Man’s Hubris – The Drive to Be God in Fiction

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I had an interesting conversation with my husband today. We were watching “Jurassic Park” and he commented he had never been interested in dinosaurs. I admitted dinosaurs had never been high on my list of fascinating subjects either. That started me thinking about why I enjoyed the “Jurassic Park” books and movies. It hit me then, rather like having slammed the book over the top of my head.
I was fascinated, not with dinosaurs, but with the notion of man playing God. This drive is nothing new. It goes back to the story of Lucifer being cast out of heaven because he sought to be like God. So off he went, to Hell, and took his playmates with him, rather like a child who was denied the role of leader in a schoolyard game. Of course he is not satisfied to stay in his own yard, but is said to venture out to get more playmates to leave God’s team and join his.
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In “Jurassic Park”, despite the obvious failure of scientists to safely recreate dinosaurs in the first film, they return time and again to attempt to create life. If this sounds familiar, it is. Take a look at Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”. Man seeks to create life using electricity and parts of dead bodies. In other words, man aspires to be God by imitating God’s greatest miracle; creating life out of the lifeless. As a child I had always loved the story of “Frankenstein”. While my friends cowered in terror at the progression of “The Monster” through the film, I sat in rapt fascination as this conglomeration of dead body parts came to life and began to roam the countryside. Desperate to find friends, always misunderstood, he stumbled around, pursued by horrified villagers. In the end of the first film he is killed in a burning windmill. This was no doubt an unconscious reference to the fires of hell. The book “Frankenstein” ends differently with Victor, the creator, pursuing his creation across the frozen wastelands of the far north. Dante’s image of the ninth circle of Hell is a frozen lake of blood. Many early Christian views of hell also portray it as a frozen netherworld.
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My fascination with man playing God apparently extends to others, past and present.The Jewish story of Golem and the creation of robots even represent some notion of man creating life in one form or another. In many ways we are Lucifer. Both horrified by the concept of the ego of a man attempting to emulate God’s greatest miracle, we are also enthralled by the notion. It is incredibly bold. Of course we can’t permit Victor Frankenstein or Dr. John Hammond, dinosaur re-animator, to succeed. But in our hearts perhaps we wish they would. If they can create life, as God has done, then there is the possibility we too can control life, and by extension death. For in the end The Monster is brought to life out of the parts of the dead as the dinosaurs are brought to life from the “frozen” DNA of prehistoric creatures. Man overcomes death and creates life. You can’t get much more God-like than that.
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In the end my fascination with movies and books like “Frankenstein” and “Jurassic Park” appears to be more of a fascination with man’s hunger to be in control, to be God. It is an enthrallment shared by others as evidenced by the multitude of books and films on the subject.
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2 thoughts on “Man’s Hubris – The Drive to Be God in Fiction

  1. Reblogged this on Mark Fine | Ruminations and commented:
    In the writing process the author grasps the role of omnipotent being; tinkering with the destiny and lives of characters created within the synapses of the author’s imagination. But as unique we hope the story we tell will become, and despite the writer’s ingenuity, it’s inevitable to find echoes from yarns, traditions and fears from yesteryear.

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