As society changes around us, we spot things we never noticed before: high divorce rates, murder rates, and drug use just to name a few. James Riddley-Scott and Mary Shelley noticed and had a fear of child abandonment. In Frankenstein, Shelley explores this subject through the viewpoint of a man, Victor, who creates a child so hideous that he cannot bear to look at it, and consequently deserts it. In Blade Runner Scott explores this matter through a businessman, Tyrell, who makes replicants of humans, the Nexus 6, gives them only four years to live, and sells them as slaves. The children of these creators turn out to be smarter and more human than expected, and revolt against the way society treats them, giving us all a lesson in parenting and child development.
In Shelley's Frankenstein, Victor brings a monster to life only to abandon it out of fear and horror. "The beauty of the dream had vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart" (Shelley, 35). The reader must question the ethics of Victor. After all, he did bring this creature upon himself. This renunciation later comes to haunt Victor, and hurts his creation more than Victor can ever imagine. When Victor leaves the monster, Shelley is exploring abandonment by the parent. Later in the novel, when the monster tries to confront Victor and Victor shows that he does not want any part of the Monster by saying "Begone, vile insect! Or rather, stay, that I may trample you to dust!"(74). Shelley is showing us that the monster is not being nurtured, as a child should. Blade Runner also looks at the roles of parenting and abandonment. When first meeting Tyrell, Roy states, "It's not an easy thing to meet your maker", Scott reveals that the Nexus 6 have been discarded by their family, and have had a lack of a loving relationship throughout their lives.
The idea that parents play a double role as parent and creator continues throughout the stories. Tyrell is looked at as a parent and a way for a longer life. Sebastian and Roy meet Tyrell by riding in an elevator as though acceding to heaven where Tyrell lives. When they enter the businessman's bedroom, Tyrell demandingly asks Sebastian, "milk and cookies been keeping you awake?" just as a father would talk to his son. In Frankenstein, Victor is viewed as a father or God figure that can create another life, an Eve for his Adam. His monster must ascend to a high, cold, purgatory-like mountain before he can ask him for a companion. "I suddenly beheld the figure of a man, at some distance, advancing towards me with superhuman speed. He bounded over the crevices in the ice, among which I had walked with caution...and I felt a faintness seize me; but I was quickly restored by the cold gale of the mountains. I perceived, as the shape came nearer that it was the wretch whom I had created" (98). During these confrontations both creations ask their creators to correct the flaw that has driven them to cause so much death and despair: "Do your duty towards me, and I will do mine towards you and the rest of mankind. If you will comply with my conditions, I will leave them and you at peace; but if you refuse, I will glut the maw of death" (99). Unfortunately, neither Victor nor Tyrell do as they are asked, and in the end, die because of it. The monster and Nexus 6 are only asking that they get what they think they deserve; a life worth living, and a life long enough to enjoy. They have lived a horrible life because of their parents, and are looking for some kind of consolation. Here we begin to see that the newly created beings have developed an awareness of their mistreatings.
The parent is a way to trace a path of existence, which becomes important in both texts. In order to reveal who is a replicant, the Voight-Kampf test is given. This is a test to find a person's emotional responses. Nexus 6 are supposedly made without emotions, and therefore easily discovered by monitoring certain emotional bodily reactions such as pupil dilation. In Blade Runner we begin with a replicant (Leon) taking this test and trying to conceal his identity. Leon appears very nervous while taking this test, and while being asked a question about all the good things he can think about his mother, snaps. Leon screams "My Mother, I'll tell you about my mother," and shoots the person asking the questions. The lack of a parent is a lack of history and identity. Another replicant, Rachel, actually finds out through the test that she is a replicant with an implanted identity. To prove to herself and to Deckard that she is a real human being, she provides proof in the form of a picture of her and her mother when she was young, pleading to him, "Look, this is me with my mother." She believes that a simple picture can represent a person's identity and proof of ones existence, therefore proving a right to exist. Victor Frankenstein forgets about this right of existence when he creates his child. He does not bother to wonder if this child even wants to exist. He is also careless with the monster's appearance, making him too large and ugly for society's eyes. Victor never considered how society, and he himself, would view his creation. Unable to deal with his own child, Victor leaves the monster in the effort to relieve himself of any parental responsibility.
Neglect of children is a main theme for both stories. Victor Frankenstein's monster is representative of the common view that a child that is neglected and abused while growing up will eventually neglect and abuse their children when they grow up. The monster first kills the child he had hoped to adopt, gloating, "I too can create desolation" (102). In Blade Runner, Roy befriends J.F. Sebastian, a geneticist that happily states, "I create my own friends." After Sebastian has smuggled Roy into the Tyrell bedroom, and Roy has convinced himself that Tyrell can be of no use to him, he kills both of them. This type of despair that Roy shows us is significant because it portrays his anger toward his creator, who has neglected him since his conception.
The created beings in these tales become smarter than expected, and soon realize that they have been mistreated. Victor's monster is smart enough to understand that he has been discarded, and children that have been abandoned can easily become devilish in nature. The monster pleads again and again with his audience that he was born good, but compelled by others to do evil. He even argues that if only one person would have been nice to him, he would have changed his ways when he says, "If any being felt emotions of benevolence towards me, I should return them an hundred and an hundredfold; for that one creatures sake, I would make peace with the whole kind!" (105). The monster is put in a place that makes him angry with all of society, and this makes him put very little value on human life. Likewise, the Nexus 6 have little regard for the humans that have made them slaves. Human life to these robot-like creatures is nothing, because human society has put such little emotional value on the replicants as a race.
The mindset of these creations reminds the reader of John Locke's theory of Tabula Rasa, or, clean slate. Locke believed that when we are born, our brain is void of any personality, and that all outward sensations create impressions on us that we later bring out with how we live and what we do. Both creations may have been born benign and are portrayed as child-like, which is supposed to makes us feel sympathy for them when they become violent because we are supposed to understand how much they have suffered by society's hand. But, even with society treating them like slaves, human nature pressed them to learn as much as they could, and to live a happier, more meaningful life.
Both the Nexus 6 and Frankenstein's monster, even after being abandoned, were highly educated. The monster speaks very eloquently throughout the novel, and learned about human society by reading Paradise Lost, Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Romans, and Sorrows of Werter (91). The Nexus 6 often referred to great poets when they spoke; Priss used the line "I think, Sebastian, therefore I am", and Roy paraphrased from William Blake's America, A Prophesy, when he said, "Fiery the angels fell, Deep thunder roll'd around their shores, Burning with the fires of Orc" (qtd. In Chapman sec. 12), showing that they were educated before coming to earth. Through the creations of Victor and Tyrell, we can see a statement being made about the natural curiosity of humans. Even if we are born with a clean slate, our nature is to fill it with as much chalk as possible.
But was this education a good thing? Through the learning experience, Victor's monster gained a self-consciousness of his own isolation from society and man, sorrowfully conveying to Victor "Sorrow only increased with knowledge. Oh, that I ever remained in my native wood, nor known or felt beyond the sensations of hunger, thirst, and heat!" (85). The Nexus 6 learned that they had only a short time to live. Because of this, they decided to return to their maker and find the secrets of living longer; after all, as Leon stated, "nothing's worse than having an itch that you can never scratch."
The bottom line to these works is to love your child no matter how he or she may look like or act. Victor and Tyrell saw their creations as less than human, and therefore treated them as such. If we see our children as less than human, and we neglect them, they may grow to believe that they are monsters. Shelley and Scott believed this, and set out to prove a point. One day our children will grow up, and they will no longer have a clean slate. A grown-up child will reflect all that we have taught them, good or evil. Scott and Shelley wanted to convey to all parents that, to their children at least, they are more than just disciplinarians. They can be the ones to teach about love, and they can bring more meaning into the lives they have created.
List of Works Cited
Blade Runner. Dir. James Riddley-Scott. Perf. Harrison Ford, Joe Turkel, Sean Young, Rutger Hauer, Daryl Hannah, Joanna Cassidy, Brion James, William Sanderson, M. Emmett Walsh, Edward James Olmos, Morgan Paull, Columbia Tri-Star, 1982
Chapman, Murray. Blade Runner Frequently Asked Questions. October 1994
Shelley Mary. Frankenstein. New York: Dover Publications, Inc.