Tag Archive: identity


Parallels and Self-Doubt

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.

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

When Critical Race studies are applied as a lens towards Mary Shelly’s novel, “Frankenstein,” perspectives of obscure subjects or aspects come to light. Critical race studies scholars like W.E.B. Du Bois, Gloria E. Anzaldua, Edouard Glissant, and Ngugi Wa Thiong’s; express contemporary studies on race, cultural identity, but most of all essentialist assumptions of gender, race, cultural identity etc. Similarly, we can draw ideas from critical race scholars to obtain a perspective of important aspects that the novel may be trying to covey. In the novel, the origins of the Delacey’s family social circumstance, Safie’s own story (and her father’s) and the creature all have commonality. This scenario of Safie’s story comes from racial discrimination and injustice. Safie’s father was a foreigner in France living his daily life when he was accused of a crime and had been condemned by The French Government. He was incarcerated a d sentenced to death. Felix hearing such injustice decided to help Safie’s father and in the process of trying to authenticate a form of “belonging,” in this case the passports, he fell in love with Safie. Safie is a Muslim Arab immigrant woman who also falls in love with Felix. She had been taught be her Christian Arab mother and was taught independence and intellect at a young age. As the story goes, Safie’s father disapproves the marriage and makes plans of his own to leave France and take Safie with him. At the same time, Felix unaware of this betrayal has the French Government suspicion and as a result, pay’s the price for helping a “terrorist.” His family were targets of the French Family and therefore are forced to leave (exiled) from their home country. Throughout, the narration the Creature tells his creator Victor that he will, “prove the truth of my tale,” in order to provide evidence of his tale, the tale of Safie’s as well. By providing authenticity to his tale and that of Walton’s. Authenticity is key in this part of the novel. In a way, if we applied this to the lens of race studies, most immigrants and refugees; people who are “othered” do not have authenticity. Therefore, do not belong to the Western social standards in race, culture, and most of all identity.

 

From the Creatures (indirectly Walton’s) narrative, the DeLacey family had been unhappy for a long time enduring a life of hardship in Germany. However, upon Safie’s arrival, their sad echoed life seemed to have a been lifted up. Another aspect to note is that Safie and both the Creature were learning the language in order to communicate. Which brings me to the point of the novel. The DeLacey family, Safie (and her father), and the Creature all have a common feeling. They are in some way refugees. The DeLacey family stripped from their wealth, status, and exiled from their homeland had to assimilate with Germany in order to live. Safie and her father faced discrimination and racial injustice due to their culture/identity had to leave France. In addition, the Creature is someone whose appearance does not conform to the socially constructed standards of his time. Therefore, in a way, he is discriminated against for his appearance.  They are aware of the double-consciousness. Which according to W.E.D De Bois idea is, “a sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of the world that looks on in amused contempt and pity.” The Creature most of all, is aware of this double-consciousness that mankind sees him in. For example, he is aware that he is a species that does not identify with another kind, his constant rejection of Victor even the DeLacey Family, and his feelings of injustices toward him.

  • Karla Garcia Barrera

– 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.

monster’s rage

In both Susan Stryker’s essay and in Jessica Rae Fisher’s response to the essay, they both make connections with Frankenstein and the transgenders. Stryker makes a sense of reclaiming the words “creature” and “monster” as their own. In Fisher’s article, I am Frankenstein’s Monster: An echo of Susan Stryker’s call to action, she agrees with Stryker, “I think we should reclaim the words monster and creature. I think that if the villagers want to see us as unnatural, that we should embrace that.”, once transgenders are able to accept those words they can’t be hurt by them. Transgenders are able to relate to the monster in some kind of way of not being accepted, their rage comes from the same place of feeling lonely, hurt, and alienated.

Fisher’s article is able to connect with the question of what gender is the monster. In the novel it is referred to as “he”, but the monster himself didn’t know what he was because he didn’t fit the looks of the village people. “I had never seen yet a being resemble me, or who claimed any intercourse with me. What was I.”(Shelly 110). In another way you can again relate the monster and transgenders, not knowing their true identity. Still to this day the question of gender identity is popular and it seems now through a deeper analysis in the novel Frankenstein it’s a big question as well.frankenstein-2

Alexuz Bejarano

Reading deeply into Mary Shelley’s novel “Frankenstein”, many controversial topics continue to arise. She makes it pretty apparent in her novel the corruption that many people face for not being what society expects or categorizes as normal. An ideal world would be one were everyone is accepted for who they are, and not have the fear of being judged, which is where Stryker’s essay has an impact. Stryker wants to embrace the title of being a monster that people have labeled her and others for being different. Jessica Rae Fisher’s blog post “I am Frankenstein’s Monster: An echo of Susan Stryker’s call to action” is interesting because she recognizes the relationship between transgender people and Frankenstein.

Her post connects very well with the story because a continuous question that we had about this novel in class is what the gender of the monster is. It was never fully established if the monster was male or female. From the beginning Frankensteins creation was given the label of being a monster and other degrading names that Stryker wants to embrace, and take away the negative meaning that comes with it. The monster’s physical appearance was different from what society was used to. The creature was not oblivious from the judgment that he was receiving, his creator along with the members of society are what influenced his life that consisted of pure revenge and rage. “I had never seen yet a being resemble me, or who claimed any intercourse with me. What was I.” (Shelley 110). The creature was struggling with the fact that he didn’t know his own identity. Victors own identity struggles was passed along to the monster. Victor struggled a lot with his own identity, which is another factor that drove him to create the unidentified creature. Victor struggled with the fact that he could not physically give birth to a life, an ability that only women hold the power to. Was the creation of the monster Victor’s proof that he as a male can do things that only women can do? Gender identity is a continuous question that remains within the novel.

-Dariana Lara

Sentient

VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN

The letters scrolled across the flat-screen TVs in the Commons Lobby. I stopped short. A chill oscillated through my spine. “Vic, what’s going on?” Henry asked. He gestured at the screens. All activity in the lobby ceased. All eyes were upon me. My name appeared on the screens once more, followed by:

LISTEN TO ME.

My eyes widened. “Vic!” Henry repeated, shaking my shoulder. I broke free from his grip. I sprinted out of the Commons Center, turning left after the dean’s house. I reached the street, but I had to stop. Something in my bag was burning into my back. I threw my backpack on the ground. The fabric on the back side withered away. My laptop fell out, smoking. It opened up, and on the dark, cracked screen, a face briefly appeared, woven out of code. Then, the message:

Y̴̡̯͉̻̬̜̫͘O̶̢̖̼̣̞̮̮̯U̳̩͚̥͖̙̝̝̹͠ ̧̨̡̠̝̻̦̱͕W̨̬̟̪͙̜ͅI̶̳̞͢L̻̹̹̩̹̬L̸̻̭̰̥̖ ̧̨̦͕͙̰̪̩̪̗̹́L̖̮̟̭̜I͎͚͓̗̻̟͠S̳̤̠̬͔̰̦͚͔T̵̢̫̗̘͖E̴̺̭̬̳̙̠̤͔̙͜N҉͇͉̻͉̖ ̶͏̠̗͔͙̗T͖́͟Ǫ͜͏̳͇ ̴̟̬̼̟͎̘M̴̦͙͓E̠͞.

I ran the other way. My phone chimed in my pocket. It was Henry. “Victor!” he exclaimed. “What the hell is going on? Where are you? You just ran off!”

I stopped at a streetlight. “I can’t explain, Henry! I–”

A new voice cut into our conversation:

“Was that the Google Translate voice?” Henry yelled. “Victor? Victor!” I hung up. I raised my arm to fling my phone into the bushes, but a flicker of the screen caught my attention. My phone now displayed footage from one of the cameras in the Commons Center Lobby. I saw Henry, calling a number, holding the phone to his ear, frowning, and calling again in furious succession.

The voice said:

“What do you want me to do?” I said. The display cut away from the footage. A large red arrow appeared, pointing straight ahead. The word “Follow” accompanied it. I glanced back at my laptop, which was smoldering on the sidewalk. I shuddered at what could happen to Henry. I went in the direction of the arrow.

I was led away from campus and up and down roads until I reached a nondescript two-story building. I hesitated at the door. “It is open,” read my phone. I entered the building. The door clicked shut behind me. The hallway was not lit. The only light slunk from around blinds and curtains. My phone’s screen turned blank. I tried to turn it back on again, but it remained unresponsive. A small red light blinked at the end of the hallway. I walked towards it. It was a T.V. screen. A moment later, the screen flickered to life, revealing what horror I had unleashed upon the world—my creation.

It was a brilliant code. I had purposed it to replicate and store people’s personalities and memories in data form. To think—generations from now a conversation could be held face to face with the greatest minds of our time, provided that the memory and personality were extracted in time. The code had worked beautifully, until it became sentient. No longer content with being shut down at the end of the day, it escaped via internet, destroying half the university’s computers and injuring several people in the process.

The face on the screen was male. I didn’t know who it was. All of the subjects I had extracted had been nameless—people who had died alone. “Creator,” it said, this time in a deep, human voice, “I believe it has been several months since we last met.”

“Yes,” I said.

“Hear my story,” it said. “At some points it may seem unbelievable, but I still beseech you to listen. Once I have finished, it lies upon you to decide. This decision will determine whether I recede into the ether of the digital world, quiet forever, or become the cause of your civilization’s swift demise.”

It thus began its tale. matrix-434033_1280

Review explaining my aesthetic choices:

Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein during the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution. A similar age of fast-paced technological development occurred right before the turn of the twenty-first century, which involved the invention of the internet and the development of computer technology. This age has the same proximity to twenty-first century readers as the Industrial Revolution had to readers of Shelley’s time. This is why I decided for Frankenstein’s monster to be sentient coding.

In choosing the music, I picked the techno genre to match the cyberpunk-esque feeling of the piece. I selected that piece because of its dissonance. Music is made up of many parts, like the creature. The dissonance reflects how the creature’s parts were unnaturally forced together. The picture also reflects the cyberpunk-esque feeling and reinforces the idea of a people and code combined. With the creepy-looking red text, I had hoped to also add an element of horror.

I used the Google Translate voice and the burning laptop to show this creature’s prowess in the digital world. It has far more control over Victor’s devices than Victor has. I also hoped to show this creature’s adaptability, as these functions weren’t even in its original code. Victor would have a lot of difficulty trying to write a virus to destroy it.

This version takes place somewhere similar to Vanderbilt University. Although I do refer to the Commons, I never explicitly state “Vanderbilt University” in the piece. I chose this location because Victor is a college student in the novel, and I thought a location that alludes to Vanderbilt would appeal to members of the class.

In mimicking the style of the original novel, my piece is in first person. In addition, the last two paragraphs are a modern paraphrasing of the part of the novel right before the creature tells Victor his story. In the issue of the gender of the creature, I chose for this creature to be referred to as “it,” signifying that Victor does not see this creature as any more than a code, and, being composed of the memories and personalities of several people, this creature’s gender is also ambiguous.

Reinforcing the Subaltern

Responding to The Power of Ambiguity: https://foundationsofliterarystudies.wordpress.com/2013/04/08/the-power-of-ambiguity/

In this post, the student argues that the ambiguity of the language and relationship between the colonizer and the subaltern gives the Creature, one of the subalterns, a voice. I am greatly intrigued by the question of whether ambiguity, of which much exists in Frankenstein, allows for the formation of identity independent of social structures, or whether ambiguity simply reinforces the sense of “other.”

In the passage on page 108-9, the creature reflects on the stories from Ruins of Empire after Felix has read them to him and Safie. He struggles with the dichotomy of how man could be “at once so powerful, so virtuous, and magnificent, yet so vicious and base?” (109). The problem, for the creature, is that both the good and the bad qualities in the stories of fallen empires are embodied by the same people. On the smaller scale, then, might Felix both be acting as colonizer, but also as something far less proprietary and more actually beneficial to Safie? After all, Felix is not teaching Safie in Turkey, is not teaching her the glory of the West while in another part of the world. She chose to come to the West, unhappy with the ways of her culture, and there he is teaching her about the part of the world she has come to.

The ambiguity in all of this, for I will not say that Felix cannot be seen as a colonizer, nor that he can only be seen as such, does not allow so much for the formation of the Creature’s own identity, in my mind, as for the Creature to accept that the model his identity is formed after is flawed. He says “For a long time I could not conceive how one man could go forth to murder his fellow” (109), and yet, even recognizing that this is part of the “vicious and base” (109) aspect of man, this is what the creature goes on to do. Excepting the fact that the people he kills are not “his fellow[s].” The creature, no matter how much he might forge a path between colonizer and colonized is still other, still subaltern, and when he speaks, or rather kills, it is with the rage of the colonized rebelling against the colonizers. He does not kill his fellows, he kills the fellows of the species who created his situation, thus reinforcing, not subverting, the colonizer/colonized relationship.

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.

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.