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Many people say that Mary Shelleys Frankenstein postdates the Enlightenment that it is a looking-back on the cultural phenomenon after its completion and a first uncertain reaction to the movement I must disagree There is no after the Enlightenment A civilization does not simply stop learning Where is the point at which someone stands up and says Okay thats enough Enlightening for now I think were good for another few centuries For better or for worse the Enlightenment is still going on today As the Information Age advances we continue to invent and build Exploration now reaches to the depths of the oceans and the nearer regions of space We peer beyond the atom beyond the sub-atomic particle delving ever deeper into the secrets of science to find that ultimate point at which it converges with philosophy The question is do we want to The picture on the cover of our edition of Frankenstein is Joseph Wright of Derbys An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump -- an appropriate scene not only for how it recalls Shelleys mental state but also for how well it illustrates precisely that doubt about the Enlightenment the novel was written to express All around a table at which a scientific experiment that harms a living creature is being conducted are seated various people of differing social positions and similarly differing reactions to the event at hand A pair of inquisitive young men look on eagerly a frightened woman turns her head away in abject horror a young girl stares apprehensively unsure of what to think That young girl is us And based on what we see in the air pump we must decide whether we will become the frightened woman or the interested men I find little room to doubt that Shelley is trying to instill some sense of fear in her reader For not only does Victor Frankenstein loathe his own creation
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