Tag Archive: Humanity


Nameless

Passage pp. 116-117 from “But ‘Paradise Lost’ …..envy rose within me”

The proletariat, as a collective entity, is condensed into a singular being in the form of Frankenstein’s creature. Montag describes the nameless creature as “a being for whom there is no place in the ordered world of nature” (395). Because he has neither place nor agency within human society or the natural world, the creature demands that Victor produce a mate for him so that he may create his own place. Similarly, the “proletariat” was an invention of the system in which it operated and therefore had no place within the natural order. Because the proletariat existed as a collection of individuals, it lacked the agency to determine its identity. Thus, the capitalist middle-class oppresses the working class not only by the physical burden imposed upon them but also by the dehumanizing removal of their ability to form such individual identities. Being forced into a collective mass, each member is no longer recognizable as an individual and consequently becomes isolated from human society. The creature as a representation of this namelessness or “unrepresentability” of the proletariat, becomes “the object of pity and fear” (387), according to Montag. Readers pity the monster (and the oppressed working class) for his isolation, yet fear the monster as something outside of nature and human control.

This passage from the creature’s story communicates the his isolation from human society by comparing the creature to the Adam of “Paradise Lost,” who like the monster “was apparently united by no link to any other being in existence.” The image of “an omnipotent God warring with his creatures” provides readers with a religious analogy to the tension between creator and creation, or perhaps, oppressor and the oppressed. The monster evokes a hesitant sympathy from readers by immediately opposing his circumstances to those of Adam, despite his initial identification with Adam’s isolation. While Adam was “happy and prosperous, guarded by the especial care of his Creator,” the monster, like the oppressed proletariat, “was wretched, helpless, and alone.” The monster’s tone of amazement toward his initial connection with poem quickly turns to one of resentment toward his creator when he bitterly compares himself to Satan, “as the fitter emblem of my condition.” In this one paragraph, readers perceive the monster’s transformation into the monstrous form Montag attributes to the oppressed working class. He claims that that in organizing an industrial society, the capitalist elites “conjured up a monster that, once unleashed, could not be controlled” (386). Just as Frankenstein’s monster “is monstrous by virtue of its being artificial rather than natural” (387), the collective working class is unsettling because it is an artificial creation of a socioeconomic system.

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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 Monster Martyr

Spoken entirely in the future tense, the monster’s final statement is, effectually, anything but final. Instead of offering readers a sense of resolution, his concluding speech details what he “shall” do and what “will” be, suspending the end of the novel in a state of uncertainty.

The victorious language with which the monster describes how he “shall ascend my funeral pile triumphantly, and exult in the agony” further enhances the uneasiness surrounding his departure. His “sad and solemn enthusiasm” defies any previous expectations of his defeated, hopeless position. Instead, his words evoke the image of early Christian martyrs, who, out of religious devotion, approached their deaths with a similarly “solemn enthusiasm.” Drawing such a comparison between the monster and persecuted religious figures, Mary Shelley leaves her readers to consider his ambiguous role as both a criminal and a victim.

Despite the violent images of “torturing flames” and “that conflagration,” the monster maintains an unexpected dignity through his calm certainty that “what I now feel be no longer felt….my spirit will sleep in peace.” The description of his own destruction with such a solemnly resigned tone in fact reflects the opposing tendencies of his character: at once a hideous, violent monster and a being capable of feeling compassion for his maker and “bitterest remorse” (189) for those horrendous deeds.

Shelley extends the religious symbolism by referencing the sacred cycle of life and death with the images of “light… [that] will fade away” and “ashes…swept into the sea by the wind.” By including himself in this process of natural decay, the monster makes a final, subtle appeal to his humanity.

Even with his resolute and firm “farewell,” the monster’s departure, “borne away by the waves…lost in darkness and distance,” retains an unresolved aspect, as “darkness and distance” are purposefully indefinite measures. The concluding effect for readers is an uneasy, and unanswered, reflection on the monster’s sacrificial death, professed humanity, and his possible continuation in that “darkness and distance.”

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.

Frankenstein’s Rewarding Thematic Depth

From the outset of this class, before I began reading Frankenstein for the first time, my perception of the novel were skewed heavily by modern portrayals of the story as something archaic and camp with little deeper meaning or symbolic qualities. With actual exposure to the novel and with interpretive literary criticism applied in addition, I have found that there are a host of themes, motifs and symbols not are not only directly referenced and observed within the book through close reading, but are also inferred based on an understanding of the historical context.

In my past analyses from the blog posts, I have demonstrated a realization of the sheer literary depth that Frankenstein provides. The fact that a major development within the novel is the development of a human persona with respect to the creature is symbolic of an even broader theme that is concerned with the lack of humanity that society projects towards the downtrodden/lower-class/outcasts. The scene where the creature directly confronts Victor and begs for some understanding towards his own plight was the point where I initially saw the book in a different light. The novel made me switch my perception of Frankenstein and the humans; beforehand, I saw the creature for what it was portrayed to be by pop culture: vicious and soulless. With Victor and all other humans’ total rejection of the creature and lack of much sympathy for its unfortunate state, I came to see the humans as the soulless ones for not even giving the creature a chance.

With the incorporation of broader themes, including literary analysis that referred to historical context, I then saw this implementation of a sense of humanity within the creature as representative of the author’s intent to symbolize the downtrodden/lower-class/outcasts as the creature. The creature represented the unfortunate underclass of society, and the way it is treated in the novel strongly mirrors the way the lower-class was treated in that time period. I felt that it was an unflattering and unfair representation of the lower-class because of just how grotesque it was made to appear through the creature in the novel, as well as the fact that by localizing the lower-class to one creature, its influence in society is diminished significantly. The French Revolution probably had something to do with the marginalization of the lower-class in the novel, as its abject failure in establishing its idealistic ambitions resulted in tyranny and dictatorship. Given that this novel was written two decades after the Revolution’s conclusion, it seems to me that the author was intent on not just portraying the underclass’ downtrodden nature because it was the reality of the time period but also because that is what she believed their role and place in society should be. This kind of textual and thematic depth within the novel took me by complete surprise and made this one of the more personally rewarding readings in a while due to the discovery of such themes, both clear (and emotionally visceral, with respect to the creature’s humanity) and hidden.

The character of the creature is exquisite in the rawness of its humanity, and this has implications that transcend mere sentimentality. Existing outside the social order of things, his efforts to define his own place in society result, time and time again, in what seems to be an unmovable rejection from the human world.

What has become increasingly apparent is that it is not humanity that is rejecting the creature, so much as it is society. Making this fine distinction helps to reconcile the creature’s obvious humanity with his constant rejection by people, and helps to better settle the novel within a historical and sociopolitical context. It is important to consider, specifically, that a defining element of the creature’s humanity is his desire to grasp control of his predicament. What is tumultuous about this seemingly natural desire is that it exists independently from a place in society, and thus fails to be fulfilled. Society’s unbending rejection of the creature can therefore be viewed as commentary on the social structure of the time, one that is, at its core, not about reflecting humanity but about controlling it. It is not difficult to see the creature’s fight against his banishment from society as analogous to the unrest of the proletariat underneath the unbending social order that characterized the times. But what’s especially interesting to consider is how Frankenstein responds to his own creation. Unwilling to see the creature as anything more than an abomination, Frankenstein seeks, throughout the novel, to deny the creature as something that even requires controlling, even as the shockwaves of the creature’s existence cause enormous tumult in Victor’s life. Earlier in the novel, for instance, he returns to his home to find the creature missing, and rather than enter panic mode, he can “hardly believe that so great a good fortune could have befallen [him]…” (63). In fact, until his little brother is killed, Victor doesn’t think about the consequences of the creature’s existence in the outside world and within society. Later, at the trial of Justine Moritz, Victor is tortured by his own guilt and rage, but suppresses these feelings because to give in to them would mean putting the creature in a position of power. He refuses to allow it, and in the process, Justine is convicted and justice disintegrates.

What is reflected simultaneously by Victor, the creature, and the events that unfold around them, is a divide between society and humanity that rises not only from the creation and rejection of the monster, but the resultant turmoil as the creature tries to control its own place in society. So, as much as the creature’s rejection seems to be a criticism of the class structure and society, the ensuing chaos, when cast in the light of a historical context, is also a reflection on the ruthless nature of the French Revolution. The fact that the creature, in the end, dies next to his creator, thus failing to define his own destiny, is a powerful comment on the dissolution of humanity in revolution, a failure of the revolution to live up to its own ideals. 

Blog Summary Day 1

            At the root of the relationship between the creature and Frankenstein is the desire for control and the subsequent struggle by each party to assert control. Namely, we see that Frankenstein’s control over the creature is violently challenged by the creature, and Frankenstein responds in violence. The relationship can be generalized to the observation that all challenges to control is propagated by and is immersed in violence.

Frankenstein is born into a wealthy, upper class family, thus from the beginning he holds privileged station in life. His money and privilege allows him to not only exert control in a multitude of ways, but his exertion of control is never directly challenged. Frankenstein’s subsequent studies into biology and chemistry are an extension of his desire for control, as they are means for him to control a realm uninfluenced by human ideals of money and class: the natural realm. Frankenstein creates the creature driven not by an idealistic altruism, but rather a desire to control life, the ultimate untouched realm for man, and thus the ultimate expression of control. Although he reviles the creature and rejects its existence, he still maintains a passive control over the creature, by virtue of the fact that it is his creation, and he is its creator.

However, we see that the creature does not want to be under the dominion of Frankenstein. It learns language and learns of culture, essentially receiving the fundamental components of being human. When the creature attains this near humanness, it begins to display human qualities, most notably sympathy and free will. If it begins to display human qualities, it will inevitably begin to experience human desires, thus, the desire for a female companion, and more importantly, the desire for control. The sheer magnitude of Frankenstein’s control over the creature drive it towards violence, as it correctly determines that the only way to free from Frankenstein’s control is violence. This is the first direct challenge to Frankenstein’s assertion of power, and Frankenstein responds with violence as well. He does not try to reason with the creature and is willing to sacrifice both his ideals and his station in life to destroy the creature, not out of choice, but out of necessity. The deaths of William and Justine, acts of violence by Frankenstein, not only serve as catalysts for the transformation of Frankenstein, but they also ensure Frankenstein that he himself would be destroyed if he does not embrace violence. This antagonism between the creature and Frankenstein strikingly parallels the class antagonism elucidated by Marx. In conjunction with Marxist philosophy, their relationship can be generalized to reveal a somewhat dark and cynical portrait of humanity, in which struggle for control is ubiquitous and bloody.  

The Dialectic of Marxism Gone Awry

In Frankenstein, the death of Justine Moritz serves as a crucial foil to the monster and plays an important role in the development of the plot. From a Marxist perspective, the monster represents the downtrodden masses, an underclass of proletariats who can only break this cycle of enslavement by revolution. The monster’s self-actualization thus serves as the class-consciousness that can organize and fight for its own interests. Justine’s death figures prominently in Marxist terminology because it challenges the very foundations of such an interpretation, one that rests upon a history of materialism. While Justine is a servant, she grew up with Victor Frankenstein, the scientist, and the Frankenstein family treated her with dignity and respect. Victor’s image, which is that of a ruthless capitalist, is thus shattered when we learn of the relative dignity she grew up with and the lack of exploitation or alienation from society. Her death bedevils the Marxist because according to such an analysis, revolution from below in which the proletariat unites to end the suffering to which they are subjected is the dialectic of history. Justine’s death changes this entire dialectic because she becomes a victim of Marxism, the very ideology that ostensibly claims to liberate her. Her death symbolizes Marxism gone awry, a revolution in which the persecuted end up becoming the persecutors. Edmund Burke, no fervent supporter of the French Revolution, said that such a revolution would only lead to a world “polluted by massacre, and strewed with scattered limbs and mutilated carcasses” (pg. 71). Burke totally rejects the Marxist conception of Justine’s death and instead terms such a philosophy as part of the “great history-piece of the massacre of innocents” (pg. 73). While Marxism was supposed to liberate someone of her status, instead it ended up claiming her life. The monster, which symbolizes a noble proletariat rising up in Marxist terminology, wreaks havoc and destruction to destroy the very people it is seeking to represent. Burke would see Justine’s death as a wrongdoing, which explicates how revolution, initially conceived of favorably to the masses in order to rectify longstanding grievances, becomes increasingly bloody and leads to only more chaos and destruction. While Burke favored the gradual equalization of conditions in society, he would view the death of Justine as total injustice, something that would run counter to the tenets of an esteemed civilization. Perhaps he would best capture her death by saying, “All the superadded ideas, furnished from the wardrobe of a moral imagination…are to be exploded as a ridiculous, absurd, and antiquated fashion” (pg. 77). While these ideas promote Marxism might be praiseworthy in theory, in reality they would only lead to unmitigated bloodshed and insane brutality. Justine symbolized an innocent servant, one neither betrothed to capitalism nor Marxism, but a victim of both. While neither a slave nor part of the proletariat, her death ignites the larger dilemma of humanity in the novel. Justine would never have been executed had the monster not killed William, but her death could have equally been averted had Victor spoken out in her defense. Her death marks the death of humanity, something described as “savage and brutal” by Burke, in which the life of an ordinary, innocent citizen is taken away (pg. 80). This spearheads larger questions about the failure of Marxism to provide a remedy to the discontents of the proletariat, and shows the corrupting power of even the proletariat. In Marxist terms, the ruling class was overthrown only to result in a dictatorship of the proletariat, where even moderate, guiltless people are victimized.  

Justine’s public execution must therefore be seen solely as a tragedy. Marx claimed “all great, world-historical facts and personages occur, as it were, twice…the first time as tragedy, the second as farce” (pg. 41). The execution of Justine, an innocent moderate who neither identified with the extremes of capitalism and Marxism, represents the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution. During the Reign, opponents of the radical revolutionary government led by Maximilien de Robespierre were summarily executed and purged, ostensibly for being enemies of the revolution. The failure of Victor to defend Justine, and the creature’s conflicted view of Justine in which he realizes he will never have her beauty and that she’d treat him horribly just as Victor did, result in the death of a spotless human being. Because the French revolution, according to both Burke and Marx, was truly unique and the first of its kind, the period of political instability and terror that followed it was also truly unprecedented. While revolutions had indeed occurred before, nothing quite similar to the reign of Terror had ever occurred before. Marx said, “Earlier revolutions required world-historical recollections in order to drug themselves concerning their own content. In order to arrive at its content, the revolution of the nineteenth century must led the dead bury their dead” (pg. 43). The French revolution only brought change because the bourgeoisie was able to deny the dialectic of history, which necessitated that the oppressed class would always rise up against its capitalist persecutors. Because this dialectic had not been established, the capitalists were able to disguise their true intentions. However, the revolutions of the nineteenth century were able to use that dialectic to truly understand the actual intentions of the capitalist ruling class and were historically conscious in that sense. Therefore, the French revolution must be seen as a singular event in history, necessitating that we see Justine’s death as tragedy instead of farce. 

Like man at birth, the creature at his creation is a tabula rasa, enveloped in darkness and fueled by primal instincts until, inch by inch, he begins discovering the world around him, in both its human and its natural forms. It is then, at his most infantile stage of life and discovery, that the creature’s humanity is at its rawest and most profound, bubbling and taking shape beneath his unnatural shell.

Soon after the creature takes up residence next to a family living in a cottage, he forms a connection to them not by idolizing the beauty of their lives, but by witnessing the humble sadness that surfaces from time to time:

“They were not entirely happy. The young man and his companion often went apart, and appeared to weep. I saw no cause for their unhappiness; but I was deeply affected by it. If such lovely creatures were miserable, it was less strange that I, an imperfect and solitary being, should be wretched. Yet why were these gentle beings unhappy? They possessed a delightful house (for such it was in my eyes) and every luxury; they had a fire to warm them when chill, and delicious viands when hungry; they were dressed in excellent clothes; and, still more, they enjoyed one another’s company and speech, interchanging each day looks of affection and kindness. What did their tears imply? Did they really express pain? I was at first unable to solve these questions; but perpetual attention and time explained to me many appearances which were at first enigmatic.” (102)

The creature seems confused by this dimension of pain in human existence, one that he had never before considered. His  sympathy for the family is an especially thought-provoking one due to its primitive and naïve nature. He feels it despite his lack of understanding; he is unable to see “[any] cause for their unhappiness”, yet he is “deeply affected by it”. This is a turning point for the creature: Before stumbling upon their humble abode, his only interactions with mankind were marred by the human ability to inflict pain. And, at the beginning of his silent existence next to the family, he saw only peace, beauty, and music. This realization, then, that pain can find its way even into the hearts of those whom he fears and revers, gives him pleasure as much as it confuses and disturbs him. “If such lovely creatures were miserable,” he says, “it was less strange that I, an imperfect and solitary being, should be wretched.” Thus, their pain is his momentary salvation: he recognizes his connection to humankind, and is no longer so miserably alone. This passage thus reflects Edmund Burke’s theory in A Philosophical Enquiry that “…we have a degree of delight…in the real misfortunes and pains of others…if [sympathy] was simply painful, we would shun with the greatest care all persons and places that would excite such a passion.” (42-43)

A source of tension arises, of course, when we consider that he is, at this point, the only one who acknowledges his own connection to the family and to society at large. While at first, sympathy empowers him as a being in the sphere of human existence, the element of human interaction is missing, and the heightened sense of awareness of his own suffering is left to fester and deepen in the face of rejection by society. If we look carefully at the role of nature in the creature’s narrative, it would seem that the text foreshadows this tension from the beginning. To both Victor and the creature, nature always seemed to represent solitude, a separation from society; but while Victor sought refuge in this solitude, the creature feared it. Throughout his days spent alone in the mountains, his only source of joy was the light – the moon, the sun, the fire – that warmed him and saved him from the oblivion of night. In a particularly powerful moment, the creature discovers fire for the first time: “In my joy I thrust my hand into the live embers, but quickly drew it out again with a cry of pain. How strange, I thought, that the same cause should produce such opposite effects!” (97) Similarly, the joy he feels basking in the glow of human company and connecting to human beings seems at first to assuage his despair, but as he inches closer and closer to a society that will not accept him, his sense of fulfillment is paired to an inevitable sense of loss and pain when he is left in solitude once more, an eternal solitude that contradicts, as Burke puts it, “the purposes of our being…”(40). Eventually, the sense of something missing overpowers and poisons the victory of something gained, serving only to augment his isolation and rage as the novel goes on.  Perhaps, then, he would have been better off in the darkness.

Exploring Beneath the Surface of Frankenstein

Going into this course, I was heavily insulated from the story of Frankenstein, perhaps more so than most, by the one-dimensional ideas that pervaded my pop culture exposure and childish Halloween fun. As I delve deeper into the story, I am dazzled, as most readers seem to be, by the multidimensional nature of the tale, particularly by the enormous humanity that exists within Frankenstein and his monster. Victor Frankenstein seemed to represent a sleepless and hollow man, a creature in his own right. But Victor enters the narrative boldly, a naked man discovered as little more than a skeleton floating in freezing waters. He appears to be extremely vulnerable, yet he speaks and acts with the passion of a recently woken man, one who, despite his circumstances, is happy simply to be a part of life. Indeed, Robert Walton expresses astonishment when Victor, floating alone in the Arctic Ocean, demands to know the destination of the ship before agreeing to board. Our minds now captivated by a still-nameless character, Shelley traces Victor’s beginnings, painting an intimate and very human portrait of him, so that when he is buried under his madness, I see within him not simply the empty shell of a mad scientist, but a shocking evolution fueled by a very human passion. This is the depth of character that often gets lost in the thrill tactics of popular culture, and as such, the character’s enormous platform to speak to his audience and to society is torn out from beneath him.

Similarly, the creature is often presented as a bumbling abomination, a burden on humanity rather than a part of, a product of, humanity. We are only beginning to be introduced to the creature, but already this iconic image seems at best incomplete.

The creature’s face is expressionless and his eyes, barely open, are enveloped in shadow. Of course, all art is subject to one’s own interpretation but to me, his existence in the image feels almost ghostly, like an idea or a fear rather than a physical presence.It robs us of the opportunity to feel a human energy from the creature. This is the way he was always presented to me, and it is only in the uncovering of Shelley’s words that he is becoming something more.