The Line Between Reader and Author

Typically, when reading novels, the reader is a bystander to the events occurring. In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the reader has no control over what is happening in the novel. When Dave Morris formatted his version of the story, he chose to give the reader a bigger role than he/she normally plays; he decided to incorporate the reader as a main character.

The reader is allowed to advise Victor Frankenstein and make decisions about what happens next. This concept is foreign to most readers. This communication between reader and characters makes the book more interactive and entertaining. I found that while I read the app, I was more interested in what was happening than when I read the paper version.

However, there is a pressure that accompanies this enjoyment of reading. The guilt that readers normally observe the characters feeling is now projected onto the reader him/herself. I was personally affected by the app version of the story because of this uncommon connection between me and the main character. I felt guilty because the directions I guided Frankenstein in impacted his future, sometimes negatively.

With this power comes responsibility. The future is no longer in Shelley’s power, but both Morris’ and the reader’s. This rise in interactivity has both its positives and downsides. While the reader can feel more involved, the pressure from deciding the character’s future can weigh a person down. With the world becoming increasingly reliant on technology, the readers of the future may read more on apps than in paper. More books may switch to this hands-on format where the reader decides the actions of the plot. The readers are essentially secondary authors of the books. If technology continues on the path it is currently on, could every reader eventually become an author?

The Power of Guilt

‘Guilty’ has multiple definitions and uses in modern day society. It can be used to describe a feeling that pushes people towards apologies and good deeds. It can also signify the blame on a person. Guilt, and all the complications that are dragged with it, are inescapable in Frankenstein.

Justine was condemned for a murder she did not commit and lost her life because of her unproven innocence. She was not guilty for the murder of young William. Even though the monster’s hands were the ones who strangled away William’s life, is Frankenstein consequently guilty as well? He created the very monster that resulted in the death of his brother, Justine, and Clerval. Frankenstein, while rotting in jail for the murder of Clerval contemplates, “At one time I considered whether I should not declare myself guilty, and suffer the penalty of law, less innocent than poor Justine had been” (Shelley 184). Frankenstein compares himself to the pure Justine, considering him innocent. He says that “poor unhappy Justine, was as innocent as [him]” (Shelley 189). In my opinion, he has an equal amount of blood on his hands as the monster and unfairly equates his guilt with Justine’s.

However, Frankenstein did recognize that he indeed did play a part in the deaths of his loved ones. This guilt he felt after realizing what he had contributed to lead to his ceaseless search for the monster. He was determined to seek revenge for the monster’s crimes and to kill him, destroying the demon he designed.

When Frankenstein’s fight was terminated by death, his monster visited his coffin, asking for his forgiveness. He explained that “evil thenceforth became [his] good” and he, although he felt guilty, continued to kill to prove his point and get revenge on Frankenstein (Shelley 218). The creature realizes his guilt and contribution to the ultimate death of Frankenstein but also realizes that he is not the only ‘monster’ in the situation. He says, “Am I to be thought the only criminal, when all human kind sinned against me?” (Shelley 219). The creature directly caused the deaths of the innocent people and Frankenstein played his part as well, but society is also guilty of driving them to this madness through pressures, judgments, and expectations. Though the peoples’ hands did not physically strangle the victims, guilt can be found in all.

The Chronicles of Life and Death

Life and death go hand-in-hand and are both inevitable. In Frankenstein, the theme of live versus death is prevalent in both Victor’s studies and life. Victor succeeds in generating life from death. He finds that, “Life and death appeared to me ideal bounds, which I should first break though, and pour torrent of light into our dark world” (Shelley 80). He creates the man with the hopeful intentions of ridding the world of grief over death and instead shining “light” on life (80). Victor distorts the natural human life cycle, thus affecting the life and death of the other characters.

It seems as though each time Victor Frankenstein is able to find a sliver of life, death spoils it. As he prepares to leave home for boarding school to explore the one subject he finds joy in, his mother passes away. His departure date, and consequently his happiness, is prolonged.

Once at the school for about four years, much of that time spent engrossed in his work, Victor finally completes his project. As he works towards breathing life into this deceased human parts puzzle piece, Victor’s own life deflates. He has no time to concentrate on anything other than science – not even sleep.

He looks forward to once again connecting with nature and regaining his life that has been absorbed in his studies. But, just as Victor finds excitement in something other than work, his creation comes alive, causing him more stress than before. Victor encounters more bad luck when he reunites with Clerval – a joyous moment for all! But, the ‘monster’ once again frightens him, this time into a severe illness. Clerval asks Victor, “Are you always to be unhappy?” when it seems that the issues with life and death take a toll on Victor (Shelley 96).

Finally, when he regains his health, begins to enjoy nature, and arranges to return home, he is shocked by the news that his brother has been murdered. Victor soon realizes that his own brother has probably died by the hand of his own creation, transitively making Victor the murder.

While he once had the intention to breathe life back into a society encumbered by death, he instead builds a murdering-machine which drives the burdens of death into Victor’s life worse than before. The life cycle is not to be messed with and life and death are to remain inevitable, which is something Victor regretfully questions.

Once Upon a Time…

A story is defined as a fictitious tale and it is no coincidence that Tretheway chose to name the town in Bellocq’s Ophelia Storyville. Though the description of the setting reminds the reader of a fairy tale, what occurs behind this story book façade is far from it. Aside from the obvious fictitious story, the name of Storyville reflects Ophelia’s desire to live the life of someone else.

When prostitutes are selected and used for their services, all of their human qualities are ignored and they are objectified by the customer. Ophelia is forced to go by a name other than her own, pose as if she is a mannequin, and bleaches her skin white. She is pushed deeper into the role of a fictional character as she hides who she truly is.

Ophelia also tries to hide her past and start anew at the brothel. She attempts to become a new person but her memories haunt her and prevent her from doing so. She wants “freedom from memory” so she can “then be somebody else, born again,” but cannot (Tretheway 24). Ophelia wants nothing more than to forget her past and move on with her new life, but her memories of her father and her cotton-picking days follow her.

She also cannot bear to remind herself or Constance about the horrifying things she has seen. Ophelia prefers to omit these experiences from her memory and writing, pretending that they never happened and are but a story. She writes to her friend, “And then there are those, of course, whose desires I cannot commit to paper” (Tretheway 18). What she has done is so unbearable, that she chooses to keep it a secret and act as though it happened to the character she plays, rather than herself.

Life at a brothel has the power to cover up a prostitute’s true self. Ophelia attempts to do this by erasing her memory, changing her name, and acting as someone she is not. Ophelia poses for a photograph, “Now I face the camera, wait for the photograph to show me who I am” (Tretheway 21). She tries so hard to cover up whom she once was that she loses sight of who she has become. She records her quest to bury her true identity and become but a character in a story.

Silence is Powerful

In 1936, when Charlie Chaplin’s ModernTimes premiered, nine years had passed since talking films were introduced to the world. Why would Chaplin choose to restrict his ability to convey his message to his audience when he had the technology available to create a talkie? Though silent films were a dying genre, Modern Times has a greater impact on the viewer by forcing them to pay close attention to the dangers of a technological world.

The silence of the movie scenes leaves a larger impression than if words were to be added. In one scene, a man tries to sell a machine that cuts out lunch hour for the employees, therefore increasing the efficiency of his factory. But, when the machine proves to be faulty and Charlie Chaplin’s character is harmed in the demonstration, the inventor seems to be more concerned with the malfunction of the machine than the employee’s well-being. The audience can infer this through the drawn out scene where the inventor attempts to fix the machine; all the while, Chaplin is abused by the invention.  Had the scene contained a conversation, the message would not be as strong.

Later, just prior to his release from the prison, Chaplin is shown lounging in a chair in his fully decorated cell, making conversation with a guard. This wordless scene is necessary for the viewer to fully understand its message. The audience must see the contrast between this scene and the scenes of Chaplin unconsciously working in the factory to comprehend how terrible factory conditions were. As the cliché states, sometimes actions speak louder than words.

Talking movies have now almost completed removed the need for silent films, yet still have an enormous impact on any audience. Today, it seems as though we use only our words to communicate; with our overuse of technology, we have begun to eliminate the importance of face-to-face communication and even shortened the words that we do use. Charlie Chaplin’s movie forces the viewer to focus on body language and actions, sending a stronger message about the potentially negative effects of technology.

Behind the Scenes

A bachelor lives a carefree life of a single man with no worries and nothing to tie him down to one place. They worry about their professions and temporarily stay at entertaining places like Melville’s Paradise of Bachelors. It is only when these men step outside of their untroubled lives that they realize the world has terrible effects on some of its inhabitants.

When the narrator visits the paper mill, he finds young girls tending the machines for twelve hour days in intolerably cold weather. He watches them slave away at paper making, folding, and ruling. As a rosy cheeked boy tours him around the paper mill, “sheet –white” girls line the factory walls, working as machines (Melville 1274). The narrator simply wished to purchase paper for his own job, since he used so much of it, but never thought about the process of paper making and how awful it could be.

When the man witnessed the harsh conditions the young maids suffered through, he not only felt disturbed, but guilty about purchasing so much paper each year. He thought when he saw the large paper machine, “But what made the thing I saw so specially terrible to me was the metallic necessity, the unbudging fatality which governed it” (Melville 1277). Sure, the machine completed most of the paper making process, but the girls were still needed to complete it, even dying because of the job.

Many people are guilty of only focusing on the outcome and ignoring the process. The narrator never thought about the paper making process and the people and conditions that were involved.  Many people in society simply grab a product from a shelf without giving the production that created it a thought. Melville writes about not only the quality of factory life but also questions the morals behind purchasing the products made at the factories. It is only after his tour that the narrator realizes the paper mill is not, “…they very counterpart of the Paradise of Bachelors” (Melville 1269). While consumers believe products such as paper are necessities and pluck them off of shelves without a second thought, we must ask ourselves: is the product worth the production process?

What is a Life Worth?

Life is undefinable and therefore invaluable. Rebecca Harding Davis highlights the pricelessness of a life through all of her characters, whether they are a street light worker, an iron mill employee, or a doctor.

Wolfe is introduced to the reader as an iron mill worker who has been employed there for as long as his mind allows him to remember. He finds no hope in his routine lifestyle ever altering and his job ever changing. Wolfe is trapped in his daily slump working by the fireside. Davis describes, “There are moments when a passing cloud, the sun glinting on the purple thistles, a kindly smile, a child’s face, will rouse him into a passion of pain” (Davis 2270). Though he dreams his life would be more successful than it currently is, Wolfe has established that the days will never get easier.

As a group of men later tour the mill, they stumble upon a carving Wolfe has made of a woman with open arms, wanting something. When asked, “But what did you mean by it?” Wolfe responds, “She be hungry […] Not hungry for meat […] Summat to make her live, I think, – like you” (Davis 2773). Though the men argued about the woman’s hunger, Wolfe’s intention behind the carving was to portray a woman hungry for a better life, one outside of the mills and poverty. Doctor May goes on to tell Wolfe that he has the power to become a sculptor, he tells him, “Make yourself what you will. It is your right,” to which Wolfe responds, “I know” (Davis 2775). He finally gets the confirmation he needs that his life actually does have the potential to get better.

Wolfe let’s this hope control his actions as he steals money with the hopes of making his life finally worth more than an iron mill wage and the inability to put enough food on the table. But, he consequently lands himself in jail and ends his life with the little hope he began the story with. Just before his death, Wolfe recalls Joe Hill, the street lamp lighter who would say hello and a joke to every passerby. He remembers this man fondly as he gave Wolfe a reason to be happy, at least for a short while. However, Wolfe feels that his life has hit its bottom and is no longer worth living since he has no chance of escaping jail or succeeding through upward mobility. Even Deborah, though she yells for him to not take his life, does very little to convince him otherwise, as if she too knows his life is not worth dragging on.

It is impossible to put a value on a life the same way one would price an item at a store. Wolfe committed suicide because he believed his life was worth very little, while someone living with the same circumstances may feel completely differently. Davis forces the reader to question how he/she values a life and whether Wolfe made the right choice.

If They Only Had A Heart…

It is never a good idea to bring emotions into a workplace as it stirs up trouble and creates an uncomfortable atmosphere. Case, Molly, Armitage, and others in their line of work barely show any emotions in the novel. Are they keeping their jobs strictly platonic or do the simply suffer from a lack of emotion?

In Neuromancer, little emotion, or any at all, is shown after an injury or murder on the job. They may be used to witnessing death or are unable to express their sadness. Case admits that he “had always taken it for granted that the real bosses, the kingpins in a given industry, would be both more and less than people” (Gibson 203). The people in Case’s industry live cold and unaffected lives, riding themselves of typical human qualities. Ashpool even compares this lack of sentiment to an “imitation of autism” (185).

It is undeniable that Case and Molly maintain a sexual relationship while simultaneously taking down the enemy. However, do they truly care about one another? When Maelcum asks Case, “She you woman, Case?” Case responds, “I dunno. Nobody’s woman, maybe” (192). He feels no emotional attatchment to Molly regardless of the fact that they spend all their time with each other or in contact and are having sex. In their emotionless world, they are incapable of preserving a modern day passionate relationship.

Laughing, crying, loving, hating- all emotions humans regularly experience. Case screams when Molly gets hurt, but is that just a human reflex uncontrolled by emotions? Is he just speaking meaningless words when Case claims he despises Wintermute but then trusts the AI’s directions? Molly rarely cries since her surgery to relocate her tear ducts so she instead spits- an emotionless act. The characters in the novel work together but never create bonds or put their feelings on display. Are they simply trying to keep work strictly work, or are they wired specifically to feel nothing?

In Gibson’s imagined future, where everyone has been altered and enhanced by surgeries, it makes one wonder whether these procedures are extracting all emotions and creating a world of robots.

Neuromancer Blog Post #1

Activists, feminists, civil rights supporters, and average citizens have been fighting for equal rights for both men and woman. Claiming that one day the two genders will equalize in society, these women’s rights campaigners continue to fight. Neuromancer, set in the future, has exceeded the goals of modern day supporters by evening out the powers of men and woman so much that there is no longer much of a variance between the two.

Linda Lee, Case’s former love interest, is introduced to the reader when she greets Case with, “Hey. Case, good buddy…I been lookin’ for you, man” (Gibson 9). At first glance, the quote seems to have been uttered by a male acquaintance of Case’s, rather than a female he is attracted to. Gibson creates the same masculine language with Molly later in the novel.

Apart from the verbal similarities between the sexes, the women are at the same toughness level as the male characters, sometimes ranking higher. In the vicious world of hacking, cowboys, and cyberspace, death and cruel punishments are common, and each person, male or female, must be willing to risk dealing with the consequences as a qualification of their profession. Molly is especially aggressive and intimidating and even threatens Riviera by saying, “No games. You play that subliminal shit around me, I’ll hurt you real bad” (Gibson 102). Unlike most women in today’s society, Molly is strong enough to say she can damage Riviera, and I do not doubt her ability to follow through with her threat.

Although there certainly are women who act very similar to the toughest of men in our time, most women simply want to be socially, politically, and economically equivalent to men while possessing the typical female characteristics. Gibson exaggerates this social equalization through his female characters and how they interact with men and the harsh world in which they exist. Gibson explores the theory that maybe women and men could one day have little more than physical differences separating them the more gender equality is pushed.