Tag Archive: mary shelley’s frankenstein


An Intruder in Recycled Skin

I was lost inside of my synthetic mind,

forging a new world from within,

loathed by my creator, ousted by his kind,

I became an intruder in recycled skin.

My decrepit body, awaiting termination,

a restful life of unlimited peace.

I had once longed for this cessation,

the taking of my soul, in an act of release.

 

Then, with the proper tools, I was able to understand

this trepid wasteland of horror and torment.

Reading had felt like pouring water onto dry land,

and I was given a final chance to re-present.

That chance was found within the story of Paradise

Lost, which galvanized upon my deepest affections.

I was finally able to see the human’s only vice,

all was laid bare in the small collection.

 

The way one sees the “other” ness within me,

how, no matter what I do, say, think or feel

I will always be the Eve wherein she

digs her own grave and lives life in a kneel.

 

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Review:

I chose to write a dramatic poem that matched with the portion of the book where we see Victor’s creature become more sentient as they read on and on. In this particular scene, the creature starts reading the Bible and Paradise Lost and was actually start to read the text as if it were a historical work of art. The reason I chose to write this classic medium, the poem-style caught my eye, because of the slightly contemporary ideas in which we see Victor belittle and disregard as the book goes on.

 

We not only see the creature start to project onto this story of the Bible, but we also see the way in which the creature thinks, because not long after, they were discussing the envy and pure hatred that went along with realizing mankind created subjective beauty and there is no way to change this normalized system in just one short assignment. I did, however, purposefully choose to have the creature criticize society, and take the bible itself as a historical context so that not only the creature could associate with organized religion, but also with the subjective qualities of the female role within said teachings.

 

I enjoyed writing this post and played around with the idea which the creature would choose from, with Victor in or out of their life, this usually meant that life had to be lived no matter what, which was not the case. The creature decided to stay and suffer, I believe, because they truly connected with the character of Eve, and how one could reclaim themselves after being forgotten or pushed aside from their creator. Hatred, however, spawned from this newfound knowledge, and the creature becomes envious of “the bliss of [their] protectors” (115).

By: Leena Maria Beddawi

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein holds obvious relations to that of our own society today as characters within the novel encompass a seemingly subtle, yet prominent desire to belong. In order to fulfill such a desire it seems to be a human instinct to grasp at the inklings of the world around us that could possibly, even attempt to explain our internal thoughts. The creature does exactly this as he looks upon Safie’s letters, trusting them to be “the truth of my tale”. The creature, in resemblance to a young child, is still learning the workings of society therefore it makes sense that the only way in which he thinks to tell his story in its truest, most authentic form, is in relation to a story he identifies with. In other words, identifying with a foreigner such as Safie seems to be almost logical as she, like him, is within the very cusps of discovery and curiosity. As explained on page 108, the creature learns language and literature through the teachings in which Felix bestows upon Safie, therefore, he learns with her and because he learns with her, he finds himself rather connected to the only other being he knows who is also searching for some sort of closeness to the physicality that surrounds them.

Anzaldua’s concept of borderland is one that is obvious within the intricates of the novel as she describes borderland to be of barriers both physical and mental, or in other words, invisible. These barriers exist within Frankenstein, clearly centered around the creature and unapparently around Safie as well. For Safie, the border is rather physical as she moves from one country to another, a subtle emotional barrier existing in the form of language. For the creature, however, the concept of borderland is internal. He struggles to communicate with the cottagers and with Victor because he remains unaware of how to handle emotions and it certainly doesn’t help that he carries so many.

The creature, finds himself within the letters of Safie, connecting to her story. He encounters barriers and borders among the residents of his own mind as well as the residents of the outside world and because of this, he turns toward the letters, towards the story of Safie in an attempt to not only communicate with his maker but to find reassurance that there is a piece of this world in which he could possibly belong to.

-Kaylin Insyarath

 

Lean into Acceptance

Many controversial topics remain subtly present within Mary Shelley’s novel including that of transgender exclusion. Susan Stryker produces an essay that dissects the representation of a transgender individual by the creature brought to life by Victor Frankenstein. Her essay perceives itself to be rightfully blunt as well as reassuring and the response to such an essay by Jessica Rae Fisher, even more so. The passage on page 75 within the novel proves itself to be of great representation for the feelings presented within both Stryker’s essay and Fisher’s response.

The passage contains the events in which Victor rightfully assumes the creature to be the murderer of his young brother. Stryker addresses this passage in her essay, focusing on the words “…my own vampire, my own spirit let loose from the grave” (Shelley, 75). With these words, she suggests that Victor inhabits feelings of wanting to be something other than who he is now. Feelings in which he can not or rather would not dare to admit. Thus, “…he projects all he cannot accept in himself” (Stryker, 2) onto the creature. This relationship between Frankenstein and his creature institutes itself as a rather clear comparison to the relationship between the transgender community and society. In other words, it has been discussed numerous times that Frankenstein perhaps harbors feelings of wanting to be something he is not, therefore because the creature represents all he could not be, he then faces the creature with an attitude of fear and disgust. It unfortunately remains the same, according to Stryker, in regards to how society interacts with the transgender. In both the novel and the essay, it is heavily implied that the amount of resentment and unacceptance placed onto the transgender community and the creature resulted in isolation and loneliness. That being said, Fisher’s response to the essay centers around such emotions. However, Mary Shelley’s novel as well as Stryker’s essay provides Fisher with a wider, more open-minded perspective. Through the relating themes within the novel along with Stryker’s encouragement, she finds it rather fitting to participate in self-acceptance instead of remaining dependent on the acceptance of the society that surrounds her. She says, with the utmost confidence, “…if the villagers want to see us as unnatural, we should embrace that” (Fisher). The truth within Strykers essay and the representation within Shelley’s novel make an outstanding pair, allowing Jessica Rae Fisher to lean into acceptance.

 

-Kaylin Insyarath

 

Had Victor Frankenstein not become perturbed by M. Kempe and M. Waldman’s critiques of alchemist enthusiasm, he might not have initiated the enterprise of creating the monster who brings his very demise and effectively engaged in the misogynist-science of an era. This is where Anne K. Mellor in “A Feminist Critique of Science” bluntly reads the Mary Shelley’s novel and Victor’s erroneous engagement with modernity anachronistically to rebel against a two-hundred year old system of scientific method, naturalism, physiology, and electrochemical innovation. She misses the chance to familiarize her reader with scientists such as Marie Curie, Ada Lovelace, or Ellen Swallow Richards whom before the conception of a categorical term known as ‘feminism’ had engaged and existed in the natural sciences. The humanities and fiction itself is useful when befallen to less self-righteous voices.

Victor isn’t just mocked by his teachers for his ambitions, but also by the “criminal judge,” (170) who dismisses his instance of public mourning in Chapter XXIII- after both Elizabeth and Alphonse pass away- as nonsensical insanity. “The magistrate listened to me with attention and kindness,” (170) demonstrates a superficial exteriority which for Victor’s own sense of agency is disingenuous and discomforting. Shelley relishes in this simple sentence a doubt-inducing ambiguity, blurring subject-predicate (is the judge himself a criminal or does he only process indictments on the law-breaking class?) which compares to Victor’s observations of professors at the university. “He heard with attention the little narration concerning my studies, and smiled at the names of Cornelius Agrippa and Paracelsus, but without the contempt that M. Krempe had exhibited,” (53). The disposition in which university professors react to Victor traces for the reader a dignity in a paralleled criticism, but for Mellor, she replaces such a parodying in her own Faustian bargain. Mellor’s self-affirming substitution of Shelley’s hybrid-travel journalism-children’s literature design with repetitious allusions in the so-called feminist arc of allusion to Anglophonic figures including Goethe, Francis Bacon, Benjamin Franklin, Humphry Davy, Erasmus Darwin (how many men named Darwin existed in 19th-century naturalism?), Dr. Adam Walker, Giovanni Aldini and his university colleagues- in her plethora of good and bad scientists. Perhaps a practical, feminist reading which acknowledges the postmodern trend towards character interiority requires a more diligent reader than Mellor. Rather than returning to the monster’s assertions which suggest they “…might take the form of bloody revolutions in which the oppressed overthrow their masters,” (Mellor 14), Mellor’s willing of a sexual politics in her infatuation with Harvard physicists and their “emotionally repressed,” (Mellor 11) sexual energy has the potential force to become an actual interpellation of masculine desire that deconstructs what Victor deems a suitable venture for extending to an othered, sentient being the discoveries of liberty and revenge.

-Bradley Dexter Christian

Although Victor’s unconscious acts of gender prejudice can easily be chalked up to the time period in which he lived or rather just the arrogant personality he seems to inhabit, Anne Mellor carefully, yet audaciously examines the seemingly invisible conjunction between feminism and science. She claims with the utmost confidence that Victor is a scientist that unconsciously participates in oppressive, discriminatory behavior against women.

Mellor with her upfront disposition, poses some truth as Victor often times does remain discriminatory towards the opposite gender, much like any man during the time period in which Frankenstein takes place. For instance, when developing the idea of designing an animated corpse, Victor seemed to immediately assume the idea of a male creature. While many arguments could be validly brought up as to why this is, the reason could very well be just in who he is as a person. Victor grew up with dominantly male relationships including that of his father and brothers as well as his best friend and even into college, he developed close mentorships with his male professors. Due to the prominence of male figures in his life, Victor unconsciously develops a sort of bias against the female gender.

However, it should be acknowledged that although Victor at times could be described as prejudice, none of his female relationships were known to be anything negative. His relationship with his mother was nurturing and compassionate and with Elizabeth, protective and benevolent and a friendship with Justine was even implied. That being said, it must be safe to suggest that Victor didn’t intentionally participate in acts of oppression but rather did so in moments in which he didn’t realize because why would he? Who would’ve have told him any different?

Mellor brings up a startling and intricate argument that one can easily agree with seeing as Victor at times was the definition of male superiority, however in the times in which he could be argued against such a title, it can be concluded that despite the pieces of truth within her argument, the evidence in the text highlights one word: unconsciously. Victor “unconsciously engages in a form of oppressive sexual politics.”

 

-Kaylin Insyarath

 

Victor Frankenstein isn’t a scientist- he’s a fashion designer. He describes “the flannel” shirt from which his Gothic narrations in Mary Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein, fixate death. “…but as I imprinted the first kiss on her lips, they became livid with the hue of death,” (60). He is concerned with color palettes in seeing the abstract concept of death as becoming a particular tone. The kissing gesture of love is further described by the prototypical, industrial fashionista as an imprint, logo or steam-ironed patch emblazoned onto the possessive pronoun representation of the feminine body. My statement, some may say, is outlandish. Of course, Victor is a scientist, but consider Sigmund Freud’s “The Uncanny,” which suggests why Victor will have a hard time on the psychoanalytic therapy couch:

“I think, that the feeling of something uncanny is directly attached to the figure of the Sand-Man, that is, to the idea of being robbed of one’s eyes, and that Jentsch’s point of an intellectual uncertainty has nothing to do with the [uncanny]. Uncertainty whether an object is living or inanimate […] is quite irrelevant in connection with this other, more striking instance of uncanniness,” (Freud 423).

Freud’s view of uncertainty thus opens up the space for reading the Postcolonial implications of Victor Frankenstein’s dream sequence. “…I thought I held my dead mother in my arms,” (60) indicates desire, mourning, the familial. While Freud’s definition of the uncanny fantasizes on images and dispositions of academic insufficiency and intellectual blindness, Victor himself becomes empowered in Shelley’s precursor to this very theory of uncertainty. Victor describes images of women transforming into other women, from which Victor establishes his own sense of being: he is familiar with Elizabeth, he is unable to communicate with his mother directly, and he describes insects emerging from cloth, “crawling in the folds of the flannel,” (60). The signifying of Victor’s dream as a criticism known as Postcolonialism creates in Shelley’s work the foundation for an Althusserian Marxist reading which complement Freud’s discussion on false perceptions. Shelley in her verification of Victor’s character in what Freud has previously defined as “frightening precisely because it is not known and familiar,” (Freud 418) confirms the unattainable space which concretizes for readers images of death that call for contemporary readers an emphasis on postcolonial treatment of the text.

We call death the great unknown, and Victor too, like you and I, makes sense of his family members’ deaths subjectively. We live and learn through experiences which are often tragic, and I think that Victor’s inability to simply express his mother’s death creates in him a psychical production that presents fashion industry terminology, and in consequence, re-duplicates the uncanny effect. The flannel, the imprint, and “the wildest dream,” (60) are indicators of a psychoanalysis which is deemed insufficient in explaining the fictional character’s anachronistic interpretations. Freud is the thinker from the future which Mary Shelley herself has addressed with one hundred years’ worth of preparations, the portrayal of a subjugation to imaginative rationalizing of Victor’s relationship to women other than his mother. The reader is positioned at a distance from this Gothic novel production of Victor’s dressing his mother’s deceased corpse in clothing reminiscing the 1990’s Grunge rock music, fashion statement- in aesthetic replication of the Freudian conceit which analyzes formulations of Shelley’s world of political upheaval in Frankenstein. Postcolonial implications in Frankenstein’s dream sequence rely on the very deceptions which place readers at a distance from fully sympathizing with Victor, the scientist.

-Bradley Dexter Christian

 

Freud and Frankenstein

Loss is a prominent and central figure within Victor’s life, a thought worth mentioning as it could very well be the reason that he finds himself immersed in the work of animating a lifeless corpse. That being said, Sigmund Freud’s ideas and philosophy become present within the passage on page 60 as Victor experiences a disturbing dream about his mother and Elizabeth, much like that of Freud’s Oedipal desire. In the Oedipal desire, Freud recognizes the importance of a mother relationship, however in this case, a relationship that isn’t maternal.

In the dream, he begins with the company of Elizabeth, a woman he refers to as his cousin, yet later marries. He is nothing but affectionate toward her and within what seems to be just a second, the image of Elizabeth is then replaced with his mother. Such a transformation, in the eyes of the Freud philosophy, can easily be seen as an implication of Victor’s inappropriate desire for his mother. In this case, Victor’s mother and Elizabeth are a lot alike as his mother was one of Elizabeth’s most prominent influencers. In other words, they share personality traits that are similar if not exactly alike and many would say that their resembling characteristics could be the reason that Elizabeth is replaced by his mother in the dream. However, those of the Freud philosophy would argue the opposite. They would argue that instead of his mother being an accidental replacement for Elizabeth, Elizabeth was an unconsciously intentional replacement for his mother.

Complexity and the relevance of Freud’s philosophy continues to make itself more obvious through the novel’s text as many would go on to say that his desire for his mother is also represented through his obsession for bringing the creature to life. Subtle symbols such as this sprinkle themselves across the novel, and the elements of Freud’s philosophy perceives them to be rather unsuitable and improper representations of Victor’s unconscious attachment to his mother.

-Kaylin Insyarath

 

Frankenstein 1994

Let’s talk a bit more about the creation’s birth scene. Bouriana Zakharieva, in “Frankenstein of the Nineties: The Composite Body,” writes that in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994), “[c]reator and creation embrace in an ambivalent scene of struggle and affection; their hug is an expression of a desire to separate from each other and at the same time to help each other stand erect” (422). The claim is that this moment symbolically represents “human evolution” (422) and their eventual “love-hate relationship” (423).

But for me, I think this was downright one of the most comedic scenes of the film. Victor fails at least six times to get his creation to stand in that slimy mess, and the camera makes no effort to disguise the pitifulness of it all. I didn’t see much animosity so much as a little creator so desperately wanting his creation to stand.

I have way too many questions, but oh well:

Why did Branagh introduce this “standing-up scene,” which Mary Shelley never put in her novel? Does its comedy (if you agree that it’s funny) serve some purpose? How does it, as Zakharieva claims, represent “human evolution”? Finally, why is it only after the creation’s actually chained up that Victor questions, “What have I done?”