Tag Archive: refugees


By: Leena Beddawi

America has been expanding its laws surrounding refugees and immigrants crossing its borders for decades, the most drastic set of expansions being created after the attack on September 11, 2001. Throughout these border security and law expansions, one thing that never changed is the law granting asylum for any refugee seeking protection from a country which defines a refugee as a “person who is unable or unwilling to return to his or her home country, and cannot obtain protection in that country, due to past persecution or a well-founded fear of being persecuted in the future ‘on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.’”.

Frankenstein’s creature insists on proving the “truth of my tale” in order to show that there are wildly different perspectives in this world and the means are just as valuable as the ends, how they became who they are, what they overcame to get here, is just as important as their very existence. I could only assume that in giving these letters to Victor, the creature hoped to change his mind about those who he considered being “other”.  One thing we see in many refugee or immigrant story is that they usually perfect models of W. E. B. Du Bois’ double-consciousness.

Double-consciousness is a concept in social philosophy which explains the presence of two apparently unconnected streams of consciousness in one individual, usually having to do with race, ethnicity, or originating country. This is something many refugees go through in order to search for a better life, they learn a whole new language, accustom to another culture, and try to peacefully integrate themselves in a space that is completely foreign to them because this is their only hope.

Safie is a Muslim Arab migrant from Turkey, but very much became a citizen of the world in accordance with Felix’s locations. Wherever he went, she wished to follow, and she made that place her home because they were together. I believe the creature’s pride in “learn[ing] from the views of a developed social life, to admire their virtues, and to deprecate the vices of mankind” helped him to empathize with the conquered native Americans and to see himself in the immigrant or refugee status because they each had felt that same sense of double-consciousness (114).

caravan

The president of the United States of America has chosen to demonize, criminalize, and verbally dehumanize the thousands of asylum seekers currently coming towards the border from Central America, most escaping Honduras, which many news organizations call “The World’s Deadliest Country”. Many of these people are young men, women, children, and elderly. Before they enter, they hope to apply as asylum seekers, which should technically aid them in a legal route of asylum. In the U.S., however, the immigration systems are severely out-of-date and meant to delay asylum to refugees for many small reasons, the main of which is just the subjectivity of opinion which goes with who gets asylum and who doesn’t.

I think if we were somehow able to share each individual story from the thousands of asylum seekers and hardworking individuals looking for a better life, searching for any life, we can actually start changing minds of politicians who see them as nothing but invaders. But if the president was presented with individual stories of the humanitarian crisis the refugees have been running from, one would hope that he would welcome those people with open arms, and allow asylum to those who need it.

In Frankenstein, I believe it was best summed up by Safie when describing why she never want to go back to Asia, where she was “allowed only to occupy herself with infantile amusements, ill-suited to temper her soul, now accustomed to grand ideas and a noble emulation for virtue” (112). This showed not only her desperation to go to another country where she could be herself without constraints, but showed how this alone should be enough to pass through and see if you can make a better life in another country. The very idea of borders exudes a racist, xenophobic ideology which has yet to be updated after many decades of fear mongering anything “other” to us, much like how the creature is treated by everyone they come in contact with, as well. It is no surprise they see themselves in the refugee story since their own double-consciousness must be deafening within themselves.

Outcasts

By Maya Carranza

In Frankenstein by Marie Shelley, the creature faces reality as many people treat him poorly and is seen as an outcast because he is different. Due to the fact that he looks so unlike everyone else and is a “monster”, the creature is alienated and becomes an outsider. Thus, the creature sets off into the world where he learns about others that have been discriminated and have been shut out by society.

Internal colonization was created in order to have inequality and discrimination against certain ethnic groups over others. Those affected by internal colonization are often seen as unwelcome aliens and are treated differently. Safie, a Turkish refugee, is illustrated in the same heartbreaking way as the creature in which society sees refugees or immigrants as outsiders and aliens. The creature and Safie form a relationship and connect as they are both viewed as outcasts and as different. This connects to today’s society as “non-white” people are seen as people that don’t belong in the U.S. and are treated unequally. The monster decides to give the letters written by Safie in order to prove the “truth” about the oppression the creature, Safie, and others like them face.

discrimination

Tania De Lira-Miranda

Image result for traveling passport

Though it may not seem like it at first glance, Frankenstein in a novel in which the theme of (im)migrants plays an important, yet small, role. Though the DeLacey Family, which consists of Agatha, Felix, and Mr. DeLacey, and Safie only appear in the novel for a few chapters, the characters leave a profound impact on the creature.

It is by watching the DeLacey Family that the creature comes to learn about a lot of things. It learns about class, “a considerable period elapsed before I discovered one of the causes of the uneasiness of this amiable family; it was poverty: and they suffered that evil in a very distressing degree,” sympathy, “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 neighboring wood,” and of compassion, “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.” But virtues are not the only thing that the creature learns from the family as it is through them that he learns about human relationships. By watching the three, the creature learns about how family relationship work; it sees how much Flix and Agatha care for their father as he states that “nothing could exceed the love and respect which the younger cottagers exhibited towards their venerable companion. They performed towards him every little office of affection and duty with gentleness; and he rewarded them with his benevolent smiles.” He learns about kindness as he sees Felix wake up before his father and Agatha to clear the snow from the path, gather wood, and bring drinking water. It is due to watching them that the creature learns to speak their language.

And this learning continues when Safie arrives at the DeLacey’s home. When she begins to live in the house, the creature learns about how she came to meet the DeLacey’s as “The father of Safie…was a Turkish merchant…[who] became obnoxious to the government. He was seized and cast into prison the very day that Safie arrived from Constantinople to join him. He was tried and condemned to death” which caused Felix to try to help him which is where he met Safie and fell in love with her which caused her father “to secure him more entirely in his interests by the promise of her hand in marriage so soon as he should be conveyed to a place of safety.” It is due to the Safie’s tale of the circumstances that lead her to meet the DeLacey’s that the creature learned that, just like Safie, he was an other. When Safie first arrived at the DeLacey’s home, she does not know how to speak the language that Felix and his family does which causes her to be “neither understood by, or herself understood, [by] the cottagers.” So by not knowing the language of the DeLacey’s, a barrier comes to form between them as she is not able to talk to the family, causing her to be different. It is because Safie wants to bond with the family and not be different/an other to them that she plays the guitar: to communicate through music.

The reason why the creature provides Safie’s letters when trying to provide “the truth of [his] tale” is because it sees itself in her. Just as the creature feels different from Victor and any other human being, Safie was different from the DeLacey’s as she did not speak their language and was from another country. Both Safie and the creature are not like those around them. They both did not know the language of the country they were in and they are not originally from there, though technically this could be argued for the creature. Both the creature and Safie try to integrate to the country’s culture, only one of them succeeds, Safie, which shows the creature that it is an outsider even to the outsiders. By giving Victor Safie’s letters, the creature wants Victor to see how hard life is to immigrants, compared to Victor who is a white man. The creature wants Victor to see the injustice that both Safie and it face because of the life they were given/born into. The letters show the struggles that Safie went through in order to be accepted and the creature wants to show Victor that it too is going through struggles in order to be accepted

Authenticity

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

For next Wednesday (10/31), students will answer the following question prompt: why does the creature insist on proving “the truth of my tale” by giving to Victor (and, indirectly, Walton) a copy of the letters by Safie, a Muslim Arab migrant from Turkey (111; on Safie’s life story, see 106, 111-114)?  In answering this question, please use the terms and ideas of critical race studies.  Consider how Safie, her father, Felix, the creature, or other characters in the novel could be considered inhabitants of the borderland (Gloria E. Anzaldúa), examples of métissage or creolization (Edouard Glissant), models of double-consciousness (W. E. B. Du Bois), victims of internal colonization (Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o), or the privileged inheritors of whiteness (see Parker, pages 311-323). Please focus on one specific textual passage and define your terms.  To help you make contemporary connections, I’ve included below a short documentary of a Syrian refugee woman who migrated to the U.S, the story of a modern-day Safie.

Please categorize under “Tales of Immigration” and don’t forget to create specific and relevant tags.  The posts are due by 9:00am next Wednesday (10/31).

********Please ignore the Allan Lloyd Smith reading assigned for next Wednesday************