Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Prompt 1

            One of the major points throughout the novel that I found frustrating was Victor Frankenstein’s passivity. Frankenstein accepts most of what happens to him without question and at the same time seems to absolve him from blame. He never takes credit for his actions or seems himself at fault. Most of the way that Victor thinks can be explained in his upbringing. His treatment from his parents revolves between adoration and like that of a plaything. Both of these kinds of attention are not constant and can help explain why Victor seems to have some difficulty accepting responsibility for his actions. This greatly differs from the lessons that we are taught from video games and the effect that they can have on our lives. Victor’s difficulty identifying with others is something that is not taught through video games and in fact, is fundamentally unlike that which video games teach us.
            Video games teach many useful skills, which pertain to real life and sometimes are just easier understood through the medium of gaming. Gamers turn to video games as a way to cope with what is going on in the world around them, and using video games people are able to put in context and deal with real life issues. A clear example of this can be seen in the game Zork, which offers the player many useful skills that user may not realize they are being taught until they step back and examine the situation. Zork is a text-based game that offers no visual clues besides descriptions given by the computer, and only allows a certain number of lines of text to be shown before they are moved up the screen before disappearing. Zork manages to teach patience, engage players in deductive reasoning, encourages users to utilize their memory, while also teaching about the consequences of actions. The player must learn to use their skills in recollection because the game is text based and direction based, and without prior knowledge or remember what steps one has just taken; it is easy to get lost. As the game involves directions, it is easy to get turned around and think of movements in terms of left and right rather than east or west. Players must expand their memory to recollect not only what items they have earlier come across and where, but how to get back to them, without any visual clues. This also teaches patience, since the player must be willing to retrace their steps, sometimes over and over again, until they can get their bearings and further the plot line. The players are also unconsciously taught that there are consequences to their actions, as when they enter the basement/dungeon area, you must have a light or after three turns you are eaten by a grue (monster) and must start over. If an item is left behind that later becomes necessary to continue the game – such as the sword in the living room, or the painting in the dungeon – the result is usually the player’s death and they are forced to start over. There are things that video games in general, and Zork in particular, teach the players, and those vary greatly from the concepts that Victor was taught.
            From an early age, Victor Frankenstein lived a privileged and yet strange life. He expresses that he was his parent’s “plaything and idol” and that he was theirs to raise as they wished and to mold into the person they wanted him to be (Shelley 24). Closer examination of the words plaything and idol suggest a strange and not exactly reassuring. Idols are beings that are put on a pedestal, and can do no wrong, which I believe is a dangerous thing to imbue in the mind of a child. A child that can do no wrong in his parents eyes usually ends up behaving monstrously, and thinking of themselves as the center of the world – everyone’s world, not just that of their parents. A plaything implies the affection and adoration bestowed upon a favorite toy, but also leads the mind to the moment after the toy has fulfilled its purpose and is left alone until it is wanted again. Again, imagining a childhood where the infant is in turns adored and ignored is quite disturbing, as are the lessons that can be learned from that. The attitude that Victor adopts seems to mimic those, which he was taught himself, as is the case of his creation of his monster. For months Victor toils ceaselessly over creating this monster, this living creature, and in the moments of its birth he beholds it was a horror at seeing what he has created. In the first few minutes after he has animated his being Victor admits to being “unable to endure the aspect of the being I had created, I rushed out of the room, and continued a long time traversing my bedchamber,” essentially abandoning his creation like one would of a doll they had lost interest in (54). Here Victor clearly displays his own faults in his upbringing by acting in the way his parents treated him. However, instead of returning to see this creature, Victor abandons it completely and refuses to acknowledge the monster until quite later in the story.
            Overall, I believe that the passivity that Victor displays is a result of his upbringing, but it differs quite drastically from that which video games teach their players. Video games, with Zork in particular in mind, have an ability to teach many lessons in a subtle way that were never taught to Victor and led to the misery that eventually befell him. His inability to cope or deal with his actions left him in a very passive position that proved to be his undoing. Perhaps with more active engagement on Victor’s part, with others or in games themselves, Victor’s fate would have differed greatly.

1 comment:

Adam said...

There's something mildly awkward about the first paragraph - it's just a little too long and a little hard to follow.

The second paragraph, too, is a little roundabout, but I follow your main argument: video games teach us that we have control over everything (within them, that is). It's a good point, but I feel like thinking through how that relates to the novel is more complicated than you make it - consider not only Victor's passivity before the monster, but the creation of the monster (and the speech to Walton, and the blasted tree, the alchemists, etc). My point is that you assume his passivity, even though (for instance) he creates a monster. So we *could* read the novel as showing that Frankenstein chooses passivity at certain times. Rather than going over the same part of the text we went over thoroughly in class, it would have been better to work with the rest of the novel, too, and really ask whether or not he is passive, or whether something different is going on.

Overall: the initial contrast you open up between the lessons video games teach and Victor Frankenstein's passivity is fine - it's just that you don't really develop that reasonable and interesting contrast past the beginning of the novel. Where's his pursuit of the monster into the arctic here? Where's his behavior with Elizabeth, or Walton, or his changing attitudes about the female monster?