'What was I? Of my creation and creator I was absolutely ignorant, but I knew that I possessed no money, no friends, no kind of property. I was, besides, endued with a figure hideously deformed and loathsome; I was not even of the same nature as man. I was more agile than they and could subsist upon coarser diet; I bore the extremes of heat and cold with less injury to my frame; my stature far exceeded theirs. When I looked around I saw and heard of none like me. Was I, then, a monster, a blot upon the earth, from which all men fled and whom all men disowned?'
While Nature sinks in Time's destructive storms,
The wrecks of Death are but a change of forms;
Emerging matter from the grave returns,
Feels new desires, with new sensations burns;
With youth's first bloom a finer sense acquires,
And Loves and Pleasures fan the rising fires.—
Here are the basic facts of the novel’s birth as you might find in a text book. If that seems a bit dull, you are quite right and may, without penalty, move on to the next post which is more interesting. If this is your first encounter with the novel… read on.
Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus was begun in the summer of 1816 and published anonymously in 1818. In the 1831 edition’s introduction, Mary Shelley describes how a tale, “Les Portraits de Famille,” in a ghost story collection Fantasmagoriana , influenced her and how the collection inspired Byron to suggest that he, Mary Shelley, Polidori, and Percy Bysse Shelley each write a ghost story.
Byron immediately created his story, later printed, while Polidori wrote TheVampyre also printed and soon forgotten. Percy Bysse Shelley easily began a poetic piece based on his early life. Mary Shelley, however, labored for days to find a theme without luck until the night Lord Byron and Percy Bysse Shelley talking about the principle of life, got her to thinking. In her 1831 introduction, she describes a dream which she says developed into the novel: “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” With a chapter beginning with these words, “It was on a dreary night of November,” she outlines the “grim terrors” of her dream.
Percy Bysse Shelley encouraged Mary Shelley to turn her story into a novel, a task she undertook by consulting sources, such as Rousseau’s E´mile , Sir Humphrey Davy’s Elements of Chemical Philosophy , and “other contributory works: Paradise Lost, Locke, Shakespeare, Gibbon, Political Justice” .
During Frankenstein’s composition, three successive tragedies confronted Mary Shelley: The suicides of two relatives (Fanny Godwin and Harriet Mary Shelley) and Chancery Court proceedings concerning Charles and Ianthe Mary Shelley’s custody. Mary Shelley finished Frankenstein in 1817. Percy Bysse Shelley edited it and submitted it to Murray and Ollier who rejected it. The novel was published by Lackington in 1818 with Percy Bysse Shelley’s preface and the author listed as ‘anonymous’. For awhile Shelley was rumored to be the author. Blackwood’s, the QuarterlyReview, and La Belle Assemble´e the three leading journals of the time gave the novel a good reception.
Because of its popularity and a highly successful stage adaptation, Richard Brinsley Peake’s Presumption; or, The Fate of Frankenstein (1823), William Godwin had a second edition printed in 1823. It differs only slightly from the original and includes a title page now bearing Mary Shelley’s name. A third revised edition, published in 1831, differs somewhat from the 1818 edition. In the 1831 introduction, Mary Shelley claims, “I have changed no portion of the story, nor introduced any new ideas or circumstances. I have mended the language where it was so bald as to interfere with the interest of the narrative; and these changes occur almost exclusively in the beginning of the first volume”. However, in the 1831 edition, differences exist regarding Elizabeth’s familial connection, Ernest Frankenstein’s professional goals, and the journey to Chamonix.
Translated into French in 1821 was the beginning of Frankenstein being translated into all major languages, not to mention countless adaptations for stage and screen, and continues to be popular today. Frankenstein is considered by many to be the herald of the science fiction genre.
Frankenstein Dissected or bits and pieces of leftovers.
From body parts that could be obtained from charnel houses and perhaps even robbed graves Victor Frankenstein creates a life that is larger than life; and by the law of Emersonian compensation is himself diminished in the process. Victor refers to his handiwork as the “creature”, “wretch”, ‘deamon”, “devil”, “abortion” and “monster”. Is Victor holding the mirror up to his own reality, acting out his repressed definitions? Or is it Shelley looking in the mirror? She had called this work “my hideous progeny”. Or is it what some feminist commentators have considered a representation of “those marginalized in society by race, gender, or economic status.” If we take the various critiques and try to fashion some sort of consensus we will often end up with a reflection of our own monstrous selves.
So with that in mind lets us look at the various parts and see how we might fit them together. I leave the final re-construction to you. With this approach I think we will accomplish what all good literature intends us to do, which is to maintain awareness of the Arabic proverb, “The viewer also participates in the creating of a painting.”
Now for the various parts so far dissected. (Music FX: any music will do as long as it is organ music.)
The Adams Apple of her eye: It should not surprise us that Shelley makes reference through out her work to the biblical book of genesis and the ‘first mans’ fall.
* The Creature tells Victor Frankenstein “ ‘I ought to be thy Adam’ ”. * Matilda compares Woodville to Adam. * Bindo has “every prophecy that has been made since the time of Adam” and a lock of Adam’s hair in his collection of strange relics. * Winzy’s “habitual credence was, that I should meet the fate of all the children of Adam at my appointed time” * Shelley notes a pretty girl and her ugly fiance´ in Baden-Baden looking “at each other as Adam and Eve might have done when no other human creature existed”
The Tongue The monsters acquisition of language is one of the most interesting scenes in the book. The monster lives in a hovel by the De Lacey family. Like the monster they too are outsiders. As French exiles in Switzerland; theyare de-naturalized and un-assimilated. That the De Laceys are exiles highlights the non-coincidence of native land and native tongue. Even the native French speakers live outside their native French land. The monster eavesdrops as Felix De Lacey teaches Safie to speak French, thus providing language lessons for the monster. The monster understands that language is the entrance into humanness. If he can be “master of their language” he can win a place in human society. Shelley places emphasis on the process of acquisition rather than on the result. One feels that she has been reading Locke.
In ‘picking up’ a tongue the monsters act of self-education mirrors Mary’s home schooling by two very brilliant parents. We also learn that the monsters identity was not created in the laboratory. Interesting that the language she chose for her monster was French. In this I think that Mary was reflecting the revolutionary ideas of education that were transforming the society of early nineteenth century Britain. Changes that she also was experiencing through her voracious reading. There was not only a revolution in industry at the time but also a revolution in intellectual industriousness. Question: Why does Mary have the monster speaking French? Is this some sort of elitist affectation?
The Eyes The first awakening is seen “by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs.” Victor at this moment is transform from creator to frightened child, “the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart.” This is how Victor described what he saw with his own two eyes, “His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful! Great God! 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 with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same color as the dun-white sockets in which they were set, his shriveled complexion and straight black lips.” Is the monster ‘yellow’ colored or is it Victor’s way of seeing. It was believed that the jaundice suffer saw everything with a yellow tinge. Hence Alexander Pope’s lines in "An Essay on Criticism" (1711): “All seems infected to the infected spy, As all looks yellow to the jaundiced eye.” Did Mary mean the Victory was casting a jaundiced eye?
The Stomach Mrs. Shelley’s husband is said to have practiced vegetarianism even though the word was not coined until 1847. But the idea was current for we read of ‘natural diet” and “vegetable regimen” which is a closer term than the cryptic “Pythagorean system’. One source speaks of Mr. Shelley as ‘having no liking for flesh foods, but enjoying bread and fruit and sweets of all kinds.” Which doesn’t make much of a case for diet preference. That is what any child lacking access to a fast food burger would have a preference for. Some say he was imitating Byron’s ‘vegetarianism’. However Byron was quite sporadic and inconsistent in his dietary displays. That may have been the main point for them both. Were they merely two college boys full of piss and vinegar delighting in grand displays of affectation. But the time of Mary’s writing of Frankenstein it is probably safe to say that the commitment to the dietary philosophy was more of a preference than a practice. A philosophy to be chewed over rather than swallowed whole. Whatever, we can see in one passage of Frankenstein the influence of their conversations on the subject. We can assume it was in discussions with her husband Percy that had her put these words in the monsters mouth, “My food is not that of man; I do not destroy the lamb and the kid to glut my appetite; acorns and berries afford me sufficient nourishment.” That is part of the monsters promise to Victor if he will only make him a mate. Earlier the monster himself relates, “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.” At this time his meatless diet was enforced on him and not from choice from which we assume a commitment as sincere as Percy’s and Byron’s.
The Funny Bone The doctors given name is Victor. Is this contrast of the ideal with the real Shelly’s idea of a pun? Not until the twentieth century does the full dimension of this bone come to public attention. See next entry.
The Sex Organ of the Monster For this the printed word (especially Mrs. Shelley) is mostly silent except to those grad students who can deliver a thesis even from sterile loins. For virtuosi naughtiness on the subject we have Mel Brook’s film Young Frankenstein wherein the monster is portrayed as sexually frustrated. To be sure we get the point (something a Brooks film always makes sure of) a nubile lab assistant, Inga, (Teri Garr) is added to the script. The monsters “shlangschtucke” is not only dimensioned by Inga but also by Elizabeth in the famous scene when she ecstasies to the strains of Jeanette McDonald’s “AHHH sweet mystery of life.” Fredrick Frankenstein (he is the descendent of Victor) having lost Elizabeth to the Monster ends up with Inga, from whose astonishment we surmise that he has acquired the creature’s formidable “shlangusctucke.” It is a film full of innuendo that even a 10 year old can take in. I give the film ten stars, mostly for casting Teri Garr. Once again art imitates art.
The Soul Mary’s novel abounds with religious ideas. The primary idea being of the Creator abandoning his creation. Which we note is a popular theological argument of freshman students, especially during the all night dorm bull sessions. A couple of thousand words might do the subject justice. Maybe more…so I will leave that open. Perhaps someone would also like to make something out of the fact that the Monster has not read the bible but knows it through reading Milton. Could this hint at some sort of ersatz Christian Diaspora?
Or Pomethus bound, rebound., repackaged and parceled out.
The origin of science fiction is often credited to Mary Shelley’s novel. There is also a large group that thinks Frankenstein does not qualify as science fiction. At this intersection definitions hit the fan. I contend that we can have our cake and eat it too. And why not? Is not that sort of time warp the basis of much science fiction. Shelley referred to her novel as that “awful progeny”. Yet it is a progeny that has spawned many offspring. A few of the more memorable and recent include, Arthur C. Clarke’s “Dial ‘F’ for Frankenstein” , Harry Harrison’s “At Last, The True Story of Frankenstein”, Kurt Vonnegut’s “Fortitude” And for a most spectacular trip through the worm holes of time there is Brian Aldiss’ Prometheus Unbound in which a modern time traveler returns to the scene of creation to meet Mary and the monster.
This novel has also been considered a ‘gothic’ novel mostly because it was written in an age some would have us believe was ‘romantic’. Frankenstein lacks the gothic elements of supernatural events and superstition. Unlike a gothic novel Frankenstein is set in a northern, protestant and bourgeous country. Unlike a gothic novel Frankenstein is set in the present rather than in a feudal past and does away with castles, abbeys and ruins so important to gothic formulas. On the other hand some say it does not qualify as science fiction because it does not include enough technological or scientific details. That the ‘engine of creation’ is only a passing reference. In fact, the critic points out, in was only in Mary’s 1831 introduction (thirteen years after the first) was there any hint of current scientific discoveries and hardly a mention of electricity. Electricity is mentioned only twice in the whole text and both time early on and in the same paragraph. Where are, the critics demand like villagers by torch light, where are the bubbling glass beakers and the other movie props?
To stake its claim to science fiction, it is enough that the ‘secret of life’ was taken from nature and not the supernatural. Otherwise how could Frankenstein have set the pattern for future imaginations which fill our modern libraries. Frankenstein has sown the “seeds of future science disaster myths,” from Dr. Moreau’s monstrosities to the threatening robots of Karel Capek’s automated and dehumanized industrial society in R. U. R. Every rabid robot, every android, every crazy computer is a descendent of Frankenstein. Like Wells who comes years later Mary Shelley combines social ideas with science in a way that makes her worthy of being the origin of the species. The stigmatization of science is well known to science fiction readers and to movie goers. The main theme simply stated is “If science hadn’t been messing where they shouldn’t, we wouldn’t be in this mess”. This stigmatization even preceeds Frankenstein in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. The pilgrims are all under the medieval Christian dispensation, even a scoundrel like the Pardoner who may not live up to his calling still remains included in the divine order of things. He and the other sinners are all links in the Great Chain of Being. But wait! There is an excluded class. The Canon and his Yeoman are considered apostates in the name of alchemy. These two [FONT="]practitioners of the newfangled art evoke the curse-edness of a soulless striving with matter. They foreshadow the modern who damns himself by tinkering with the unknown. [/FONT] As Chaucer states so clearly: “I warne you wel, it is to seken evere. That future temps hath maad men to dissevere, In trust thereof, from al that evere they hadde.” And for good measure Chaucer portrays them as sweating, sooty, working among alembics, and “sundry vessels maad of erthe and glas,” manipulating things like “poudres diverse, asshes, donge, pisse, and cley” (The Canterbury Tales, “The Canon’s Yeoman’s Tale,”
Two centuries earlier in Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus (1604), we encounter one who is not merely outside God’s domain (thereby totatlly dependent and obedient) , but is in defiant opposition to the Divine tyranny. Even so, can this work make claim to be “early SF”? True, Faustus’ pact with Mephistopheles’ rather urbane “science” gives him physical powers no one during Marlowe’s time had enjoyed. Faustus has an aerial view of the countryside and he becomes invisible, a familiar detail of later SF. But even if Marlow is within expected traditions we see the signs of the Christian veneer of devils and angels beginning to wearing off. Faust too is an over reacher in the name of science. To sum up: Frankenstein is not a Gothic novel because the gothic provokes the irrational fears of the psyche. Frankenstein is a Science Fiction novel because it provokes the rational fears of the psyche.
There may be some repetition of what I have already written but upon deletion the holes they left made the narrative bleed something terrible. So I put them back in. Of all my posts for this thread this is, I think, the most coherent.
Mary and her Electric Milieu [the scientific background]
Following the lead of Erasmus Darwin (grandfather to Charles), Percy Shelley had grand visions of a society improved by science-based inventions, such as deserts turned into fertile fields by chemical discoveries, transportation revolutionized by aerial machines using a new mechanics of flight, and the limitless power of electricity harnessed for human good.But Shelley would not live long enough— he died in 1822 at the age of thirty—to see any of these visions realized.
Like a good 18th century ‘hacker’, Percy Shelley turned his quarters at Oxford into a laboratory littered with apparatus. His chemical experiments often causing new stains and holes in the carpet. His school chum, Thomas Jefferson Hogg, who wrote a biography of Shelley, furnished a memorable description of his residential laboratory. In addition to a dense scattering of clothes, books, and beverage bottles, (what! No pizza boxes?) Shelley’s quarters contained an Argand lamp* for heating concoctions, assorted glass receivers, and a vacuum pump. Also among the scientific bric-a-brac were an electrical machine and Volta’s recently invented galvanic trough, the first electrochemical battery. * [ame="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argand_lamp"]Argand lamp - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia[/ame]
T.J. Hogg also recounted Percy Shelley’s antics: “He then proceeded, with much eagerness and enthusiasm, to show me the various instruments, especially the electrical apparatus; turning round the handle very rapidly, so that the fierce, crackling sparks flew forth; and presently standing upon the stool with glass feet, he begged me to work the machine until he was filled with the fluid, so that his long, wild locks bristled and stood on end.”
A more recent biographer has seen in Percy Shelley’s dabbling in experimental science a “Curiosity at Nature’s marvels and the desire to control them”; and there was also the “spice of danger or the charm of uncertainty.” These were the attractions that chemistry and electricity held for this most gifted student, whose literary offerings, especially Prometheus Unbound, would contain a wealth of scientific allusions. Mr. Shelley unbound Prometheus and Mrs. Shelley unleashed him.
Although Percy Shelley was far from being a typical Oxford undergraduate, much less a typical English youth, he does represent that tiny fraction of late-Enlightenment teenagers enamored with electrical apparatus and experiments. Unlike others in this group of enthusiasts, Percy Shelley’s brief life has been documented in rich detail. But we may be confident that his passionate interest in electricity and in the purchase of electrical things was far from unique.
Clearly, Percy Shelley exemplifies a pattern that persists to this day: bright and curious youth— a handful at most, and mostly males whose intellectual interests (and perhaps social skills) put them outside their generation’s mainstream—who develop an affinity for electrical tinkering and buy appropriate parts and products. In my generation, these hobbyists played with radios, televisions, and audio equipment; today they explore computers and robots.
Percy Shelley’s troubled first wife eventually committed suicide, but he did find another woman, a kindred spirit, to share his life. The daughter of two literary giants Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin, Mary Shelley grew up in the country, mostly near Dundee, Scotland.There she began to write, putting words to “the airy flights of my imagination.”Although born to writing, she had never thought of recognition on her own. Percy helped change Mary’s attitude: not only did he encourage her to establish a literary reputation worthy of her parentage, but he also recommended the reading of science and acquainted the young woman with some of his favorite authors, including Erasmus Darwin, Luigi Galvani, and Alessandro Volta.
In 1816 Mary and Percy, not yet married, spent the summer together in Switzerland. One of their neighbors was George Gordon, Lord Byron, who was working on the composition of Childe Harold. The summer was rainy and dreary, confining them to the house for long periods; for amusement they read German ghost stories that had been translated into French. Mary, who was only nineteen years old, had little success in putting pen to paper until Byron suggested that they “each write a ghost story.”
Neither Percy nor Byron completed the assignment, but Mary persisted, hoping to produce, she said, “a story to rival those which had excited us to this task.”It would have to be, she insisted, a tale that spoke to “the mysterious fears of our nature, and awaken thrilling horror—one to make the reader dread to look round, to curdle the blood, and quicken the beatings of the heart.”In this she succeeded brilliantly. Moreover, the novel that emerged—Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s first—was also fascinating and deeply provocative. Although she would write many more books, none did more to establish her reputation as a literary giant than Frankenstein.
The crafting of Frankenstein reflected its author’s familiarity with electrical technology, which stemmed mainly from conversations with her husband. Yet the idea that dead people, even body parts, could be reanimated by electricity was the product of neither of the Shelley’s fertile imagination. Rather, it emerged from experiments performed by members of another electrical community, the electrobiologists.
By the time Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein more than a half century of experiments had already shown how electricity affects organisms—living and dead.
Electrobiologists (the term scientist wasn’t coined until 1833) investigated everything from seed germination to the very nature of life itself. Significantly, apparatus such as the electrical machine and Leyden jar became models for understanding physiological processes, including the operation of the nervous system. The purported discovery of “animal electricity” reverberated throughout the literate world and even affected popular culture. What is more, studies showing the influence of electricity on human physiology and anatomy laid a foundation for new medical therapies, some still used today.
In adapting electrical technology for plant research, electrobiologists fashioned the first electrical machines that ran without human power. As an outgrowth of studies on animals they also invented an entirely new kind of technology—the electrochemical battery.
Galvanic apparatus, like electrical machines and Leyden jars, were acquired by hobbyists and youthful enthusiasts of science. Percy Shelley, among his other scientific bric-a-brac, had a galvanic device in his college residence.Perhaps he had even read about the experiments of Aldini and others on severed heads; surely someone as scientifically literate as the young poet could not have been unaware of these sensational happenings. Apparently, he passed along these little knowledge nuggets to Mary Shelley; she may also have learned about Aldini’s experiments from discussions of science in her own home. In any event, when Shelley created Frankenstein, the idea of revivifying human body parts by electrical stimulation was already old.
Frankenstein is a charming and engaging book about the exploits of Victor Frankenstein, self-trained in natural philosophy. Shelley constructed it as an autobiographical memoir of Frankenstein, who in turn frames it as a cautionary tale about tragedies that can follow from scientific passion unchecked.
As a youth, Frankenstein becomes captivated by the possibility of discovering “the elixir of life,” for it might enable him to “banish disease from the human frame, and render man invulnerable to any but a violent death!”Frankenstein’s undisciplined readings in natural philosophy acquaint him with the “more obvious laws of electricity.” A turning point comes when, instructed by an unnamed natural philosopher, Frankenstein learns about his theory “on the subject of electricity and galvanism, which was at once new and astonishing to me.” Suddenly he sees that they turned the muddled old theories he had been reading into nonsense.
Frankenstein embarks upon a university education, still impelled to learn “the causes of life.” He studies chemistry, physiology, and anatomy, but in these subjects he finds no answers. So in cemeteries and charnel houses, the methodical scientist examines bodies in various stages of decay, beholding in minute examinations “the corruption of death.” After this seemingly endless toil, Frankenstein admits that “I succeeded in discovering the cause of generation and life; nay, more, I became myself capable of bestowing animation upon lifeless matter.”
People acquainted only with movie versions of Frankenstein might be surprised to learn that, in the book, Victor reveals neither the secret of life nor the technology used to animate his monster. He withholds this crucial information in a benevolent spirit, wishing to spare readers from the same “destruction and infallible misery” that befell him. At the same time, Shelley enticed the reader to infer that electricity, perhaps galvanism in particular, is the secret ingredient. Indeed, when describing his first success, Frankenstein says that he “collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet.” An eye of the creature begins to open, “it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs.” And so echoed in Frankenstein the experiments and electrical apparatus of Galvani,Volta, and Aldini. This connection Shelley finally made explicit in the preface to the 1831 edition of Frankenstein: “Perhaps a corpse would be re-animated; galvanism had given a token of such things; perhaps the component parts of a creature might be manufactured, brought together, and endued with vital warmth.”
Frankenstein captivated readers, not merely because it told in graceful prose a macabre, spellbinding tale, but because it challenged the ideology that science, pursued unfettered, could bestow only benefits on people and on society. Scientists themselves simply did not entertain the possibility that their products—new knowledge and technologies—might be put to nefarious uses. It was left to a young woman, perhaps reacting to Erasmus Darwin’s imaginative projections, to raise this issue—an issue that resonates today more strongly than ever.
If we take a closer look at the myth of Prometheus (a Jungian view of course) we are told that Prometheus has many of the elements of the ‘trickster’. In Jung’s view the ‘trickster’ is an archetype embodying the unsocial, infantile, and unacceptable aspects of the self. It symbolizes the psychological infancy of the individual and is in some sense his “Shadow”.
The ‘trickster’ has often been portrayed as both the creator and the destroyer, the negator and giver, he fools others and fools himself. The ‘trickster’ possesses no values, social or moral, and is at the mercy of his passions and appetites, yet through his actions all values come into being. We can project these qualities upon the doctor and the monster and even see them as representing one. It is not difficult to view Frankenstein as one more myth that teaches, edifies, cautions and enthralls. Just as Prometheus stole fire from the gods, Frankenstein steals electricity from the new gods of the Enlightenment. Shelley’s book is appropriately subtitled ‘The Modern Prometheus’ even though she changed some aspects of the Greek version. Like the eagle pecking at the heart of Prometheus, Frankenstein has his heart plucked from him by the murder of his loved ones.
It is at this point the story takes a path that is not usual for myth but one that is familiar to psychoanalyst who treats schizophrenics. First we must look at the bare outline of what we mean. For a Jungian mythologies are tales which have a few universal themes; themes which are similar the world over. The tales wear a multitude of different costumes but underneath there is a sameness. For the Jungian this collective thought is also lived in the psyche of each individual. Each individual psyche takes the same mental journey. A child exploring the back yard acts out the same journey as Odysseus. Some call it developmental psychology. That fits our tale equally well. One basic theme and the one we are dealing with here is the one of becoming ones self. The pattern is simple: One leaves the community and in their travels encounters adventures (translation: learns how to be a person) and in these tales the adventurer encounters a wise man who gives them wisdom. (I think this represents the self’s awareness of self. Sane societies have rites of passage that assist the initiate.) When this self is complete the initiate then returns to the community ready to belong to something greater than self and to contribute to it. Jung tells us that the ultimate pattern is the SELF, and the self is the God image with the self not being able to distinguish between the two. Wind and breath are two common images of this spirit. For the Jungian self All is Spirit. We see it with the Dove that descends upon Jesus in the wilderness. The voice declares to him his true nature, “You are my son, my beloved.’ A fine example of the archetypal self. This drama is re-enacted in Galahad achieving the Grail and ascending with it to heaven. Again the drama of the self. But when Lancelot fails to achieve the Grail it speaks to his failure discover his true self.
In this story the monster is driven from the community but is not accepted back. He re-enacts Lancelot’s drama. The Jungian tells us that this failure at ‘re-entry’ is what we know as schizophrenia. Mary’s monster failed at re-entry, the monster’s mental space capsule experiencing flame out.
What a wonderful image Mary Shelley has given us of modern society. For we are a society that has tried to fashion something resembling civilization out of the bits and pieces culled from the graveyard of ideas. (Reflecting Shelley’s shattered and fragmented early life?) Mary Shelley shows us that the life of modernity is not carefully crafted and composed as is a Renaissance painting. The novel Frankenstein is the first cubist work of art.
The feminist approach to the novel insists on dressing it up in a three piece pants suit masking a hell-cat intent to bust heads against glass ceilings. One feminist commentator labeled Victor Frankenstein an “effete neurasthenic”. This feminist goes on to say that Victor displays “peevishness and brooding in solitude.” (translation: he doesn’t notice me anymore) Another feminist complained that, “he refused to accept the wisdom of his elders,” (translation: he never listens). And as if that wasn’t enough Victor has also been accused of suffering episodes of agitation and fainting and a heightened sensitivity to light, sound, taste, smell and touch. Now Mary Shelley doesn’t tell us the Doctors age but I get the impression that he is far too young to be experiencing the Climacteric.
Other monthly issues of ink portray Victor as retreating into an emotion free lab where he can pursue his ‘hobby’ (her word not mine. A way of diminishing and emasculating) Even Victors sexuality is impinged by pointing out that he neglects Elizabeth but enjoys jaunts with Clavel, a male friend. Victors damnation is not the result of hubris (according to feminist) but because of his inhumane lab project which (according to feminist) must be punished by withholding sexual favors. ( failed wedding night nudge nudge ) According to the canon the nameless humanoid kills Victors bride because it parallels the silencing of women, that most horrible crime perpetrated by men against women who are strapped to the operating table of Victorian society by males who would strip them of surname, wealth, and identity. Is it any wonder that Victor refused to create a female? The monster wants a mate and Frankenstein refuses. Another feminist parallels that refusal to the abusive battering adult and parent. She goes on to point out that the creatures first victim was named William. The same it is pointed out as her own son which suggest even deeper anxieties about herself as a mother. Another writer looked at Frankenstein as a birth myth, a working out of Mary Shelley’s own experiences with birth and it’s attendant loss, dread, and guilt. Some go even further and see it as a “motif of revulsion against newborn life.” This interpretation seems to me less a Jungian interpretation than a Rorschachtian projection of the reader.
Victor critiques the above when he says, “I was now about to form another being of whose dispositions I was alike ignorant; she might become ten thousand times more malignant than her mate and delight, for its own sake, in murder and wretchedness. …Had I [a] right, … to inflict this curse upon everlasting generations?” Victor's answer, to our everlasting relief, is in the negative.
Holy crap! That must add up to about 5 or 6 thousand words, Pedro, and covers every topical aspect I can possibly think of. Excellent introduction(s!!), my friend, you’ve done your research for sure.
Looking for something to pick up on, I’ll go with:
I agree; I see literacy operating as a shibboleth that maintains the distinction between subject and object, citizen and savage, ‘modern’ and primitive. As the ‘monster’ learns his letters, he challenges his objectification. This is his quest for authority, for autonomy. With autonomy comes inclusion:
I easily perceived that, although I eagerly longed to discover myself to the cottagers, I ought not to make that attempt until I had first become master of their language; which knowledge might enable me to make them overlook the deformity of my figure.
(Whilst talking of his ‘deformity’, he might as well be talking about race.)
But this backfires: It is poignant that Shelley follows this episode with the Creature's realization of his own monstrosity, when he observes his reflection in a ‘transparent pool’. Because this realization comes directly after the passage on education, it seems that from the language he has learned he also learns the very worldview that deems him monstrous. Shelley then has the Creature lamenting the ‘deformity’ of his figure and identifying his own space within the symbolic order as ‘a filthy type’. By acquiring literacy he only becomes more familiar with the terms of his own otherness. Then: ‘Alas! I did not yet entirely know the fatal effects of this miserable deformity’, the Creature reports to Victor.