmaid’s Tale” (1983), “The Robber Bride” (1994) and others. “Oryx and Crake” is the newest novel by Margaret Atwood, and it is considered to be the best work by this author.

As the authors are the representatives of different epochs and directions of science fiction genre their works display certain differences. While Shelley’s work concerns the fantastic events that took place in the time contemporary to the author, the setting of “Oryx and Crake” is a far future when, as the author predicts, the mankind will be under the threat of extermination and extinction. Nevertheless, it is needless to say that both works present the creations of one and the same genre, and this fact explains the stylistic and pragmatic similarities they display. Both novels deal with the part of science in the future of the mankind and with the role, positive or negative, a personality can play when given uncontrollable powers by natural and scientific knowledge.

To start the research part of this essay we should define the objects of the above announced analysis and state the aims of the work. The characters under analysis are the heroes of the novels “Frankenstein” and “Oryx and Crake” – Victor Frankenstein and Crake respectively. The essay will be dedicated to the comparative analysis of these two characters in order to find out the similarities and differences between the traits they possess and to evaluate critically the skills used to portray these characters.

I would like to start the comparative analysis of the characters with examining the main hero of the novel by Mary Shelley – Victor Frankenstein. This young doctor was interested in the works of Ancient and Medieval scientists like Paracelsus, Agrippa and Albertus Magnus since his childhood. Victor’s father and school teachers were not enthusiastic about this as they considered all those authors to be pseudo-scientists and their works to be misleading for people who start their studying process. But Victor did not give up his ideals and continued to study the works by Paracelsus. These works fired his mind with the idea of giving life to inanimate objects, idea of reanimating the dead.

According to his father’s wish Victor started attending the course in chemistry. At first he was not impressed by the study but then he realized that this practical modern science can help him greatly in realizing the dream of his whole life – the combination of the knowledge got from the works by Paracelsus with the power given by chemistry and other sciences at the modern stage of their development enables a person to rule the nature, i. e. to change what the nature does and to reanimate the dead. The idea was a positive one – bringing back someone whose life was cut short is a nice intention, but the results did not coincide with the basic ideas, because Victor did not mange to control the power of the knowledge concentrated in his hands (Goodall, 19).

Victor was in doubt about creating the being using his fantastic knowledge because he was not sure about the results of his experiment. But then he decided to try his luck and, as it turned out later, made the greatest mistake in his life. The creature composed of the parts of several dead bodies was animated by Victor, who hoped it to be a peaceful servant or friend. But the conscious of the creature turned it into a monster hating the world because there were no female creature of the same kind.

Victor was not brave enough to make another being like this and the monster ran away to the mountains. Frankenstein followed him but could not make him go back to the house of his maker. The monster killed Victor’s best friend, then his bride Elizabeth and soon the health of the doctor himself failed and he died – not by the hands of his creature but by the fruit of his deeds. Thus, good intentions brought fatal results to the man who had only a noble purpose – giving life to those who were deprived of it (Shelley, 1961)

The case of Crake from the novel “Oryx and Crake” by Margaret Atwood resembles the story of Victor Frankenstein in some details but the essence of this issue is absolutely opposite to what we have seen in the Shelley’s novel. Crake, who is positioned as the negative character of the novel, has a terrible aim – he plans to exterminate the whole mankind with its problems and weak points and to flood the Earth with creatures having no drawbacks – Crakers (Dimarco, 170).

Crake was originally just a perfect student of genetics possessed by the idea of making a creature with no weaknesses typical of human beings. His conflict with the protagonist of the novel, Jimmy the Snowman, is the leitmotif of the book. Firstly, Jimmy was trying to prevent Crake from realizing his horrible plan of extermination the mankind but he did not succeed – Crake created a pandemic that killed all the representatives of the Homo Sapiens species.

The only humans left were Crake, Jimmy and Oryx, the girl they both were in love with. This fact was the cause of the most serious conflict between Jimmy and Crake and resulted in Jimmy’s killing Crake. The creator of a new race on Earth was dead and left Jimmy as the one responsible for the future of this race. The story ends when Jimmy becomes the ruler of the Crakers and makes Crake the creator god for these beings. The man who planed to rule the world of the creatures he made himself was dead but even in this state he to control those whom he created (Atwood, 2003).

As we can see, the characters under analysis have similarities as well as certain differences. They both made attempts to use the knowledge they had to create new lives, and they both felt the real power of their knowledge. But the purposes they used their powers were opposite: Victor Frankenstein wanted to give life to dead people in order to bring people new chances, while Crake’s idea was to prove his superiority over other scientists and to create the being that would obey only to their maker.

When Frankenstein saw the result of his experiment he regretted it greatly and did his best to eliminate the problems his creature brought; Crake never regretted the extermination of the whole mankind and only death stopped him from completing his terrible plan. Finally, both Victor Frankenstein and Crake wanted to play the role of the God who gives and takes lives, but Victor, at least, did not plan to kill all people on Earth in order to get free space for his creature to live.

Conclusion

All this leads us to the following conclusion of this analytical essay: the features of the characters of Victor Frankenstein and Crake present the generalized character of the whole mankind with its permanent desire to be the master of nature, to control life and death and to change the world it did not create. Both characters are in some ways similar to each other, but at the same time they differ a lot. They both tried to subdue the nature and to get power of giving and taking life and they both were punished for this attempt. They both made mistakes but only Victor understood it and tried to correct. They both died but the one who deserved life became forgotten while the other one, although dead left in the memory of his creatures as the creator god.

Works Cited

Atwood, Margaret. Oryx and Crake. London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2003.

Dimarco, Danette. “Paradice Lost, Paradise Regained: Homo Faber and the Makings of a New Beginning in Oryx and Crake.” Papers on Language & Literature 41.2 (2005): 170.

Goodall, Jane. “Frankenstein and the Reprobate’s Conscience.” Studies in the Novel 31.1 (1999): 19.

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