Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Welcome to our page!

Posted: April 16, 2012 in Uncategorized

Hello Professor and members of our literature class!

We are so pleased to have you visit our site.  We have worked very diligently to offer you a broad array of topics to peruse through.  The focus of our presentation is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

You can browse the various topics alongside the left hand column to help you sort through the categories.  Each will offer unique insight on a specific theme or idea.  Here, you will also find our credits page as well as bibliography.  We have enjoyed preparing this for you, and we hope that you are able to take away from it the ideas and knowledge that we have gained in creating it.

We wish you the very best on the rest of your semester and future academic endeavors.

Best,

Diana Arias, Gabrielle Gonzalez, Bryant Padilla, and Raghav Suri

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About the Author

Posted: April 16, 2012 in Uncategorized

Born in Somers Town, London, Mary Shelley was the daughter of two remarkable individuals, that Mary acknowledges as “persons of distinguished literary celebrity”, novelist William Godwin, and writer Mary Wollstonecraft. She recalls a pleasant childhood, in the country. Her favorite pastime was to write, and form a “succession of imaginary incidents.” (1)

In spite of her father’s disapproval, Mary (then Mary Godwin) began to see Percy Shelley in secret. In her mind’s eye, Percy Shelley was the embodiment of her parents philosophies (2). According to Mary, it was Percy who encouraged her “obtain a literary reputation” of her own, and prove herself “worthy” of her parentage (1).

A review of the book, Mary Shelley, by Elizabeth Nitchie, gives some insight at what might have been her true portrait. May Shelley was believed to be reserved, and as a result, finding intimacy in human relationships became difficult for her. Writing, is argued to be her means of expressing her repressed passions (3). In the introduction to  Frankenstein, she writes, “… I was not confined to my own identity, and I could people the hours with creations far more interesting to me at that age, than my own sensations.” (1)

In the summer of 1816, the pair visited Lord Byron in Switzerland. The guests of Lord Byron, confined to the grounds by rain, read to a series of ghost stories. Afterwards, Lord Byron proposed to his guests, “We will each write a ghost story.” Mary claims, that after listening to Byron and Shelley exchange philosophies, her imagination ran wild. She was possessed by the image of a student kneeling beside a monstrosity he had put together, and even worse, stirring with life. After sharing her short tale, Percy encouraged her to expand the idea further (1).

Contemporary critics of Mary Shelley, more specifically, Frankenstein, felt the novel was exaggerated and an outrageous improbability. They find many faults with the novel, citing the “imperfection of an unpracticed hand.” Some even go as far as saying that, “it is one of those works, however, which, when we have read, we do not well see why it should have been written.” (4)

Character Breakdown

Posted: April 16, 2012 in Uncategorized

Robert Walton

“My education was neglected, yet I was passionately fond of reading. These volumes were my study day and night, and my familiarity with them increased that regret which I had felt, as a child, on learning that my father’s dying injunction had forbidden my uncle to allow me to embark in a seafaring life.”

– Frankenstein, Preface

Frankenstein’s style is universally recognized as being written in the epistolary form. The term epistolary is derived from the Latin word epistolē, meaning “letter”, and, in this case, the letters are the correspondence between Robert Walton and his sister, Margaret Saville.

However, Robert Walton isn’t simply a device that Mary Shelly uses to frame the narrative; he is a parallel to Victor Frankenstein, and in some ways, the Creature – forming a balance. As an explorer, Robert represents passion, determination, drive, and a hunger to conquer the unknown. These traits are an example of the qualities he shares with Victor, especially during the period of time that Victor is most heavily invested in birthing the Creature. Furthermore, Walton’s resolve isolates him from others, including his shipmates. Isolation is the centerpiece of the Creature’s struggle with civilization, and is the most recognizable feature Walton shares with it.

Henry Clerval

“I was indifferent, therefore, to my schoolfellows in general; but I united myself in the bonds of the closest friendship to one among them. Henry Clerval was the son of a merchant of Geneva. He was a boy of singular talent and fancy. He loved enterprise, hardship, and even danger, for its own sake. He was deeply read in books of chivalry and romance. He composed heroic songs, and began to write many a tale of enchantment and knightly adventure.”

– Frankenstein, Chapter 2

There is a central core or group of themes at the heart of this novel: alienation, unchecked passions, nature vs. nurture, culpability, and friendship. Taking it at face value, Henry Clerval might seem like just a companion for Victor. Yet, upon further scrutiny, there is evidence that Henry is a personification of many of these themes.

Several valid examples come forward during the stretch that of time that Henry is nursing Victor after his encounter with the Creature. Not only is he acting as a true and unselfish friend, but a caretaker. This creates a boundary between Victor and the Creature, in the sense that he is allowed to thrive in a compassionate world, with nurturing people (like Henry), while the Creature is neglected, and exposed to its harshest elements (nature).

Later in the novel, Henry becomes the victim of the Creature’s unchecked passions. Motivated by revenge, the Creature murders Henry sometime after Victor destroys what would have been a second monster. The death of Henry is one of the plot elements that slowly isolate Victor in the same way his Creature is isolated.

De Lacey

“The old man, I could perceive, often endeavoured to encourage his children, as sometimes I found that he called them, to cast off their melancholy. He would talk in a cheerful accent, with an expression of goodness that bestowed pleasure even upon me. Agatha listened with respect, her eyes sometimes filled with tears, which she endeavoured to wipe away unperceived; but I generally found that her countenance and tone were more cheerful after having listened to the exhortations of her father.”

– Frankenstein, Chapter 12

The Creature’s turbulent life and actions can be traced to neglect, more specifically, from abandonment. It was “birthed” despised, and from that moment, knew nothing of kindness, empathy, or benevolence. It was, for the most part, betrayed, except in one instance.

The old man, De Lacey (through his interactions with his family), becomes a role model for the creature, despite the distance between the pair. The Creature’s infatuation with De Lacey serves to inform the reader that it is not without humanness. Simply, it is seeking the basic compassions that it has been denied.

Most notably, De Lacey is blind. What this means for the Creature is that it can’t be rejected for its horrid appearance, but rather, appreciated for its merits.

Victor Frankenstein

“I, their eldest child, was born in Naples, and as an infant accompanied them in their rambles. I remained for several years their only child. Much as they were attached to each other, they seemed to draw inexhaustible stores of affection from a very mine of love to bestow them upon me. My mother’s tender caresses, and my father’s smile of benevolent pleasure while regarding me, are my first recollections. I was their plaything and their idol, and something better–their child, the innocent and helpless creature bestowed on them by Heaven, whom to bring up to good, and whose future lot it was in their hands to direct to happiness or misery, according as they fulfilled their duties towards me.”

– Frankenstein, Chapter 1

In his essay, “Frankenstein and the Tradition of Realism” scholar George Levine compares Victor Frankenstein to Milton’s Satan, Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner, and even Percy Shelley (1). Is that reasonable? The Satan of Milton’s Paradise Lost is tragic, stuck between hero and antagonist; however, he still demonstrates a remarkable arrogance. The Ancient Mariner is a character forced to roam the earth, out of guilt, and recite his story in order to educate those he meets. And, according to William Veeder (professor of English at the University of Chicago), Percy Shelly was obsessed with idealizations of patriarchy (2). Indeed, it seems that Victor does in some way compare to these individuals.

There is evidence in Mary Shelley’s later fiction (Lodore, Falkner, and The Last Man), that she too has an idealized vision of fatherhood. At some point, the three different heroines, from these three different books make mention of the “idolized” father (2). It becomes clear, then, that Victor’s role was to be the ideal father. He was shown care, he was shown friendship, and most importantly, he was shown love. It was his duty, therefore, to pass these qualities on to his Creature.

The Creature

“I started from my sleep with horror; a cold dew covered my forehead, my teeth chattered, and every limb became convulsed: when, by the dim and yellow light of the moon, as it forced its way through the window shutters, I beheld the wretch — the miserable monster whom I had created. He held up the curtain of the bed; and his eyes, if eyes they may be called, were fixed on me. His jaws opened, and he muttered some inarticulate sounds, while a grin wrinkled his cheeks. He might have spoken, but I did not hear; one hand was stretched out, seemingly to detain me, but I escaped, and rushed down stairs.”

– Frankenstein, Chapter 5

By touching upon the other characters, much of the Creature’s personality and symbolism has already been explained and clarified. The question remains, how is the Creature a reflection of society? H.L. Malchow explains that Gothic literature of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries represent (subconsciously) the social liberation and political revolution of the era. Europeans of the time inherited a portrait of foreigners from such works like the Persian Letters and conservative thinkers like Cobbett – who encouraged stereotyping and prejudice (3).

The Creature’s “ugliness” is representative of discrimination and abnormalities Europeans associated with foreigners. In Denise Gigante’s essay, she quotes Burke in describing the monstrous, and she clarifies by saying that, Burke sees that the “system of manners” operates through a skin of “pleasing illusions” in order to repress societal issues (in this case xenophobia). Gigante compares the creature’s ugliness to disorder. She further elaborates that Shelley was perhaps influenced by the history of the British West Indies by Bryan Edwards, since Shelley herself writes in her journal that she was captivated by it, and in turn feasibly created a distinctively foreign creature (4).

Galvanism and Scientific Discovery

Defined:

“Galvanism” can be defined as the effect of the application of electric current pulses through body tissues that causes muscle contraction.  Late in the 18th century, Scientist Luigi Galvani, who was experimenting on dissected frogs, mistakenly touched a brass rod to a steel scalpel making a clear contraction of muscle in an otherwise dead frog.  He believed that this form of electricity, which he called “animal electricity”, was a form of energy that was still being held in the animal’s tissue.  Today, it is referred to as Electrophysiology and scientists are aware that it is not in fact an electrical fluid streaming from the brain that makes the animal twitch but instead just the effect of the joining of two metals and their electrical charges.

Interaction with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

At this time, Galvanism was the newest scientific research being conducted in Europe.  Yet, Mary Shelley even goes as far as naming an experiment researched by Darwin in which he was able to make a sample of vemicelli move in a glass vase.  The preface of Frankenstein is almost completely devoted to further defining the reason by which Shelley chose to gorge herself in the idea of galvanism, which led her to a radical dream about the creation of life through electrical movement.   In the preface, she writes, “ “I saw – with shut eyes, but acute mental vision, – I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half vital motion.” (Shelley 1).  This only serves as more evidence of Shelley’s interaction with the scientific experiment of galvanism being conducted at the time.

Throughout the novel, one can see that Mary Shelley is consumed by the idea of raising and creating life from a dead state.   Essentially, electricity is the source of life for the monster whose body is that of a man that once lived.    Mary Shelley’s thoughts and ideas regarding the scientific discovery of the time pertaining to galvanism become clear in Victor Frankenstein’s obsession with creating and regenerating life making the audience see him as the creator of all living things (a god-like figure). This becomes evident in the Victor’s line “I succeeded in discovering the cause of generation and life; nay, more, I became myself capable of bestowing animation up on lifeless matter” (Shelley 76).   By creating this life form known as the “monster” the audience is left to understand the relationship between Character personalities and the function of electricity.  This deals with the idea of “duality” where the positive and negative electrical forces highlight other contrasts within the novel such as the monster’s character as good or evil, and the morals of Dr. Frankenstein as being the creator versus the destroyer. (Sanchez)

Power Play

Posted: April 16, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

POWER PLAY

     Frankenstein had big plans to create life in the form of a human. What he had in mind were the beginnings of a “new species” that would “bless” him as “its creator and source” and who would “owe their being” to him (Shelley 36). However, despite all his scientific inquiry and studies, he took no time to consider the potential outcomes. Did he really think it would be so easy to gain control over a new creation? In Frankenstein, we see a shift in roles, where the created being becomes the master rather than the supposed natural and assumed control of the creator as the master, granting the Creature power.

     Although Frankenstein held the initial power and started everything, he lost his power eventually. In his loss, the Creature gained power and control. For example, Frankenstein commences the chase by running away after the Creature came to life. Gradually, the Creature takes the reigns and he leads Frankenstein on a chase into hazardous environments, making it difficult for Frankenstein to survive.

Also, in his demands to get Frankenstein to make him a companion, it was the Creature calling the shots, not Frankenstein. The Creature threatened to not leave him at peace unless he promised to accomplish his request, which he agreed to, only to break his promise later on. Despite Frankenstein’s use of terms like “slave,” it is a simple attempt at trying to maintain and present authority, as to remind the Creature of his place in the relationship since the term “slave” is a subservient term. Another term that Frankenstein uses is “daemon” and “demon,” to emphasize the Creature’s non-human status as to remind him of his place and his origins.

Parallel Lives

Posted: April 16, 2012 in Uncategorized
A gloomy, cold scenery like the one we would imagine the creature feels he lives in.

PARALLEL LIVES

The chase enabled the Creature to lead Frankenstein to sample a small measure of his sufferings: external and internal sufferings. Forced to take care of himself with no one’s guidance or assistance at the beginning of his life, the Creature led Frankenstein into parallel living circumstances. The Creature led him into an icy environment not suited for humans, reminding us that the Creature was rejected, made an outcast and had to learn how to survive on his own. One of the first sensations he made upon his existence was the cold he felt in Frankenstein’s room; the Creature took some of Frankenstein’s clothes, only to find that they were not enough to keep him warm and dry from “the dews of night” (Shelley 80). Shelley associates the cold with what she leaves us with, “darkness and distance” (191).

In a different manner, the Creature destroyed anyone that provided Frankenstein with agreeable emotions so that Frankenstein would feel something to the degree of what he felt: pain and separation from pleasurable emotions. What is different is that, in Frankenstein’s separation from receiving and giving good emotions such as love and compassion, he was also left with a sensation of loss. In light of this, since the Creature was never given the opportunity to associate with others freely (with the exception of the blind man) he was never given or never experienced pleasurable emotions to begin with. Also, could he feel a loss about something he was never given or had never experienced? The Creature could only associate with these emotions in their display through the lives and interactions of others.

Romanticism

Posted: April 16, 2012 in Uncategorized

Romanticism

It is evident that Mary Shelley was an author deeply embedded in the romanticism era as can be seen specifically in this novel, Frankenstein.  At this time, this novel exceeded the works of the period by simply creating a sublime experience that was quite unfathomable in the 18th century.  The main character Victor Frankenstein and the creature as well as the scenes of nature, existence all combine to create individual representations of the romantic visions Mary Shelley held for society.

Victor Frankenstein himself represents the idea of the use of imagination that could lead to a broader understanding and vision of everyday life.  Shelley chooses to portray Victor as a man that is destined for greatness through experimentation yet falls short due to unreachable standards and thoughts.  The creature on the other hand is shown trying to overcome struggle with morals, humanity, and even the environment.   In the single quote, “ The human senses are insurmountable barriers to our union….  and if I cannot inspire love, I will cause fear…” (Shelley 167) we can see that this novel is taking a turn that no other romantic novel had done before.  Instead of ending on the usual happy note, we can see that Shelley is opting to push this idea of Romanticism forward by having the characters display themselves in a manner other than what has been destined from the start of the novel.    In a literary sense, the fiction story can be seen as an “allegory” pertaining to the emotions/struggles that were very much so affecting the romantic writers at this time.

The inclusion of a gothic genre within this romantic novel only serves to further define Mary Shelley as an influential writer of her time.  By concocting this story, we see are able to see the after effects of one man’s “romantic quest for a scientific ideal of the perfect human” (Smith 2).  We are led to believe that Shelley does not believe that there will ever be a state of perfection reached in society.  She is able to create a novel that is filled with questionable acts, unfinished business, and even include scientific research without making it jargon to everyday readers; A true mastermind in my opinion.