Tag Archive: ethnic


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.

Samantha Shapiro

As the creature insists on “prov[ing] the truth of [its] tale,” the intent behind his actions in doing so shows that he has a doubt in his own ability in his language in conveying the “substance of them” to others (111). Language, as noted by Gloria Anzaldúa, is form of identity, woven into a person’s existence and being. In her writings on “How to Tame a Wild Tongue,” she asserts that “ethnic identity is twin skin to linguistic identity” – a person is their own language. This sentiment is supported in Frankenstein when the creature recalls his own discovery of language, “a discovery of still greater moment” which allowed others to communicate “their experiences and feelings to one another” (102). The creation slowly developed language from the cottagers, and also through Safie, a Turkish Christian woman and “immigrant” with her own struggles to learn the language of those around her. Her own language ties her to herself as well as her own past she tries to escape from, and shared experiences with Felix and his family.

Cup of Coffee, 1858 – Amadeo Preziosi

She had a “language of her own, she was not understood by, nor herself understood, the cottagers” (106). This shows similarity to the creature in its own being. It itself is a creature of its own, not understood by, nor itself understood by all of those around him. However, through a parallel learning process, both begin to develop language, or a more anglicized, projected self through the development of a common language.

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, English wife to Turkish Ambassador

As the creature gains a sense of self from others, his wonder became plagued with doubt as he gained knowledge. He determined that he wasn’t even considered within the same nature as mankind, due to his forced isolation from others and rejection. His own self is a cause for rejection, and he hides from the cottagers, trying hard to gain a piece of them he can share. Because of how he is physically constituted throughout the novel, whether through cadavers’ body parts by Victor, or through the development of his language from the De Lacey’s, there’s a genuine part of him that wants to be a part of something he cannot fully be, thus establishes a sense of doubt and uncertainty. With the letters written by Safie, a parallel figure to the creature, she is something he isn’t – a human, accepted by others and a vital player in his own history and self. As he has doubts in his own being, her own letters, her language being conveyed to Victor is a sort of stability the creation lacks due to his own nature and creation.