Thursday, January 22, 2009

76.35% Evil

Victor Frankenstein is ultimately 76.35% evil. In order to judge a man’s character, you must first fully understand his story. In Frankenstein’s case, it is a miserable blight of bad decisions, dead relatives, and, in the end, a futile search for the ‘evil’ that by his own discord had plagued him for years. Fortunately for us, it’s impossible to fully understand a man’s story without having been that man, and even having been that man it is a task left to decades of reflection and behavioral modification. The outcome of which is inevitably acceptance of death or sudden death, in which case it seems inane to discuss the trivial characteristics associated with good or evil. Additionally, categorizing an object into either the category good or evil means that the percent occurrence of the two must add up to 100%. Can any human, with such complexities, be deemed either 100% evil or 100% good? However, I digress: Nothing, not I or any other living (or supernatural) being, has the right to decide whether or not a man is good or evil. And so, I turn to http://www.dictionary.com, which provides the human definition of ‘good’ (adjective) in 41 easy-to-choose-from uses. I will also include the five definitions provided for ‘evil’ (adjective). In this way, dictionary.com will decide the character of Victor Frankenstein.

Methodology

For simplicity’s sake, I will simply list these 46 definitions, adding a plus sign (+) to those that do apply to our dear Victor, and a minus sign (-) to those that do not apply. Five definitions seemed irrelevant, two only semi-applicable, and one especially relevant which are designated with question marks (?), ½’s, and pluses (++) respectively. I will provide no reasoning, yours and mine would surely differ and you are free to disagree. If you do disagree, I encourage you to add up your pluses and minuses and compare our ideas of right and wrong. (Remember to add minuses from the ‘good’ list with pluses from the ‘bad’ list to get an accurate good to evil proportion.)

My proportion will be determined by taken the average of the percentage of good and evil in each of the aforementioned categories.

Good= 52.7%

TBA 1. morally excellent; virtuous; righteous; pious: a good man.
+ 2. satisfactory in quality, quantity, or degree: a good teacher; good health.
+ 3. of high quality; excellent.
+ 4. right; proper; fit: It is good that you are here. His credentials are good.
- 5. well-behaved: a good child.
- 6. kind, beneficent, or friendly: to do a good deed.
+ 7. honorable or worthy; in good standing: a good name.
+ 8. educated and refined: She has a good background.
+ 9. financially sound or safe: His credit is good.
+ 10. genuine; not counterfeit: a good quarter.
- 11. sound or valid: good judgment; good reasons.
- 12. reliable; dependable; responsible: good advice.
- 13. healthful; beneficial: Fresh fruit is good for you.
- 14. in excellent condition; healthy: good teeth.
- 15. not spoiled or tainted; edible; palatable: The meat was still good after three months in the freezer.
- 16. favorable; propitious: good news.
½ + 17. cheerful; optimistic; amiable: in good spirits.
- 18. free of distress or pain; comfortable: to feel good after surgery.
- 19. agreeable; pleasant: Have a good time.
? 20. attractive; handsome: She has a good figure.
? 21. (of the complexion) smooth; free from blemish.
- 22. close or intimate; warm: She's a good friend of mine.
+ 23. sufficient or ample: a good supply.
+ 24. advantageous; satisfactory for the purpose: a good day for fishing.
+ 25. competent or skillful; clever: a good manager; good at arithmetic.
+ 26. skillfully or expertly done: a really good job; a good play.
+ 27. conforming to rules of grammar, usage, etc.; correct: good English.
½+ 28. socially proper: good manners.
+ 29. remaining available to one: Don't throw good money after bad.
+ 30. comparatively new or of relatively fine quality: Don't play in the mud in your good clothes.
? 31. best or most dressy: He wore his good suit to the office today.
++ 32. full: a good day's journey away.
- 33. fairly large or great: a good amount.
- 34. free from precipitation or cloudiness: good weather.
- 35. Medicine/Medical. (of a patient's condition) having stable and normal vital signs, being conscious and comfortable, and having excellent appetite, mobility, etc.
+ 36. fertile; rich: good soil.
- 37. loyal: a good Democrat.
- 38. (of a return or service in tennis, squash, handball, etc.) landing within the limits of a court or section of a court.
? 39. Horse Racing. (of the surface of a track) drying after a rain so as to be still slightly sticky: This horse runs best on a good track.
? 40. (of meat, esp. beef) noting or pertaining to the specific grade below “choice,” containing more lean muscle and less edible fat than “prime” or “choice.”
+ 41. favorably regarded (used as an epithet for a ship, town, etc.): the good ship Syrena


Evil= 100%

TBA 1. morally wrong or bad; immoral; wicked: evil deeds; an evil life.
+ 2. harmful; injurious: evil laws.
+ 3. characterized or accompanied by misfortune or suffering; unfortunate; disastrous: to be fallen on evil days.
+ 4. due to actual or imputed bad conduct or character: an evil reputation.
+ 5. marked by anger, irritability, irascibility, etc.: He is known for his evil disposition.

Conclusion

As you can easily calculate, (100% evil + 52.7% good) / 2 ultimately makes Victor Frankenstein 76.35% evil and 23.65% good. Far be it for me to rely on mathematics or the Internet to determine a man’s character, but by all human means, subjectivity would certainly affect the outcome.











3 comments:

Megan Schwemer said...

Your idea of relying on the dictionary to decide is certainly interesting, but could use some support from the text. Additionally, though he arguably meets more good criteria numerically, he is more evil because he meets all of the fewer criteria in that category. It might help to provide an approximately equal number of definitions for both categories.

I'm assuming you're responding to the third prompt, which stated that you should focus on and quote the text, neither of which you do. You claim that to do decide whether or not Victor is evil would be subjective, yet this is more or less exactly what you do anyway. You do not give any reason for why Victor does or does not fit the definitions you provide. Your reluctance to pass judgment on him makes your argument appear less convincing. You claim that your method is not subjective, but this is highly debatable, as anyone could presumably find reasons why Victor does not meet the criteria you think he does.

In order to improve your paper, you could focus on the most relevant criteria and ignore the others, giving examples from the text for why Victor meets them. Also, you could cut down your introduction by removing the reasons for why you cannot judge him; if you cannot judge him, then the judgments you do make are less reliable to your reader. Your conclusion would also have to be adjusted to meet the other changes.

I'm betting you definitely have some interesting ideas here, but without any sort of explanation, your reader does not have any clear idea what they are.

tricia said...

Victor Frankenstein is ultimately 76.35% evil. In order to judge a man’s character, you must first fully understand his story. In Frankenstein’s case, it is a miserable blight of bad decisions, dead relatives, and, in the end, a futile search for the ‘evil’ that by his own discord had plagued him for years.

[Victor] burned with rage to pursue the murderer of [his] peace…” and at the seeming end of this search, Victor admits to his audience, “I have lost every thing, and cannot begin life anew.”

Fortunately for us, it’s impossible to fully understand a man’s story without having been that man, and even having been that man it is a task left to decades of reflection and behavioral modification. The outcome of which is inevitably acceptance of death or sudden death, in which case it seems inane to discuss the trivial characteristics associated with good or evil. Victor leaves the self-reflection for his acceptance speech to death, “During these last days I have been occupied in examining my past conduct.”

Additionally, categorizing an object into either the category good or evil means that the percent occurrence of the two must add up to 100%. Can any human, with such complexities, be deemed either 100% evil or 100% good? However, I digress: Nothing, not I or any other living (or supernatural) being, has the right to decide whether or not a man is good or evil. And so, I turn to http://www.dictionary.com, which provides the human definition of ‘good’ (adjective) in 41 easy-to-choose-from uses. I will also include the five definitions provided for ‘evil’ (adjective). In this way, dictionary.com will decide the character of Victor Frankenstein.

Methodology

For simplicity’s sake, I will simply list these 46 definitions, adding a plus sign (+) to those that do apply to our dear Victor, and a minus sign (-) to those that do not apply. Five definitions seemed irrelevant, two only semi-applicable, and one especially relevant which are designated with question marks (?), ½’s, and pluses (++) respectively. I will provide no reasoning, yours and mine would surely differ and you are free to disagree. If you do disagree, I encourage you to add up your pluses and minuses and compare our ideas of right and wrong. (Remember to add minuses from the ‘good’ list with pluses from the ‘bad’ list to get an accurate good to evil proportion.)

My proportion will be determined by taken the average of the percentage of good and evil in each of the aforementioned categories.

Good= 52.7%

TBA 1. morally excellent; virtuous; righteous; pious: a good man.
+ 2. satisfactory in quality, quantity, or degree: a good teacher; good health.
There is a satisfactory quantity of Victor- 1.
+ 3. of high quality; excellent.
He is Genevese…
+ 4. right; proper; fit: It is good that you are here. His credentials are good.
Proper in language mostly
- 5. well-behaved: a good child.
He’s a raving lunatic who gets the majority of his family killed.
- 6. kind, beneficent, or friendly: to do a good deed.
Denies his own creation friendship.
+ 7. honorable or worthy; in good standing: a good name.
People quite liked his famly.
+ 8. educated and refined: She has a good background.
College-educated.
+ 9. financially sound or safe: His credit is good.
The book never mentions Victor holding a steady job, he must be rich.
+ 10. genuine; not counterfeit: a good quarter.
He is genuinely psychotic.
- 11. sound or valid: good judgment; good reasons.
He is genuinely psychotic.
- 12. reliable; dependable; responsible: good advice.
He promised to make a second creature, and broke that promise.
- 13. healthful; beneficial: Fresh fruit is good for you.
He is genuinely psychotic.
- 14. in excellent condition; healthy: good teeth.
He is genuinely psychotic. (I hate to be redundant, can you blame me?)
- 15. not spoiled or tainted; edible; palatable: The meat was still good after three months in the freezer.
Too skinny in the end to be edible, to alive in the beginning.
- 16. favorable; propitious: good news.
Usually he brings death and misery, rather than good news.
½ + 17. cheerful; optimistic; amiable: in good spirits.
Sometimes.
- 18. free of distress or pain; comfortable: to feel good after surgery.
We would all agree on this one…
- 19. agreeable; pleasant: Have a good time.
Only if you appreciate the genuinely psychotic.
? 20. attractive; handsome: She has a good figure.
No conclusive evidence.
? 21. (of the complexion) smooth; free from blemish.
No conclusive evidence.
- 22. close or intimate; warm: She's a good friend of mine.
He was searching through the arctic, he was definitely cold.
+ 23. sufficient or ample: a good supply.
I would not want any more of him.
+ 24. advantageous; satisfactory for the purpose: a good day for fishing.
Taught good life lessons- i.e. don’t create life you would not support.
+ 25. competent or skillful; clever: a good manager; good at arithmetic.
He breathed life into the dead and traversed the arctic.
+ 26. skillfully or expertly done: a really good job; a good play.
Again, he breathed life into the dead and traversed the arctic.
+ 27. conforming to rules of grammar, usage, etc.; correct: good English.
Certainly.
½+ 28. socially proper: good manners.
If creating monsters and lying to its victims is socially proper this should be a whole plus, but it’s not so I’ll base this judgment on his grammar.
+ 29. remaining available to one: Don't throw good money after bad.
He was always available to his Elizabeth.
+ 30. comparatively new or of relatively fine quality: Don't play in the mud in your good clothes.
New on the evolutionary scale, of fine quality for being European.
? 31. best or most dressy: He wore his good suit to the office today.
++ 32. full: a good day's journey away.
Mentally as well as physically, he is a good day’s journey away.
- 33. fairly large or great: a good amount.
His ideas are great, but not his person.
- 34. free from precipitation or cloudiness: good weather.
There were innumerable clouds in his head.
- 35. Medicine/Medical. (of a patient's condition) having stable and normal vital signs, being conscious and comfortable, and having excellent appetite, mobility, etc.
We find him suffering horribly and then dead.
+ 36. fertile; rich: good soil.
He created life and didn’t even make love to anything.
- 37. loyal: a good Democrat.
Not even to his own creation.
- 38. (of a return or service in tennis, squash, handball, etc.) landing within the limits of a court or section of a court.
He did not fall within the limits of anything.
? 39. Horse Racing. (of the surface of a track) drying after a rain so as to be still slightly sticky: This horse runs best on a good track.
? 40. (of meat, esp. beef) noting or pertaining to the specific grade below “choice,” containing more lean muscle and less edible fat than “prime” or “choice.”
+ 41. favorably regarded (used as an epithet for a ship, town, etc.): the good ship Syrena
Our faithful captain loved him, as did his father.


Evil= 100%

TBA 1. morally wrong or bad; immoral; wicked: evil deeds; an evil life.
+ 2. harmful; injurious: evil laws.
He was responsible for quite a few deaths.
+ 3. characterized or accompanied by misfortune or suffering; unfortunate; disastrous: to be fallen on evil days.
He suffered miserably, almost constantly.
+ 4. due to actual or imputed bad conduct or character: an evil reputation.
He created a monster, strike one. He let it kill people, strike two. He chased it around the arctic abandoning all responsibility for himself or family.
+ 5. marked by anger, irritability, irascibility, etc.: He is known for his evil disposition.
Self-explanatory.

As you can easily calculate, (100% evil + 52.7% good) / 2 ultimately makes Victor Frankenstein 76.35% evil and 23.65% good. Far be it for me to rely on mathematics or the Internet to determine a man’s character, subjectivity will certainly affect the outcome in any case.

Adam Johns said...

Megan - very good response.

Trica - This is an exceptionally strange response. I mean that literally, not pejoratively - I enjoyed it, it's witty, and it's subversive - but you are not fully exploiting its potential for the subversion to which you, I think, aspire.

Megan's points are all entirely legitimate - while many of your readings might derive, in fairly obvious ways, from the text, your use of the text is thin. Perhaps more to the point, you never *justify* your curious and subversive methodology. Personally, I read this more as a critique of dictionary definitions (and, indirectly, of language itself) than as an argument about Frankenstein himself: you're exploring the subjectivity of the concepts through the subjectivity of language.

That's a good idea, up to a point, but there's nothing here to justify that approach, and little from the text to either justify your arguments (if we are to take them seriously) or to justify what I see as the implicit argument that the concepts of good and evil are incoherent.

Another way to put it: this is clever, but not convincing. Adopting more of the conventions of the essay form would have let you make it more convincing - hopefully while maintaining the wit.