A Different Experience

Using the interactive Frankenstein application was an entirely different experience than reading a paperback book or an electronic book. For me, what made this experience distinct is based on the concept of choosing your own “path” or constructing your own story. Every individual ends up with a different story by the way it is told or by omitting the parts of the story which were not chosen.

Several key components played into action while using this app but what made this app discrete is the decision making aspect of it. Personally, I have never come across such decision making while reading. Not only did these decisions mould the story according to the user’s interest, it also made the user realize why he prefers to choose one option and disregard the other/s. For example, I tended to choose options which involved more drama or confrontation. Although, there is no clear answer to why an individual tends to choose an option, I bring it down to mere interest. For example, I learnt that I was always eager to see what happens if the monster comes across someone. This component of decision making in the app made it a very personalized experience.

Furthermore, I felt more connected to the story while choosing what I wanted to do. Initially, I thought I was going to be Walton to whom Frankenstein was going to narrate his story. Then I figured out I was his friend who will help him assemble Bill’s body parts. Then, I became Bill. This interaction with the app added another dimension to the experience.

Although, making reading decisions seems interesting, the process has a few drawbacks as well. Firstly, the several number of choices leads to a very low probability of two people ending up choosing the same path, thus, rendering the app to be less effective in discussions. In other words, there is not much to argue about as a person might miss out on something another person has read. Secondly, it was annoying at times to come across the same choices I previously tried to avoid. Lastly, the decisions I made were also based on the original reading I had done. The experience would have been much different if I had not read Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Even though using this application was a very interesting experience, I would prefer reading the paperback version of Frankenstein again if I had to. I find holding a book and reading through pages more convenient rather than having to choose an option every other minute.

Sweet Vengeance?

Vengeance is a major theme prominent throughout Frankenstein. “Bill” seeks to destroy his creator, the creator, who instantaneously abandoned him after noticing his hideous appearance. Is it right of the “monster” to kill Victor’s family and friends? Or is it in fact a human trait to make sure that an individual is on an equal platform as their counterpart?

Throughout the novel, while narrating the story to Walton, Victor refers to his creation as the devil, the demon, or the wretch. The “monster,” on the other hand, addressed Victor in a divine manner and looks upon Victor to fulfill his requests and rightfully so, because it is his right to be nurtured by his creator. “Oh!  My creator, make me happy; let me feel gratitude towards you for one benefit! Let me see that I excite the sympathy of some existing thing; do not deny me my request” (Shelley, 157). Victor deprives Bill of this basic human necessity. Bill is neglected by his creator and detested by other beings around him. The only being the “demon” could seek help from was Victor but he wasn’t there for him. “From you only could I hope for succor, although towards you I felt no sentiment but that of hatred. Unfeeling, heartless creator! You had endowed me with perceptions and passions, and then cast be abroad an object for the scorn and horror of mankind” (Shelley, 152). Victor unjustly denies Bill of the fundamental need of any new-born being, a guardian.

Undoubtedly, this act of Victor wasn’t humane. Bill perceives Victors act to be immoral and murders William. By doing so, he commits an act of retributive justice. In Islam, justice is based on the concept of “an eye for an eye”. “In the Torah We prescribed for them a life for a life, an eye for an eye, a nose for a nose, an ear for an ear, a tooth for a tooth, an equal wound for a wound: if anyone forgoes this out of charity, it will serve as atonement for his bad deeds” (Quran, 5:45). Revenge has been classified as a natural human instinct in Islam and in many other religions. It was, and still is, a natural human characteristic to inflict proportionate loss and pain on the aggressor as he has inflicted on him. Although by murdering William, Henry Clerval and Elizabeth, the “monster” commits criminal acts, he is justified in making Victor feel the same way that he feels. If Bill doesn’t get to have a guardian, a friend or a partner, Victor (his creator) doesn’t get to have those relations either. Bill obviously wouldn’t be allowed to enter a supreme court so he has to take steps to make sure he is on an equal platform with Victor. Similarly, after the murder of Elizabeth, Victor develops an obsessive urge for revenge. Neither Victor nor Bill are “monsters” if they take justice into their own hands.

Looking For Identity

Annette Debo introduces her say on Bellocq’s Ophelia by highlighting the significance of looking as a part of the sexual trade conducted between Ophelia and her customers. “The sex industry is as much about theatricality as it is about sex, and in Bellocq’s Ophelia the act of looking is layered, circular and reflexive” (Debo, 207). Looking is central to sex. Ophelia’s customers look at her and identify her traits by looking before they conduct a deal with her. The “wealthy gentlemen” auction to get Ophelia just by a simple look (Trethewey, 13). The men at the brothel are seeking to purchase a prostitute’s services just by looking at her. They judge a woman by only observing.

Debo in her article “Ophelia Speaks: Resurrecting Still Lives In Natasha Trethewey’s Bellocq’s Ophelia”, also asserts the role looking plays as a part of a person’s self and social identity. “Layers of looking are complicated by the racial and gender identity of each person looking and by the way in which people are trained to look at others” (Debo, 207). The act of looking at someone is very strange, superficial most of the times. After one glance, a person tries to identify someone’s characteristics and quite often one goes too far, leading to wrong assumptions, generalizations and discriminations. Men at the brothel are curious to search for evidence of Ophelia’s blackness. “Others (customers) look for evidence – telltale half moons in our fingernails, a bluish tint beneath the skin” (Trethewey, 26). Customers want to classify Ophelia as black and relate her to the stereotypical characteristics of an African American by just looking at her.

Initially I thought that Ophelia identifies her to be black because she is deceiving people on the streets to be white, however, she herself knows that she is black. “I walk these streets a white woman, or so I think, until I catch the eyes of some stranger upon me, and I must lower mine, a negress again” (Trethewey, 7). But after a careful reading, I think that she is still rather confused as to who she is. She once talked back to her teasing friends when she said “You are what you like” (Trethewey, 17). Ophelia looks white and can easily deceive people that she is white. Is she confused about her identity? Her white demeanor and upbringing may be troubling her self-identity.

Racial Detriments

In Natasha Trethewey’s Bellocq’s Ophelia, Ophelia explains how she has “run” away from being raped. I think she not only struggled to run away from being raped she also struggled to run away from her ethnic identity. “[…] I’m not quite what I pretend to be. I walk these streets a white woman, or so I think, until I catch the eyes of some upon me, and I must lower mine, a negress again” (Trethewey, 7). Deep inside, Ophelia identifies herself to be a black woman but she was raised in a way to pretend to be white.

She was born to a white father and a black mother. Ophelia compares prostitution and her childhood education, and does not find the both to be dissimilar. “It troubles me to think that I am suited for this work-spectacle and fetish- a pale odalisque. But then I recall my earliest training-childhood-how my mother taught me to curtsy and be still so that I might please a white man, my father” (Trethewey, 20). She has spent her childhood trying to please her father, a white man and now she works in a brother trying to please other white men.

Race is a social construct based merely on the segregation of various ethnicities and not on skin. Due to the rarity of miscegenation in the early 20th century, Ophelia is somewhat unique. Even though, Ophelia has a white skin and has the manner of a white woman, she is socially identified as a black woman. She consumes arsenic tablets to appear as white as possible. “Later, I took arsenic-tablets I swallowed to keep me fair, bleached white as stone” (Trethewey, 20). Due to her past, she strives to become someone else and free herself from her memory. “I want freedom from memory. I could then be somebody else, born again, free in the white space of forgetting” (Trethewey, 24). Ophelia wants to be born as someone else. I think she is referring to being born as a white person. Being a white person, she wouldn’t have to suffer from the racial distinction she has to suffer from.

Crime In Modern Times

Chaplin’s “Modern Times” and Davis’ “Life In The Iron Mills” are in mutual consent of the socio-economic conditions during harsh industrial times. The inconsiderate owner of the assembly line in Modern Times is synonymous to Kirby in “Life In The Iron Mills”. They are similar in treating labor that is nothing more than ‘hands’ to them. The effort to implement the food machine in the assembly line serves as an evidence for the inferior treatment the labor got from the owner of the factories. They weren’t even allowed to take time off to eat a meal. Machines and technology, nowadays considered to be a helping hand for human beings, were treated better than human.

Unethical practices by factory owners directly led to criminal behavior and socialist movements. Chaplin uses humor to make a mockery out of the inequitable upper class. His nervous breakdown and his consistent efforts to go to jail for a better life, constitute the crime that took place due to lack of social mobility and opportunity for the labor class. Chaplin sets a benchmark of social injustice as he shows how his lower class status contributes to him being considered as the leader of the work boycott when he wasn’t acquainted to it in any way. Chaplin can be seen as a good man in the movie; he helps the police to capture the prisoners attempting to escape. He receives executive treatment in jail and is thus reluctant to leave, despite having a guaranteed job. This reflects on how poor the working conditions were.

Similarly, Hugh in ‘Life In The Iron Mills’ also experiences a nervous breakdown and commits a criminal act. He strives to improve his living conditions and after listening to a conversation of the three better off men, figures out that working at the iron mill won’t help this purpose. Hugh’s ontological belief that everyone is equal in the eyes of God inspires him but also eventually directs him to commit suicide. He thinks that God would understand if he doesn’t return the money back to Mitchell as all people are equal in His eyes. He is later imprisoned for this shameful act, suffers in jail and eventually slits his wrist. He gains hope dramatically (due to his religious beliefs) to have a better future. However, he fails in an effort to achieve his maximum potential and gradually loses hope after several desperate attempts to get out of jail.

God Has Set The Promise Of The Dawn

Depiction of Hugh’s gloomy life in “Life In The Iron Mills” speaks out for the lack of opportunities during the cognitive stages of the Industrial Revolution in the United States. It is impressive how Harding, being from a well to do middle class family, writes with such insight on the poor conditions of the labor class; the tone of dialogue is significantly different for the three prosperous men and the working class men.

Every person strives, given the prospect to improve their socio economic status. Due to high migration rates at the time, there was a huge supply of labor leading to lower wages and thus poor living standards. The story of Hugh is of an internal struggle. Hugh as an introvert and a social outcast is moved by the words of a well educated doctor who is impressed by his artwork. Hugh is frustrated by the fact that he doesn’t have money. Subsequently, he leaves his job at the iron mill in search of other opportunities as he believes he is capable of doing better. His decision to keep Mitchell’s wallet, leads to an unfair 19 years of imprisonment. After consecutively being unsuccessful to improve his conditions in jail he becomes mentally unstable and commits suicide.

The article portrays that the world is unfair as some people, such as young Kirby, are born with a silver spoon in their mouths while others have to struggle to improve their conditions. When provided with minimal opportunities, the lower class becomes a victim of an unjust society. In a capitalist market structure businessmen, in an effort to earn maximum profits, can become inconsiderate of the situation of the labor working for them. Similarly, the controversy of Sodexo’s employees being paid less, serves an example of how unreasonable society can be. The importance of employees at Emory’s dining halls should not be undermined. Arguably, what they are being paid is a minute amount of they deserve. The finishing statement of the essay intends to awaken the lower classes that God has promised a better future for them if they realize and revolt.

Gibson And The Future

Gibson introduced the concept of cyberspace in 1984 which presents some similarities to, and in some respects, is in contrast with the cyberspace 28 years from then. In the book Neuromancer, cyberspace has been explained as “A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts…  A graphic representation of data abstracted from the banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity.  Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data.  Like city lights,receding…” Page 47.

 

In many respects the cyberspace experienced today is not unlike that of Gibson’s fantasy world. In comparison with the ‘simstim’ people use cyberspace to vicariously experience the lives of other individuals through television and video games fantasy worlds. Cyberspace complexities are uniquely accessible by those with the technical knowledge to change it. The complexities of changing and accessing different areas of cyberspace are unknowably complex to many average people much like Gibson’s fantasy. Gibson’s fantasy is analogous to the reality we experience and the differences between the two are superfluous.

 

In today’s world, the existence of something like wintermute is unknown to the common man. Although, I do believe there could be ‘military experiments’ which hold the matrix as complex as the one presented in the book. I believe that gradual technological advances can get us somewhere close to that level. The recent movie ‘Total Recall’ signifies that such ideas are still growing since they came into existence through Gibson’s writing.

 

Gibson, to an extent, can rightly claim to be a prophesier. Writing a book about the concept of ‘Youtube’, 2 years before it came into existence is visionary. I think he was being modest when he said that mobile phones are not a part of Neuromancer thus he doesn’t predict the future.