Tag Archive: Sympathy


Butchered Justice

In the novel Frankenstein, we readers witness the execution of Justine, the maid of the Frankenstein household, for the death of William. Although she was never guilty, she was still put on trial and found guilty for planted evidence. After reading Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Men, the connections between Justine/Justice and the writing material is very strong.

For instance, Wollstonecraft focuses the majority of her paper on the idea of beauty, and how it is treated towards Justine and all women found in Frankenstein. Wollstonecraft quotes that “littleness and weakness are the very essence of beauty” (47). With Justine being a female, this same idea of beauty collided with her, and her wretched state as she goes on trial, knowing that she herself is innocent. At this point in the novel, Justine is tear-faced and broken to hear the news of her guilt from the jury. Wollstonecraft shows us that in order to be considered beautiful by men, we must appear smaller than them, and act as if we have a necessity for males in our lives in order to survive. Justine was not able to fit in that category, since she was “guilty” of William’s murder, which led to her demise.

-Jody Omlin

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The New Perspective

Warren Montag, author of the essay “The Workshop of Filthy Creatures”, uses this article of writing to pinpoint the social classes, and social injustices, found in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. To start off, Montag first divides the fact that Victor is part of the Bourgeoisie class, and the creation represents the Proletariat class. While reading Montag’s paper, he brings up multiple points based around his thesis. His final words, however, can be left for interpretation by his readers; “… not so much the sign of the Proletariat as of its unrepresentability.” (480)

In my personal opinion, I believe that Montag is correct. In order to help Montag with direct evidence from the novel, might I direct you to chapter 12 of Frankenstein. At this point in the journey, the creature has been studying the cottagers and their ways of survival. The cottagers work everyday, especially Felix, and the creature takes note of this continuously in his part of the story. However, the creature then states to himself, “… but how terrified when I viewed myself in a transparent pool!” While the quote is fleeting, it still holds many points of evidence that are useful for my argument. One, for example, being the plain fact that the creature understands that he is not like the cottagers as far as beauty. This is not the first time that we, the readers, see the creature separate himself from human society, or even the Proletariat class. Just this quote is enough to sustain the theory that the creature merely is not a suitable husk of the Proletariat class in Shelley’s novel, no matter how hard Shelley tries. The creature cannot identify himself with the Proletariat because he does not understand their pains and labors, despite him lending a secretive helping hand.

-Jody Omlin

Frankenstein: The Novel vs. the Myth

As children, we all thought that we had known who Frankenstein was; the bumbling green monster who could barely string a handful of words together, with its dramatized square-shaped head and metal bolts jutting out from its large neck. We didn’t even consider him as a real living creature, only an object. Not only was it a symbol of fear during Halloween, but has now (more popularly) become a comedic character in children’s shows and movies. One example is from the new popular animated movie, Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation.

After reviewing and reading through Frankenstein, however, we see a whole different world. We’re exposed to a completely different character, one that we aren’t sure how to react to. For one, our so-called monster is actually nameless, put into this world with no identity. Frankenstein, first name being Victor, is actually the creator of the creature we had been stereotyping this entire time. The creature in Shelley’s novel is nothing how we were forced to perceive him to be.

The creature is born into a world where he is instantly hated by his creator, by his presumable “mother”, if we must give Victor the role of this creation’s parent. Victor’s cruelness automatically evicts pity from us to the creature, since we can envision this creation as something completely helpless and in need of direction, which he had been so horribly shoved away from. At this point in time, we begin to humanize him.

We also see that the creature has very human qualities, such as complex emotions and strong intelligence that is unexpected from a science experiment thought to have gone wrong. In the novel, we are the witnesses to the creature’s mental growth as he is quickly shunned by Victor and must discover humanity himself. In fact, to call this creation a monster is completely incorrect, seeing that the reason we fear this creation is because of how human he becomes.

This creature, the one we have humanized, is no monster; the only true beast we witness in this novel is Victor Frankenstein, himself.

-Jody Omlin

Humanity Within a Monster

~Dariana Lara

 

My first thought that came to mind when I found out that we were going to read Frankenstein by Mary Shelley was that it was a general story. When I think of Frankenstein the first immediate thought that comes to mind is a green scary looking monster, because that is how he is universally portrayed. A mad scientist goes out on a bender to create something unordinary, something that was never created before, and in the beginning, that is where I thought Mary Shelley’s story was going. What Shelley incorporates into her Frankenstein is feeling/sympathy. The Frankenstein rumored in the myths is void of all emotion and sympathy which is how I think the story and myth differ. The part of the book where I saw Frankenstein’s inner humanity is when he feels guilty for stealing food from the neighbors, once he realizes that he is a cause of their struggle. When Frankenstein gets a glimpse of himself what he looks like in the outside when he sees his reflection in the water he sees why people fear him. At this point as the reader I feel bad for this “monster” because he is not malicious as we perceive him to be. He generally wants to be accepted, and it’s hard for him to that because he is on the outside different. He was brought into this in a completely unnatural way, and now he is living the repercussions.

Serena Ya

frankenstein

Initially, upon hearing the name “Frankenstein,” we often imagine a horrific, grotesque creature sewn together from dead tissue. However, Frankenstein is the creator of the frightening creature that we all know. The unnamed creature, also often referred to as the “monster” is not originally created to be a monster. It is when the monster is abandoned, isolated, and rejected from society that he is shaped into the “monster” that he is. Through this, we see that the creature wanted only to be accepted and loved by society, revealing a sensitive and emotional side of him many do not associate the creature with.

Although the creature is created as a fully, physically developed human, we often believe that he has the mind of a baby – undeveloped, illiterate, and oblivious. However, the creature very quickly catches on and becomes extremely educated and knowledgeable, speaking eloquently with significant comprehension. In some ways, it may seem that the monster is more a human than Frankenstein, and that it is Frankenstein himself, who is the real monster.

By the end of the novel, we begin to feel sympathy for the creature, because from the beginning of his existence, he was deserted by his own creator and therefore questioned the purpose of his life. Mary Shelley’s novel uncovers the truth of the monster, through the help of the different narrative perspectives, so that the audience is able to understand the monster through several separate lenses.

By- Marycarmen Nieto

I never really read the story about Frankenstein until reading Mary Shelley’s novel. It was shocking to find out that the creature wasn’t actually called Frankenstein but it was his creator’s name, Victor Frankenstein. The myths I would hear about Frankenstein (creature) was that he was an ugly scary monster and was evil. In reality, Frankenstein just wanted to love humans and be their friends to protect them and be with them. But the humans were not friendly to him because they had never seen anyone like him before and labeled him as a monster. In this novel, I learned how Frankenstein actually had a heart and emotions just like a human. When he told his side of the story it made me really sympathized with him. This novel challenged my stereotypes of the myth because it showed me that he had real feelings. He was no different from a human.

All Frankenstein really wanted was to love and be loved. We can’t really blame him for wanting that because we all want to feel a little love. I agree with Daniel, that the real creature is Victor. Victor let him suffer all by himself and was ashamed of his creation since the moment he was brought to life. The stereotypes about Frankenstein do not represent his true character, he was much more than a monster. He was a human stuck in the wrong body. The picture I chose represents how Frankenstein is supposed to be mean and evil-looking but in reality, he is as soft as the material this toy is made out of.

  

 

Frankenstein: The Novel vs. the Myth

By: Katherine Hernandez

Stereotypically when a person thinks of Frankenstein they think of the mass-produced Hollywood version of a monster. Green flesh, incoherent sentences, and idiotic ideologies all play a role when thinking of Frankenstein. As a child, I remember wanting to dress up as Frankenstein for Halloween and wondering where I would get the dye from.

Most of us touch base with the true origins of Frankenstein in high school. We become familiar with author Mary Shelley and try to erase the all too well-known image of the green monster that has been drilled into our brains. Suddenly, the big scary monster was a scientist and not the creation. My sympathy shifted from creator to that who was created and somehow it made the full circle back to the scientist; the true Frankenstein.

As I began to familiarize myself with Mary Shelley’s book again, I remembered one main topic that was discussed in my earlier years. Should we sympathize with man for being able to play God or should we sympathize with those created by the divinity of what they know as God? It dawned on me that perhaps the reason we as a society decided to adopt the monster as Frankenstein’s rather than the scientist is perhaps because we relate to the scientist too much and as humans, we refuse to see our own flaws and faults. As my reading for this class continued, I was able to see myself not only as the monster but also as Victor Frankenstein and I always found it easier to sympathize with the monster rather than Victor.

The myth of Frankenstein was created for us to fear something with dehumanizing qualities, thus allowing us to feel no remorse for the creature, however, the novel challenges us to feel sympathy towards the creature and view our own wrongdoings perhaps in a light that makes us uncomfortable. The dehumanization of the Frankenstein myth allowed it to be a success in the Hollywood and science fiction industry but Mary Shelley’s interpretation begs for a different approach. One of self-evaluation and the chance to give sympathy to those around us in which we harm with our self-endeavors.

 

frankenstein

 

An Imperial Narrative

Reflecting on “The Power of Ambiguity” https://foundationsofliterarystudies.wordpress.com/2013/04/08/the-power-of-ambiguity/

I was struck by the student’s potent question, “Does the monster know himself where his sympathy lies?” It is easy to assume that the monster belongs to the “colonized” group due to his existence as the outcast creation, yet this question alludes to the possibility of the monster’s representation as one of the colonizers. Does the monster sympathize for the conquering of the native American races or with the decline of the once great and virtuous Roman empire? I agree with the student’s conjecture that the monster’s position as the subaltern is “necessarily ambiguous” to reflect that quality of imperialism in which the cultures interact and blend, thus obstructing their individual identities. The monster responds appropriately to the conflicts, or ambiguities, present in the history of human empires, by his own “strange feelings” (109). He questions the contradictory nature of human history— “at once so powerful, so virtuous, and magnificent, yet so vicious and base” (109)— and in doing so begins to question his own identity: “And what was I?” (109).

The uncertainty in the monster’s response to the histories Felix narrates reflects the narrative ambiguity, which, according to Spivak, creates “this great flawed text” (851). Spivak observes that in the end of Shelley’s novel “distinctions of human individuality themselves seem to fall away from the novel” (850), as if each of the players in her story are capable of exiting the text on their own. For example, in refusing to describe the monster’s death and close the framed narrative with Margaret Saville’s perspective, Shelley indicates that each “cannot be contained by the text” (850). This interpretation provides that the narrative itself is the colonizer and its characters the colonized, because they are kept within the world of the narrative, and we realize their colonized position only when they are allowed to escape it. Spivak summarizes this point in her essay: “the discursive field of imperialism does not produce unquestioned ideological correlatives for the narrative structuring” (847). In other words, Shelley does not directly address imperialist theory, but embeds it within the framed structure of her novel. The frame structure inevitably creates a binary structure of one individual subjected to the narrative power of another.

The student alludes briefly, but leaves room for expansion, to the layered imperialism in the novel: Felix is subjected to the imperialist commands of the society that exiled him, Safie is colonized by both her father and Felix.This layered, ambiguous reflection on imperialism also parallels the framing structure of the narrative and could be given further attention.

On Solitude and Silence

The meaning of the fifth stanza of Percy Shelley’s Mont Blanc has always been up for debate. There are several parts of that stanza in the poem that makes little sense, including the rhyme scheme. When looking at the different possible ways a form of writing can be arranged there are pieces of insight that are sometimes uncovered. By changing the rhyme scheme into couplets, some interesting parallels can be made between the fifth stanza and a passage on pages 91-92 in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein that might even answer the puzzling question at the end of the stanza. The paragraph that will be referenced starts with “The ascent is precipitous…” and concludes with “…may convey to us”.

The question posed at the end of the stanza is if silence and solitude are/were vacancy. The first mention of either silence or solitude in this passage is when Victor Frankenstein narrates, “…one of them is particularly dangerous, as the slightest sound, such as even speaking in a loud voice, produces a concussion of air sufficient to draw destruction upon the head of the speaker” (Shelley 91). In this rearranged stanza, Percy Shelley’s first words about silence are, “..much of life and death silently there, and heap the snow with breath”. These two lines almost seem to intertwine. It is interesting however, that Frankenstein says anything but silence will cause a fatal avalanche and the poem states that life and death are both silently waiting and they heap the snow with breath. Victor Frankenstein seems to be answering the question of  whether silence is a vacancy. If silence is a vacancy, Frankenstein does not want that vacancy to be filled with death and in that sense, equates silence with life. Victor sees this peaceful silence on Mont Blanc as life, thereby filling the vacancy of silence with life.

What then about solitude? Can this rearranged stanza and the detailed scenery give us any information into what fills the vacancy of solitude? In the passage Victor states, “It is a scene terrifically desolate. In a thousand spots the traces of the winter avalanche may be perceived, where trees lie broken and strewed on the ground,” A possible parallel to this in the reorganized stanza says, “In the lone glare of day, the snows descend or the star-beams dart through them. Winds contend rapid and strong, but silently! Its home which governs thought, and to the infinite dome the voiceless lightning in these solitudes keeps innocently, and like vapour broods over the snow”. Although there is no one on the mountain in the poem, there seems to be a lack of complete solitude. The thought of snows, star-beams and winds as plural entities make it seem as if there really is no solitude. This creates an odd issue however. How does Frankenstein fill in the vacancy that is in solitude?

In his narration Frankenstein states, “I looked on the valley beneath; vast mists were rising from the rivers which ran through it, and curling in thick wreaths around the opposite mountains, whose summits were hid in the uniform clouds, while rain poured from the dark sky, and added to the melancholy impression I received from the objects around me”. Much like how Percy Shelley uses objects to fill the solitude that is present on Mont Blanc, so does Victor. He turns the the objects and by “receiving” an impression from the objects, he humanizes them. This is how the vacancy of solitude is filled by Frankenstein, through making the objects around him human, he is no longer in solitude. Victor Frankenstein, on Mont Blanc, fills solitude with the humanization of objects and fills silence with life itself and in this way, Mary Shelley answers her husband’s question of if silence and solitude are vacancy by filling those vacancies.

An Attempt at Sympathy

p. 105: “My thoughts…blows and execration.”  In these paragraphs, the creature is remarking how he wishes to understand the “lovely creatures” in the cottage, to know why they are so sad and miserable, and restore happiness to them. Through his narrative, it is clear the creature is attempting to grasp at feelings that Burke has recognized as sympathy, and while it is possible that it was impossible for the creature to feel true sympathy, the passage presents him as at least striving towards this goal of feelings.

Through the passage, the creature uses a lot of terms to describe Felix, Agatha, and the father, all of which serving to elevate the beings.  In fact, the creature almost seems to extol them: “I looked upon them as superior beings, who would be the arbiters of my future destiny” (105).  The irony is fairly evident in this passage: these people are flawed and upset, yet the creature sees this as signs of their character strength and a source for his admiration. Because he admires them so, he wishes and hopes that it is in his power to “restore happiness to these deserving people,” which is rather clearly running parallel to Burke’s ideas of sympathy.  We discussed in class for a lengthy period how one of the primary reasons why people take such interest in people who are suffering or are distraught is in order to relieve it, and how this deliverance of Burke’s idea of Delight provides the giver themselves pleasure.  In this way, the creature is strongly exhibiting sympathy, or at least a close replica of the feeling.

Speaking from a broader perspective, the creature is in a correct position to be feeling sympathy for these people. He has been observing them, and witnesses their emotions regularly.  So when you account for the fact that he is destined to not be involved with them, and does not attempt to be for a good period of time, you cover the idea that the person should be close to the action but not in it themselves.  But perhaps he is not truly sympathetic, and he is merely curious to uncover the dynamic for these people.  It seems that the creature himself is selfish, for he wishes to learn how they are in order to be accepted and loved by these people.  This is a point for a different discussion, however; the creature has been adequately portrayed to, at minimum, desire the experience of this sympathy.