Thursday, January 23, 2014

Prompt 1: Rhetoric, Lies and Contradictions in Frankenstein

Frankenstein dreads making a female companion for his original creation; however, it is his only hope if he wants to never see the monster again. He first reasons against making a second creature on page 162, but he is persuaded by the monster’s vow that if Victor grants him his one wish he will never see him again. Again he argues against the creation of a mate for the monster on page 188. This time he is determined not to fulfill the monster’s wish and destroys all of his work thus far. Although Frankenstein’s first argument against making a companion for the monster is conflicted, his second is full of determination to never give life to another horrible creature.
In his first argument, Frankenstein is confused about whether or not he should make a mate for the monster. At first he is resolved against it, “‘I do refuse it,’ I replied; ‘and no torture shall ever extort a consent from me. You may render me the most miserable of men, but you shall never make me base in my own eyes’” (Shelley 162-163). He will not bring another creature into the world like the horrible one that he is debating with now. However, the monster defends his reasons for wanting a mate well, and Frankenstein’s resolve falters, “I was moved. I shuddered when I thought of the possible consequences of my consent; but I felt that there was some justice to his argument” (Shelley 164). Yet he worries that the monster will still crave love and sympathy from humans, so still he persists that he will not create another, “This may not be: cease to argue the point, for I cannot consent” (Shelley 165). However, again the monster reasons with him and makes him realize that he could possibly be happy by complying. Finally, Frankenstein is in agreement on the condition that upon its completion the monster and his mate will leave and never return, “I consent to your demand, on your solemn oath to quit Europe for ever, and every other place in the neighborhood of man, as soon as I shall deliver into your hands a female who will accompany you in your exile” (Shelley 166). It seems that this deal will allow both Frankenstein and the monster peace. The first can wed Elizabeth and live quietly with her and his family; and at last, the monster will have an equal companion with whom he can share love and life.
After delaying his work for several months, Frankenstein finally begins to create another monster. He is quite close to finishing when he begins to doubt himself, “As I sat, a train of reflection occurred to me, which led me to consider the effects of what I was now doing. Three years before I was engaged in the same manner, and had created a fiend whose unparalleled barbarity had desolated my heart, and filled it for ever with the bitterest remorse” (Shelley 188). Frankenstein realizes he is about to create what he believes to be another horrible monster. He worries that although the monster vowed to leave Europe and never return, this new creature has not, and she might be much more horrible than his first creation. Furthermore, what if they hate each other or want to procreate? Also, unlike the first time he argued against creating a second monster, his original creation is not present to reason against his fears. He only has his doubts, which quickly overturn his original decision, “Had I right, for my own benefit, to inflict this curse upon everlasting generations?” (Shelley 189). The looming face of the monster, grinning wickedly through the window, finally breaks his resolve. He destroys his work, tearing it to pieces, “As I looked on him, his countenance expressed the utmost extent of malice and treachery. I thought with a sensation of madness on my promise of creating another like to him, and trembling with passion, tore to pieces the thing on which I was engaged” (189-190).
Though Frankenstein argued twice against the creation of a mate for his first monster, the circumstances in which each argument took place were the determining factors of Victor’s final decisions. Originally, he was convinced to make a second abomination so that he could find peace for both his creation and himself. In his second argument, he decides he cannot subject the world to another of his creations and returns to his primary resolve to not create a second monster. The language of both arguments demonstrates the difference in the finality of his decisions. At first his conflicted and confused, but in the end his determined. Perhaps if he had followed through with creating a second monster he would have been able to live peacefully, but perhaps all of his fears about making a second creature would have been realized and his dread doubled.
Works Cited

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein: The Lynd Ward Illustrated Edition. New York: Harrison Smith and Robert Haas, 1934. Print.


Alec Brace said...

You identified an argument directly related to the prompt and explained it as it stands within the story. However, I feel like your essay missing the part of the prompt that asks what does this mean in the novel. You do a great job identifying and analyzing Victor's conflicting arguments about creating the second monster, but what does this really tell us about him? There is hinting at it in the sentence where you explain that he makes his second decision because the monster isn’t there to influence him but again what does this mean? I feel if you expanded from there this essay would propose a very powerful response to the prompt because of the argument you chose. If you were to revise this essay, I would start by asking some questions to yourself about what the argument you are discussing could mean. For instance:
Does this mean that Victor is very weak and easily persuaded or does this mean that the monster’s intellectual capabilities to influence people are beyond Victor’s? Or is it some of both?
Does it mean that Victor has become enlightened to the consequences of his actions and has learned a lesson from the creation of the first monster but thinks he can outsmart him?
Does it mean that Victor was lying to the monster about creating him a companion to buy himself more time to figure out a better solution to his problems?
Obviously the answers are opinion based and depend on how you read Victor and the monster in the book, but you should be able to defend your opinions with other parts of the novel.

Adam said...

My main concern with this argument is that you will end up focusing on Victor's actions (that is, his movement from creating to refusing to create) rather than his arguments (first against, then for, then against making a female monster).

Your 2nd paragraph has things to say about the monster's argument and Victor's argument, as well as about what happens. Here's my question for you (I'm not totally clear on your stand): why does Victor change his mind? Does he want peace? Does he actually accept the monster's argument? Is he afraid (and therefore not really persuaded by the argument at all)? Note that you are really more focused on the monster's argument here than Victor's. That's understandable, but it's also not exactly what you set out to do.

That next paragraph summarizes more than argues. You do actually argue to some extent, but your final position remains unclear to me. What are Victor's motivations? The most important point you make is that the difference between the two scenes is the absence of the monster himself. But does that mean only that Victor doesn't have the monster to *fear* at the moment, or does it mean that the presence of the monster would be likely to *persuade* him?

Look back to the prompt. Are you really doing this "Note a contradiction, or change, or outright lie in that argument as it developers through the course of the novel, then analyze what that contradiction, change, or outright lie *means*."? I feel like you are *mostly* summarizing what happens at two well-chosen contradictory moment. Your primary focus isn't really on meaning here. Have Victor's ideas changed? What exactly changed them? If you revise, you want to focus less on recapitulating the plot and more on analyzing the *meaning* of Victor's shifting rhetoric (or the monster's - maybe the problem here is that you needed to focus more explicitly on what the monster says).

Note that Alec says much the same as I do...