Frankenstein the Monster

Through his seeking out to destroy his creation, Frankenstein in turn gradually becomes that which he fears and abhors.

No matter what Frankenstein does, he has condemned himself to eternal punishment and despair. He has weakened as a person, and, as he often tends to obsess, he has let the threat of the monster take over his life. Where as once he was an all-powerful creator when he possessed the knowledge to restore life to the dead and breach the boundaries of nature, now he becomes the “creature” and the monster becomes the being who dictates Frankenstein’s life. When Frankenstein decides to break his promise and destroys his progress in making a female monster, the creature exclaims, “Slave, I before reasoned with you, but you have proved yourself unworthy…Remember that I have power…I can make you so wretched that the light of day will be hateful to you. You are my creator, but I am your master;—obey” (Shelley 176). The monster states that he is the “master.” He now holds all the power and knowledge, as Frankenstein did before he gave life to the monster. The monster, when beginning his tale to Frankenstein, talks about how with the light he became more aware and conscious of the world, and now he uses the light as a threat to Frankenstein. Frankenstein moves backwards in progress because even the light will burden him while the monster becomes more knowledgeable and more powerful still. Also, the monster uses words such as “unworthy” and “wretched,” which were words that he uses to describe himself when he is an innocent being trying to fit into the world.

Additionally, when Frankenstein steps off of his boat after being lost in the ocean, unaware of his whereabouts, onto the shore, he is greeted as if he were a monster himself. He is docking his boat when Frankenstein notices the civilians of the shore: “several people crowded towards the spot. They seemed very much surprised at my appearance; but, instead of offering me any assistance, whispered together with gestures that at any other time might have produced in me a slight sensation of alarm (180).  Shelley uses the words “surprised” and “appearance” as if to parallel the normal reaction that any human being gives to the monster when he first tries to show himself to human society.  The citizens are “whispering” and using “gestures,” treating him as some sort of outcast or unwanted guest. They immediately charge him for murder and imprison him, an act which shows that the crowd sees him as a figurative monster, predator, and a threat. Frankenstein also alludes to that he “might have” been alarmed before he created the monster if he had been received by such gestures from a crowd, but now he almost expects people to suspect him and see him as dangerous or a monster. This is also how the monster thinks when he realizes that he is an outcast to society.

Thus, through his inability to solve his own problem, Frankenstein transforms into what he fears most and loses his ability to dictate his life. Everything he does it is to prevent his creature from living in happiness. In doing so, however, Frankenstein gives up his own hopes to ever be happy again.

The Power of Nature

Mary Shelley uses Frankenstein and his trials to show how detrimental defying nature can be. First, she uses the weather to describe Frankenstein’s appearances and actions. When Victor Frankenstein is growing up, he appreciates and admires nature and its beauty; however, when he resides in his tower, he ignores nature completely. Because of this, he becomes ill and seemingly dead to the world. Frankenstein states that during the process of finding success, “no one can conceive the variety of feelings which bore me onwards, like a hurricane…the summer months passed while I was thus engaged…in one pursuit. It was a most beautiful season; never did the fields bestow a more plentiful harvest…but my eyes were insensible to the charms of nature” (Shelley 81). Frankenstein compares his drive for success to that of a hurricane. Hurricanes ultimately end in destruction, however, and therefore Shelley uses nature to symbolize destruction. Also, Frankenstein states that his eyes have become “insensible” to the “charms of nature.” Nature is passing by him in his surroundings, yet, though eyes are biologically supposed to adjust to their surroundings, his eyes no longer function well enough for him to notice or cherish nature. After working like this for years, he inevitably becomes ill and withdraws from society. Thus, nature is necessary for survival, and ignoring nature also leads to destruction.

Frankenstein’s going against nature also ends in disaster. He is going against disaster by giving life back to the dead and thus breaking the circle of life. Frankenstein begins to describe his creation as “beautiful,” but quickly realizes that “these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with…his shriveled complexion, and straight black lips…now that I finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror…filled my heart” (84). Now that Frankenstein has created life from death, he himself is “breathless” and haunted by the “horror” that “fills his heart.” Shelley is pointing out the error of his ways to her reader. As Frankenstein is at the brink of psychological and physical destruction by the time his friend Clerval comes to take care of him, it is showing that anyone’s going against nature and its boundaries has severe consequences. Also, Frankenstein now has a huge burden, that, though at first he thinks is gone, actually still exists when he sees him for a brief moment towards the end of Volume I. He will have to live with these consequences that linger in society. Overall, through Frankenstein’s defying the laws of nature and its allowances, Shelley is making a statement that nature is extremely powerful and one should not go against it.

The Use of Photography to Overcome Society’s Defintion

In her literary critique, “Ophelia Speaks,” Annette Debo claims that through Bellocq’s Ophelia Trethewey is showing how significant work is in someone’s life. Trethewey does this through providing certain “layers of looking” that are “complicated by the racial and gender identity of each person looking and by the way in which people are trained to look” (Debo 207).  Debo then goes on to describe the different people who are looking and why they look at the Ophelia among other photographs or pieces of art certain ways. Thus, because Ophelia has chosen sex work, it changes how people look at her and how she looks at her self. While I agree that Trethewey emphasizes different perceptions throughout the collection of poems, I disagree that it is to further emphasize the importance of work.

I believe that Trethewey plays with perception in order to show that people are actually not defined by their work or their job. Nothing is as it seems. Photography is a tool used to show different perspectives and to force people to look at perhaps the same subject but with a different focus. Debo argues that in the poem “Bellocq,” Ophelia writes “I’m not so foolish/that I don’t know this phtograph we make/will bear the stamp of his name, not mine” (Trethewey 39), so as to mean that Ophelia is objectified because although she is a crucial factor in the making of this photograph, she will not be credited. Though this may be true, I see it in a different way. Bellocq uses photography as his media of art. Debo also talks about making the subject more vulnerable to its audiences by making it more of an object. In keeping Ophelia’s name out of the art piece, Bellocq is sparing her. He makes her less vulnerable, because it becomes more about the photograph itself rather than whom the photograph is portraying. Ophelia will be seen as a figure of art rather than a random prostitute in Bellocq’s motif.

Additionally, Ophelia may be perceived as an uneducated and low life girl because she has chosen the profession of sex work. Ophelia, however, is far from uneducated and a low life. She attempts to find a way to defy the stereotype, and ultimately finds it in photography. Because she takes up photography, she eventually “looked into/ a capped lens/ saw only my own clear eye” (46). Due to photography, Ophelia is able to look into her “own eye,” metaphorically able to look into her soul. She finds herself and thus finds the courage to leave the brothel and move on. Therefore, she finds strength in photography. Literally and figuratively, photography deals with perceptions. As Ophelia is able to overcome the stereotype of her work through photography and thus proves how her work is unsuccessful in defining her completely, Trethewey uses perception throughout her poem collection to show how people can break free from society’s definition of them. Overall, I disagree with Debo’s argument that looking and perception is a way to show the significant impact work has on one’s life.

Empowerment Through Photography

In her work Bellocq’s Ophelia, Natasha Trethewey suggests that photography is an escape.

Ophelia at the beginning does not understand who she is, who she was meant to be, or why she lives as a prostitute, though she does not explicitly use that term. In the series “Letters from Storyville” in the poem “March 1911,” Ophelia gives insight to her childhood. She states, “Later, I took arsenic—tablets I swallowed to keep me fair, bleached white as stone. Whiter still, I am a reversed silhouette against the black backdrop where I pose” (Trethewey 20). As a child, Ophelia physically poisoned herself to masque her black skin. That she is a mixture of black and white races is confusing in itself. In her current life, she states that she is “whiter still” and a “reversed silhouette.” This language is somewhat oxymoronic. The word silhouette usually implicates dark and shadowy imagery, yet Ophelia uses this word to say she is a white silhouette, perhaps even ghostly. Whether a dark shadow or a white ghost, either way Ophelia describes herself using confusing descriptions because she herself does not know who she is.

After she is introduced to photography and gets a feel for the technique, Ophelia finds capabilities within herself that she did not know existed. In “Disclosure,” Ophelia says, “what power I find in transforming what is real, flushed with light” (44). Ophelia is thus empowered by using photography. She is able to take something real and manipulate it to her liking. Physically, a photograph is “flushed with light,” but metaphorically, this statement can also be seen as a way to describe Ophelia’s mood and happiness when she works with photographs. Her world fills with light, and that power she feels when manipulating a photograph morphs into feeling empowered in the real world.

Lastly, in “Photography,” Ophelia describes inverting a photo: “in the negative the whole world reverses…Inside out, I said, thinking of what I’ve tried to hide…I look at what he can see through his lens and what he cannot” (43). Through manipulation of a photograph, even though she is not physically able to see inside herself, Ophelia feels empowered to see herself from the inside out. Through photography and lighting effects, she is able to gain insight on her true self. She even states that she is able to see beyond what the camera lens can see. She pays closer attention to details on the outside as well as on the inside. Thus, photography is a way for Ophelia to escape her confusing, messed up life and gain a better understanding of herself, furthermore giving her power and control. Overall, Trethewey suggests that photography offers an escape to a better and more powerful life.

Detained by Technology

The film Modern Times directed by Charles Chaplin is a commentary about how technology takes away humanity.

One of the protagonists, a worker in a common factory, literally loses control of himself due to technology. This first happens when he becomes so accustomed to doing his one job in the factory that he is unable to stop doing the specific hand motion of turning knobs. He is only able to snap out of it when he truly concentrates. Then, when he is on his lunch break, the factory owners force him into trying out a new invention that supposedly eliminates the need for a lunch break, which in itself is another way to limit the amount of true humanity that factory workers experience. The worker truly loses control of himself when he is locked into the lunch machine, being fed by mechanics. He is also forced into staying there when the machine malfunctions. Not only is technology depriving the worker of humanity but also physically harms him when it fails. He even eats metal nuts, symbolically suggesting once again that his humanity and dignity is stripped due to technology. Finally, the worker experiences his last straw from the factory and goes into a nervous break down. He jumps onto the conveyer belt and goes into the gears of the machinery. Symbolically, this represents his becoming one with the machine as if he were a piece of a factory-produced good. The workers subsequently attempt to save his humanity by pulling him out of the machine. Once he is out, however, he goes on to turn the knobs on every human being he sees, suggesting that he mistakes all of humankind to be a part of the factory.  Thus, technology and working in the factories causes all humanity to be lost.

Not only does the movie show humanity taken away physically, but also shows humanity taken away metaphorically. After the protagonist worker is released from the hospital and is in his right mind again, he has his humanity back for a little; however, he is taken away to jail when he is caught at the wrong place at the wrong time. In jail, he accidently eats cocaine, mistaking it for salt, thus causing him to act in strange ways. In doing so, however, he stops a prisoner revolt and the police are on his side. He gets a luxurious prison cell and has the best treatment. That he does cocaine in jail and as a result gets treated extravagantly is backwards. The film suggests that the worker is more successful and has a better life in jail than in the factory. Jail usually takes away one’s freedom both physically and figuratively, but, according to the film, jail represents more freedom than technology does. Also, instead of eating a healthy meal, the worker eats cocaine and gets rewarded for that. Compared to his eating in the factories where the workers barely get a lunch break as it is, eating cocaine while in jail is suggested to be healthier for the worker physically and for his freedom. Therefore, humans are stripped of their freedom due to technology, as jail offers a better life than the factory. Overall, the use of technology and factories results in figurative and literal damage to the human race.

Hell in America

In her short story “The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids,” Melville uses the apparent juxtaposition of the different locations to show how factories are turning America into Hell. There are several juxtapositions within the text besides the two in the title. Melville uses different scenery descriptions, different genders, and ultimately the dichotomy of Heaven and Hell.

In the “Paradise of Bachelors,” the narrator uses colorful descriptions whereas in “Tartarus of Maids” he uses bleak, dull, and harsh descriptions. The narrator describes the vast feasts, drinks, and other luxuries such as brotherhood and “snuff” to depict the Bachelors. The entire second section, however, is constantly described negatively. The “Dungeon” is surrounded by dark forests and the “Blood River.” Even down to the surrounding areas, the heart of New England, America is cold, cryptic, and prison-like. Additionally, instead of a brotherhood, the narrator steps into the factory and sees that “at rows of blank-looking counters sat rows of blank-looking girls, with blank, white folders in their blank hands, all blankly folding blank paper,” (Melville 1270). The girls are totally separated from one another, doing their own jobs with “blank” stares as if their lives meant nothing. Melville uses the imagery of paper to both symbolize the colorlessness of the factory life as well as the meaninglessness of the girls’ lives. There is nothing written on that paper, and so it is as if there is nothing to document their lives, and they are unable to share their thoughts. Thus, the narrator uses different types of descriptions to show that the factory workers work hard yet gain nothing while the Bachelors sit around enjoying life and gain everything.

Lastly, in the first section of the novella, the narrator uses descriptions that can be seen as anti-American. As the narrator is about to enter the room of the feast, he describes the room as “wonderfully unpretending, old, and snug. No new shining mahogany, sticky with undried varnish; no uncomfortably luxurious ottomans… It is a thing which every sensible American should learn from every sensible Englishman, that glare and glitter…are not indispensable to domestic solacement,” (1261). The narrator uses words like “wonderfully” to mean that it’s refreshing to see something new and non-American. Also, he implies that Americans are not as superior as they think, as they “should learn from every sensible Englishmen.” Though he uses the same description for an American as he does the Englishman, it is used sarcastically towards the Americans while seriously towards the Englishman. Also, the dichotomy of Heaven and Hell is apparent in the title alone. The Bachelors live in “paradise,” while the Maids live in “Tartarus,” a word synonymous with Hell. Furthermore, since paradise is in London while Tartarus is in America, Melville suggests that America is Hell. Overall, through using counterparts in this story, the author is able to convey the message that factories result in America becoming Hell rather than some sort of paradise.

The Importance of Woman’s Voice

In her short story Life in the Iron Mills, Rebecca Harding Davis stresses the importance of finding one’s voice through Deborah. Although Deborah can be seen as strong and independent, as she acts as a caretaker for Wolfe and is ultimately the one who causes Wolfe’s life to change completely, I see her as merely as shadow of Wolfe and an image depicting how women should be able to have a voice.

After Deborah brings Wolfe dinner, despite the troubles she must go through in order to get it to him including her overbearing tiredness as well as the long, morbid journey through the smoggy city, she goes into a dark corner and is described as “lying there on the ashes like a limp, dirty rag…her thwarted woman’s form, her colorless life…Was there nothing worth reading in this wet, faded thing?…She lay quiet in the dark corner….shrinking back whenever the man Wolfe happened to look towards her. She knew…that there was that in her face and form which made him loathe the sight of her” (Davis 2768). Here, Deborah is described as “thwarted,” a “thing,” a “limp” and “dirty rag,” and “faded.” She is constantly aware that her deformity makes Wolfe uneasy to look at her, and so she feels that she is required to shrink back into the corner on top of the ashes, as if she were already dead. Also, she is objectified and seen as some useless thing that is there for no greater purpose. The narrator questions sarcastically and offended if there is “anything worth reading” in Deborah. Through this emphasis on how worthless Deborah is on all levels, including her physical deformity as a hunchback, as well as the narrator’s seeming frustration about how she is sent to a corner like some animal, Deborah represents how women felt and were treated in the 1800s.

As Deborah represents the typical stereotype of women in the 1800s, Davis then goes on to show how influential and strong women can be and should be recognized as.  In the beginning descriptions, the narrator describes a “little broken figure of an angel” as “pointing upward from the mantel-shelf; but even its wings are covered with smoke, clotted and black” (2763). This angel parallels Deborah. Its figure is broken and shelved away as well as “clotted and black.” Deborah, too, is deformed and often shelved away both physically and metaphorically. Also, the gloom of the city hovers over her as a burden, as does the smoke here in this description to the angel. Therefore, Deborah is compared to an angel, or guardian. Also, Deborah literally places temptation in Wolfe’s hands. It is because of her that he is able to attempt to gain “his rights” as a human under God’s world. Lastly, Deborah is able to tell when Wolfe is going to die. When she peers into his face in the jail cell, she sees, “that gray shadow—yes, she knew what it meant” (2783). As his guardian angel, Deborah knows when it is his time to finally rest. She then proceeds to ask the Quaker  if he can rest on the other side of the hill. She is able to give Wolfe his dying wish, which is to be able to see the other side and live life out of the mills. Overall, Deborah is used as a metaphor of how women were perceived and then how influential and important they actually are.

Emotion and Antiquity

Gibson uses the scene in which Ashpool attempts to commit suicide as a means to suggest that technological advances seem to make conventional ideas into unnecessary ones.

While some say Neuromancer develops characters so as to strip them of their emotions, the novel actually appears to have some characters who do have old-fashioned human emotions as well as attachment to old-fashioned ways. The idea of suicide in itself has been around since ancient times. Whether for honorable or dishonorable reasons, suicide is a way to end one’s life and ensures complete control over the situation. Ashpool seems to feel as though he no longer needs to be around. He claims he is “over two hundred years old…if you include the cold” (Gibson 184). He begins to tell Molly that technology and the future has brought nothing but “lies” and disappointment. He says to Molly, “You weren’t born…They told us we wouldn’t dream, in that cold. They told us we’d never feel cold, either….Of course I dreamed. The cold let the outside in” (184). As Molly hadn’t even been born yet, the generation in which this happened to Ashpool was extremely different than the one in the present time in the novel. Through his ranting, Ashpool practically admits to Molly that technology does not work as it is promised to work. There are flaws in everything, and as technology continues to progress and advance itself, there are still more flaws even if they are undetected ones.

Additionally, Case describes the room to be one of antiquity: “The table was thick with vials, bottles of liquor, soft plastic envelopes spilling white powders. Case noticed an old-fashioned glass hypodermic and plain steel spoon” (183). Case also notices from when Molly first enters that amongst the old fashioned items, “Case registered the cyberspace deck and the trodes, but [Molly’s] glance slid over it without pausing” (183). This shows that, even though the room has been modernized to fit the times, the antiquity of the room is the true core of it, as Molly barely notices the new technology in any detail. Ashpool has kept the room old-fashioned in order to give himself some reminders of the past. He even sets up his suicide in an old-fashioned way. He drugs himself through mixing drugs and alcohol, and expects to shoot himself in the head with a pistol. Then, through a convoluted story, Ashpool tells Molly his reasons for wanting to kill himself, other than being old, in one simple statement: “they said…I was needed. Were you the something, Molly? Surely they didn’t need me to handle you, no. Something else…” (184). After the pause, Ashpool diverges into a different subject, meaning that he was unsuccessful in finding a reason for him to be awake. He admits that he is no longer “needed.” Rather than return to the lying technology of discomfort and cold, he wishes to die. Ashpool also offers Molly to go with him “down to hell” (184). Hell alone is an extremely ancient belief, further showing that Ashpool wishes to die along with the diminishing importance of conventionality.

Lastly, Molly tells Ashpool that her way of crying is to spit because her ducts have been “rewired,” and directly after that “a trickle of [brandy] ran from the corner of [Ashpool’s] mouth” (183). Gibson is metaphorically telling us that Ashpool is crying. Thus, Ashpool has plenty of emotion. He cries, wishes to die, and still believes in hell. Ironically, after the whole scene that stresses the importance of antiquity rather than technology, it is Molly who uses her new technology of a fletc.her to poison Ashpool rather than Ashpool’s idea of poisoning himself through drugs, alcohol, and then finally finishing himself off with a pistol. Therefore, Gibson shows that technology overrides the need for conventional ways and emotions, as Ashpool fails at suicide and controlling his death.

Overall, while others suggest that this novel rids characters of emotions completely, I disagree in a sense that characters do have emotions, as we see in this scene; however, I agree in another sense because Gibson is showing that old-fashioned human emotions and ideas are dwindling due to technology. All of the characters that do seem to hold some form of emotion and opposition to technology are either already dead, or beginning to die.

Neuromancer Blog #1

Irony in Neuromancer is constantly portrayed through the many layers of traps throughout the story. Nothing is simple about the characters or the world that surrounds them. From the very beginning, the main character, Case feels that he has fallen “into the prison of his own flesh” (Gibson 6). In order to stay alive and move on through his life, he must continue to take any drugs he can get his hands onto. In order to live, he is constantly damaging his body both inwardly and outwardly. Also, on the exterior, he tries to maintain his reputation at the local bar by acting confident and by drinking through his pain. On the interior, however, his mind and heart aches to be back where he started in cyberspace as a cowboy as well as to be with Linda Lee again. Though he describes Linda Lee as if she were his lover, the “one face out of the dozens” that had been “singled out for him,” (8) when they first encounter each other after a while, Linda addresses Case: “Hey. Case, good buddy” (9). Through identifying Case as a “good buddy,” Linda seems to belittle their supposed relationship to a mere friendship, if that at all. While Case seems to pine for Linda as he once knew her, when presented with the present version of herself he wants nothing to do with her. Thus, Case is trapped within his own body due to his usage of harmful drugs to sustain his life as well as his letting his mind disconnect from his heart and getting himself into deeper danger with every passing day. He even sleeps in a coffin, ultimately representing the fact that he is either already dead or will die if he continues on this path.

When Case is allegedly “saved” because Armitage decides to recruit him through a somewhat random selection, Case must go into cyberspace to complete dangerous and criminal missions. Thus he becomes trapped within his own mind and at the same time endangers himself in the same way he endangered himself in Japan. Lastly, physically he is trapped, too. Armitage, his boss, has implanted toxins in his body so that Case has “time to do what [Armitage] is hiring [him] for…Otherwise, the sacs melt and [Case] is back where [Armitage] found [him]” (46). Again, Case finds himself trapped in a deal that he cannot escape. Overall, Case enables himself to become trapped physically, mentally, and emotionally throughout the story. Therefore, Neuromancer is an extremely ironic novel from the very beginning.