Lyotard put it most eloquently when he simply states “thinking and suffering overlap” (Lyotard, 18). He states several examples of why this must be true, but the easiest example is through the development of Victor Frankenstein’s monster.
Lyotard presents his readers with difficult passages that often stray from the main points. One of the messages he was trying to relate was “will your thinking, your representing machines suffer?” (Lyotard, 19). This line directly translates to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein during the final conversations of the monster. Up until the daemon’s encounter with Walton, it was apparent that the creature enjoyed himself when he was berating Victor along their arduous journey and past dealings. Victor even notes “a grin was on the face of the monster; he seemed to jeer, as with his fiendish finger he pointed toward the corpse of my wife” (Shelley, 200). Even in the final conversation, the reader’s are supposed to feel no sympathy toward the monster, that is until Lyotard’s essay has been read. Upon further reading of Frankenstein it was evident that the creature was hurt more than he upset others. It is true that our “representing machines” can suffer. The later doings of the monster turn him onto a new suffering: guilt. He pleads with Walton that “my agony was still superior to thine” (Shelley, 225). He did not want to murder the innocent and helpless, but had no other choice since Victor lied to him and vowed that the creature will be forever alone. In conclusion, Lyotard’s argument on whether or not our machines will suffer dramatically changes how we perceive the devilish creature in his last moments.
Along these same points, Lyotard also advises us that “we need machines that suffer from the burden of their memory” (Lyotard, 20). I already argued that they can in fact suffer, but now Lyotard investigates the foundation of these sufferings. As Victor lay there cold and white, the monster realizes what he has done, but to him this is a new memory. The creation has never loved and lost and, up until this moment, never known what it feels like. Again, to Walton this comes off as the monster just trying for pity before he retreats to his ice grave. Walton even goes as far as to yell out “Hypocritical fiend! If he whom you mourn still lived, still would he be the object, again would he become the prey, of your accursed vengeance” (Shelley, 223). However, after reading Lyotard’s statement on the impact of past memories on the current and future thought, it is sympathy that I feel for the monster. As I said before, the monster has never had these memories so was unaware of the repercussions of his malevolent labors. Had he grown up and had his own memories, instead of those that are just “no more than letting a givable come towards you” (Lyotard, 18), the journeys of the two may have been changed for the greater. It is definitely unknown to whether or not memories of his own would have persuaded the monster to stop his vengeful journey, but after reading Lyotard it would have helped him realize the evil that he was doing.
The last argument of Lyotard that is relevant to Frankenstein is “the unthought hurts because we’re comfortable in what’s already thought. Thinking, which is accepting this discomfort, is also, to put it bluntly, an attempt to have done with it” (20). At first glance, it appears that Victor is demoralized because of his relations with the monster and all the suffering that he has gone through. He’s comfortable in “what’s already thought” and that is that “the task of destruction was mine” (Shelley, 220). Going back to this passage with the new knowledge Lyotard has bestowed upon me, I can see that he is remorseful because thinking is merely “accepting the discomfort” of all the anguish he has witnessed. When he is awake he can see, hear, and talk with the ‘ghosts’ of his beloved ones that perished at the hands of the daemon. During this time, he has to be thinking, which with each waking moment makes Victor realize the discomforts of the past. He looks forward to sleep, because “it was during sleep alone that I could taste joy” (Shelley, 207). I think that this last quote pertains to Lyotard because it is with sleep that Victor can hide from “the unthought.” In closing, it was “the unthought” that was making Victor continuously uncomfortable and caused his endless suffering.
Through the lessons of Lyotard, and the experiences of Victor and his daemon, it is obvious that “thinking and suffering overlap” (Lyotard, 18).