Tag Archive: dehumanization


By: Katherine Hernandez

 

The daily struggle of adversity has become the poster child for the current state of the United States. No matter what you do, marginalization against many minorities makes the headlines of every news outlet possible. Immigrants who are fleeing their countries seeking asylum are faced with the discrimination “Americans” throw at them. The worst part is that America has a history for forgetting its humble beginnings.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein demonstrates the theme of dehumanization when it is expressed through the deep remorse ‘ the creature’ feels towards the internal colonization Victor and society have done to him. ‘The creature’ feels the split between feeling as though he should be a part of society, however, constantly facing the alienation not only his creator bring son to him but humanity does as well. The constant faces this feeling of having nowhere to be long until he comes across the Delacey family; here his first sense of belonging to a group of people and becoming civilized is what makes him realize how wrongly society has treated him. Although ‘the creature’ has a taste of societal norms he can’t help but come to the realization of the dehumanization he has felt his whole life, thus he finds a strong connection in Safie, turkish women who faced the internal colonization he too faced. Here he felt remorse and truly understood what it is like to be a minority, to be discriminated and facing consequences for things that they have no control over. The idealizing of humanity was a nasty construct to him that caused pain and suffering. Much like Safie, he did not have a strong support system in what he wanted for himself and instead faced adversity for what made him different. ‘The creature’ thus gives Victor a version of his own truth when he presents to him the copy of letters which tell Safie’s own dehumanizing and tragic story.

The struggles ‘the creature’ faces with his conscious sense of self and the way that he is able to connect with Safie’s story, ring true to our present-day life. Not only in America but all over the world, immigration is occurring because of different causes. War, famine, disease, these are all reasons people leave their home country and seek a better life, however, that life that they seek becomes almost unattainable with the discrimination they face by society. Minorities don’t often face the same story of struggles but why all share the same discrimination and heartache.

The Futility in an Objective Worldview

Samantha Shapiro

While this may be a feminist interpretation of Shelley’s Frankenstein, Anne Mellor’s focus in her work, “A Feminist Critique of Science,” tends to revolve around the male figures within Frankenstein and how they subvert a feminine “nature” to further an ego in an objective view of science, “more pervasively, [to seek] power over the female…to not only penetrate nature and show how her hidden womb works but actually steal or appropriate that womb” (13).

“Usurp the power of reproduction”

Mellor’s argument is used to attack science and establish a foreboding viewpoint on the current state of science in the modern day (12). It centers on the “dangers of impersonal and instrumental modes of reasoning” but rather than pit sciences and humanities against each other, writes of a dehumanized creation, “denied both parental love and peers” (13) brought into the Earth by unnatural means, creating a paradoxical relationship between the creator and his creature.

A passage within Frankenstein’s recounting of his scientific practicing and experiments shows a change in Frankenstein’s views when commentating on his actions to Walton. He primarily focused on his blame in losing a “calm and peaceful mind,” allowing “passion [and] desire to disturb his tranquility,” which, if done so, makes the study one of which that weakens “affections,” and is “unlawful, that is to say, not befitting the human mind” (58). As readers, we can interpret this as a reflection on the past, and his lack of adherence to nature, as purported by Mellor, seen by him and noted as pursuing his reanimation dreams as scientific, or in Mellor’s view, “the ‘object of [his] affection’ – that can and should be penetrated, analysed, and controlled” (12).

The apple of his eye, so to say

An interpretation of Anne Mellor’s lack of mentioning this passage could deal with its lack of adherence to Frankenstein’s masculine-centric, scientific view—Frankenstein desires to show to Walton the problems that arise with the “attempt to gain power…to ‘pursue nature to her hiding places’” after seeing the effects of doing so. As outside readers, the futility of change appears to be centric in his view as well, a sort of resignation throughout his recounting shows how bound, “enslaved,” or gradual our tranquil “domestic affections” are without the destruction of simple, natural pleasures “in which no alloy can possibly mix” (58-59). The natural and the unnatural, within this recounting, comes to light in conflict, just as seen with prior examples, but is unused by Mellor to forward a feminist-focused viewpoint.

Frankenstein: The Novel vs. the Myth

By: Katherine Hernandez

Stereotypically when a person thinks of Frankenstein they think of the mass-produced Hollywood version of a monster. Green flesh, incoherent sentences, and idiotic ideologies all play a role when thinking of Frankenstein. As a child, I remember wanting to dress up as Frankenstein for Halloween and wondering where I would get the dye from.

Most of us touch base with the true origins of Frankenstein in high school. We become familiar with author Mary Shelley and try to erase the all too well-known image of the green monster that has been drilled into our brains. Suddenly, the big scary monster was a scientist and not the creation. My sympathy shifted from creator to that who was created and somehow it made the full circle back to the scientist; the true Frankenstein.

As I began to familiarize myself with Mary Shelley’s book again, I remembered one main topic that was discussed in my earlier years. Should we sympathize with man for being able to play God or should we sympathize with those created by the divinity of what they know as God? It dawned on me that perhaps the reason we as a society decided to adopt the monster as Frankenstein’s rather than the scientist is perhaps because we relate to the scientist too much and as humans, we refuse to see our own flaws and faults. As my reading for this class continued, I was able to see myself not only as the monster but also as Victor Frankenstein and I always found it easier to sympathize with the monster rather than Victor.

The myth of Frankenstein was created for us to fear something with dehumanizing qualities, thus allowing us to feel no remorse for the creature, however, the novel challenges us to feel sympathy towards the creature and view our own wrongdoings perhaps in a light that makes us uncomfortable. The dehumanization of the Frankenstein myth allowed it to be a success in the Hollywood and science fiction industry but Mary Shelley’s interpretation begs for a different approach. One of self-evaluation and the chance to give sympathy to those around us in which we harm with our self-endeavors.

 

frankenstein

 

Women in Science?

I might just be tired, but I found Mellor’s argument, all in all, fairly reasonable. However, I don’t agree with Mellor in all aspects. I don’t think that it’s unreasonable to say that thinking of science as a challenge to control a “passive and possessable female” will cause research to be self-furthering and “morally insensitive” (Mellor). However, Mellor didn’t touch on the effects of gendering Nature and the sciences on female scientists and researchers. (Or I could’ve missed that because I’m so tired.) Science as a “passive and possessable female” speaks prominently to a male audience and leaves little room for and blocks the progression of women in science. Of course, not to say that women cannot also want to possessively bend Nature to their wills. I think it’s strange that Mellor doesn’t talk about this that much. Maybe she might’ve implied that this language opposes women in science; perhaps she is relying on their omission to speak for them. However, in the 18th-19th centuries (and before, and after), there were still many women in science. A quick Google search takes us to a Wikipedia list of names. I just feel like women could have constituted a more visible part of her argument. All of her sources were from men of science. By ignoring women, Mellor seems to exemplify the very erasure that the gendering Nature causes. How science is thought of–as a woman to be taken rather than what it actually is (the natural world, which is for the most part gender-neutral)–causes the “oppressive sexual politics,” rather than the actual manipulation of nature. If we get rid of all these women comparisons/personifications, then we should be good.

Exulting in Death

The last two paragraphs of Frankenstein give a stark description of the effects of intense and prolonged social rejection on an individual. Social rejection has the potential to emotionally pain a person so badly that they feel the emotional pain far outweighs any physical pain or fear of death. “Sad and solemn enthusiasm,” seems to be quite a contradiction. Normally, “enthusiasm” would be associated with words like “excitement,” “happy,” and “joy.” In most contexts, enthusiasm is a positive looking-forward to something. However, the creature’s enthusiasm is for his death. If he ever feared death, he no longer fears it now. He looks forward to it. The creature also says he will, “exult in the agony of the torturing flames.” “Exult” is another word with normally positive connotations, and “agony” and “torturing” normally has negative connotations. The pairing of these contradictory connotations reveals the creature has truly lost his desire for life, and that he will only find joy or happiness in death.

The creature’s existence has become painful to him. Exacting revenge against his creator was not enough to make up for the fact that society completely and utterly rejected him. That rejection is so painful that the creature wants to, “ascend [his] funeral pile triumphantly and exult in the agony of the torturing flames.” “Torturing flames” could be taken as a reference to hell, which would imply that the creature would be happier in hell than on Earth. A more literal interpretation would be the creature’s cremation. However, the creature doesn’t have anyone to light his funeral pile for him after his death. Therefore, if he truly desires and plans to revel in the flames, he has to light the fire himself. He will have to burn himself alive. The pain of rejection by society and his creator is as or even more intense than being burned alive. Because he has been shown repeatedly that he has no place, the creature desires death.

The fact that there have only been two posts since the most recent blog summary makes me review the semester in general and think of how much analysis we have dedicated towards the novel Frankenstein. We have explored different facets of literary criticism that have opened unique perspectives toward understanding the novel. For instance, earlier in the semester we learned of Edmund Burke and his theory on the concepts of beauty and sublimity and how the creature evokes the sublime out of the people it meets. This sublime, which represents “terror,” rugged,” “roughness,” and/or “massive” (C.P)– all terms that the creature embodies to or evokes from others– relates back to how society sees the creature and what that societal perception reveal about the era this novel was written in. Of course, early nineteenth century Europe was still reeling from the authoritarian Napoleon’s conquests, which stemmed from the failure of the early-1790s French Revolution, an event that shocked the higher classes of European society and renewed fears of lower-class uprisings everywhere. The author, Mary Shelley, herself was raised in the middle-class, and despite her parents being strong liberals Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin she was fairly conservative in her views toward the lower-class, but still generally conflicted. She conveyed these contrasting views partially through a rough, rugged, horrific, gruesome representation of the lower-class, embodied by the creature, and also partially through the creature’s humanity and emotions. It possesses this identity due to the era’s identification of the lower-class with strongly negative, almost subhuman, characteristics and terminologies, and this identification is reflected on the creature, but the creature’s identity also contains a sense of humanity that makes it relatable in a human level.

The dehumanization of the lower-class is mirrored through the dehumanization of the creature itself. Its interactions with fellow humans were never cordial because of what the creature’s horrifying appearance made people do: run off or attack it. The sublime is in effect here as sublime emotions are rooted in pain and not pleasure (C.P). People saw the creature and they saw something subhuman in looks and mannerisms, which made them act in such a strongly negative way towards the creature: their efforts to always either run off or attack it indicate their viewpoint that the creature is a problem and should be treated as such. Not only subhuman, but a problem too. The era during which the book was written was fairly agreeable to such lower-class subjugation as seen through the creature, because of what the lower-class had done to the hearts and minds of much of the European upper-classes. The French Revolution’s impact on their collective psyche was significant, what with the long-established monarchy getting overthrown and arrested, King Louis XVI getting beheaded, and the complete failure of  initial populist aspirations as indicated by the Reign of Terror and subsequent authoritarian dictatorship in the reign of Napoleon. Mary Shelley, the author of the novel, shares a lot of the upper-class apprehensions towards the lower-class, being fairly mixed in her support towards lower-class rights, which was surprising given how liberal her parents were regarding the French Revolution. Knowing this family legacy, the novel could not only be a reflection of the era but a reflection of her conflicted views concerning the lower-class. Even though the creature is a horrifying sight and an anathema to society at large (much like the lower-class’ perceived position in society), she still gives it a strong sense of humanity through its very self-aware reflections and confessions towards its creator Victor (Shelley 95); such reflections evoked a true sense of sympathy towards the creature and its struggles. Shelley, to me, incorporates into the creature the era’s perception of the lower-class as well as a sense of humanity that gives the reader a potential emotional connection (so one can feel its pain) to it.

Longing for Humanity

In Frankenstein, the creature represents all of us and embodies our ultimate longing for humanity and acceptance. Because the creature can’t truly be depicted and his existence is shrouded in mystery through filtered narratives and descriptions, we come to sympathize with him. This sympathy, which is truly indicative of the sublime, thus makes sense when we confer our sense of awe and heap all our passions onto this creature. The creature was not originally bent on exacting revenge but only became a monster because of the dehumanization that he was subjected to by his creator Victor Frankenstein. The monster lies within us as the alienation and isolation that he experiences causes him to revolt and wreak havoc, so that others can understand his pain and misery. A simple creator-creation dynamic and capitalist-marxist dialectic fails to imbibe the essence of Frankenstein because it ignores the crucial betrayal of Justine, who represents justice and moral precision. While Justine typified neither capitalism nor Marxism, her betrayal by both Victor and the creature signifies the death of humanity. The monster becomes a caveat of what can happen to us when we lose our humanity, attempt to overpower nature, and fail to understand “the other” in our midst, whatever that may connote. The monstrosity that lurks within humanity is always there, but only becomes dangerous and revolutionary when we feel that humanity is incapable of understanding our thoughts, whims, and desires. Only when we become “the other” and are deemed to be abhorrent does the revolutionary aspect of this monster unleash itself. It attempts to undo the wrongs that have been perpetrated on it but ultimately induces terror and fear, sublime emotions. If the creature could be solidified or depicted, if its every thought could be ascertained and its role completely clarified, it would lose the universal sympathy aroused by our humanity. The logic of Marxism thus fails to explicate the meaning of the text, as the inversion of power between the proletariat and the capitalist, man and nature, and knowledge and ignorance doesn’t result in liberation of humanity, but utter destruction. Even though Warren Montag’s argument was perhaps presumptive in applying Marxist criticism, it was correct in stating that it would be foolish to assume that the novel had no contextual significance. The Romantic and Gothic genres both evoke the large landscapes, sense of vastness, and powerful mysticism inherent in Frankenstein. The Romantic and Gothic genres fuse with Shelley’s sociopolitical circumstances of the day to produce a work of art, which has a sense of organic unity that synthesizes elements of both the beautiful and the sublime. Hollywood’s greatest injustice then, may have been to transform such a complex and meaningful novel into a rather sensational science fiction thriller.