Monday, June 28, 2021

Mary Shelley and the Bomb


Mary Shelley and the Bomb

Peter Schultz


            “It’s a boy!” This was the code General Groves, head of the US program to build an atomic weapon, used to tell President Truman that the Trinity test had been successful.


            So interesting that, as James Carroll wrote in his book House of War, the image conveyed by this code had “men conceiving and delivering” the bomb as if they had conceived and delivered or birthed a baby boy. [72] It’s interesting too that in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Victor Frankenstein undertook to both conceive and deliver or birth a human being, a male human being, scientifically.


            Apparently then, modern science allows men to rise beyond their natural limits, to do what they cannot do naturally, conceive and deliver or birth “babies,” either human babies or nuclear “babies.” No wonder then that Truman, upon being informed of the successful test, felt “tremendously pepped up” and that he later called the bomb “the greatest thing in history.” Imagine how exhilarating it was to shed nature’s limits by creating something that “grants [its creators] control of Mother Nature.” [72] And, not surprisingly, Truman and his Secretary of State, Jimmy Byrnes, as well as others, just assumed that this creation would allow the United States to control the post-war world and especially the Soviet Union. Victor Frankenstein has similar dreams about his power once he had “discovered the secret of life.”


            Shelley’s Frankenstein ends with horrific bloodshed as the creature, left uncared for by Victor who was shocked by the ugliness of his creation, turns on Victor and kills his lover and wife, as well as his niece. Is this so different from what the world has experienced since the end of World War II, viz., endless wars, genocides, pandemics and other raging viruses? Is this what happens when men overpower nature, when they successfully try to “control Mother Nature?” Mother Nature, and perhaps other mothers as well, has conceived and has tried to birth an order, one that is sustaining and even nurturing. And so perhaps the human quest should be discovering and caring for that order as that is preferable to controlling, managing, and overpowering it. And remember, as an old commercial had it: It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.

No comments:

Post a Comment