Friday, August 30, 2013

Comments/questions on first half of Frankenstein, due Tuesday

Post your questions/thoughts as comments to this post.  Again:  a paragraph is fine, or a couple if you feel so moved.  You are posting on a question, problem or topic of your choice.  Citing a particular passage is recommended but not required.

16 comments:

Ronald Rollins said...

Did anyone else find the trial of Justine frustrating? I found it rather relatable and comparable to childhood situations where an authority figure (parents, teachers) accuses you of doing something wrong and uses your attitude as the entire basis of evidence. When Justine is confused during her arrest, this is somehow taken as evidence that she did in fact strangle William, and not simply a natural reaction to being accused of murder. Would anybody not experience utter bewilderment upon being accused of killing someone they were familiar with?

It reminds me of events where one student would make a mess or otherwise do something bad in elementary school and teachers would accuse the nearest student. It was quite often that students who were seen as "loud" were the object of blame, even when they weren't necessarily "bad" students; other people often used this to get away with causing trouble or getting back at kids they disliked.

Also, Justine's confession is taken as further evidence of her guilt, but coerced confessions still exist today. People accused of certain crimes are essentially forced to plead guilty because you're assumed guilty until proven innocent, and sentences can be greatly reduced by pleading guilty versus hoping to be proven innocent.

Carl Santavicca said...

Ronald, I also found the trial of Justine, frustrating. Not only was the evidence minimal and coincidental, but Victor's retelling of the trial and especially the death of Justine seemed rapid and and abrupt; "And on the morrow Justine died."(Shelly 92) This reflects back to another reference to death by Victor after his mother passed: "My mother was dead, but we still had duties which we ought to perform; we must continue our course with the rest, and learn to think ourselves fortunate..."(Shelly 37) This leads me to believe, although emotionally affected by death, Victor chose to internalize it, and not to openly talk about with those around him. Does anyone else feel that this view toward death is what ultimately led Victor to create his monster? Most normal people would have shown some remorse at robbing graves and slaughterhouses all in an attempt to give life to his creature. However, Victor goes about his work with very little mention of thought to those that died in order to provide parts for his creation.

ajq5623 said...

One thing I find particularly interesting about the first half of "Frankenstein" is Victor's avoidance of his problems and his passivity in solving them. At various points throughout the story Victor explains his great regret and grief over creating the monster but he constantly avoids facing these problems with any sort of action. For example, Victor never attempts to find the monster during all the time it was running free, while all this time knowing that the monster was loose in the world was tormenting to Victor. Victor's passivity makes me question how genuine his regret actually is. Before the monster opened its eyes Victor wanted nothing more than for his experiment to succeed and immediately afterward he flips his opinion entirely. Is Victor merely putting on a facade when retelling the story to Walton in order to make himself seem more noble? If so, the reader must interpret each sentence of Victor's retelling with skepticism.

Carmen Condeluci said...

I found the tragic telling of the monster's story as a turning point in my opinions of both Victor and the monster. Up until this point, I had been viewing the actions of the monster through the eyes of Victor, who sees the monster as a hideous beast and terrible mistake. With the inclusion of the monster’s recollection of events after his creation, I was able to clearly see why the monster reacted how it did. It is scorned by not only humanity, but its own creator from the second of its creation. This tragedy is amplified by the monster’s high level of intellect, as it learns by gazing into a pool of water its own gruesome appearance, and how stark in contrast it is to the “perfect forms of my cottagers—their grace, beauty, and delicate complexions,” (Shelly 62). The knowledge of its own hideousness and an inability to be assimilated into the society it so desires slowly eats away at the genuinely kind heart that the monster appears to possess. In a way, the monster conveys itself as more “human” than Frankenstein himself, as it longs for nothing more than a form of companionship and a sense of belonging in the world where it was given life. Victor, who could have supplied the monster with these resources, instead decided to abandon it and choose to ignore its existence. In this, I see now that Victor has created both his own and the monster’s misery through his own lack of responsibility.

Adam Lewis said...

So far this book elicits a gambit of emotions and ideas. It is making me think of things that I would not have considered without reading this book in depth. However, mixed in are the normal complexities that we often wrestle with. I think it is the mixing of these questions that makes the supernatural questions feel so much more profound than they would be on their own and vice versa. I find myself actually wondering if the creature is human and just what that means even though I know this is a work of fiction. We've been asked to consider events like war, betrayal, and poverty before, probably almost every day in fact. What gives these ideas more weight in this novel is having them pondered by a creature that is still trying to understand the nature of the world and what these concepts actually mean. It is different than the naivety of a child who just does not yet understand these concepts. The creature is actually trying to answer these questions without guidance and with a unique physiology and psychology. To me, this lens makes the questions this book asks worth pondering again.

Joseph Hastings said...

After reading the first half of “Frankenstein”, there were many things that I found very interesting. One thing I saw was that in the beginning of the novel it seemed as though Victor was set up for impending doom and tragedy. Victor’s life starts off very well, he has a caring family, a beautiful planned to be wife, and he is extremely intelligent. In fact, Victor is going to study at the University at Ingolstadt to study chemistry. But just before Victor leaves for college his mother dies and this is where I believe his life starts go downhill. Victor soon shuts himself down from the outside world and devotes all his time to studying life itself. Then comes perhaps the biggest tragedy to Victor’s life; the monster. It is clear Victor believes the monster is awful, after the creation Victor runs away and tries to avoid it at all costs. The thought of the monster makes Victor ill for many months and the monster even kills his brother. All of these tragedies that happened to Victor all happen very fast, and are devastating to Victor. At this point in the book it seems to me that Victor’s life cannot get any worse and will soon turn around and become much better.

Jason Wald said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jason Wald said...

While perhaps not exclusive to the first half of the novel, I found myself the most interested in the mixed mediums of this version of the story. The use of poetry – both cited, as on page 56, and apparently original verses, as on page 104 – woodcut illustrations (or rather reprints of woodcuts) and the initial framing of the story add a depth of understanding we might not have gotten without their use. By utilizing these mediums, the author, illustrator and, in this edition especially, the editor have taken an already novel story idea and turned it into a gorgeously illustrated, historically relevant novel.
By incorporating Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner as both an allusion in Walton’s letters and actively into the telling of Frankenstein’s story, Shelley sets the tone for the rest of the novel. An epic tale of adventure, hubris, desolation and fate, Ancient Mariner is a fitting choice for Frankenstein’s tragic tale. The original verse Shelley writes on page 104 does much of the same as with Coleridge’s poem. Instead of telling or showing us how Frankenstein is feeling, she seems to break the forth wall (I could not tell if Frankenstein speaks the verses she writes, or if they are non-diegetic) and use the poetry to describe the atmosphere better than prose would have allowed her to.
Additionally, something must be said about the woodcut illustrations. In a class focused on the ‘discourse of the techniques’, why would the illustrated version be favored over an unedited reprint? Personally, I feel as if the illustrations work to enhance the mood of the story and help bring some of the more complicated passages to life. It is hard to envision such a desolate scene as the one Frankenstein describes on pages leading up to and including page 106, however the illustration by Lynd Ward serves to perfectly capture the desolation, rage and inhumanity of the setting, Frankenstein and his monster. Eerily dark, with super high contrast, these woodcuttings are an excellent medium to use to design this gothic masterpiece.

Sarah said...

I also found Victor’s passivity frustrating. I found that throughout the first half of the story, Victor remarks upon his unhappiness with the situations he finds himself in, and yet he refuses to change these for himself without the help of others. For example he requires the help of Henry Clerval to rouse him from his illness and depressed state, and then it is Elizabeth who motivates Victor to do more than wallow in his self-pity. Instead of actively seeking out his creation and determining to find the truth about William’s death, Victor assumes his creation is the murderer and refuses to do anything about it but mope.
On another note, I found the recounting of the “monster’s” life very moving. The poor creature is clearly aware of his shortcomings and agonizes over his differences from the rest of the people he sees. He struggles to learn the language of the men he watches and yet finds no comfort from that. He is lost and alone and confused and this makes me dislike Victor even more. Not only is Victor not satisfied with his amazing discovery and experiment of creating a person; he abandons his creation without helping it at all. It seems very heartless and selfish to me.

Jared DiSanti said...

In this week's reading, I was most interested in the origins of Dr. Frankenstein. Not knowing much about the story other than the creation of the horrible monster I always figured Dr. Frankenstein was simply a mad scientist with not much character depth. I think an aspect of this story that is fairly unique is that Dr. Frankenstein's torment stems from the fact that his upbringing was an extremely loving one. Often in stories characters are motivated by tragic events from their childhood which brings about a change and motivation to the character. This loving environment for Dr. Frankenstein has actually brought about much pain because he can never recreate the same loving relationships he had when he was a child. The Dr.'s life has become an endless search for this kind of love which led has led him to the creation of his monster and to the brink of madness.

Matthew Schroeder said...

I'd have to say one of the most interesting and frustrating aspects of this story is Victor's sheer stupidity. Despite being intelligent enough to reanimate life, he seems to have no common sense. Throughout the story there were several key points where he could have made good decisions, but instead decided to either exacerbate things or ignore them altogether. First of all, he made his creation stronger than any human. Why? Did it not occur to him that this may not be the best idea for his first creation? Then, as soon as he succeeds, he abandons the poor thing. He had the opportunity influence the creature's intellectual and emotional growth in a positive manner, but instead he leaves it to fend for itself. Finally, and most annoyingly, he just assumes that his creation is responsible for the death of William. Why?!? Nothing he does makes any sense. He's supposed to be an intellectual, but instead leaps to conclusions based on emotion and assumption. I suppose the story would be less interesting if he was more prudent, but its just so frustrating to watch him mess up repeatedly.

Caleb Radomile said...

There's one quote by Elizabeth that really made me reflect on the rest of the story. Elizabeth is reflecting on Justine's death with Victor, and discovers a new perspective on what's evil in the world. She says…

"When I reflect dear cousin, on the miserable death of Justine Mortiz, I no longer see the world and its works as they before appeared to me. Before I looked upon the accounts of vice and injustice, that I read in books or heard from others, as tales of ancient days, or imaginary evils; at least they were remote, and more familiar to reason than to the imagination; but now misery has come home, and mean appear to me as monsters thirsting for each other's blood. Yet I am certainly unjust. Everybody believed that poor girl to be guilty..." (Shelley 97)

Before the trial and William’s death, Elizabeth seemed somewhat naïve, which could be caused by her wealthy upbringing. After experiencing the evil (the injustice of Justine’s trial) herself, she develops a new point of view when looking upon the world and how close the evil is. She even says that the murderer could be a respected townsperson (Shelley 98), which shows she now understands to be weary of society in general. This same concept of changing perspective could be applied to Victor as well. He was so desperate to create his monster, and blindly followed the teachings in the natural philosophy books that he didn’t fully think through his plans. Immediately after animation, Victor’s perspective changes entirely to fear and hatred, and he even despises the teachings he once praised. It’s just interesting to observe how easily a person’s entire view on life can be changed by a single event, and how they can look back to see how ignorant they were. I’m sure the rest of the story will hold more of these examples.

Tolu Dayo said...

My reaction to the first part of frankenstein is that i sense some insecurities in him, I get the feeling that he is searching for something.He seems to have some deep issues which he passes off and never deals with. Im not sure if Im the only one who found his need for a friend very strange in the beginning? it seemed like he was scared to be alone, or he just doesn't know how to be himself independently

Nikki Moriello said...

The first half of Frankenstein proves to be, for me at least, very surprising. I find it extremely interesting that Frankenstein worked so hard to create his monster and then spends the rest of his time, thus far, running away from what he created. Frankenstein underestimated his ability to create any functioning creature and when he did, he was afraid of what it might be able to do. I might even argue that the whole story is based on Frankenstein's rejection of his creation. If Victor had actually accepted his creation as a scientific breakthrough and maybe even a potential, functioning human being, the story would have unfolded very differently. We see that the monster has the potential to be a caring creature when he watches the cottagers in the woods and thinks, "If such lovely creatures were miserable, it was less strange that, I an imperfect solitary being, should be wretched" (120). Perhaps if Victor had given the monster a chance and showed him the ways of humankind, then the monster could have been a success for both Victor's career and the monster himself. Instead, the monster turns into the infamous, seemingly heartless killer that is the Frankenstein monster.

Also, I like the way the book switches points of view from Frankenstein to the monster. I feel like it links the two characters and generates a parallel between Victor and his creation. Although Victor likes to think that his creation and he are at polar ends of the spectrum of "humanity," Victor's questionable choices throughout the novel move them closer and closer together.

Brianna R. Pinckney said...

In this week's reading I found it interesting how Victor is incapable of solving any issue that comes his way. After he declared his creation of the monster a mistake he never thought twice about how to improve it or educate it. His inability to face his issues (and failures) may be linked to his upbringing. Victor's childhood is full of loving and warming memories that did not require or challenge him to face any personal problems. He is clearly searching for something but I'm not sure he even knows what that something is. However, it is evident that when his creation reveals itself he runs away and does not want to approach the issue at hand.

I also found it interesting that his nightmares about his mother and Elizabeth act as a foreshadow of the doom and tragedy awaiting.

Adam Lewis said...

I have to agree with those of you who are expressing frustration with Victor. The more I read, I have to say it seems like he isn't used to consequences and doesn't handle them very well. The monster, of course, is a very real and very large consequence he never considered. Although we don't have all that much information on Victor I still get this picture of the privileged noble that used to just go on a holiday or hike when things weren't going his way. Seems he can't run from this one though!