“The Dichotomy of Science” is the final product of my work in my WR 100 seminar, “The Mad Scientist in Film and Literature.” The purpose of this paper was to develop an interpretive argument on the topic of mad scientist figures.
I at first grappled with settling on a thesis for this project, considering the broad scope of both the prompt and the source material. From Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus to Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove, there seemed to be an endless number of directions in which to begin my writing. Should I focus on the hubris of these men and women? Should I argue that they were victims of society’s scorn? These questions proved early roadblocks in my writing process.
In order to decide how best to craft a thoughtful argument, I went back to what inspired me to take this course in the first place. Growing up, I loved watching the old black and white movies that breathed life into the pages of Mary Shelley and Robert Louis Stevenson. Seeing the lightning flashes illuminate Doctor Frankenstein’s laboratory in the 1931 Universal Pictures masterpiece or Doctor Jekyll’s first transformation before the mirror in Rouben Mamoulian’s film of the same year still amazes me to this day. I chose to take this seminar in order to learn more about these characters with whom I grew up, to delve into their long literary histories which extend much farther back than the silver screen.
Over the span of the course, I learned how these mad scientists were truly complex characters. None of them fit the bill for the maniacal madman hell-bent on ruling the world. Rather, I found each of them was caught up in the utopias they envisioned as a result of scientific progress. I thus found the central argument for my final paper.
Looking back on this piece, I wonder if I could have made a more convincing argument had I devoted the entirety of the paper to one specific work. I feel I sacrifice depth in my argument in favor of breadth. However, I am nonetheless pleased with my work and I am glad that I can introduce the figure of the mad scientist to a larger audience.
PATRICK S. ALLEN is a sophomore in Boston University’s Sargent College of Rehabilitation and Health Sciences. A National Merit and Cardinal Medeiros Scholar, he is majoring in Human Physiology and is pursuing a career in medicine. Born in Medford, Massachusetts, Patrick hails from Wilmington and is a graduate of Malden Catholic High School. As a Eucharistic minister, he is an active member of BU’s Catholic Center. Patrick would like to thank his family, Professor Christensen for his guidance throughout the writing process, and Dr. David Shawn for his useful commentary.