Tag Archive: monster


The Monster

Evil eyes

“NOOO! I WILL KILL HIM! WHERE’S MY GUN! GIVE ME MY GUN!” Frankenstein walked to the massive windows of the penthouse. Eyes watering he continually whispered, “He has to die today, he really has to die today.” The pungent smell of lifeless flesh and blood permeated the air. The cold bride of the biochemical scientist lay sprawled across the heart shaped bed. Just a few hours ago he was strolling down the soft sands of Waikiki with his stunning bride. ‘Till death do us apart was not supposed to happen as early as it did. The $100,000 wedding was very posh but Victor didn’t seem very happy. He just seemed on edge to the point that when his best-man tapped his shoulder he almost soiled his pants. Up until now he had been looking over his shoulder but that stopped for a moment. He buried his head into the carcass of his slaughtered wife. That moment quickly faded however and instead of waiting for his pursuer, he became the predator. The fourteen member bridal party stared in disbelief. With bloodshot eyes Victor proclaimed, “I will travel the world until I slit his throat.” Two groomsmen walked over to restrain and calm Victor while the maid-of-honor violently vomited at the sight of her close friend’s frigid body.

The crime scene was swarming with investigators. Outside the resort, helicopter blades were dicing the air and came to halt on the top of the resort. A disheveled Victor paced the crime scene trying to speed up the investigation. He knew who had done it. “It was the monster, I saw him,” he continually repeated. A psychologist and an investigator started to question everyone. The sobs of the bridesmaids made them incoherent so groomsmen were paired up with each maid to help calm them down during the questionings. The investigation kept going for months. In that time, Victor had left and was scouring the island searching for the “monster”. He was convinced that the investigators were looking in the wrong place for the diabolical creature. Everyone had become exhausted but the maid of honor raised her concerns for the helpers at the crime scene. That did not change very much for them however because they were necessary to the advancing of the investigation.

On an uncharacteristically cold day a light bulb went off in the mind of Detective Carolina Walton. She was exploring the Hawaiian Islands when she came across Victor who was still frantically searching for his monster. “Victor!” she said excitedly, “I think I have cracked the case my friend! First though, can you tell me a little bit more about your monster?” Walton led a paranoid Frankenstein to the beach and started listening to the Biochemist’s story. Victor started off talking about his family and his beloved mother who died early in his life. He did not fail to mention all the different people the monster had managed to kill off. Including the poor girl who was blamed for his first murder the evil creature had ended the lives of four people close to Victor. The detective listened pensively and finally, after Frankenstein’s tale, she revealed her findings. “Victor, you killed those people,” she said quietly. And with those words, Victor stood up slowly, stepped into the ocean and unloaded his gun’s bullets into his head.
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                                    The Monster: A Critical Reading by Jon LaName

To be honest, it is difficult to know where to start. Jason Antwi takes the last few pages of Frankenstein, rips them up, and discards it, and then connects it all together. It is best to jump right in to the meaning of this remaking of this portion of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. In his writing, Antwi focuses on the scene where the monster kills Elizabeth and carries the story out to the moment where Frankenstein dies on Walton’s ship. Let us start with the $100,000 wedding. The price has been placed in this story for a reason. While at first it does not make sense, one piece of obvious and extractable information is that Victor would be considered rich. From the Marxist perspective, Frankenstein is a member of the bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie and proletariat show up again in a portion of the story that makes does not seem to fit the flow. Antwi mentions the hard workers who are suffering working the crime scene but they do not have a voice of their own. This shows a strong Marxist view of the suppression of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie. At the end of this odd portion, Antwi mentions how necessary these workers are to the system or in this case, the investigation. This is where the author shows his personal support for the working class.

Rich

Speaking of the proletariat, it is interesting that the person who speaks on their behalf is the bride’s maid who is arguably the second most important female in a wedding. She brings up the concern of the overworked employees and is almost instantaneously shut down. There is also a scene where the women are unable to keep their emotions in check enough to answer questions so the investigative team relies on a group of men to help move things along. This is an interesting play by Antwi to show the male dominated society. It is also good to note however that the person who ends up solving the case is a female version of Walton. In the end, a female is the one who makes the most important contribution to the case. With this move, Antwi is saying that females are just as capable as the males in a male dominated world.

CSI

Finally, it comes as a surprise when Victor is named as the monster. This is the portion of the story where Sigmund Freud would shine. Before we go back to the big reveal, it is good to remember that Frankenstein says his mother dies when he is young. This means that he never was able to properly attach to his mother so the Freudian relationships could never form. The “monster” Frankenstein keeps bringing back up is his repressed self. That is what Carolina Walton realizes. Victor killing himself parallels the original version in the sense that Victor drives himself to death in an attempt to kill the creature. Much like in the original story, Victor in Antwi’s rendition goes to the end of the Earth mentally and kills himself. He tries to take out his repressed nature and targets his brain, ending both his and his “monster’s” life.

Failed Identification

Victor, in his dream, is confronted with both the love (though strange) he felt from and for his own mother (read: creator), and the complete lack of love he has for his own creation. The creature highlights a strange twist in the parent-child relationship of Victor with his mother, and of Victor with his creature.

His parents, specifically his mother, raised him lovingly by his own account, as a child “whose future lot it was in their hands to direct to happiness or misery,” (42). This contrasts heavily with Victor’s own “parenting” of the creature, which he seemingly directs straight toward misery. Freud says that the double can represent “unfulfilled but possible futures to which we still like to cling in phantasy, ” (426). Victor’s fantasy seems to be that he can be a creator (like his idolized mother). “For this” he says, “I had deprived myself of rest and health” (60); this deprivation of personal care is not unlike what a mother does for a newborn. He is the newborn his mother had loved; yet when he himself creates a “newborn,” he is repulsed by it. The creature is the double of the child in this case, of the innocent, yet Victor cannot do what his mother had done.

Not only does Victor fail to identify “correctly” with his father, according to Freud’s model of the Oedipal cycle, he cannot even identify incorrectly with his mother. In the dream he does not find peace with his earlier identification as a Creator like his mother. This does not fit him either. He calls the creature “the miserable monster whom [he] had has created” and “the demonical corpse to which [he] had given life” (61). This is the passage that depicts everything Victor has strived for going wrong. In trying to be a creator, he has seen the failure of his own potential, the death of his own self-image.

Finality & Promethean Consequence

The ending of Frankenstein subtly recalls to mind the Promethean myth that is featured throughout the story. When Prometheus gave fire to humans, he also brought to them the consequences of Pandora’s box, which made humans suffer through disease, war, hunger, and calamity. From the point of view of the humans in that story, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine they would see Prometheus’s ‘gift’ as more of a curse.

Frankenstein, the Modern Prometheus, gave his monster the ‘gift’ of life. But more than this, Frankenstein created a monster who was doomed to suffer. In giving his last words, the monster clearly demonstrates how he would have rather not been given Promethean fire. In planning his self-cremation, he refers to his demise as “exult in the agony of the torturing flames”. This representation of the flames as torturing and ultimately harmful represents the other Promethean perspective. Where Frankenstein might see fire as a source of warmth, light, and nurture, the monster sees it as agonizing and torturous. Similarly, while Frankenstein’s Promethean intentions are good, the reality is that his monster comes to see the forces that brought him to life as cruel.

In this abrupt ending, the monster assumedly kills himself, which is represented as a release from his miserable reality. What’s missing in this text is what many people find missing when faced with suicide in real life, and that is a firm understanding of simply the why. The monster eloquently offers his reasons behind his desire to kill himself, and as readers we can clearly understand them. But suicide always leaves those who are left behind a feeling of longing – was there nothing he could have done short of killing himself? This longing for answers makes the ending of Frankenstein all the more compelling – so while the story is complete, our feelings and understandings are left incomplete. I was left pondering and thinking for quite some time after my first reading of the story. I think that is precisely what Shelley would have wanted – encouraging the readers to pause and reflect on the nature of humanity and life.

More than Mad Science

Young Frankenstein

Before reading the novel, I thought the story went something like this: a nameless mad scientist works in a lab. His creation lies lifeless, strapped to a metal table. A little, hooded, hunchbacked attendant assists the scientist (Igor, was his name?). “Yes, master. Of course, master,” he says. He pulls a switch, sending volts of electricity through the creation, probably electrocuting himself as well in the process. It is dark and stormy outside. Lightning flashes and thunder clashes. The creature, Frankenstein, rises stiffly from the table, breaking the straps as it moves. “It’s alive! It’s alive!” the mad scientist yells gleefully. His eyes are wide and gleaming as he approaches his creation. More lightning. Before the scientist can speak, or maybe after he gives an order, the creature knocks him aside. Then the creature attacks Igor, or it trashes the lab. Whatever the creature does next, the actions show that the creature is violent and unable to be controlled, and that creating it was a mistake.

Needless to say, that isn’t exactly what happens in the novel. For starters, Victor Frankenstein, before he made the creature, at least, was not a mad scientist. He was a college student. His studies led him to research the cause of life. It was after his discovery of how to create life that he animated the creature. Instead of an insane scientist, the book portrays a relatively rational scientist who genuinely wanted to improve people’s lives. It’s only after the creation scene that his sanity starts to whither.

The creation scene in the novel contrasts starkly with what I thought happened. Victor works alone. Where did Igor come from, anyway? When the creature comes to life, Victor immediately backs away in horror. He is not at all excited or ecstatic like I thought the scientist was. This is what surprised me the most: that Victor was immediately terrified of the creature. I had always thought that the creature had done something fear-worthy. He’d killed some people (which he does later, but at the point of his creation he has done nothing). He had attacked Victor; he burned some buildings, destroyed some property (which, again, he does do later). I didn’t think that some green guy with bolts in his neck who moved like his arms and legs were stiff planks was all that scary. The moment the creature opens his eyes, however, Victor high-tails it out of there. The creature’s mere appearance inspired fear and hate. The creature hadn’t had a moment to act, to reveal his nature, and already he was judged.

Before reading, I also thought that the creature was mindless, mindlessly bent towards violence. However, the creature is intelligent. He becomes proficient in a language in a month or two. He has his own hopes and desires. He wanted to be able to be a part of society, at one point. Reading the novel has shown me that Frankenstein is about much more than a mad scientist’s experiment.

(photo from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dropoutart/4925278873/in/photolist-8vekPg-5heH3d-dct2ri-9REANm-6NbU1-ptSGH-2TrnH-4r5xa9-2QEuT-2SJiLF-4XYkoH-886onX-pWE1SP-94Wr3-5vxo8B-gtaKNf-4BsYjC-pWE3Nn-dtoAzJ-diQ3NM-4W7t9b-avKTWW-53p1uu-asyk3U-joN4R3-fZT2tE-c6KF4m-4fjZCP-77D9bU-8xSnvd-cjmzAS-8XXRYc-8Ltk6w-9STrEQ-eEnycr-fmYueU-fqLsrA-5qVdsH-pEpe4X-6NbTY-5vBjGZ-pEuoyu-qKv9Vc-qBGvo9-6NbTX-abyuPf-pWDN6X-pNJ6pr-nZqFVy-4W7toN/ )

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

The monster’s disgust with himself lies beneath his physical appearance. Although he desires that others look past his physical atrocities, he is “terrified when he views himself in a transparent pool.” (Frankenstein pg. 104) Through Freud’s psychoanalytic perspective, we will see that his reflection is representative of much more than his physical traits and that the text reveals why the monster was at first ” unable to believe that it was indeed  I who was reflected in the mirror (pool).”(Frankenstein pg. 104) We need to identify what the monster actually saw as he looked upon his reflection, and suggest why in fact the monster had feelings of “despondence and mortification.” (Frankenstein pg. 104)

The monster’s unbelief of his own reflection stems from his realization of the “double” effect. As the monster looks upon his reflection,  he realizes what is a representation of the “double,” that which serves as insurance against the destruction of the ego, or symbolically our deaths.(“The Uncanny” pg. 9) It can be represented through many mediums, one of which is a reflection. (“The Uncanny” pg. 9) The monster comes to the unconscious realization that what is framed by the pool is a reflection, or representation, of the double or what has been created to preserve himself.  There is a sense of horror that the monster experiences as he realizes he is the source of the reflection in the pool for two ideas I believe lead to the same conclusion. First, the significance of the “transparent” pool should be explored.(Frankenstein pg. 104) By definition, transparency “allows light to pass through so that objects behind can be distinctly seen, easy to perceive or detect.” (Merriam Webster) From this specification, the monster and the reader can trust that what the monster sees in the pool is indeed a reflection of himself. The first of the  two ideas is that the monster cannot touch or feel his reflection as though it were a tangible entity. This must create some confusion due to the idea that he is indeed a living, tangible being, but is capable of creating an intangible image in the pool. And if indeed this reflection is a representation of the double, a safeguard in place to preserve life and counteract the destruction of oneself, how can something so intangible and inanimate accomplish such a feat? The second of the two ideas suggests that the monster may have some difficulty processing the duality of his existence. The monster has unconsciously doubled himself, proved by his “reflection in the transparent pool,” as an insurance against his degeneration. This makes him a living being with, let’s say, a “reinforcement” in place for his survival. However, within this same being is the  “reality of a monster” experiencing “fatal effects of this miserable deformity,” (Frankenstein pg. 104) reason for  the reader to associate him with ideas of “unnatural or extreme ugliness, deformity, wickedness, or cruelty” subjects so opposite the existence and preservation of life. (Merriam Webster) If the creature is in fact a monster, how can he feel assured of the validity or effectiveness of his double, if indeed it is a true reflection of his monstrosity? For these reasons the monster cannot look past his feelings of “despondence and mortification” at the sight of his reflection, despite his desire for others to excuse his physical appearance.

Where Montag Went Wrong

Yes, I attend Vanderbilt and am enrolled in a critical thinking and thought provoking course, Introduction to Literary Criticism. Therefore, you might be led to believe that the level of education I am receiving and my assumed intelligence would allow me to understand and thoroughly dissect essays such as Warren Montag’s “Workshop of Filthy Creation.” In the utmost honesty, I cannot say I have succeeded in fully understanding Montag’s argument or the value in examining Frankenstein through the lens of Marxist criticism. However as the determined, committed, and persistent Vanderbilt student I am, I have attempted to critique an element of Montag’s stretch at deeming the monster as “a sign of the unrepresentability of the proletariat.”

In my opinion, Montag’s argument is contradictory within itself. The idea that the monster is “not so much the sign of the proletariat as of its unrepresentability” is hugely problematic to the idea that the monster makes “explicit identification with the working class.” I believe it safe to declare the working class as the majority pool within modern society. If so, I am failing to understand the unrepresentability of the mass proletariat that the monster supposedly embodies. Montag suggests that this unrepresentability stems from the absence of a identifiable working class in the novel Frankenstein, and that as a lone entity representing the proletariat, he draws more attention to the lack of one in the novel. However, if the monster, the proletariat, is representative of the masses, I would say that the proletariat is anything but unrepresentable. If one is to view Frankenstein through a Marxist lens and suggest that the “Frankenstein-monster” or “creator-creation” relationship is a parallel to our modern society and economy, then the monster, a representation of the mass majority working class, is far from unrepresentable because of the huge percentage of the population that he epitomizes. The monster affirms his association with the subservient class on page 109 of Frankenstein saying, “But I knew that I possessed no money, no friends, no kind of property,” traits stereotypically characteristic of the working class. If modern society is identified and arguably sustained by this working class and its labor, how can Montag venture to deem this class unrepresentable? I  would say that our identity as an economy and society lies within the  existence of this class, and that the culmination of individual identities fabricate this idea of a proletariat. To question the representability of the proletariat would essentially question the representability of a mass part of society and those individuals within this proletariat, undoubtedly a controversial matter.

In the novel, the creature finds itself with little solace in anyone or anything. From the very start, it is ostracized heavily and shunned by everyone it encounters. Human hostility, and more specifically Victor’s own hostility, to the creature is an example of a deeply entrenched social hierarchy– a group with material possessions; family; friendship; essentially, features that reinforce their status as the dominant class (Victor/humanity) over a weaker group that is much less benefited in society (the creature). The dynamic between Victor and the creature defines this class struggle most clearly, as Victor is a well-educated middle class capitalist with a middle class family he loves and middle class friends, like Henry Clerval, he cherishes (and weeps heavily for when Clerval and several family members are murdered by the creature). Compare this relative assortment of riches to the creature, who unfortunately has absolutely none of what Victor has, not even basic compassion nor respect from anyone. The novel makes a connection between the urban lower-class proletariats of the era and the creature and concurrently devotes little narrative focus and few depictions to the former in order to magnify the grotesque nature of the latter (grotesque features = the lower-class of society). When Warren Montag states that the creature is “not so much the sign of the proletariat as of its unrepresentability” (395), I agree because of the gross oversimplification the novel makes in caricaturing a whole class of people into a repulsive figure, as well as how it makes the connection and representation through a blatant omission of any focus/attention at all towards that whole class of people. It is unrepresented through what is supposed to be its representation.

As Montag writes in “The ‘Workshop of Filthy Creation’: A Marxist Reading of Frankenstein,” the aforementioned dynamic in the novel is driven by how the novel chooses to focus and overlook certain features of society. The urban proletariat underclass of society, as well as lower-class urban life in general, is barely mentioned, and this magnifies the creature’s plight because he most identifies with the disadvantaged urban proletariat lower-class. “Frankenstein’s monster is finally not identified with the working class of Mary Shelley’s time but with its absence” (395), Montag states, and this is reinforced by the novel’s focus on Victor’s middle-class lifestyle, family, love of education, time spent at universities, and “frequent portraits of natural vistas and rural scenes” (394). “No significant descriptions of the urban world” (394) are given, most glaringly concerning London, a city going through “a time of explosive growth and development [but] is not described at all although [Victor] and Clerval passes ‘some months’ there” (394). The fact that these guys spend months in such a booming city with no descriptive imagery, nothing even close to how the novel lushly depicts rural landscapes, indicates that this is an intentional oversight of detailing urban proletariat life. We as readers live in and follow Victor’s bubble of middle class living and the middle class friends, family, aspirations, interests, and lifestyle that are all associated with him. That is, until the creature comes along who, in the midst of our near-total absorption into Victor’s middle-class perspective, is “the sole embodiment of the industrial in an otherwise rural world, and this is the source of his monstrousness” (394). The creature even “makes explicit his identification with the working class” (394) at certain points in the novel to affirm the embodiment. The creature is so monstrous due to how different it is to Victor’s middle class world, which is, as previously stated, the main focus and viewpoint of the novel. Montag couldn’t have said it any better: “The narrative precisely suppresses all that is modern in order to render [the creature] inexplicable and unprecendented” (395). If the urban proletariat underclass was given any significant narrative attention in the novel, it would make the creature less grotesque due to more grotesque ilk like him around; this conclusion is reached purely based on how the novel “links the image of the monster to the industrial proletariat: an unnatural being, singular even in its collective identity, without a genealogy and belonging to no species” (395). The creature is thus almost like a dehumanizing figure with respect to the lower-class proletariats, with it simply representing “the mass [of urban industrial lower-class people] reduced to the absolute singularity of Frankenstein’s creation, which is therefore not so much the sign of the proletariat as of its unrepresentability” (395). The lower class is not truly represented here because of the way it is portrayed.

The Theory of Sympathy in Frankenstein

In Edmund Burke’s construct of society, the behavior of the Man is fundamental to how that society functions. Burke claims that imitation, ambition, and sympathy are the driving forces behind human communication, which in itself is the foundation for society. Sympathy is particularly important because it is the act of directly identifying with another person. Sympathy thus is the most integral of the three, as it extends beyond both ambition and imitation, which are both often limited to the person themselves. Thus, it can be argued that the emotion of sympathy is the most fundamental in humans and, in the case of Frankenstein, the humanoid monster that is Frankenstein’s monster.

Frankenstein’s monster, for all intents and purposes, is an incomplete human construct. However, he still possesses the basest of human instincts, with sympathy being arguably his strongest driving instinct. When Frankenstein’s monster confronts Frankenstein he demands that Frankenstein construct a female counterpart:

“You must create a female for me with whom I can live in the interchange of those sympathies necessary for my being. This you alone can do, and I demand it of you as a right which you must not refuse to concede.” (Shelley 128)

The monster directly states his motive for wanting a counterpart is for the “interchange of…sympathies necessary for my being”. Interestingly, he specifically requires a female, perhaps in an effort to sympathize with Frankenstein’s own companionship with Elizabeth. He directly equates the interchange of sympathies with a necessity on the magnitude of something required for survival. He claims his demands are within his “right” as a living creature, and Frankenstein, as his creator, cannot “refuse to concede” this “right”. The monster uses very authoritative and imperative language because he understands that the desire to sympathize and receive sympathy with another living creature is one of the most fundamental instincts of a human, or in this case a humanoid construct.

“’This trait of kindness moved me sensibly. I had been accustomed, during the night, to steal a part of their store for my own consumption; but when I found that in doing this I inflicted pain on the cottagers, I abstained, and satisfied myself with berries, nuts, and roots, which I gathered from a neighbouring wood.

            ‘I discovered also another means through which I was enabled to assist their labours. I found that the youth spent a great part of each day in collecting wood for the family fire; and, during the night, I often took his tools, the use of which I quickly discovered, and brought home firing sufficient for the consumption of several days,”

 

            Frankenstein’s monster speaks these words while he is observing the cottagers and discovers that the source of much of their discontent is their poverty. By changing his actions due to other people’s feelings, the monster is displaying sympathy. The sympathy that the monster is displaying aligns with Edmund Burke’s definition of sympathy. Burke describes sympathy as “a sort of substitution, by which we are put into the place of another man,” which is essentially the same idea as the modern day concept of “putting oneself in another’s shoes”.

 

            The mere action of changing his ways serves as only one of the ways in which the monster displays sympathy. In addition, the verbs that the monster uses show a strong parallel to Edmund Burke’s theory. For example, the monster states that he is “moved” by the kindness he sees. This idea of movement directly mirrors Burke’s theory that sympathy involves moving oneself into another’s place emotionally. The monster also expresses his desire to “assist” the cottagers. Assistance is a word that implies sympathy. In order to desire to assist someone you must have sympathy for that person.

 

            A tension exists between what the monster desires to do when solely thinking about himself and what he wants to do with the feelings of the cottagers in mind. However, this tension is resolved as his sympathy for the cottagers outweighs his own personal desires. While this particular passage does not display ambiguity, I believe that there is ambiguity in the creature’s overall intentions with regards to human beings. While he means well in this particular passage, he is responsible for the deaths of multiple other people in other instances of the novel. This creates a conflict in terms of his character.