So, what is the theme of Frankenstein? High school logic says it’s “Don’t play God.” This moral goes back to the Greek tragedies, with which Shelley would have been familiar.
But I read the book a different way, I guess. For me, one part struck me more than others–right after the monster comes to life, Dr. Frankenstein abandons it. He decides that he doesn’t want to have anything to do with the monster and runs away. He just leaves it.
For me, the danger wasn’t in the technology, but in the fact that he didn’t take responsibility for it. The monster needed him to teach it how to deal with the world (and possibly integrate into society?), but the doctor left it alone. He takes one look at it, decides it’s ugly and runs away.
For me, the theme was, “Take responsibility for what you create.” Which if you think about it, is a pretty female theme–did the monster need a father?
Shelley wrote the novel between 1816 and 1818 (during the Regency era, not Victorian times). There were a lot of unemployed men hanging around, having just come back from the Napoleonic wars. Manufacturing was just starting to be automated, taking away possible jobs for them. This created a lot of social dissonance, you can imagine, unemployment and crime.
A big contributing factor to crime was a) the lack of a modern police force and b) people drank gin because the water wasn’t safe. You could get “Drunk for a penny, dead drunk for two pence” (a sign hung above many tavern doors). Counting for inflation and currency exchange, that would be about forty/eighty cents.
In Shelley’s world, she saw machines taking people’s jobs and the social problems this caused. Did she write the novel to encourage people to take responsibility for the effects their machines had?