pros and cons

In designing this app, Morris put a very interesting twist on Shelley’s Frankenstein. He took a 200 year-old novel and modernized it by using technology to present its content. I found that there were many aspects of this app that made the story more interesting and enjoyable but also took away from the overall reading experience.

I agree with many of my classmates that this version of the novel is much more stimulating than the actual book because of the graphics and animation. In addition to the visual appeal of the app, I liked that it felt as if I was a part of the story and was able to enter into a conversation with Frankenstein. I think that everyone has had at least one experience where they have wanted to say or do something to influence a character’s actions in a book or movie. While reading the app, I thought it was really cool that I was able to choose which questions I wanted Frankenstein to answer. Although the app could potentially have been leading in the same direction regardless of my choices, I still liked that it created the allusion that I was providing my own input.

While I enjoyed this interactive feature of the app, I think it disturbed the flow of my reading. As Emily mentioned in class, it was difficult to stay focused and lose myself in the story when the app prompted me to make a decision every couple of lines. When reading a tangible book is easy to become immersed in the story without paying attention to how much you’ve read or how much is left. The short pages and selection of tabs at the bottom of each section was very disruptive to me as I read the story.

Another aspect of the app that I though was both a pro and a con was that it changed the persona of some of the characters.. In the app, I feel that Frankenstein’s character is much more light and charismatic than he is in the book. He frequently jokes with reader in the beginning of the story and his dialogue exhibits personality. While it was interesting to read a story that presents a different portrayal of Frankenstein, I don’t think Shelley intended Frankenstein to come across as pleasant and humorous.

Between the book and the app, it is hard to say which version of the story I like better because they are so completely different. Both versions have pros and cons but it all depends on who you ask.

thirst for companionship

A major theme throughout the last volume of the novel is the importance of companionship in one’s life. By the end of the novel, it is apparent that Frankenstein’s life is meaningless without his loved ones, and the monster can never truly be happy without a companion. Since both Frankenstein and the monster are denied of companionship, their sole purpose in life becomes plotting revenge against each other.

The monster desperately longs for a companion because his life is miserable without the acceptance of humankind. Frankenstein explains that, as the monster sees the being that Frankenstein is creating, “a ghastly grin wrinkles [the monster’s] lips as he gazed on me, where I sat fulfilling the task which he had allotted to me” (Shelley 174). The monster looks upon the creature with a smile because he knows that this being will eventually become his companion. Once she is created, the monster will finally be able to achieve some degree of happiness and will no longer have to live in complete solitude. However, when Frankenstein destroys this half-finished creature, the monster exclaims, “you can blast my other passions; but revenge remains-revenge henceforth dearer than light or food!” (176). Frankenstein has extinguished the monster’s hope of companionship, so the monster vows to destroy Frankenstein’s life. He no longer has anything to live for, so the monster’s only motivation in life becomes revenge against his creator.

Similarly, Frankenstein feels that he has nothing left to live for when the monster kills his loved ones. He explains that while his companions are dead and he is still alive, “their murdered also lived, and to destroy him I must drag out my weary existence” (203). Frankenstein no longer wants to be alive, as his life is meaningless without his friends and family that were killed by the monster. However, he desperately seeks revenge against the monster so the monster will “drink deep of agony” and “feel the despair” that torments Frankenstein (203). The only way to destroy the monster is if Frankenstein stays alive himself.

Both Frankenstein and the monster are so dependant on companionship to find happiness that their lives are meaningless without it. Their only motivation to continue living is the prospect of destroying the person who deprived them of this companionship.

 

 

creation and destruction

A prominent theme in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is science vs. nature. It is similar to Neuromancer in that the narrator defies nature through science, just as the characters in Neuromancer reject their natural selves in favor of technology. The narrator, Victor Frankenstein, is a natural philosopher who is so fixated on the creation and destruction of life that he devotes years to discovering a way to create life in inanimate objects. Once Frankenstein accomplishes this feat, he has, in a sense, upset the balance of nature. In creating this one unnatural life, Frankenstein also destroys the lives of others.

It is no coincidence that Frankenstein becomes ill as he works on creating this unnatural life. He explains that the fever and nervousness that plagued him every night was “a disease that I regretted the more because I had hitherto enjoyed most excellent health..” (Shelley 83). Although he normally does not get sick often, Frankenstein repeatedly falls ill while working on this project. I think this frequent illness is nature’s way of urging Frankenstein to stop this pursuit. Creating life in this manner is unnatural and will undoubtedly have consequences. As Frankenstein grows closer to reaching his goal, he destroys his own life in the process.

After creating the monster, Frankenstein realizes that he is deprived of life. He has no contact with family or friends and has no regard for the environment around him. When he is reunited with Henry Clerval, Frankenstein admits “I was lifeless, and did not recover my senses for a long, long time” (86). Although in the presence of his dear childhood friend, Frankenstein’s fear of the monster he created drives him insane and he becomes extremely ill. His devotion to giving life to an inanimate object actually drains the life out of Frankenstein himself.

In addition to destroying his own life, Frankenstein destroys the lives of both his brother and Justine. The monster murders Frankenstein’s brother William, and Justine is wrongfully convicted as his murderer. While awaiting the result of Justine’s trial, Frankenstein wonders “whether the result of my curiosity and lawless devices would cause the death of two of my fellow-beings” (103). He realizes that if Justine is convicted of murder, he must take responsibility for destroying her life, in addition to his brother’s life. Frankenstein is to blame for these deaths because he created the monster that caused them.

Frankenstein destroys his own life, as well as the lives of those close to him as a consequence of creating the monster. When life is created unnaturally, nature destroys lives to restore balance.

dont judge a book by its cover

In Natasha Tretheway’s Belloq’s Ophelia, a prostitute from New Orleans’s red light district writes letters and diary entries about her life.  While most assume that prostitutes are unintelligent and uneducated, Ophelia’s writing style is sophisticated and poised. In class today, I found it very interesting when Natasha Tretheway said “people aren’t always the sum of their circumstances”. This comment struck me as important because Ophelia’s thoughts and behavior in the poems contradict common stereotypes that many people have about prostitutes.

For example, Ophelia is very interested in educating herself and learning about the world. In a letter Ophelia exclaims, “Do you remember that I kept/your copy of American Highways/and Byways for months, reading it,/Imagine, then, my surprise at finding/that the Countess keeps a library here,/ in the brothel!” (Tretheway 32). Ophelia appears to be an avid reader and is very excited by the prospect of having a library in the brothel. While most people assume that a prostitute would have no interest in reading, Ophelia enjoys learning and realizes the importance of educating herself.  Tretheway portrays Ophelia as having a thirst for learning in order to show that one cannot judge another’s character based solely on his or her circumstance.

Ophelila’s typical behavior is also very different from that of the stereotypical prostitute. In another letter, Ophelia explains that since the other girls in the house walk around in their underwear, “They tease me, but gently,/for my proper clothes and the quiet way I take my tea.” (Tretheway 17). Ophelia is different from the other girls in the brothel as she dresses modestly and keeps to herself. While the other girls exhibit the stereotype that prostitutes behave and dress inappropriately during the day, Ophelia make an effort to display proper etiquette.  Again, Tretheway uses Ophelia’s behavior to show that Ophelia is not defined by her line of work or living situation.

Ophelia is a clear example of someone who is “not the sum of her circumstance”. We cannot pass judgments about her just because she is a prostitute that lives in a brothel, as her character certainly does not reflect her unfortunate situation. Through these poems, Tretheway urges us to realize that people are not always what they seem from the outside looking in.

Role of the Narrator

In the article, “The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids’: A dialogue about experience, understanding, and truth”, Weyler focuses on the role of the narrator in conveying Melville’s message. She explains that while the reader cannot reach an understanding of the purpose of story without reading the second part, “The Tartarus of Maids”, the narrator also does not reach a higher understanding of his experiences until he leaves the paper mill. I agree with Weyler’s claim here because it seems as though the narrator in this story is very similar to reader. He gains incite about the problems in his society as the story unfolds and comes to an ultimate realization at the end.

Weyler explains that as the story progresses, it “dramatizes [the narrator’s] movement from passivity and observation to direct engagement with life” (Weyler). While in The Paradise, the narrator merely describes the gluttonous way of the bachelors but does nothing about it. This attitude shifts when he is exposed to the women’s suffering in The Tartarus, and actively attempts to make sense of the situation. The narrator describes the location of the bachelor’s dinner, exclaiming, “I know not how many strange stairs I climbed to get to it. But a good dinner, with famous company, should be well earned” (Melville 1261). The narrator is clearly disapproving of the bachelors’ attitudes, as he uses sarcasm to emphasize how conceited the bachelors are. However, despite his satirical comments, he never actively tries to come to a deeper understanding of the sitiuation. Conversely, when he becomes of aware of the horrible conditions and treatment of women at the paper mills, he declares, “This is the very counterpart of the Paradise of Bachelors, but snowed upon, and frost painted to a sepulchre” (Melville 1269). Rather than merely complaining about the problems of the mill, the narrator is actually able to come to some sort of a realization. Additionally, he engages in conversation with the workers in the mill to try to learn more about the situation.

The narrator acts only as an observer throughout the first part of the story because he has not yet been exposed to life at the paper mills. Just as the reader cannot analyze a text before finishing it, the narrator is unable to come to a deeper realization about his society until he has been exposed to both worlds.

Technology: a detriment to society

Similar to “Life in the Iron Mills”, Herman Melville’s “The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids” portrays a society in which some must suffer in order for others to live comfortably. The gap between upper and low class in this society is a direct result of industrialization, as the maids in this mill live miserably in order for the bachelors to live extravagantly. However, unlike Hugh, the narrator in this novella finds that the sought after lives of the upper class actually lack substance. The narrator feels that industrialization has negatively impacted both the upper and lower class, corrupting society as a whole

While the old Templars in the narrator’s society used the Temple Garden to prepare for battle, “the modern Templars now lounge on the benches beneath the tress, and, switching their patent-leather boots” (Melville 1259). Pre- industrialization, Templars were focused and motivated while the modern day Templar has become lazy and somewhat useless. The narrator expresses concern that the presence of technology is eliminating the drive to work hard among the upper class. He recalls that after drinking a sufficient amount of wine at the wealthy bachelors’ dinner, “[c]hoice experiences in their private lives were now brought out, like choice brands of Moselle or Rhenish..” (Melville 1263). The narrator sarcastically points out that he bachelor’s lives are so uneventful that the most private details of their lives are as trivial as deciding what brand of wine to buy. Although the people of the upper class in this society still have extravagant things during industrialization, they actually lead unfulfilling lives.

The lower class in this society is dehumanized by technology and the industrial age. The narrator refers to the mountain on which the paper mill where many poor women work as the “Devil’s Dungeon” ( Melville1266). This name suggests that the paper mill is place of punishment and torture for the people working there. After watching the lifeless girls work the machines at the mill the narrator notes that “[t]he girls did not so much seem accessory wheels to the general machinery as mere cog to the wheels” (Melville 1271).  The workers seem to have lost their humanity and exist only to serve their machines. The torturous work at the mill has caused the girls to appear as though they are actually part of the machines they operate.

Technology and the industrial age have ruined this society by causing suffering among the lower class and promoting ignorance and laziness among the upper class.

 

Life’s not fair

A major theme in ‘Life in the Iron Mills” is the desire to overcome the unfair social limitations that exist in society. Hugh feels that his status as a poor cotton mill worker unfairly hinders his ability to reach his full potential and yearns for a more fulfilling life. Similarly, the gender inequality during this time period prevents Hugh’s cousin, Deborah, from realizing her full potential and she desperately longs to be viewed as more than just an expendable member of her community.

Hugh is tremendously unhappy with his life on the mill because he knows that he is capable of achieving so much more for himself. While explaining the misfortune in Hugh’s life, the narrator says, “Think that God put into this man’s soul a fierce thirst for beauty,—to know it, to create it; to be—something…”(Davis 2770). Hugh is desperate to live a beautiful life in which he can become an integral contributor to society. However, he feels that he will never have the opportunity to achieve this life because he has been poor all of his life. When Hugh decides to keep Deborah’s stolen money, “A consciousness of power stirred within him. He stood up. A man,—he thought, stretching out his hands,—free to work, to live, to love! Free! His right!”(Davis 2780). Now that Hugh has money, he feels as if all his previous limitations have been lifted and he is now free to achieve his dream life. Hugh feels so limited by his lack of money that he commits a crime in an effort to fully reach his potential in life.

As a poor woman, Deborah is viewed as an insignificant member of her community. When Deborah arrives at the mill with Hugh’s dinner, Hugh exclaims, “I did no’ think; gi’ me my supper, woman” (Davis 2768). Hugh’s disrespectful response suggests that he has little regard for Deborah. Deborah is so in love with him that she goes out of her way to make sure he is happy, yet Hugh treats her as if she exists merely to meet his demands. Deborah steals money for Hugh in order to prove to him that she is more than just a body to cook his dinner and that he needs her. In stealing this money, Deborah is attempting to rise above the gender inequality in her community that labels her as worthless.

Self-destruction

In this day in age, technological advancements are steadily on the rise. We have already landed on Mars, cloned animals, and created machines that are arguably smarter than humans, along with many other major scientific feats. The possibilities of what our society will be capable of achieving in the future seem endless. However, Gibson’s novel suggests that these endless possibilities may hurt us in the long run. Case’s world in Neuromancer could be seen as an example of what our society could look like if we continue on this path of technological discovery. In this portion of the reading, we witness the self-destruction of two characters who have built their empires based on technological manipulation. I think that through these characters, Gibson is trying to send a message that this path could eventually lead to the self-destruction of our society.

The first character to self-destruct is Ashpool. He is the founder of Tessier-Ashpool, a wealthy business responsible for building the space station, Freeside. Through his involvement in the company, it is clear that Ashpool is a technological genius and has made noteworthy achievements. However, our only encounter with Ashpool occurs while he is in the middle of committing suicide. Prior to this encounter, I imagined Tessier Ashpool to be a highly regarded, accomplished company. Gibson tarnishes this image when we meet Ashpool as Gibson seems to portray Ashpool as weak and pathetic.

Similarly, the mastermind, Armitage, completely self-destructs before his death. Since the beginning of the novel, Armitage has been orchestrating elaborate crimes through cyberspace and manipulating people into doing his dirty work. However, Armitage has a psychological breakdown as his entire persona begins to unravel. It was shocking to see such a seemingly in control, powerful person transform into a vulnerable and unstable character.

Why does Gibson choose to destroy the image of such influential and dominant characters in the technological world? These characters were consumed with science and technology but still seemed to be completely in control. However, their inner workings eventually unravel and they can no longer maintain their lifestyles. I think Gibson is drawing a parallel to the real world. For now, all seems to be under control, as new technology is developed everyday However, if we are not careful, technology could infiltrate all aspects of our lives and destroy our society.

 

Neuromancer Post #1

Thus far in the novel, Gibson has chosen to emphasize the prominence of technology, artificial intelligence, and criminal activity in Case’s world. We come to know Case as a disturbed man who is obsessed with hacking into an alternate reality, while everyone he encounters seems to have been chemically altered in some way. Everyone has some kind of artificial enhancement and cyberspace is the ultimate destination for manipulation. Needless to say, Case lives in a very unnatural society that comes across as very futuristic.

During tonight’s reading, however, Gibson brings religion into the story when Molly and Case encounter the Zionite. The Zionites have removed themselves from society and have created their own religion.  I find this portion of the novel to be very interesting because the idea of religion starkly contrasts with the unnatural themes that have been so prominent in the novel thus far. I have always associated religion with simplicity and nature, which have no place in Case’s technology-dependant society.

The Zionists do not follow the laws of modern society, but instead “the word of Jah” (Gibson 111). The Zionite society is clearly very different than Case’s society. It appears that the Zionites focus their lives on religion, rather than artificial alterations and cyberspace. When Case first encounters the Zionites, Gibson explains that, “Case didn’t understand the Zionites” (Gibson 106). Case obviously can’t understand the Zionite culture because he is so immersed in his own society where it is normal to use technology as a means to manipulate and deceive.

I think Gibson included this chapter in the book to further emphasize the dangers of becoming a society too dependent on technology. The technological advancements in Case’s society have gotten so immense that the idea of nature and simplicity are a foreign concept to many of its members.