Tag Archive: the creature


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.

The Ending

One major difference between the book and the movie that wasn’t discussed much in the essay was the ending. The book ends with the creature disappearing into “darkness and distance,” while the movie shows the creature lighting Victor’s funeral pile and burning along with him. Is this an attempt to redeem the creature? By burning alongside Victor, the creature could be trying to atone for his killings and trying to prevent any more from happening by destroying himself. In doing this, does the creature upset the dichotomy of “Nature/Woman/Good versus Science/Man/Evil”? What does the more concrete finality of the movie suggest?

Just throwing ideas out here

The uncanny seems to be anything that reminds a person of their earlier psychic stages of the unconscious. Victor’s unconscious was definitely reminded, upon the animation of the creature, of his Oedipal psychic stage. On the surface, Victor seems to have progressed normally through that process. However, the dream reveals that isn’t quite the case. Although it seems that Victor is in love with Elizabeth, her image in the dream regresses to that of his dead mother. However, we can’t say that this directly correlates with Victor’s unconscious wanting to get with his mother. According to Freud’s dream interpretation, the forbidden desires of the unconscious are censored in dreams. The explicitness of the dream suggests that what it censors is even more taboo than desiring his mother. What could be more taboo than that?

Warning–I’m gonna say something pretty crazy here: maybe Victor like–I don’t know–didn’t think the creature was so hideous. Maybe he really thought, “damn this guy is fine.” In a weird, weird way he felt attracted to what he had created? I mean, he was set to marry his adoptive sister so already his life is pretty weird. But let’s turn to the text, and talk about my second best friend: Victor’s unreliability as a narrator. “His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast…” (60). Victor may have designed the creature to be beautiful, but it is interesting that, in describing the “monstrosity,” he first paints it as beautiful. Present Victor, the one on Walton’s ship, knows that the creature isn’t beautiful. He knows that the creature becomes a murderer. The Victor of that moment, however, doesn’t know that.

Perhaps that is why Victor carelessly leaves the creature alone, right after it’s birth. He can’t handle the fact that he’s feeling something for a guy-like creature. He lives in a hetero-normative world. His mother literally said to him, on her deathbed, “My children [Elizabeth and Victor]…my firmest hopes of future happiness were placed on the prospect of your union,” and to impress her point she has them hold hands (49). He’s been told that Elizabeth was his since she joined the family. In the dream, Elizabeth’s transformation into his mother seems to be a throwback to his mother’s dying words. To what is expected of him. The norm that he may be–probably is–deviating from. The possibility of not fitting the mold laid out for him was too much for him to take

After spending a large portion of his essay speaking on how Frankenstein’s creature is the embodiment of the proletariat, Warren Montag at the end of his ideas states that the creature actually represents the unrepresentability of the proletariat. I don’t fully agree with this change because the representation of the all of the proletariat in one powerful monster has meaning.

The monster has an incredible amount of power and strength. All his power however is channeled into avenging himself and this happens when he states, “No: from that moment I declared everlasting war against the species, and, more than all, against him who had formed me, and sent me forth to this insupportable misery” (122). The creature is a representation of the proletariat because although the proletariat had immense amount of power because of their numbers, their power was not used to change how the machine worked. They used their power to change how their cogs in the machine worked, and this reoccurs in almost every working-class revolt to date. Much like the working class, the monster, rather than changing the machine that views him the way it does, focuses instead on the immediate “issue” which he thinks would help to change his circumstances the most. His circumstances however would not change because he gained control of, or killed Victor. He would have still been seen as an ugly creature who could never amount to anything and only terrorized regular people.

With an overwhelming population like that of the proletariat, almost any law could be changed to suit their needs. This group almost always never uses that power however, because they focus on the short goal at hand, which normally is to change their current work situations. The monster in the same way, channels immense power into changing only one aspect of his life which in the long run, changes nothing.

The Hierarchy

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The passage describing Mont Blanc and its surroundings on pages 89-92 seems to be a near-exact translation of Percy Shelley’s poem, “Mont Blanc,” into prose, particularly on page 90 at the beginning of chapter ten. As Victor describes falling ice and avalanches, he speaks of, “the silent working of immutable laws,” and the ice being, “but a plaything in their hands” (90). This goes hand in hand with Percy Shelley’s lines: “Thou has a voice, great Mountain, to repeal / Large codes of fraud and woe” and “Is this the scene / Where the old Earthquake-demon taught her young / Ruin? Were these their toys?” (lines 80-81, 71-73). Victor conveys the same awe as the speaker in the poem. Similarly, “my slumbers, as it were, waited on an ministered to by the assemblance of grand shapes which I had contemplated during the day” echo’s Percy Shelley’s lines: “Some say that gleams of the remoter world / Visit the soul in sleep–that death is slumber / And that its shapes the busy thoughts outnumber / Of those who wake and live” (Frankenstein 91, “Mont Blanc” lines 49-53). Victor dreams of Mont Blanc, and, indeed, his dreams and sleep do seem to offer a death-like state, as they “gathered round [him], and bade [him] be at peace,” evoking the image of a funeral (91). However, one guest of the poem doesn’t appear in Victor’s dream: “the wolf [who] tracks her [the eagle] there” (line 69). This, and other predatory hints in the poem like, “The glaciers creep / Like snakes that watch their prey,” seem to be lost on Victor (line 100-101). Since Victor doesn’t allude to these lines, he doesn’t see the danger of his situation. He doesn’t sense a snake watching him or a wolf tracking him. He doesn’t realize the creature hunts him. When Victor sees the creature, it takes him a moment to realize that the figure he sees is, in fact, the creature.

All I have to say is, Victor, why so dense? “Mont Blanc” suggests nature’s superiority over humans, saying, “Frost and Sun in scorn of mortal power / Have piled: dome, pyramid, and pinnacle” (line 103-104). Victor also alludes to nature’s architecture, as well as continually comparing Mont Blanc to a ruler. The creature, however, “bounds over the crevices in the ice, among which [Victor] had walked with care” (92). The creature moves swiftly and without hesitation through this landscape, without a single trace of reverence or care. This indicates the creature is superior even to nature, and thus, humans. Why does Victor not realize that the creature has him outmatched in every possible way? Why does he think that he can fight the creature and win? I think that, despite his over-drowning melancholy, Victor has what we might call a “creator complex.” To Victor, the hierarchy probably looks like: humans at the bottom, then nature, then the creature, then Victor himself. Because Victor created the creature, he thinks he is superior to the creature. He knows he has power and a say in the creature’s life, but he doesn’t realize that the creature also has power and a say in his. He underestimates the creature, and overestimates himself. Because the prose and poetry are so similar, the differences point out that Victor doesn’t realize he created a being superior to himself, and even to nature itself. This adds insight into why the creature cannot be accepted as animal or human, as of nature or of civilization. His appearance and his abilities make him other-worldly to both.

(Image from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/vd1966/15166280897/in/photolist-p7c9VF-gH2W7x-prVnHq-dajET8-5Ziqun-kfTE9G-gdAwcu-fXuo6E-pWzNdg-cHbDiA-dajEWv-agdkY1-fAzB6u-bzYhvU-34s8Y-5ZnBsG-mLu14-5i8bQy-cyXTWf-fSFGQu-cyjb1A-6oDYGL-hb5LP9-j4NceT-npScAB-dajEQa-j9tEcP-r5kuis-pnMRDp-dajEAX-ocQac2-q2ycL5-mQH9FS-fjztS2-5J7AWM-qtXUiq-e9oPX2-9VN8PB-prVsd7-gXYhSQ-5HY1Hr-nup4wE-nxxZQ1-pRhix9-2mnBNg-iPyKkt-j8jzR-5SMBXh-o7mwq8-6F16QP)

In reading the post written by jelenzada a year ago, I noticed that there were some interesting thoughts that the blogger had deduced from their reading of Edmund Burke’s A Philosophical Enquiry as well as from Frankenstein itself  (click here to read the post). One of the strongest arguments I read during that blog post starts when the blogger writes about the source of tension that arises when dissecting the book about the creature’s sympathy. The blogger refers to the passage in the story where the creature is talking about his discovery of fire. The creature during that portion says, “In my joy I thrust my hand into the live embers, but quickly drew it out again with a cry of pain. How strange, I thought, that the same cause should produce such opposite effects!” (97). The analogy is then made that the creature finds, and “connects” to society through the De Lacey family yet when he tries to get close to them, he is rejected or socially burned. The blogger notices that it is at this point where the sympathy completely leaves the monster. He/she approaches this phenomenon in the sense that the monster lost his sympathy because of a lack of human interaction but according to Edmund Burke, there is more to this story.

To Burke, the reason why humans think, reason, and function the way we do is because of our Tastes. We all like and dislike different things and these things drive us. Sympathy towards humans then, in this definition, would be a human Taste. There are many layers however that define the Tastes we have according to Burke. So which layer then was corrupted and changed the Taste of sympathy in the eyes of the monster? Taste in humans is broken down into Sense, Imagination, and Judgement. These are further broken down into several categories but the underlying theme in all of these are experiences. The creature then in Burke’s world would not have lost sympathy because of a lack of human interaction but because of the human interaction he had experienced. If we referenced the clever analogy from jelenzada’s blog, we noticed that the creature pulled his hand away from the fire because of pain. The creature pulled away from his sympathetic nature because of the pain he felt after dealing with the De Lacey debacle. Pain and Pleasure are two parts of the Sense layer of human Taste according to Burke. Due to the emotional pain he felt after the meet up with the family, the creature changes his Tastes about sympathy to where he was now blind to sympathy. Burke believed that our experiences shaped us, not our lack of experience and the creature in Frankenstein seems to have been affected due to experience, rather than the lack of experience.

Phoenix_fire

The miserable creation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein purports to kill himself, yet his words invoke a curious sense of triumph and hope in an afterlife. This seeming paradox is far from it, for the fire he plans to die in is at once destroying and purifying, emphasizing the creature’s spiritual humanity.

This goes without saying, but burning alive is horrifying. The creature recognizes so much, saying he will “exult in the agony of the torturing flames” (Shelley 189). I’ll get to the strange exulting part, but, hey, let’s first recognize the very real, very scary agony and torture he’s facing. Worse, the creature declares that his present miseries will be “extinct” (189), invoking dramatic finality since, by nature of his unique creation, his demise will literally be an extinction.

That’s pretty dang sad. So why exult? Part of it has to do with fire’s purifying properties. The Bible describes how, as a blacksmith refines impure minerals in a fire to produce dazzling gold, God can purify a man from unrighteousness. The creature subscribes to this, believing that the death of his physical body is not truly an end since, as his “ashes will be swept into the sea” (189), his “spirit will sleep in peace” (189). This image works on multiple levels, invoking the idea of “from dust to dust” as well as that of the majestic phoenix (his spirit) rising from the ashes. Finally, as the creature is “soon borne away by the waves” (189), I cannot help but think of how he may soon be reborn as his spirit moves on. The circle is complete, for as a “spark of being” (60) initially brings him to a hideous earthly existence, a grand “conflagration” (189) sends him out into a new purer one. The creation may’ve been dead parts come to life, but he sure appears to have a soul. And he goes out with a bang.

The final two paragraphs of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein are packed full of detail and life. The creature in his final moments shares his plans for suicide as well as his emotional state in a few sentences. The way in which he presents himself on its own has an incredible amount of meaning. The creature’s “body language” speaks volumes to why his ending statements are framed in the way they are.

Mary Shelley writes, “He [Frankenstein] cried, with sad and solemn enthusiasm,” (Shelley 189). This statement poses an interesting paradox that opens a window into the soul of the monster. A strong statement is made just by paying attention to the wording of the phrase, “…with sad and solemn enthusiasm”. The definitions of sad and enthusiasm are nearly complete opposites yet the word sad accompanied by solemn are used to describe an enthusiastic cry from the creature. This creates a paradox that has not always been observed but plays a key role in the last two paragraphs.

image_frankenstein

According to the new style of critical thinking, paradoxes should be explained in the text. Mary Shelley is quick to do just that as she writes the dialogue of the creature. The creature states, “I shall die, and what I now feel be no longer felt. Soon these burning miseries will be extinct” (189). From these lines, it becomes apparent why the monster cries with sad and solemn enthusiasm. The enthusiasm stems from the fact that his emotional struggles are coming to an end. The creature is enthusiastic to finally be able to escape from his emotional weight. The sad tone in his voice however is an indication of several things. First off, the creature is about to kill himself. There is no joy in this suicide and he has decided to choose what he sees as a fitting death by fire. Secondly, these final words are spoken as the creature stands over his creator’s dead body. He says these things in sadness because not only is his creator dead mostly due to him, but many others have perished under his hand. The monster chooses an interesting term, conflagration, for the flame he is about to extinguish. A conflagration is a destructive fire and I believe that the monster realizes that not only is he extinguishing the conflagration that is his emotions, but he is literally extinguishing himself, the destroyer of many lives. His mood comes from the fact that he is ending all the destruction which is good, yet he was the cause of the distraction so he is in essence, ending himself. This would put the creature in a sad, solemn yet enthusiastic mood which, due to its placement in the story, sets the tone for the entire book.

Exulting in Death

The last two paragraphs of Frankenstein give a stark description of the effects of intense and prolonged social rejection on an individual. Social rejection has the potential to emotionally pain a person so badly that they feel the emotional pain far outweighs any physical pain or fear of death. “Sad and solemn enthusiasm,” seems to be quite a contradiction. Normally, “enthusiasm” would be associated with words like “excitement,” “happy,” and “joy.” In most contexts, enthusiasm is a positive looking-forward to something. However, the creature’s enthusiasm is for his death. If he ever feared death, he no longer fears it now. He looks forward to it. The creature also says he will, “exult in the agony of the torturing flames.” “Exult” is another word with normally positive connotations, and “agony” and “torturing” normally has negative connotations. The pairing of these contradictory connotations reveals the creature has truly lost his desire for life, and that he will only find joy or happiness in death.

The creature’s existence has become painful to him. Exacting revenge against his creator was not enough to make up for the fact that society completely and utterly rejected him. That rejection is so painful that the creature wants to, “ascend [his] funeral pile triumphantly and exult in the agony of the torturing flames.” “Torturing flames” could be taken as a reference to hell, which would imply that the creature would be happier in hell than on Earth. A more literal interpretation would be the creature’s cremation. However, the creature doesn’t have anyone to light his funeral pile for him after his death. Therefore, if he truly desires and plans to revel in the flames, he has to light the fire himself. He will have to burn himself alive. The pain of rejection by society and his creator is as or even more intense than being burned alive. Because he has been shown repeatedly that he has no place, the creature desires death.

A common theme of my previous blog posts is the creature’s position as the other. Being born in this role and being physically designed for it with his deformity inhibits his attempts to find his identity, since the society he is not a part of monopolizes identity.

When the monster is first born, he is an infant, with little memory of his original birth and a keen eye on the world. He watches the De Lacey family to find his own imago to project upon and identify with in my blog post “The False Imago”; with an imago, he can improve himself through presenting a more idealized self-image to look up to. Sadly, the De Lacey family differs too much from the creature’s natural appearance to effectively serve as an imago. He finds himself lacking in comparison to their forms when he sees himself in a puddle, and unlike the ideal Lacanian imago he cannot overcome this inferiority because his natural deformity sets him back.

Unable to pass the veil of human society, the creature asks for a companion in a defeatist manner: “Man will not associate with me; but one as deformed and horrible as myself would not deny herself to me,” (128). The monster accepts that he will always remain the outsider thanks to his hideous inhumanity, effectively denying himself the experiences he witnessed while watching the De Lacey household. He tries to compromise and still find an identity through requesting a female companion in a parody of the human family, but even then he sees himself as naturally wretched and unfit for a more beautiful companion. Effectively, he is trying to go with an approach that is “good enough”. This is also expressed in his desire to live somewhere else, far away; now that the creature knows he cannot find an identity through human society, he hopes to create one in a separate manner that does not tread on the toes of those who consider him other.

Frankenstein’s greatest fear that prevents him from finishing the female counterpart is that the pair of creatures will parent a race of monsters to doom the world. Having children normally requires the company of another human being; to deny it to the creature is to deny one of those basic rights human society takes for granted. It is an expression of identity through the creation of a new one. Frankenstein restricts the monster’s freedoms because he fears its hypothetical progeny, yet the only reason such a race of monsters would raise such concern is that they were inhuman. Because the creature is an outsider, Frankenstein bars the door to him from having children and leaving the prescribed role of the outsider, stifling the monster’s development of his identity.

The creature never had a choice in what it could become. Any attempt to escape his role as the outsider was flawed; he could not use humans as his ideal image, and when he attempted a different approach that merely copied the human approach, Frankenstein became fearful and betrayed his creation because he could not separate the creature from the role of the outsider.