Tag Archive: human


Adam, the Sick Puppy

Esther Quintanilla

I noticed that the “disability” portrayed in the film is “Adam’s” inability to speak and comprehend his surroundings. This is something that the doctors believed needed to be fixed. In doing so, they treated “Adam” like an animal; the scene in which they inject medicine into his body is very similar to when a veterinarian puts shots into a dog.

I believe this observation has the most potential to offer a broader interpretation of the film Frankenstein. The comparison of Adam to a sick animal can be considered one of the most problematic ideas that could come into play in an essay, but it would be the most interesting because there are many similarities to take into account. Sick animals are a sight to be cooed at, pet owners will go to extreme lengths to take care of and protect their animals. When the pets are sick, the owners will take them to the veterinarian and get them “fixed” as soon as humanly possible. This is a problem because the pets are no longer animals, but commodities that need to be taken care of. The problem with the view of disabled people as sick animals takes away their humanity, almost creating a person who has no business being a person unless they can be “fixed” into a perfect being. In “fixing” their disabilities, they are then accepted as equals. This idea could branch off to discuss what it means to be human, the particular qualities that make the “perfect” human, and what people need to do/need to be born into in order to be accepted in their societies.

The Hierarchy

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The passage describing Mont Blanc and its surroundings on pages 89-92 seems to be a near-exact translation of Percy Shelley’s poem, “Mont Blanc,” into prose, particularly on page 90 at the beginning of chapter ten. As Victor describes falling ice and avalanches, he speaks of, “the silent working of immutable laws,” and the ice being, “but a plaything in their hands” (90). This goes hand in hand with Percy Shelley’s lines: “Thou has a voice, great Mountain, to repeal / Large codes of fraud and woe” and “Is this the scene / Where the old Earthquake-demon taught her young / Ruin? Were these their toys?” (lines 80-81, 71-73). Victor conveys the same awe as the speaker in the poem. Similarly, “my slumbers, as it were, waited on an ministered to by the assemblance of grand shapes which I had contemplated during the day” echo’s Percy Shelley’s lines: “Some say that gleams of the remoter world / Visit the soul in sleep–that death is slumber / And that its shapes the busy thoughts outnumber / Of those who wake and live” (Frankenstein 91, “Mont Blanc” lines 49-53). Victor dreams of Mont Blanc, and, indeed, his dreams and sleep do seem to offer a death-like state, as they “gathered round [him], and bade [him] be at peace,” evoking the image of a funeral (91). However, one guest of the poem doesn’t appear in Victor’s dream: “the wolf [who] tracks her [the eagle] there” (line 69). This, and other predatory hints in the poem like, “The glaciers creep / Like snakes that watch their prey,” seem to be lost on Victor (line 100-101). Since Victor doesn’t allude to these lines, he doesn’t see the danger of his situation. He doesn’t sense a snake watching him or a wolf tracking him. He doesn’t realize the creature hunts him. When Victor sees the creature, it takes him a moment to realize that the figure he sees is, in fact, the creature.

All I have to say is, Victor, why so dense? “Mont Blanc” suggests nature’s superiority over humans, saying, “Frost and Sun in scorn of mortal power / Have piled: dome, pyramid, and pinnacle” (line 103-104). Victor also alludes to nature’s architecture, as well as continually comparing Mont Blanc to a ruler. The creature, however, “bounds over the crevices in the ice, among which [Victor] had walked with care” (92). The creature moves swiftly and without hesitation through this landscape, without a single trace of reverence or care. This indicates the creature is superior even to nature, and thus, humans. Why does Victor not realize that the creature has him outmatched in every possible way? Why does he think that he can fight the creature and win? I think that, despite his over-drowning melancholy, Victor has what we might call a “creator complex.” To Victor, the hierarchy probably looks like: humans at the bottom, then nature, then the creature, then Victor himself. Because Victor created the creature, he thinks he is superior to the creature. He knows he has power and a say in the creature’s life, but he doesn’t realize that the creature also has power and a say in his. He underestimates the creature, and overestimates himself. Because the prose and poetry are so similar, the differences point out that Victor doesn’t realize he created a being superior to himself, and even to nature itself. This adds insight into why the creature cannot be accepted as animal or human, as of nature or of civilization. His appearance and his abilities make him other-worldly to both.

(Image from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/vd1966/15166280897/in/photolist-p7c9VF-gH2W7x-prVnHq-dajET8-5Ziqun-kfTE9G-gdAwcu-fXuo6E-pWzNdg-cHbDiA-dajEWv-agdkY1-fAzB6u-bzYhvU-34s8Y-5ZnBsG-mLu14-5i8bQy-cyXTWf-fSFGQu-cyjb1A-6oDYGL-hb5LP9-j4NceT-npScAB-dajEQa-j9tEcP-r5kuis-pnMRDp-dajEAX-ocQac2-q2ycL5-mQH9FS-fjztS2-5J7AWM-qtXUiq-e9oPX2-9VN8PB-prVsd7-gXYhSQ-5HY1Hr-nup4wE-nxxZQ1-pRhix9-2mnBNg-iPyKkt-j8jzR-5SMBXh-o7mwq8-6F16QP)

A Child’s Toy?

 

I cannot reconcile the chilling melancholy I felt while reading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein with the green plastic figurines found in the children’s toy aisle. I find it so peculiar and rather unsettling that such a complex literary figure would be considered an acceptable amusement for children. The story itself, which requires a high level of emotional and intellectual maturity for comprehension, is evidently not appropriate material for the young children who dress in the monster’s likeness for Halloween. I believe Frankenstein’s somewhat comical, grotesque appearance in children’s toys and cartoons testifies to our culture’s subconscious efforts to obscure the true terror that the monster incites by attributing the cause of fear to his brutish form and threatening manners. Frankenstein is not scary because he is a monster. Frankenstein is scary because he is human. He expresses, in such an eloquent and thoughtful manner, the desires and emotions we recognize as our own: compassion, loneliness, and the desires for acceptance or companionship. The sense of familiarity toward a being of such dissimilar origin and demeanor is what disturbs us most. So, we impose a stereotype on the monster as a beast inferior in both manner and physicality, bearing no intellectual resemblance to humans, in order to avoid confrontation with this truth, that Frankenstein might be just as, or perhaps even more, human than we are.

Source for the image: www.degrotespeelgoedwinkel.nl/producten/01-411-9466_4/groot/9466-lego-monster-fighters-frankenstein.jpg

According to Freud, the uncanny encompasses the realm of the unknown, more specifically dealing with humanity’s general trepidation towards the uncovering of certain hidden or concealed things within ourselves, often regarding hidden memories of ours from the past. It is the “revelation of what is private and concealed, of what is hidden” (class notes), confirming the oft-personal nature of the uncanny. What is concealed can even be hidden unintentionally from ourselves: the mind represses certain memories/experiences from the past, so whatever uncovers these experiences, which generally hearken back to our earliest years, represents the uncanny. Such repressed material from our early days, according to Freud, can be reflected through an “uncanny double” (a doppelganger)–its roots springing from our “narcissistic self-love” (class notes) cultivated in our childhood–which is a mental image/projection/persona of ourselves that we form (either intentionally or, more often, unintentionally)–for ourselves in order to define the way we see ourselves. The super-ego is related to this concept as well, projecting “all the things it represses onto this primitive image of the double. Hence the double in later life is experienced as something uncanny because it calls forth all this repressed content” (class notes).

This is what confronts the creature when he looks at a reflection of himself in a pool. He “admired the perfect forms of [the cottagers he had been observing]– their grace, beauty, and delicate complexions: but how was I terrified, when I viewed myself in a transparent pool!” (104). He was at first “unable to believe that it was indeed [him] who was reflected in the mirror,” which is a sign of the uncanny double because this whole time the creature has been yearning for acceptance from the hostile humans around him, and this desire to connect stretches all the way back to its “birth” in Victor Frankenstein’s lab. Victor created the creature in a human image (in Victor’s mind, at least), and of course that did not go as planned, but with the creature’s “eyes… were fixed on [him]” (61). The creature likely saw Victor and saw him, a human and his creator, as the ideal in looks. He associated himself as a human and constantly tried to associate with other humans as well, but he finally confronts his true appearance through the reflection on the pool and sees pure hideousness. He sees himself this way based on his ideal perception of appearance, which he formed way back when he first came alive through Victor and subsequent other humans. This is his now-uncovered “uncanny double,” which was the mental image/projection/persona he created for himself to reflect the way he saw and perceived himself– as a human, like everyone else he saw. This is why he was disgusted by his appearance: because he had a prior, already-crafted self-image of himself that was uprooted by his real, actual self-image in the reflection, uncovering his repressed “uncanny double.” It is also why he still would want others to overlook his physical deformities because at the end of the day, he still wants to be accepted by others, as evidenced by his eventual entry into the cottagers’ house in order to finally gain acceptance from them (which, of course, does not go as planned for him).