Ew

I don’t know how many of you share this with me, but I love reading. A lot. In my opinion, there are very few things as amazing as settling in front of a fireplace with hot chocolate and a book, especially during the holidays.

I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t really a fan of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, but it did give me the satisfaction that reading a book normally does. I was able to get lost in the story completely, even if I didn’t really love it.

The app, however, did no such thing. First of all, I have to say I don’t really mind reading on an iPad. I’ve done it before without many complaints, but this time was different. I found the background of the app extremely distracting and there’s nothing more annoying than being unable to see how far you have to go and there being no page numbers in general. Not only that, but I hated the way the pages changed. In the Kindl app, for example, you can flip pages almost like you can in a book, this one you had to tap for it to go back up, which I didn’t like.

My biggest dislike, however, was the choices. When you’re reading a book, you need to be a reader. You need to be able to lose yourself in a different world that will take you away from your own, and if you’re making choices to see how the story is going to go on, you can’t do that. Every time I ended the page, I had to pull myself out of the story, look over the possibilities and decide which one was going to be the right choice. And to be completely honest, because I couldn’t lose myself in the story, I ended up picking whichever one I thought would get me done faster. That’s not what a story is supposed to do.

Lastly, I felt that even though the language was easier to read than Mary Shelley’s original work, it took away from the story. Something about her word choices made it more realistic than this new Victor’s easy slang.

I just don’t think that something so classic, should be allowed to be butchered the way it was to be put in this app.

Oh and P.S., Bill is a much better name than Adom. Way to make the reference to Adam and Eve even more obvious, gosh.

You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet

Last week I wrote about the great Nature versus Nurture debate and how it had to do with Frankenstein. While initially I was going to write about something completely different this week, the last few pages of the novel persuaded me to go back to my previous idea.

While last week I concluded that “Bill” (Yes, I know that in class we decided he probably shouldn’t have a name, but it is still easier for the blog’s sake) had already become evil due to his circumstances, the last few pages of the novel suggest otherwise. After Frankenstein’s passing, Walton finds Bill in the cabin on his ship. It is here that Bill confesses his remorse for the murders. Sort of.

Bill brings up Frankenstein’s suffering and then says, “he suffered not more in the consummation of the deed;–oh! Not the ten-thousandth portion of the anguish that was mine during the lingering detail of its execution. […] Think ye that the groans of Clerval were music to my ears?” (Shelley 218) Bill admits that murdering Frankenstein’s friend made him feel terrible. At another point he also says that murdering the sleeping Elizabeth and innocent Willian were hard for him, too. He says that, “[his] heart was fashioned to be susceptible of love and sympathy,” (Shelley 218) at first. As I mentioned last week, he was compassionate and yearning for love and companionship before he was turned evil. However, I assumed that because he did kill William, he already had lost his innocence, so to speak. However, here we find that this isn’t exactly true.

Bill himself admits to finally losing his good side. He says, “I had cast off all feeling, subdued all anguish to riot in the excess of my despair. Evil thenceforth became my good.” (Shelley 218) Meaning that only then did he really become evil.

What I’m trying to say, is that yes, I stand by last week’s post about nature versus nurture, that Bill did turn evil because of his circumstances, but I’d like to add something else as well. My other “moral to the story” is that we shouldn’t be too quick to judge. I suppose that ties back in on what we’ve said all along, even about Ophelia. We assumed Bill became evil too quickly. While we were right about Bill being evil eventually, we were too quick to jump the gun.

Baby, I Was Born This Way

When reading Volume II of Frankenstein, especially the creature’s monologue, I was reminded of a discussion topic that I have been confronted with multiple, multiple (yes, that many) times. I’m talking about the debate on nature versus nurture. You know, where they talk (primarily) about gender and sex and if gender is taught or born with? Like how girls grow up to play with dolls and boys play with mud and if that’s something that always happens or is pushed upon them by society.

Anyway, what I’m getting at, is how evil Frankenstein’s monster actually is, and if it’s really his fault.

Now, before I get into this, I just want to say that it drives me absolutely nuts that the monster does not have a name, so to make my life easier, I’m naming him Bill. Just for the purpose of blogging, of course.

In our reading for Tuesday, we went over the scene in the novel where Frankenstein brings Bill to life and how he’s immediately frightened and terrified of Bill. This was because of his appearance; Bill’s looks scared him but he really didn’t give Bill a chance at all. Granted, if I saw an eight-foot-tall, yellow-skinned, basically glow-in-the-dark-white toothed being, I’d run for the hills, too. But come on, Mr. Frankenstein, you made him, at the very least you could’ve given him a chance. This, right off the bat, gives us the impression that Bill is an evil being.

However, then we’re finally really introduced to Bill, and he tells Frankenstein his story. We learn that Bill isn’t evil at all. He greatly admires and cares for the family that he finds in the woods. After finding out they need firewood, he even goes as far as “[taking their] tools… and [bringing] home firing sufficient for the consumption of several days.” (Shelley 128) Basically, he’s going out to do hard labor to make the Felix and his family’s life easier. Bill also has a will to learn, and manages to learn the French language by studying the family and the books he finds. All of this, he does so he can eventually befriend them, which he tries to do eventually (on page 146).

This attempt at befriending the family does not go as well as he hoped, to put it lightly. While De Lacey is kind to Bill, because he cannot see him, the rest of the family is not. Bill tells Frankenstein: “Who can describe their horror and consternation on beholding me? Agatha fainted; and Safie, unable to attend to her friend, rushed out of the cottage. Felix darted forward, and with supernatural force tore me from his father.” (Shelley 148) Immediately upon seeing Bill, the younger family members freak out and run, just like Frankenstein did upon seeing him for the first time.

Now, by nature, in my opinion, Bill is a kind “person,” and I use that word loosely. He has no intention of harming anyone, all he wants to do is be accepted. However, that’s not a possibility for him, due to his appearance (once again, don’t judge a book by its cover, right?). This realization makes him so angry, that he “declared everlasting war against the species.” (Shelley 149) While that is a rash decision, I can see where he’s coming from; you try being so kind and caring to a person, just to have them scream when they see you and run away. Can’t be a fun feeling.

And even after Bill declares war against humans, when he sees a woman fall into the stream, he still rescues her. Bill says, “I had saved a human being from destruction, and, as a recompense, I now writhed under the miserable pain of a wound, which shattered the flesh and bone.” (Shelley 153) After his kindness, he gets shot by a man who only sees his appearance, immediately assuming he’s a cruel monster. Even the little boy, William, instantly accuses Bill of being terribly evil without knowing him. After which, admittedly, Bill does kill him.

What I’m getting at, is that Bill was a kind being by nature, but he was forced to see himself differently. If someone continuously tells you that you’re something, even though you’re not, you’re going to eventually believe them, and act that way. To throw in an example; if someone repeatedly tells me that I’m angry, even though I’m perfectly fine, eventually I am going to get angry. This is what happened to Bill, as well. The fact that everyone saw him as a terrible monster, turned him into one. It’s almost as if he didn’t have another choice.

Ohana or Hoaloha?

“Ohana means family, and family means no one gets left behind,” – Lilo, from the movie Lilo and Stitch. (Chris Sanders and Dean DeBois) I’m sure most of you have heard this quote, or at least heard of the Disney movie in question. For the most part, this quote rings true. Family is a very important thing in one’s life, and the same is true for Robert Walton in Frankenstein.

Robert cares a great deal for his sister, Margaret. This is immediately apparent when you realize she’s the one he’s writing letters to. And if the fact that he is writing his sister letters about his travels and his safety isn’t enough to make you think he cares for her, the way he speaks to her should be. At the very end of his first letter, he writes “farewell, my dear, excellent, Margaret. Heaven shower down blessings on you, and save me, that I may again and again testify my gratitude for all your love and kindness. Your affectionate brother.” (Shelley 54) The way he says goodbye to her is filled with affectionate words and kindness that you don’t always see amongst siblings. He thanks her repeatedly for her love and that’s not something he would do if he didn’t feel the same way about her in return. Additionally, the way he addresses her speaks volumes. He doesn’t just put one kind adjective before her name, but two. If that doesn’t say “I love you,” I don’t know what does. And once again, if this isn’t enough to convince you, his farewell in the second letter quite literally spells it out. He says “I may receive your letters […] on some occasions when I need them most to support my spirits. I love you very tenderly.” (Shelley 56) Not only does he literally tell her that he loves her, but he also tells her that her letters make him happy and lift him up when he’s feeling down, should he need them to.

All of this being said, no matter how much he loves and cherishes his sister, he still feels something is missing in his life; a friend. He tells Margaret “when I am glowing with the enthusiasm of success, there will be none to participate my joy; if I am assailed by disappointment, no one will endeavor to sustain me in dejection,” (Shelley 54) when referring to the absence of a friend. Now, the fact that he needs a friend so desperately when he has Margaret, whom he loves so much, might seem questionable to some, but let’s be fair. No one really wants to just have their siblings as their friends. Believe me, I love my sisters to death, and I love sharing my feelings with them, but when I’m really in a pickle, the first person I go to is my best friend, so I can imagine Robert’s sadness.

When Robert pulls the stranger aboard his ship, he immediately sees him as a possible friend. The prospect excites him so much, that he writes to Margaret about it as well. However, the stranger doesn’t quite reciprocate these feelings. He has lost his friend and life, and “cannot begin life anew,” (Shelley 61) crushing Robert’s hopes of him becoming his friend.

Now, I might be jumping the gun a little bit (because honestly, I’ve never read or seen Frankenstein, and all I know about it are the stories I’ve heard of a man building another one) but could this severe desperation for friendship drive poor Robert Walton to the very last option? Is he going to have to build a friend?

I think so, folks.

P.S. How adorable is Stitch? http://www.pudgybunny.com/images/stitchbig.gif

Just like breathing

When you think about daily life, you don’t tend to think about the simple things. No one is going to think back to that one awesome night you had with your friends and remember that you were breathing the entire night. The same tends to go for looking. Just like breathing, something I do every waking second of my life, is looking. I look at the street in front of me so I don’t fall or step in something, I look at my phone to check the time or maybe see if I have a text from someone, but most importantly, I look at people. I know that sounds incredibly creepy, like I’m lurking in a dark corner and leering at people who are passing me, but it’s true; I look at people. And don’t deny that you don’t, because people are interesting. They’re fun to look at. They’re unique. Just like Ophelia.

In Annette Debo’s “Ophelia Speaks: Ressurecting Still Lives in Natasha Trethewey’s Bellocq’s Ophelia,” Debo writes about the mundane act of looking, except the way she tells it, it’s not so mundane anymore. She says, “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) What she is saying, is that looking at Ophelia is on the same level as having sex with her. Debo goes on to continue the different people who look at Ophelia, and how each of them look at her differently. I agree with Debo about the fact that Ophelia is being looked at and each person looking at her, does it differently. Ophelia is a strong woman, and she keeps her head held high, through all the objectification and lurking she’s put through. When she is found outside of her Quarters, and she is slathered with paint and forced to pose for a mugshot, she decides not to let it tear her down. She sees the picture of herself, “paint smeared on my face, my hair/loosed and wiled—a doppelgänger/whose face I loathe but must confront,” (Trethewey 29) and she doesn’t shy away from it. She confronts herself, and I find this to be one of the moments where you can see how strong Ophelia really is.

Dear Diary,

The things you think when you are in the privacy of your own mind and the things you tell other people are both very different things. For instance, if the guy you have a thing for winkes at you at a party, you’re definitely going to tell your friends it happened, but you might not admit how happy it made you in that moment.

The same thing goes for Ophelia. I mean, obviously she doesn’t have a thing for any of the guys at the brothel and she definitely didn’t run into him at a party, but the main idea stays the same. In Ophelia’s letters to Constance, she writes about the things that happen to her and yes, sometimes she discloses her feelings, but she never writes the way she does in her diary in the second part of the book.

What I’d really like to focus on, are the last few months of Ophelia’s stay at the brothel and her departure from it. I believe that the biggest turn for Ophelia was in January of 1912, when she ventures out to take photographs with the Kodak she saved up for. She’s trying to take a picture of a bird, however, the bird flies away. “As my shutter fell/he lifted in flight, a vivid blur above/the clutter just beyond the hedge—garbage/rats licking the insides of broken eggs.” (Tretheway44) The redbird flying off, not sitting still for the camera, reminds me of Ophelia, posing for photographs. I know that might sound backwards, but as she poses for Bellocq, she feels trapped. She says “I fade again into someone I’m not,” (Tretheway 40) meaning that she feels captured in somebody else, which she is being forced into by Bellocq. Escaping, flying away like the bird, is something she wants to do herself. The bird blurs away, leaving an unsightly sight behind, which is exactly what Ophelia wants to do. Plus, in her February 1912 diary entry, she once again paints her surroundings negatively, calling the city “dull” and “gray” with “weathered ships docked at the quay, rats/dozing in the hull, drizzle slicking dark stones/of the street.” (Tretheway 45) She obviously dislikes where she currently is.

Now, in her last letter to Constance before the postcard, Ophelia writes that she longs to travel. She writes “I lost/myself, for a moment, and found/upon waking from my daydream, the book/clutched to my chest, and the globe/set in motion, spinning beneath my hand.” (Tretheway 32) While she doesn’t mention any of the negatives about her living space, she does mention wanting to leave.

And finally, in her last diary entry, she finally realizes that she needs to get out of there. By “[seeing] only [her] own clear eye,” (Tretheway 46) she realizes what she really wants, and gets out of there. However, in her letter to Constance, she never reveals what made her flee from the brothel and her life, she just tells her that she’s moving on. She writes that the changing of winter to spring reminds her of herself, how she does not fit her skin anymore, much like the trees who blossom again. But her revelation, her special moment, her wink, she keeps for herself.

Wait, what’s a human?

 

Living in the Industrial Revolution must have sucked. Honestly, can anyone here really say they haven’t started to appreciate life a little bit more after having read everything we have about life in factories? Both Davis and Melville basically describe the factories as the Devil’s armpits, and Chaplin’s character quite literally goes mad working there. I, for one, can definitely say that I am very happy to be sitting comfortably in my dorm room, unmarried, and reading about this life, than being unmarried and shipped off to go live it.

Having said that, I should probably get to my point. In this day and age, humans are treated like indispensable and important beings, which is what we are. Sadly, that wasn’t always the case. Take “Life in the Iron-Mills” for example. The hundreds and hundreds of mill-hands working there were treated like filth. Davis says, “A reality of soul-starvation, of living death, that meets you every day under the besotted faces on the street,” (Davis 2769) giving an accurate account of what the lives of the workers were like, their pain clearly visible on their faces. She mentions the conditions that they worked under and things are brought up that would never happen in our current day in age. Men in an iron mill working without shirts? Unfathomable! But back then, nobody cared about the lower class. They were just there to do the work.

Similarly, in “The Tartarus of Maids” the working girls are hardly given a second thought. They aren’t even seen as human beings anymore. Melville even compares them to horses, tied up to a rack (Melville 1272) at one point. After being asked why the females are always called girls, the factory owner says something very striking: “For our factory here, we will not have married women; they are apt to be off-and-on too much. We want none but steady workers: twelve hours to the day, day after day, through the three hundred and sixty-five days.” (Melville 1278) He basically says that he doesn’t care about anything other than them getting work done. He refuses to hire a married woman because she might possibly not show up for work one day. This right here shows again that the humans in this time were not humans to their bosses, or owners rather, but merely slaves.

And then there’s Chaplin’s Modern Times, which takes a completely different approach to convey the same message. Chaplin’s movie is seen as a comedy or parody of how working life was for the working class during the Great Depression. While the factory doesn’t exactly look like Hell, like it did in “Life in the Iron-Mills,” it’s still clear that it is not a fun place to be. In the beginning of the film, the workers all settle at their stations and start their work. Immediately the factory owner demands that they work faster. We cut to Chaplin and see the repercussions this brings: he can barely keep up with the speed of the conveyor belt. This, of course, is viewed as humorous, but when you really think about it, it’s awful. This goes on for a while; Chaplin struggling to keep up with the work and messing up. Then lunchtime rolls around, and a company wants to demonstrate their feeding machine so lunch breaks can be cut out entirely. Now, let’s think about this concept for a second. A feeding machine? Really? I’m sure we can all agree that breaks are imperative to perform. I highly doubt anyone here has sat down and banged out an entire six-page paper without checking Facebook at least once or grabbing something to eat. But getting back to the movie, this feeding machine obviously doesn’t work. And once again, because it’s a comedic movie, we all laughed when it didn’t. I’ll admit, it was funny when Chaplin’s face got covered in food and the mouth-wiper hit him in the face repeatedly, but can you imagine if that happened in real life? And then here’s the kicker: instead of turning down the machine because it was injuring a member of his staff, the factory owner doesn’t want to buy the machine because it wasn’t efficient enough. I mean, seriously? That’s your reason for not wanting to buy it? Once again it becomes clear that the upper class really doesn’t care about the workers. And I’m sure everyone caught the comparison in the opening act of the movie: workers going to work aren’t any better than sheep being driven into their cages.

If you ask me, the slogan for the Industrialization should have been: “Humans don’t matter, as long as our stuff gets done!”

Men go to Heaven, Women go to Hell

In our current society, men and women are more or less equals. However, when “The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids” was written, this wasn’t the case. Not only was there inequality between sexes, there was inequality between social standing as well.

First Melville starts by describing a night where a group of wealthy bachelors all get together for a feast with “innumerable niceties” (Melville 1262). The men have no cares at all in the world, as they are all unattached to wives or children and do not ever have anxious thoughts about them. The men care only about each other, which becomes clear when Melville mentions that “the nine bachelors seemed to have the most tender concern for each other’s health.” (Melville 1262) For example, they only drink if all of them will drink. This one night is described as “the very perfection of quiet absorption of good living, good drinking, good feeling, and good talk.” (Melville 1264)

After the narrator leaves the feast he rides his horse to a nearby factory. Right away it becomes apparent that this place is far below the “heaven” that was described earlier. And straight away, it is clear that the women, or girls, in this story, are inferior to men. This is clear when you are introduced to the first girl; a girl whose “face is pale with work, blue with cold and eyes supernatural with unrelated misery.” (Melville 1270) Right after, another male is introduced who is obviously in charge and he is described as a dark-complexioned and well-wrapped personage. The narrator is invited into the factory and once again, the inferiority of these girls comes to light. They are being used as slaves to the machinery. He describes them simply as “mere cogs to the wheels” of the machine. (Melville 1271) The girls are compared to mares halted to a rack, symbolizing that they are nothing more than animals to the factory owners. When the narrator questions why the girls are in such bad shape, the factory owner an ignorant, heartless comment about it. (Melville 1274)

There is so much inequality between the wealthy men and the working women in this story that even the narrator finds it disgusting. He, himself, makes note that where he has visited is the polar opposite to his Paradise of Bachelors, and that’s saying something.

Deborah and Hugh Fornever.

Everyone recognizes a love story as soon as they see one. Man falls in love with woman, woman falls back, happily ever after. Right? Wrong. For Deborah, happily ever after is something that isn’t even in her vocabulary. Deborah is in love with her cousin, Hugh Wolfe, something that is evident right from the start of the story. She is willing to brave extreme cold and torrential downpour simply to bring Hugh his supper. Even when Janey suggests she stays home, Deborah is adamant, responding with “No, no. The boy ‘ll starve,” and sharply pushing the child to the side. Deborah is in terrible condition physically, and her willingness to walk miles upon miles to bring Hugh his food speaks volume about her desperation. Not only does she risk her health for Hugh, she risks his life. She knows that he is desperate to be more than what he is – just a mill-hand – and do more with his life, despite the fact that he has no money to do so. While Hugh is speaking to Mitchell and the Doctor about his potential, she finds an opportunity to rob Mitchell.  When Hugh is telling Deborah about his despair, she proudly hands over the money, exclaiming “I took it! Me, me!—not hur! I shall be hanged, I shall be burnt in hell, if anybody knows I took it! Out of his pocket, as he leaned against t’ bricks. Hur knows?” before walking away, as if it was the most normal thing in the world. Yet, once again, Hugh is ungrateful for her actions and does not reciprocate her feelings.

There are many other places in the story that show Deborah’s affection for Hugh and just as many places where her effort falls short. Hugh is too wrapped up in his own life to care for another person, especially Deborah, who he will forever see as just another family member. Even in his death, Deborah wants a good place for Hugh to be buried. Her final showing of her love.