Walt Whitman: Poems

The Resposibilities of Creation

The idea of voluntary creation, of giving birth to something utterly original from some established foundation, instantly attracts unanswerable inquiries of morality and the nature of novelty and life. However, when invention is attempted on a massive scale, and entire social structures and ideologies are threatened by the newborn, the issue of responsibility takes precedence. In Mary W. Shelley's Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus and Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself", Whitman and Frankenstein create anomalies, 'monsters' of overwhelming magnitude (a brutishly realistic American identity, and a physical daemon, respectively), and face the consequences of the ensuing relationships. Eventually, from differing perspectives on similar God-like positions, these 'mad scientists' veer in opposite directions from their paternal obligations, one merging with his adored creation, the other reacting violently in revulsion and seething hate.

Both 'children' occur as experiments. Frankenstein, unlike morally-inclined Clerval, obsessively studies the most ambitious sciences, "the secrets of heaven and earth...the mysterious soul of man..." (Shelley, Ch 2) His aim, ironically, is to test...

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