Imago Torem Creation Theory and Ethics in Paradise Lost and Frankenstein

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Sarah Morgan

Abstract

Disciplines like religion and science provide us with rich lexica that help us understand and reflect on our mysterious origin and the marvel of life.  If we attempt to understand creation from a biblical approach, we must attempt to understand God.  One of the easiest ways to do this daunting task is to analyze fictional depictions of him and his archetype.  This method of investigation raises some key questions: Why did he create humankind?  Should he be held accountable for our failures?  Moreover, if we are supposedly created in the image of God and therefore possess similar capabilities, must we then ask ourselves these questions as we create our own sentient beings?  Should we judge God and ourselves equally?  John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost (1667) and Mary Shelley’s Milton-inspired novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (1818)1 address these questions brilliantly.  Through close readings of these two works, it is evident that the curiosity we possess over creation is inherent, as is our general desire to create.  Interestingly, we humans often associate creation with control and ownership; think of the way we view property, the extent of our copyright laws, and how we parent.  If we create something, we feel responsible for it and that we have the right to do what we please with it.  We feel proud.  But is pride a justifiable enough reason to create?  Furthermore, is God proud?  I argue while pride is necessary to creation, it should not be the primary motivator, for when it is, it is often flawed and ultimately backfires, as seen through Milton and Shelley’s work.

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English