Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Human Monster -- RJ Sepich Blog Essay 2, Prompt 1

Being human, to me at least, means much more than simply being a homo sapien. It’s about the mental capabilities that our species possess. The characteristics that I believe define what makes someone human are the most unique abilities that we have – the ability to think rationally on some level, the ability to love, and the ability to want to acquire knowledge. I would also argue that people who will have or have had these traits should be considered human, acknowledging that newborns and the mentally ill don’t have these abilities.

For these reasons, I consider Victor Frankenstein’s monster in the classic Mary Shelley novel to be a human.

Just because the monster doesn’t spawn from a mother’s womb doesn’t mean that it cannot be classified as human. I believe that the monster is much more human than some of the people on this Earth. From the moment of its creation, the monster begins a life of thinking about what it must to in order to keep itself alive, loving the De Lacey family before asking Victor to create another monster who will love him back, and it shows a desire to learn about human nature, languages, and many other aspects of its world. Just because the monster is a vengeful being that kills most of Victor’s loved ones does not make it inhuman. It commits each murder for a rational reason -- because it wants Victor to help it find acceptance and friendship in the world. The moment that I become thoroughly convinced that the monster is human occurs when it tells Robert Walton about its remorse for one of the murders.
“Think you that the groans of Clerval were music to my ears?” it asks Walton. “My heart was fashioned to be susceptible of love and sympathy; and when wrenched by misery to vice and hatred it did not endure the violence of the change without torture such as you cannot even imagine” (Shelley 254-255).
Here the monster explains that it understands love because it feels love, and it describes the regret and pain it experienced after murdering Victor’s friend because of revenge. There are people in this world who commit murder and feel no regret, yet I would still consider them human, but the monster is showing that it is perhaps even more complex than many humans.
The question of what makes us human is something that has been discussed much over history, both philosophically and scientifically.
British writer George Orwell once said that, “The essence of being human is that one does not seek perfection, that one is sometimes willing to commit sins for the sake of loyalty, that one does not push asceticism to the point where it makes friendly intercourse impossible, and that one is prepared in the end to be defeated and broken up by life, which is the inevitable price of fastening one's love upon other human individuals.”
I agree with his definition of humans because most of what he says would fit into my category of thinking rationally and the rest of his definition revolves around the ability to love. Although it is debatable that originally the monster was “prepared…to be defeated and broken up by life,” I believe that by the end of the book, when Victor dies, the monster is much more accepting of the struggles that life presents and has learned on some level how to deal with such difficulties.
Because of the mental capabilities the monster develops that mirror the unique abilities that define humans, I believe that Victor Frankenstein’s creation should be classified as a human being.


Brian DeWillie said...

First of all, I think you did a good job defining what a "human" is and for the most part, addressing that in the essay. The part about the monster understanding love because it feels love was well done and a good analysis of the quote.

One thing I would work on would be to try to stay focused. You mentioned 3 things (the ability to think rationally on some level, the ability to love, and the ability to want to acquire knowledge) in your introduction and while you did mention these in the body of your essay, they were only briefly touched on. Find examples from the book that back up these points - the passage about the monster feeling love was a good exaple of staying on focus.

Adam said...

Your definition of what it means to be human is better than most, although you dodge the requirement to make use of some outside text. Also, did you need to include *three* ways of definining humanity instead of one? By overcomplicating it so much, you make it difficult to defend. Are you prepared to argue that a chimpanzee is less rational, for instance, than a human infant? That a wolf loves its packmates less than a human sociopath loves other humans? There's a lot going on in your definition, making it less defensible than you might wish.

Was the monster's vengeance rationally directed to securing Victor's help? I think that even his own description of the murder of William might contradict that idea. In any case, the whole essay could easily have been focused on this one quesiton.

I think the Orwell definition of humanity is interesting and workable - if you like it, why didn't you use it instead of beginning with one definition, then switching midstream? Because you switched, you spend most of the short essay presenting two contradictory definitions of humanity, and a much smaller part actually defending those definitions in relationship with the text. You wanted more focus here - one clear definition, which would then be discussed in a *focused* way in relationship with the novel.

Note that Brian's comments also focus on, well, your issues with focusing...