Tag Archive: culture


By: Leena Beddawi

America has been expanding its laws surrounding refugees and immigrants crossing its borders for decades, the most drastic set of expansions being created after the attack on September 11, 2001. Throughout these border security and law expansions, one thing that never changed is the law granting asylum for any refugee seeking protection from a country which defines a refugee as a “person who is unable or unwilling to return to his or her home country, and cannot obtain protection in that country, due to past persecution or a well-founded fear of being persecuted in the future ‘on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.’”.

Frankenstein’s creature insists on proving the “truth of my tale” in order to show that there are wildly different perspectives in this world and the means are just as valuable as the ends, how they became who they are, what they overcame to get here, is just as important as their very existence. I could only assume that in giving these letters to Victor, the creature hoped to change his mind about those who he considered being “other”.  One thing we see in many refugee or immigrant story is that they usually perfect models of W. E. B. Du Bois’ double-consciousness.

Double-consciousness is a concept in social philosophy which explains the presence of two apparently unconnected streams of consciousness in one individual, usually having to do with race, ethnicity, or originating country. This is something many refugees go through in order to search for a better life, they learn a whole new language, accustom to another culture, and try to peacefully integrate themselves in a space that is completely foreign to them because this is their only hope.

Safie is a Muslim Arab migrant from Turkey, but very much became a citizen of the world in accordance with Felix’s locations. Wherever he went, she wished to follow, and she made that place her home because they were together. I believe the creature’s pride in “learn[ing] from the views of a developed social life, to admire their virtues, and to deprecate the vices of mankind” helped him to empathize with the conquered native Americans and to see himself in the immigrant or refugee status because they each had felt that same sense of double-consciousness (114).

caravan

The president of the United States of America has chosen to demonize, criminalize, and verbally dehumanize the thousands of asylum seekers currently coming towards the border from Central America, most escaping Honduras, which many news organizations call “The World’s Deadliest Country”. Many of these people are young men, women, children, and elderly. Before they enter, they hope to apply as asylum seekers, which should technically aid them in a legal route of asylum. In the U.S., however, the immigration systems are severely out-of-date and meant to delay asylum to refugees for many small reasons, the main of which is just the subjectivity of opinion which goes with who gets asylum and who doesn’t.

I think if we were somehow able to share each individual story from the thousands of asylum seekers and hardworking individuals looking for a better life, searching for any life, we can actually start changing minds of politicians who see them as nothing but invaders. But if the president was presented with individual stories of the humanitarian crisis the refugees have been running from, one would hope that he would welcome those people with open arms, and allow asylum to those who need it.

In Frankenstein, I believe it was best summed up by Safie when describing why she never want to go back to Asia, where she was “allowed only to occupy herself with infantile amusements, ill-suited to temper her soul, now accustomed to grand ideas and a noble emulation for virtue” (112). This showed not only her desperation to go to another country where she could be herself without constraints, but showed how this alone should be enough to pass through and see if you can make a better life in another country. The very idea of borders exudes a racist, xenophobic ideology which has yet to be updated after many decades of fear mongering anything “other” to us, much like how the creature is treated by everyone they come in contact with, as well. It is no surprise they see themselves in the refugee story since their own double-consciousness must be deafening within themselves.

Strangers

By Jade Graham

The prompt inquires as to why the creature wants his story told through Safie’s letters. The simple answer is because he felt a connection that he hadn’t with anyone else in Shelley’s novel. The creature wants those remaining to understand his story and how he could relate to others. Yet in some ways, Safie (while a minor character) is everything the creature isn’t: alive, beautiful, and embraced by (the Delacey) family. Through her beauty, she is accepted and integrates herself into a good situation. One definitely better than before with her father. Safie becomes a part of a society and culture where the creature could only imagine about. However, once she is exiled much similar to the creature’s situation they find a common ground. Once the creature and Safie are both suffering and homeless, they experience life at its most desperate measures. Exiled and the other cast out, the two desire acceptance and family. Safie only receives this. There are two reasons, that includes beauty and social roles. The creature has neither of these. He is considered ugly and ostracized by other societies because he does not fit in by their standards.

Turkish Girl

Turkish Girl by Karl Briullov

As mentioned before, this falls in line with Safie’s appearance and her status. She is beautiful and has a role. That would be to be a part of a family, marry Felix, and continue that cycle. She’s young, a good age to marry, and already accepted into the family. The best part for Safie is, “remaining in a country where women were allowed to take a risk in society was enchanting to her.” where she could gain freedom through a marriage of Felix whom she truly does love (112). This idea of eagerly wanting to become a part of another society relates to Gloria E. Anzaldúa’s borderland theory. Safie wants to leave her past and culture behind in exchange for a better life in a new society. She and the creature want to pursue a better life and will give it all up because of their past experiences. They want to become a part of a different society and culture where they can have freedom and chances.

The Truth of Their Tale

In Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein, the creature wished to prove to Victor “the truth of my tale” through Safie’s letters written to Felix. Although Safie is a Muslim Arab migrant from Turkey seeking refuge, the creature very much identifies with Safie because she is a foreigner, who is different from those who she is surrounded by and he too, seeks refuge from society after being outcasted. The creature even goes as far as calling De Lacey, Felix, and Agatha his “protectors.” The creature also connects with Safie in that “she was neither understood by, nor herself understood, the cottagers” (106). On a larger scale, the creature is not only misunderstood and unable to fully understand the cottagers, but also Victor, his creator, and the people that he encounters. As Felix teaches Safie their language, the creature makes use of it and learns from it as well. In addition to learning the system of human society, he also obtains a “cursory knowledge of history, and a view of the several empires at present existing in the world” (108). Upon learning of the discovery of America, he further empathizes with Safie and weeps with her “over the hapless fate of its original inhabitants” (108) and the oppression that they face.

The idea of borderlands, by Anzaldua represents a “crossing of borders of multiple identities” (Parker, 312). In other words, the term is used to describe both physical and invisible barriers. For Safie, she deals with crossings of physical barriers between countries to escape with her father and Felix from the prison, “through France to Lyons, and across Mount Cenis to Leghorn” (112). In contrast, the creature faces more emotional, internal barriers as he struggles to express his true identity and emotions to others and therefore does so through Safie’s letters, claiming that they are the truth of his tale. Both the creature and Safie in these ways are considered inhabitants of the borderland, struggling with their cultural identities, which ultimately proves how the creature identifies with Safie.

-Serena Ya

– Mark Acuña

In the story of Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, we see a glimpse of how exactly the effects of the monster has on the overall subplot revolving around victor and the societal actions and issues that are brought up to light. A girl named Safie has a Christian Arab mother, who is enslaved by the Turks for her different views. On page 317 in “Postcolonial and Race Studies”, it demonstrates the importance’s of what Critical Race Theory is. It is interpreted as a theoretical framework in the social sciences that uses critical theory to examine society and culture as they relate to categorizations of race, law, and power. The text states that “Derrick Bell, a founding figure of critical race theory, argues that in the united states, white jurists and leaders began to support civil rights not so much from a commitment to people of color as from a desire to protect entrenched white interest. The very impression that societal norms have taken throughout the years of modern and post America. In response to Victor Frankenstein and his encounter with the letters given by the monster, it shows that Safie demonstrates that cultural differences are a parallel to the monster’s willingness to learn and educate itself in order to fit in. The monsters understanding of education and his culture shows that he doesn’t know his own creator, and that he has been outcasted and labeled as unnatural and not part of the social norms for the monster itself did not chose its own path for being put behind boarders and restrictions. The monster only wishes to be accepted into a society that accepts itself for who it is, not for who it is portrayed by.

Inconsistent Equality

By: Leena Maria Beddawi

In Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Men, the feeling of melancholy is severely prevalent, not only in his admonishment of the form of justice the we internalize in society and politics, but also of the misogyny that has embedded itself into their very culture, surrounded them in all forms of life. Told best in this statement, “you love the church, your country, and its laws, you repeatedly tell us, because they deserve to be loved; but from you this is not a panegyric: weakness and indulgence are the only incitements to love and confidence that you can discern, and it cannot be denied that the tender mother you venerate deserves, on this score, all your affection” (51).  Her view of men, and  the good-natured man view of a man, that loves his country but not his women, and how the men were vehemently believed to be of higher value than women, and especially in his political vantage point, this was amoral and misogynistic. Wollstonecraft would look at this story of Justine’s trial (or lack thereof) as a product of the already messed up system.

Chivalry

In “Frankenstein”, Justine is put on trial for the murder of the young William Frankenstein, and if Wollstonecraft were to read this story in the way Shelley described it, he would gag at the very disturbing story. Victor Frankenstein can save Justine, he is the only one who is incredibly certain of her innocence, “Nothing in human shape could have destroyed the fair child. He was the murderer! I could not doubt it. The mere presence of the idea was an irresistible proof of the fact.” (75), because he created the very thing that killed his brother, William. But, since Victor was a self-serving man with a God-complex, he believed himself to be of higher value, even if he did feel guilt, he still allowed it to take place, still allowed Justine to be imprisoned, and still believed his life held more meaning. Wollstonecraft would most certainly see this as a reflection of the universal view of the women in their society since they saw them as less than, and even then, she knew “such a glorious change can only be produced by liberty, inequality of rank must ever impede the growth of virtue” (48-49). Although, in this case, liberty is not in question, since Victor merely had to tell the truth to show his respect or morality.

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I don’t know about the other students in the course at large, and maybe my assumptions were trivial, but as a child I believed Frankenstein to be the monster and not Victor Frankenstein the scientist. I haven’t been under this impression for quite sometime, however this was undoubtedly the case in my youth.  Frankenstein was a ferocious monster, incapable of effectively communicating with the human world, physically unappealing, and seeking to randomly destroy other life. I cannot say how I came about these conclusions, however I knew they could not be self generated ideas. After all, most preconceived notions are formed by the influence of one’s surrounding cultural environment. In the novel the monster does possess the ability to converse, and although physically unappealing, experiences a desire for human love. When this love is denied him, he turns violent, unable to comprehend why he is unworthy of the same treatment as the other humans he encounters. He is even rejected by his own creator, something that would lead to huge psyche flaws and an inability to deal with this isolation, as indicated by the ensuing killing spree. I googled the phrase “why do people think Frankenstein is the monster” in hopes of finding individuals who believed the same myth as myself. On another blog in particular, a mom discussed the concern she had for the misleading reference to “Frankenstein’s brain” in the opening credits of a popular cartoon. http://blogcritics.org/culture/article/frankenstein-is-not-the-monster/ While the words are sung in the opening credits, the characters of the cartoon open the brain of the monster, implying that Frankenstein is indeed the monster and not the scientist, his creator.  I do not know the origin of my false beliefs about Frankenstein, more specifically his actual identity, however I am not alone in my assumptions. Our culture helped shape not only my beliefs about the character but is continually and currently shaping the ideas of this generation’s youth.