Thursday, January 17, 2013

Karen Knutson - Title: An innocent bystander- prompt 2

The innocent bystander
In Frankenstein, by Mary Shelly, there is one female character who is held in very high esteem and is practically loved by all, Elizabeth Larvanza. She is the adopted sister of Victor Frankenstein and their relationship is very close, however, Elizabeth gives a different view on Victor's works as she is a character who is not associated with creating technlogy, and the text can be seen as how techology can effect the most vulnerable. Through Elizabeth's role as a perfect character and the portrayal of her innocence in technology, we can begin to see her harmed in the process.

In the begining of the novel, Elizabeth is adopted into Victor's wealthy family and he sees her as, "a child farier than a cherub, a creature who shed radience from her looks and whose form and motions were lighter than the chamois of the hills" (Wollencraft, 1818, p.20). This idea of her puity is important to the development of her character, as it gives the reader a baseline of how she is percieved in her society. Not only is Elizabeth considered to be beautiful, but also as a direct consequence with Victor as he statres, "All praises bestowed her I recieved as made to be a possesion o mine own... since till death she was to be mine only" (Shelly, 1818 p. 20). So Elizabeth is a figure of purity and is connected to Victor in a very possessive manner, this sets her up perfectly to have something terrible happen to her so that her character devlops and doesn't stay as vapid as it is in the begining.

At the beginning of the book, her character seems to follow a Mary-Sue, but we begin to see that crumble nearing the middle of the book. When Justine is on trial for the murder of Willias, Elizabeth sought to defend her loyal companion when the trial was being held and there was "a murmur of approbation followed... but it was excited by her generous interference, not for poor Justiene" (Shelly, 1818, p. 65). This is the begining of a crack in her character. Even though she tried, he was powerless to the judgement of others in the room who percieve Justiene as guilty, and she becomes despondent. No longer is she the constantly happy person that she was, but now she was mourning, which may have been possibly avoided. At this same time, Victor has no idea where his monter has been for months at thiss point in the novel and he sorely believed that "HE (the monster) was the murderer!" (Shelly, 1818, p. 57). Unbenownst to Elizabeth, the technology that her own cousin created could be the sole reason for her sorrow. 

We also learn that there is still an appreciation for the simplistic part of the society without new and innovative technology. Elizabeth, like most women in her time, focused on what she called "trifling occupations" (page 46). They are activities that keep her happy, and she rejoices in the smiles that they cause. This provides the opposite view from the main character, in which Victor is so concentrated on the creation of life, that he becomes miserable and mentally unstable from the assumed horror that is his monster. 

However, it may be true that Elizabeth's sadness of Willias's and Justiene's deaths are trivial and Elizabeth may just be a daft Mary Sue character whose emotions only pertain to her surrounding situation. I would like to disagree with that statement. I believe that Elizabeth's character is devolping into a darker character, especially when she states, "When falsehood can look like truth, who can assure themselves of certain happiness?" (Shelly, 1818, p. 71). This quote from Elizabeth shows that she is questioning her own happiness, and possibly how just her society's laws work. It is possible that her character will become happy again, but it will be much more subdued than her previous emotional state.

It could also be true that the monster did not murder Willias. At the midway point in the novel, there is no evidence that the moster killed Willias, other then the mad ravings of Victor. The monster also denies that he is a murderer when he is speaking to his creator. Yet, it is still possible that the monster accidentally killed Willias, or the the monster was near the Frankenstein estate when Willias was murdered. So without further information it cannot be determined. However, the idea that the monster did kill Willias still pertains to how Elizabeth's innocence is being corrupted by new technology.

Through the reaction of Justine and Willia's death and knowledge of her pastimes we can view Frankenstein as a novel with serious harmful implications to a seemingingly perfect citizen. Elizabeth's life is forever changed possibly due to her own cousin's creation.

Shelly, M.W (1818). Frankenstein. Available from

-also note I am using the kindle version from, so my page numbers may vary.


Janine Talis said...

I liked the direction you went with in regards to Elizabeth especially as showing her being both outside of technology, all while being affected by it. But you keep calling her like/unlike a Mary Sue character without much support, or an explanation of what a Mary Sue character is. Also, why do you think she is outside of technology? Is it because she is a woman, the era, because it is never mentioned, etc?

I did like the essay. The only other problem was that it needed to be proofread more thoroughly.

Adam said...

There's some grammatical/mechanical clumsiness at the beginning that makes the intro hard to follow. I don't doubt that you understand what you mean here, for instance: "Through Elizabeth's role as a perfect character and the portrayal of her innocence in technology, we can begin to see her harmed in the process." I, however, have trouble parsing it. I am both interested and confused at this point.

2nd paragraph - purity. Well developed idea - I'd like to see, though, how this fits into a larger argument. Touching on the whole Justine section would have been productive here.

3rd paragraph - I'd never heard of the "Mary Sue" thing before. A footnote or something might have been a good idea, but whatever - this is clever and effective, once I understand what you're talking about. The most interesting thing here is that you're arguing that we're set up to expect something from Elizabeth, but the real Elizabeth is rather different (could this have helped you clarify the argument of the first paragraph?).

Minor question: do you believe that Elizabeth's occcupations are really trifling? I'd argue that what she *really* does is run the Frankenstein household, especially after the mother's death. She is half mother, half servant - an awkward and strange position to be in. Regardless, you were arguing earlier that we shouldn't take her too much at face value (she's not really so happy or pure as we might initially thing) - that advice would have been well taken here, too.

"This quote from Elizabeth shows that she is questioning her own happiness, and possibly how just her society's laws work. It is possible that her character will become happy again, but it will be much more subdued than her previous emotional state." You're basically arguing by now that Elizabeth, maybe to our surprise, is developing a kind of intellectual agenda. This is good, but again would work better if you'd had a clear argument initially, which this was developing. My tendency is to see this essay as a series of developing insights into Elizabeth's character which don't really have an overall agenda...

If you are going to argue that the monster didn't murder William (it's a interesting line of argument), you need to explain what that has to do with Elizabeth. I think that what you're up to here is arguing that Elizabeth's growing understanding of the dark side of her society is a central (but suppressed?) element of the novel as a whole. But you're not terribly clear about it, if this is your approach.

Overall: Here's my attempt to express what I think your argument wants to be. "In *Frankenstein*, Elizabeth seems to be a simple 'Mary Sue' character, but when she begins to suffer, she also begins to question the foundations of her society in a way which helps us to understand..."

Notice how I ended in the ellipsis? Does Elizabeth help us to understand the monster? Victor? Science/technology? Maybe you know where you're headed with this, but I don't. There's a lot of potential here, but it's an early draft.