Tag Archive: victor frankenstein


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?

Caspar_David_Friedrich_-_Wanderer_above_the_sea_of_fog

So, we have reason to believe Victor Frankenstein is a rapist.

Yes, yes, I know the victim we’re talking about isn’t a person, but nature (if that makes it any better), but let’s wrestle some more with that idea. Because I can’t help but think, “Victor may be violating nature by playing God and all, but doesn’t he also show affection for nature? Doesn’t he spend a lot of time romanticizing landscapes?” And the answer to all that is, “Yes … but not really.”

Victor does have some tender scenes with nature. Roaming the mountains, he describes how nature “congregated round me; the unstained snowy mountain-top, the glittering pinnacle, the pine woods, and ragged bare ravine; the eagle, soaring amidst the clouds — they all gathered round me, and bade me be at peace” (Shelley 90). In times like these, Victor dotes on nature and calls her (if I may continue the metaphor) a healing friend. But the lovey-doveyness quickly stops. When Victor wakes up the next morning, the rain is so heavy that he can no longer see his “mighty friends” (91), the mountaintops or the trees or the eagle. And he declares, “Still I would penetrate their misty veil, and seek them in their cloudy retreats. What were rain and storm to me?” (91).

Wait. What? Penetrate?

Sounds messed up, but any reader of Anne K. Mellor’s “A Feminist Critique of Science” shouldn’t be surprised. Mellor argues that Frankenstein is a story where “the aggressive, virile male scientist legitimately captures and enslaves a fertile but passive female nature” (Mellor 1). And based on the novel’s gendered language, it’s pretty hard to refute that. (The word “penetrate” comes back a lot more than you’d expect.)

So Victor’s definitely obsessed with raping nature, but the cool thing is nature doesn’t just take it. After he decides to mess with nature again by agreeing to make his creation a female companion, Victor accuses the sky for mocking him and asks it to “crush sensation and memory; let me become as nought” (Shelley 131). He bemoans to Walton, “I cannot describe to you how the eternal twinkling of the stars weighed upon me, and how I listened to every blast of wind, as if it were a dull, ugly siroc on its way to consume me” (131). The horrific results of his rape (the creation) now fully illuminated to him, Victor cannot even bear the mere presence of nature. Where there was once comfort now lies misery. Gone is the restorative, consoling friend. Gone is the passive, silent victim. So, yes, nature in Frankenstein may be feminine, and she may have been violated, but she’s far from submissive.

And I think Victor may want that veil back.

Mutability: A Daily Death

Mary and Percy Shelley were a couple so in love that they ran away together, valuing each other over their families and lives in London. They actively encouraged each other’s writing and it was in fact, Percy Shelley who urged Mary to develop Frankenstein beyond the short story it was initially intended to be. Just taking this into account, it isn’t too far a stretch to think that they must have had significant influences on each other’s writing, but on top of this, they each edited and gave input on each other’s works. So it isn’t surprising that Mary Shelley drew on her husband’s poetry in her Frankenstein, to the extent that she basically rewrote bits of the poems in places.

The passages on page 74 beginning “The road ran…” and ending “…destined to endure” are extremely reminiscent of the poem ‘On Mutability’. The poem is about how changeable and ephemeral humans are, in terms of their lifespans as well as the volatile character of their emotions, and this idea is demonstrated in the passage. To begin with, the poem gives a sense of constant movement with words like “speed”. “quiver”, “motion” and “wandering”, while the same sense is rendered in the passage by the phrase “as I drew near home” and the fact that he is traveling the entire time. The last two stanzas of the poem deal with the transitory nature of human emotions, and this can be observed in how Victor’s emotions are jumping from “delight” and “pleasure” to “grief and fear” in a moment. A major concept is also how we never react in the same way to something, when it happens for the second time, which is seen in the lines “Give various response to each varying blast” and “No second motion brings/One mood or modulation like the last”. This is encapsulated in how Victor’s response to his surroundings changes, where first he is rejoicing in the “Dear mountains!”with their “clear” and “bright summit[s]”, that he can see outside, and then later he sees the mountains as “dark” and a “vast and dim scene of evil” which inspires gloom. Additionally this scene that he sees replaces the pleasure he was feeling with despondency, much in that same way that Shelley says “One wandering thought pollutes the day”.

The novel in fact uses an almost exact quote from the poem in the line “Night also closed around”, which should be compared to the poem’s “Night closes round”. The phrasing is a little odd because it gives an a image of Night capturing or enveloping its victim, but this is probably because the personified Night seems to also be a metaphor for death. In the poem the line appears to speak of the fleeting life that humans lead and how death finds them so “soon” and then “they are lost forever”. Victor rewrites this when he talks of the future he sees for himself, where he changes and becomes the “most wretched of human beings”, and so is going to die a certain death, or more specifically his present self is going to be “lost forever”. The idea that everyday humans die a death, as they change, by “One sudden and desolating change” or “a thousand little circumstances that might have by degrees worked other alteration”(Frankenstein, 74), and become someone new each time, is the indistinguishable from the concept in ‘On Mutabililty’ and so, to put this in Percy Shelley’s words, “Man’s yesterday may ne’er be like his morrow”. This transitory nature of humans, where everyday who they were dies as they become someone new, however small the degree of difference, is probably why the Creature is unable to fathom their actions, and how they can be so kind and gentle sometimes and so harsh and unforgiving others. This is why he gives up on humans, and seeks a companion of his own species, a major driver of the plot.

Sympathy

If you open up my copy of Frankenstein, you’ll see a fair amount of underlines and check marks, maybe the occasional star or exclamation point. But if you really want to know how I felt while reading, you’d need to look at the little faces I’ve drawn on the margins. There are happy faces, angry faces and surprised faces, but it’s no surprise that the sad, frowning, pensive faces are what dot these pages the most.

And yes, this is one of those sad-face passages.

Victor’s reaction to Justine’s execution illustrates a complete failure on his part to sympathize with his supposed loved ones. From the start, Victor focuses not on putting himself “into the place of another man, and affected in many respects as he is affected” as Edmund Burke explains sympathy in A Philosophical Enquiry, but instead in announcing “the tortures of my own heart” (Burke 41). This is somewhat understandable; Justine’s death ought to fill Victor with guilt. However, he quickly repeats the word “my” an absurd four more times: “my Elizabeth,” “my doing,” “my father’s woe” and “my thrice-accursed hands!” (Shelley 85). Egomaniac much? Nowhere does he console Elizabeth or Alphonse. Worse, he rationalizes, choosing not to share in or feel, but to “contemplate” (85) Elizabeth’s grief, driving his focus further inward.

Victor’s narration switches to speak to his family — while concentrating even more on himself. Burke writes, “there is no spectacle we so eagerly pursue, as that of some uncommon and grievous calamity […] it always touches with delight” (Burke 43) but it is this sympathy that prompts humans to positively “relieve ourselves in relieving those who suffer” (43). Victor, far from comforting his heartbroken family, appears only to delight, perversely prophesizing worse things to come. He ironically claims he will be “happy beyond his hopes, if thus inexorable fate be satisfied” by Justine’s death, but only after he assures his loved ones, “Again shall you raise the funeral wail” (Shelley 85). Instead of relieving suffering, he indulges in it and even divests himself of any responsibility for the execution, pointing toward “inexorable fate” (85) instead. At one point Victor appears to demonstrate compassion like that which Burke describes, claiming he “has no thought nor sense of joy, except as it is mirrored also in (his family’s) dear countenances” (85), but the truth is in the writing. The only action verb in that final, excruciatingly long sentence is “bids you weep” (85), as Victor urges his family members to not smile, but “shed countless tears” (85). You don’t want anyone happy, do you, Victor?

I confess. I initially drew that sad face because I fell for Victor’s seemingly agonizing exclamations. It didn’t take much further examination, for me to realize that this sad face should definitely not be for Victor. Nor should it be for Elizabeth or Alphonse or Justine. It’s for the lost humanity. The total absence of sympathy.

VictorFrankenstein

Lightning strikes the top of a tall dark tower, and within the monstrous creature opens its eyes. The creator cackles and eagerly approaches. Of course, the creature escapes and demolishes a city. By the time I began reading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, I had all but relinquished these faulty images. The thing I still could not expect, however, was that the creature would go on to, y’know, kill the scientist’s whole family.

Now, I do not seek to defend Victor Frankenstein’s many character flaws (his egotism, his aversion to taking responsibility) and I recognize that narrator bias deserves major consideration. However, I cannot help but feel for Victor because I cannot imagine behaving any better.

Far from a scientist bent on world conquest, Victor is a bright and promising college student who wants to “pioneer a new way, explore unknown powers, and unfold to the world the deepest mysteries of creation” (Shelley 53). Sure, the language is somewhat dramatic, but this doesn’t sound far off from the pursuit of anyone interested in the sciences.

Unfortunately, his creature looks repulsive, and for Victor, “breathless horror and disgust filled [his] heart” (61). (Couldn’t he see how hideous this creature was before he brought it to life? But I digress.) For his lack of caring (but not only that), death upon death upon death ensues in Victor’s life. Like him or not, the suffering this young man endures is brutal.

Yes, the Victor Frankenstein I know may certainly have unkempt hair and a wild look in his eyes, but more than that he is a brokenhearted man sickened by his own foolish actions. He tells Walton, “I — I have lost every thing, and cannot begin life anew” (38). And this, at least, I believe.

(Interestingly enough, the image above is not of Victor at all but Frederick Frankenstein, Victor’s grandson in the 1974 comedy Young Frankenstein. Off on so many levels.)

ENGL 199 POST 1 MEDIA

Before I ever read the actual Frankenstein novel, I had no real exposure to the story outside of Halloween, Scooby-Doo, and maybe a few other various encounters I might have had during my childhood. After reading the novel in full, a number of stereotypes I previously believed to be true have been shattered. The biggest difference between my previous views of the story and what I now know to be the truth is the representation of Victor Frankenstein and the circumstances surrounding the creation of the monster.

 

Before reading the novel, I had always kind of assumed that the creator of ‘Frankenstein’ was simply a deranged mad scientist, looking to impart on the world a horrible creation and cause mayhem. After reading the story, I was surprised to learn that not only was this ‘mad scientist’ actually the namesake of the novel, but his original intentions in creating what became his monster were actually rooted in good.

 

I never really considered that as a possibility. In my head, I always had the image of this nefarious scientist tinkering away in some awful dungeon of a basement somewhere, assisted by his henchman, cackling away as his creation came to life as lightening lit up his lair and scary organ music played. The picture above kind of represents that stereotype, which I know now is quite off-base.

 

In reality, Mary Shelley’s vision of Victor Frankenstein was that of an innocent, well meaning, and brilliant scientist who set out on a quest to further the development of humanity and better society as a whole. Unfortunately, his experiment backfires horribly – but it was certainly not by his own design that the Monster came to be what it ends up being. That, to me, is the biggest myth that actually reading the novel dispelled.

 

Source for image: http://thenewsdoctors.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/mad-scientist.jpeg