“A New Life” by Ramsey Campbell
For senior students who are reading “Frankenstein” and then comparing it to other works of fiction, “A New Life” is a great story. I understand that those of you in Mrs. Gebhart’s class have read it.
Campbell’s fiction takes “Frankenstein” and looks at the story from the point of view of the ‘monster’—who isn’t a monster at all, but rather, the brain and intellect of a serious philosopher placed in a body that feels too big, “bloated.” The philosopher—who taught in a university and reflects on Pythagoras, Plato, Kant, von Herder, and Goethe—had tried to save a little girl from drowning in the Danube and himself drowned in the effort. Upon awakening in a pitch-dark cell, he moves through a series of thoughts. Is he alive and saved? Is he dead? Is he in hell, with demons coming in to torture him?
Anxiety turns to deep fear of his condition. This works well with the ethical questions on ‘creating life’ that you are being asked as you study “Frankenstein.” After reading about the philosopher turned monster, I wonder whether you stopped to think about humankind’s responsibility in creating life. Could you discuss these question which you will later debate in class?
1. What is a soul? Does a soul differ from a spirit?
2. Where does a soul come from? Does it only begin to exist at the time of birth, at conception, or possibly before conception? Does it ever cease to exist?
3. Do other animals have souls or are they unique to human beings?
4. In man’s quest to study and manipulate the natural process of reproduction and the creation of life, does man have an ethical or spiritual responsibility to protect, advance, or abstain from scientific experimentation with human life in any form, or should there be no limit to experimentation in the name of science and medical advancement?