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Frankenstein Book melee-Round 2 -- sdev, 00:09:09 07/30/03 Wed

or, The Modern Prometheus
, Three Looks

Frankenstein was never the monster. He was the creator. But with good reason popular lore confuses the two. Victor Frankenstein, playing God and with an excess of ambition and pride, conceived the plan and with feverish haste created the Monster. His haste was so great he could not be bothered to use human dimensions but used oversized ones to speed his work. Victor Frankenstein says,

As the minuteness of the parts formed a great hindrance to my speed, I resolved, contrary to my first intention, to make the being of gigantic stature.

It is his impatience, his scientific fervor, without any foresight into consequences, which make this being a monster. As soon as the Monster comes to life Victor abhors him for his physical repugnancy, the very thing Victor disregarded in the creation.

The heart of this story begins with Chapter 11 when the Monster begins his story. Until then I felt very little interest because I could scarcely identify with Victor at all. He aroused no sympathy. He seemed cold, callous and uncaring, a person who erred grievously but had no self-recognition and was totally self-absorbed. The Monster on the other hand was someone I felt sorry for. The tale he narrates is full of pathos. I want him to succeed and convince the De Lacey family that he is worthy of their friendship. His desperation for something as basic and simple as human companionship is moving. In his failure to achieve that small but crucial part of life that everyone else takes for granted, he became the monster. He recognizes that life without the ability to relate emotionally to others is not worth living, and questions what is the point of life, echoing the plea from Milton's Paradise Lost that was written under the Frankenstein title:

Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay
To mould me Man, did I solicit thee
From darkness to promote me?

It would be well within Mary Shelley's background to believe that monsters are created not born. Her father was a famous social critic of utopian bent and her mother was, for her time, a radical advocate of women's rights. The Monster here became a monster in the course of his short life at the hands of a society that valued high birth and appearances over substance. That the Monster is Victor's superior in intellect, sensitivity, usefulness to society, and self-awareness is an important social commentary on the values of that time and place since these virtues are ignored in the Monster and their absence is never detected under the trappings of Victor's faux accomplishments and noble birth and appearances. The Monster is a self-made man, self-taught and self-sustaining. He does useful work helping the De Lacey family until his reversals. Under Shelley's construct he is made a Monster at the hands of a cold and negligent creator whose mistakes are repeated and magnified by the treatment he receives at the hands of the rest of society, even by the De Lacey family who are seemingly kind and suffering from ill treatment themselves.

Given that his mind was shaped by reading Paradise Lost and The Sorrows of Werther, it is no surprise that the Monster formulated a passionate and desperate desire for the companionship of a woman as his main objective in life. Both books contain the concept that female companionship is paramount to happiness. The Monster's reading material is worthy of an essay in its own right.

Are we meant to see Victor as the monster and the Monster as the victim? By the end that is where I believe we are meant to be. The death throes of Victor and the Monster are thrown into silhouette by the contrasts in their perception as narrated by Walton who, though clearly biased in Victor's favor, cannot change Victor's damning words nor the Monster's redeeming ones. Once again in death the Monster portrays himself as the more noble and feeling of the two men. While Victor cares not at all for the Monster the Monster mourns Victor's death at the end. He says:

There he lies , white and cold in death. You hate me, but you abhorrence cannot equal that with which I regard myself.

In contrast Victor says of the Monster:

I feel justified in desiring the death of my adversary. During these last days I have been occupied in examining my past conduct: nor do I find it blamable.

The Monster while he commits heinous acts understands them as such and is haunted to his death by them. He says:

I cannot believe that I am the same creature whose thoughts were once filled with sublime and transcendent visions of the beauty and the majesty of goodness. But it is even so; the fallen Angel becomes the malignant devil.

In contrast Victor never expresses remorse for abandoning the Monster after he had created it. He also shows no regret or understanding that he overstepped his bounds and did something unnatural motivated by ambition and pride. In his dying declaration he says to Walton:

Seek happiness in tranquility and avoid ambition, even if it be only the apparently innocent one of distinguishing yourself in science and discoveries. Yet why do I say this? I have myself been blasted in these hopes, yet another may succeed.

To protect his image for the future Victor takes pain to correct Walton's manuscript of his story. He says:

Since you have preserved my narration, I would not that a mutilated one should go down to posterity.

That the monster is more compassionate than the creator, that the creator seems but a shell of a person, gives rise to this question-- are they two halves of one person, the intellect in Victor and the emotion in the Monster? I believe that is another view and the reason that as separate entities they are both at odds with one another and are doomed as long as they are apart. Neither can fulfill their promise in life and both are necessary for the other's survival. As typical of the Romantic period, Victor, the half of reason is the less sympathetic and less interesting of the two. He clearly lacks imagination. He creates a being and loses all interest in his creation. He lives only for the act and can not see possibilities beyond the moment his scientific goal is reached. Creation means nothing without the imaginative process to illuminate it.

As represented by the Monster, unbridled emotion, even that which begins benevolently, commits atrocities and cannot be allowed to exist unfettered. Without reason to subdue it and give it shape and substance, the most lofty of feelings, the highest creations of art and poetry, come to nothing and are subverted. Feelings must be subjected to reason to create a productive whole. What began in the Monster as sublimity of feeling to nature and mankind is undone without reason, embodied in Victor, to control it.

My last view is a look at the title. The title calls Frankenstein, who is Victor, "the Modern Prometheus. Who was Prometheus and how does he relate to this story? In brief, Prometheus, a god, was the son of the Titan Iapetos and Klymene, and the word Prometheus means foresight. He tried to trick and cheat Zeus and stole fire from Zeus to give to humans. He wanted to help humankind in direct contravention of Zeus. Because of this gift to humans, and other gifts including Art, Prometheus was considered the creator of human civilization. In response to thwart humankind Zeus created Woman, Pandora. Zeus had wanted to keep humankind in a primitive, subservient state but Prometheus freed them by his gifts. To punish Prometheus, Zeus had him tied to a rock with Eagles pecking at his liver all day and his body regenerating at night to begin the torture cycle anew each day for eternity.

This is really a reversal of the Prometheus myth. If Prometheus means foresight then the joke is on the Monster who was created without any vision at all, certainly not foresight as seen by Victor's immediate abandonment after he realizes what he has created. Victor bestowed no good on humankind. He plays god but poorly. The Monster himself condemns Victor's efforts. He exclaims:

Accursed creator! Why did you form a monster so hideous that even you turned from me in disgust? God, in pity, made man beautiful and alluring, after his own image: but my form is a filthy type of yours, more horrid even from the very resemblance.

The Monster does not represent a civilizing or enlightening force on humankind as did the fire Prometheus brought which illuminated the dark caves of existence. On the contrary, the Monster takes several steps back. He flaunts the laws of civilized society by murder. His very existence is by primitive means, gathering of subsistence food, living in caves and ice, naked and alone. Not for this did Prometheus endure torture for decades till his rescue. And unlike Prometheus whose actions resulted in the creation of womankind the Monster is destined to die alone. Victor, as Prometheus, gets his torture of mortal duration.

What then is the difference? Simply put Victor is no god. While Prometheus acted out of caring for humankind trying to rescue them from the paltry existence Zeus had in mind, Victor acts for self-aggrandizement. He is no lover of humankind and his act is only partial. He is missing the transforming quality that marked Prometheus's gift-- humanity.


This was written about the same time as Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and on the same Geneva trip. The imagery is very reminiscent of the scenes in the book which are sometimes set in the Swiss Alps and sometimes in the frozen arctic tundra. Both portray the majesty of nature, but at the same time, nature is also portrayed as unfeelingly and unremittingly brutal. Humankind is an insignificant speck in the grand natural cycle. And yet without our imagination, the power of our thoughts, what would it all be?

Excerpt from "Mont Blanc" by Percy Shelley, 1816

The fields, the lakes, the forests, and the streams,
Ocean, and all the living things that dwell
Within the daedal earth; lightning, and rain,
Earthquake, and fiery flood, and hurricane,
The torpor of the year when feeble dreams
Visit the hidden buds, or dreamless sleep
Holds every future leaf and flower; -the bound
With which from that detested trance they leap;
The works and ways of man, their death and birth,
And that of him, and all that his may be;
All things that move and breathe with toil and sound
Are born and die; revolve, subside, and swell.
Power dwells apart in its tranquility,
Remote, serene, and inaccessible:
And this, the naked countenance of earth,
On which I gaze, even these primeval mountains
Teach the adverting mind. The glaciers creep
Like snakes that watch their prey, from their far fountains,
Slow rolling on; there, many a precipice,
Frost and the Sun in scorn of mortal power
Have piled: dome, pyramid, and pinnacle,
A city of death, distinct with many a tower
And wall impregnable of beaming ice.
Yet not a city, but a flood of ruin
Is there, that from the boundaries of the sky
Rolls its perpetual stream; vast pines are strewing
Its destined path, or in the mangled soil
Branchless and shattered stand; the rocks, drawn down
From yon remotest waste, have overthrown
The limits of the dead and living world,
Never to be reclaimed. The dwelling-place
Of insects, beasts, and birds, becomes its spoil
Their food and their retreat for ever gone,
So much of life and joy is lost. The race
Of man flies far in dread; his work and dwelling
Vanish, like smoke before the tempest's stream,
And their place is not known. Below, vast caves
Shine in the rushing torrents' restless gleam,
Which from those secret chasms in tumult welling
Meet in the vale, and one majestic River,
The breath and blood of distant lands , for ever
Rolls its loud waters to the ocean-waves,
Breathes its swift vapors to the circling air.

Mont Blanc yet gleams on high:-the power is there,
The still and solemn power of many sights,
And many sounds, and much of life and death.
In the calm darkness of the moonless nights,
In the lone glare of day, the snows descend
Upon that mountain; none beholds them there,
Nor when the flakes burn in the sinking sun,
Or the star-beams dart through them:-Winds contend
Silently there, and heap the snow with breath
Rapid and strong, but silently! Its home
The voiceless lightning in these solitudes
Keeps innocently, and like vapor broods
Over the snow. The secret Strength of things
Which governs thought, and to the infinite dome
Of Heaven is as a law, inhabits thee!
And what were thou, and earth, and stars, and sea,
If to the human mind's imaginings
Silence and solitude were vacancy?

[> Men and the Creation of Life -- Sara, 18:55:38 08/02/03 Sat

I was thinking about how Victor hated his creation as soon as he gave it life, and how the description of the monster coming in newly alive grinning at his father/creator struck me as much more pathetic than horrific. I wonder if Shelly was making a statement about men, child birth and the creation of life. I've seen many parents of children with horrible birth defects and frightening deformities still love their children as much as the parents of the beautiful button-nosed "normal" child. I thought about if I had been in Frankenstein's place and created this monster - and honestly I can't imagine myself rejecting it immediately. I can only picture myself trying to see what type of creature I had created and when finding that creature capable of affection becoming attached and tender towards it. Wouldn't that be the more expected reaction? Unless, you feel that men are not capable of loving their creations when imperfect. I've heard Frankenstein discussed as a warning about science and playing God, and yes that does work and what I thought it was about the first time I read it, but when I re-read for the melee it seemed much more about a man incapable of loving a life that was abnormal, damaged, unbeautiful. Can we imagine Elizabeth creating the creature and then abandoning it? I can't.

[> [> Re: Men and the Creation of Life -- sdev, 23:09:37 08/02/03 Sat

I too can not imagine Elizabeth feeling the way Victor felt, but nor can I imagine Victor's father feeling that way. So I don't view it as as intending a universal statement on fathers' deficits, but as you say a statement on Victor's incapacity for love.

Your analogy of loving the child with birth defects is an apt comparison. Although I do think current attitudes on this have changed somewhat. Years ago children were more easily institutionalized and thus hidden from society at large although not abandoned.

Victor has such an extreme reaction that it is hard to find any justification. To follow through on your birth defect analogy, Victor made no surrogate care arrangements. Complete and total abandonment at the moment of "birth". This was a full-grown being but helpless nonetheless. Victor, unlike the Monster, had no look backs, no remorse, no 'if only I had treated him differently' moments. Victor felt fully complacent about his treatment even prior to the Monster's being a monster in any manner but appearances.

[> [> [> Re: Men and the Creation of Life -- dmw, 08:10:52 08/03/03 Sun

I do think current attitudes on this have changed somewhat. Years ago children were more easily institutionalized and thus hidden from society at large although not abandoned.

Victor has such an extreme reaction that it is hard to find any justification. To follow through on your birth defect analogy, Victor made no surrogate care arrangements. Complete and total abandonment at the moment of "birth".

Your point about people's attitudes towards children changing is well taken. In fact, Victor's treatment of his "child" harks back to the earlier tradition of exposing (abandoning) unwanted children at birth. There's a parallel between the creature and Oedipus, who wouldn't have grown up to kill his father if Laertes hadn't abandoned him to die as infant.

[> The Frankenstein Legend in BtVS -- dmw, 08:40:25 08/03/03 Sun

Aspects of the Frankenstein legend have been used several types during the course of BtVS. Its first appearance was in season 2's Some Assembly Required, when Chris Epps attempts to make a bride, for his reanimated brother, out of the corpses of several girls and a living Cordelia. He doesn't get a chance to finish his creation, but there are obvious similarities between his brother, who hides the ugliness of his reanimated form from human society, and Frankenstein's creation. Chris loves him, but the love of one person isn't enough compared to the rejection of society for his brother.

The second and longer treatment of the legend comes in season 4 with Adam's creation by Maggie Walsh. Here we have more of the traditional parent/child relationship between creator and creation, though there's a clear difference between Victor, the unloving father, and Maggie, the loving mother. However, this love isn't enough to prevent her creation from killing her (more for casting reasons than story reasons I suspect.) Adam ventures into the world to discover that human society rejects him; less bothered by this than Frankenstein's monster, he sets out to create a society in his own image by building more creatures like himself. I think one of the problems of Adam's story is actually that he's so unemotional. It makes it difficult to identify with him or even understand why he acts as he does; all one can do is suggest possible emotions that he might be feeling that would lead him on his course of action.

The third use of the legend is the creation of Dawn in season 5. In this case, the parents cannot keep their creation, and in fact, only made it to give it away to be adopted by a loving family. As far as we know, Dawn's creation is pure, using a higher techology (magic) to create a person without the reuse of formerly living creatures. However, I've always doubted that the monks could create all the complexities of an entire human mind and history out of themselves, so I've suspected that there was a human sacrifice, perhaps a willing one, who was erased to make Dawn. Or perhaps she's a patchwork made from the fragments of many minds taken from the monks, the Scoobies, or humanity in general. Magic always has a price.

Dawn goes through many of the reactions that Frankenstein's creation does, as she thinks that her society and family have rejected her, not for her appearance, but for her essentially artificial nature. However, the love of her family does make a difference, preventing her from becoming a potentially dangerous outcast like Adam. Instead of rejecting or recreating the world, she tries to save it by sacrificing herself in The Gift, only to be saved once again herself by the love of her family.

[> [> Adam and Dawn -- sdev, 12:07:47 08/03/03 Sun

Big difference here. Adam was not truly sentient. We see him switching programs, literally, in his head in response to conversation (see Yoko Factor talk with Spike about the Beatles). Also I don't remember Adam ever seeking or getting rejected by human society. He had no use for human society except for body parts. Adam, in his own way, was programmed by Maggie Walsh to be a Victor Frankenstein and create human/demon hybrid beings. That single-minded program in Adam is what killed her. She shortsightedly forgot that his first "conscious" response to her would be just what she had programmed- kill her for her parts and create another being. We see later (Primeval) that is exactly what he used her for.

Dawn is a fully sentient person wholly human as far as anyone can tell. My impression, although this was left hanging as many peolpe have noted, is that once the temporal window of opportunity was passed for Glory to use The Key to eliminate the walls between dimensions, Dawn was nothing but a human teen, the Slayer's regular, no special gifts, sister. Whether another opportunity could have arisen to use Dawn's keyness to open dimensions is something we will never know barring a sequel. But the only special thing about Dawn was this key to dimensions feature. Even at the time that she could have been used as The Key, she was in all other respects ordinary.

I think the comparison to Dawn works better beacause my impression of the Monster is that he too was fully human. His only difference was physiological- stature, ugliness, ability to survive cold and meager diet.

Now that I think of it the Monster is a pretty good metaphor for racism against people of color. Unlike Dawn, who was fully assimilated into the world post-Glory, the Monster's differences were apparent on their face and could not be hidden or forgotten. He took these differences everywhere he went. Anyone who saw him could see he looked different; yet they were only skin deep, superficial. He was clearly the better man, but no one could see past his outward appearances.

[> [> [> Re: Adam and Dawn -- Arethusa, 13:55:09 08/03/03 Sun

Now that I think of it the Monster is a pretty good metaphor for racism against people of color.

I agree. Victor says he created the Monster to be well proportioned with beautiful features. Yet when he saw "his watery eyes, that semed almost of the same colour as the dun-white sockets in which they were set, his shrivelled conplexion and straight black lips" he was filled with "breathless horror and disgust." And the only reason he ever gives for his reaction is the Monster's appearance!

After the monster's pleas for understanding and companionship, Victor says, "For the first time...I felt what the duties of a creator towards his creature were, and that I ought to render him happy before I complained of his wickedness." He listens to the Monster's story and relents slightly. "His tale and the feelings he now expressed proved him to be a creature of fine sensations, and did I not as his maker owe him all the portion of happiness that it was in my power to bestow? But the sympathy is short-lived when he again considers "the filthy mass that moved and talked [his] heart sickened and [his] feelings were altered to those of horror and hatred."

[> [> [> Re: Adam and Dawn -- dmw, 14:06:58 08/03/03 Sun

Interesting. We have dramatically different interpretations of Adam. I think he's at least as sentient as any of the human characters (and he claims that he's moreso.) I don't see that observing Adam shifting programs in his head means anything different than a medical imaging of your or my brain showing us shifting to use different areas of our brains.

I also don't think he was programmed to build more hybrids. He's almost a tabula rasa when he leaves the Initiative and confronts the little boy, asking him what he is. We see him learning about Maggie's plans as he reads the floppy disks when he confronts Riley and Buffy for the first time. He needed a purpose and like many people, he took his parent's purpose as his own, especially as would provide him a place which the current society, human or demon, did not. I'm not sure why Adam killed Maggie Walsh, but he didn't use her for parts. He reanimated her as a zombie of some sort, but for whatever reason, whether she knew too much or was simply too old, he didn't make her into something like himself or Forrest.

As for Dawn, I agree that much of the difference between her and Adam or Frankenstein's monsters she does appear wholly human, the monks having gone to the extent of altering people's memories of the past to create a place for her in society. Is it those advantages that make her different?

Flowers for Algernon illustrates how a person who appears outwardly normal can still be rejected by society because of his behavior. It's certainly not a perfect parallel with Dawn because he can remember to some extent what he was like before he became normal and then supernormal, whereas Dawn has no recollection of being a green swirl of energy. What if she could recall her past? What if others could remember the actual past as well? Having lost those advantages over the other creations, could Dawn retain her moral character and place in society?

[> [> [> [> It might be a matter of choice. -- Arethusa, 14:58:26 08/03/03 Sun

Adam was hypersentient, but he was programmed, just like a robot. He's not tabula rasa because Maggie has programmed into him knowledge, beliefs, purpose and morality-all of which came from her. He doesn't have the ability to make choices, which is what makes us human. He lives mostly on programmed instinct, like an animal. He has forgotten his past and, as Forrest says, no longer has a will of his own. Following are all the pertinent quotes regarding Adam; I also highly reccommend shadowkat's essays and KdS's about Adam, Frankenstein and robots in the archives

From Goodbye Iowa
Adam: What am I?

The boy stands.

Boy: You're a monster.

Adam (resigned???): I thought so. Adam (curious???): What are you?

Boy: Me? I'm a boy.

Adam: A boy. How do you work?

Boy: I don' know. I just do.

Adam: I've been thinking about the world. I wanted to see it, learn

Adam: I saw the inside of that boy... and it was beautiful, but it
didn't tell me about the world. It just made me feel. So now I want
to learn about me. Why I feel? What I am?

Adam simply steps off the platform and drops about 3 yards/meters.

Adam: So I came home.

Adam inserts a thick disk from a pouch on his right waist into his
chest. The letters Ad__ were on it.

Adam: I'm a kinematically redundant, biomechanical demonoid designed
by Maggie Walsh. She called me Adam and I called her mother.

Engleman: Adam. Maggie would want you to stand down.

Adam: Yes. But I seem to have a design flaw.

Engleman pales.

Adam: In addition to organic material I'm equipped with GP-2, D-11
Infrared Detectors, A Harmonic Decelerator, plus D.C. Servo.

Buffy: She pieced you together from parts of other demons.

Adam: And man. And machine. Which tells me what I am, but not who I
am. Mother wrote things down. Hard data, but also her feelings.
That's how I learned that I have a job here. And that she loved me.

Riley: She wasn't your mother and she didn't love you!

Xander: Is that really the issue?

Riley: She made you because she was a scientist!

Xander: Riley!

Adam pulls another disk from a pouch on his waist and inserts it in
his chest. It has the letters FI__ on it.

Adam: Riley Finn.

Riley: Stop! Those files...

Adam: Oh! Mother created you too.

Riley: Maggie's not my mother! I have a mother! A real _

Adam: A birth mother. Yes. But after you met Maggie, she was the one
who shaped your basic operating system. She taught you how to think,
how to feel. She fed you chemicals to make you stronger - your mind
and body. She said that you and I were her favorite children. Her
art. That makes us brothers. Family.

Riley steps forward.

Riley: No!!! I'm not like you.

Adam: That's pain isn't it? Why? Because your feeding schedule - the
chemicals have been interupted? Or do you miss her? Tell me.

Riley: I'll kill you!!!

Adam: You won't. You haven't been programmed to.

Riley: I cannot be programmed! I'm a man!

Adam: It's here. {He holds a diskette up.}

Adam: The plan she had for us. What happens. How it ends.

Riley: No.

Adam Do you want to hear?

Riley: No!!!

Riley pulls his pistol and Adam disarms Riley. Buffy steps in and a
punch downs her. Riley punches Adam's face and Adam responds with an
uppercut sending Riley flying up in the air over a table. Xander runs
in to push Adam and is pushed and thrown back into a wall. Buffy
throws a kick to Adam's chest. Adam punches Buffy's face. Buffy
punches Adam's stomach and Adam chops at her shoulder and she falls.
Engelman starts to run. Adam's skewer comes out. Engelman passes

Adam: Doctor.

Adam skewers Engelman in the middle of his chest and Engelman falls,
dead. Riley grabs Adam around the throat from behind. Adam breaks
the hold, turns and stabs Riley with his skewer on his left side, and
Riley falls clutching his wound. Buffy kicks Adam in the back. Adam
spins and Buffy dodges the skewer. Adam knock Buffy to the floor.
Adam picks up Buffy who is holding the skewer and throws her about 3
yards or meters into a steel door. She doesn't rise. The commandos
are pounding on the door. Adam looks around.

Adam: Thank you. This has been... very interesting.

Adam walks up some stairs towards the platform he started from.

From Superstar:
Adam: "I'm aware. I know every molecule of myself and
everything around me. No one - no human, no demon - has ever
been as awake and alive as I am. You are all just shadows."

Vampire: "Oh. So what do - what do you do now?" [enthused]
"Hey you could kill Jonathan!" [Shakes head.] "Well, or you
could try. The guy's like a dynamo of action."

Adam: "I don't need to do anything. These magicks are
unstable, corrosive. They will inevitably lead to chaos. And
I am interested in chaos."

The Yoko Factor

Spike: (offended) Hey, watch it, mate. I don't fear anything. Just know my enemies.

ADAM: Do you? Then why haven't you killed this Slayer yet?

Spike: Because . . . (trails off) Stinking, rotten luck is why. On top of that, now I got this buggering chip up my head.

ADAM: Yes. Your behavior modification circuitry. I know what you feel.

Spike: (scoffs softly) Not likely.

Adam stands in front of him.

ADAM: You feel smothered. Trapped like an animal. Pure in its ferocity, unable to actualize the urges within. Clinging to one truth. Like a flame struggling to burn within an enclosed glass. That a beast this powerful cannot be contained. Inevitably it will break free and savage the land again. I will make you whole again. Make you savage.

Moved, Spike has to blink back tears.

Spike: (awed) Wow. (composes himself) I mean, *yeah*. I get why the demons all fall in line with you. (sits up) You're like Tony Robbins. If he was a big scary . . Frankenstein looking-- (reconsiders) You're exactly like Tony Robbins.


Riley: Stop calling me that. I'm not your brother. You're a botched
science experiment. I'm a human being, who's gonna do everything in
his power to--

Adam: Sit.

Riley sits down.

Adam: You have no power. Not yet. Once you forget your old life and
embrace your destiny as I have, you will know power you've never
dreamed of. I think you're going to like it.

Adam: Humans claim to old ways and ancient feuds. And they're
hopeless with technology. Unworthy. (he turns around)

Riley: Not really wanting a lecture right now.

Adam continues walking.

Adam: Disappointed by demon-kind, we turned to humans. Smart,
adaptive, (he turns around) but emotional and weak. Blind. There's
imperfection everywhere. Something must be done. Who will deliver

Riley says nothing.

Adam: Mother. She saw our future. Yours and mine. She saw that you
were necessary. She saw the role you will play by my side. Stand up.

Riley stands up.

Adam: You see, we are brothers after all.

Adam: This is where it all happens. Where the new race begins.

Riley: Where are we?

Adam: In the Initiative. There are areas no one knew about beyond
those that needed to. Mother kept her secrets well.

Pan over to a zombie-type woman.

Adam: Didn't you?

Riley (o.s.) Professor Walsh?

Adam: This is all how she planned it, except she thought she would be

Professor Walsh walks over to a table with another doctor, who turns

It's Doctor Engleman.

Riley: Are you--

Adam looks at Riley.

Riley: Is that what you were gonna do to me?

Adam: They're just workers. You know your destiny is much greater.

A zombie-man sits up.

Riley: Forrest? Oh, God.

Forrest: God has nothing to do with it.

Forrest: Mm-mmm (No). Got that wrong. I'm surging with life... and
strength. Adam made me to be nearly as bad as he is. Really looking
forward to trying out your girl again.

Riley: I'm sorry, Forrest.

Forrest: Don't be. This is the best thing that ever happened to me.
I'm free of all my weaknesses...my doubts. He's gonna fix you up too,
soon as we got some choice parts. Then you and me will be back on the
same side again. Moving toward a new future.

Riley: I'll never let that happen.

Forrest: You don't get it brother, you don't have a choice. Your will
belongs to us now.

Riley: No. That's not true.

Forrest: Then why don't you get out of that chair and walk out of

Riley: You can't control my--

Walsh: Riley, be a good boy.

She comes toward him with a syringe and puts it into his skin.

[> [> [> [> [> Re: It might be a matter of choice. -- dmw, 16:08:32 08/03/03 Sun

He doesn't have the ability to make choices, which is what makes us human.

Why do you think that?

How can you tell whether someone is making a choice or following a pre-programmed course of action? Is there an experiment which we could perform, perhaps one similar to the Turing test for determining sentience, that would distinguish a true choice from a preprogrammed one? And how much programming is too much to make a choice?

A newborn baby is hardly a tabula rasa when you look closely, as it has dozens of brain modules which are designed to learn functions from specific visual learning tasks to language. These modules do need to be initialized with certain amounts of input from the environment, but they wouldn't be capable of learning from the scarity of data they receive without a great deal of preprogramming. In fact, the big failure of classical AI is that they attempted to start from a tabula rasa. Stephen Pinker's How the Mind Works and The Language Instinct are great popular books on these topics.

It's true that in the Buffyverse, we can appeal to mystical sources as well as scientific ones, such as the soul, but I'm not sure that anyone would want to argue that the absence of a soul means that souless "people" cannot make choices, given the actions of vampires within the series. In any case, we don't know whether Adam (or Dawn for that matter) has a soul or not.

I did some searches with terms like frankenstein and adam in conjunction with the authors you mentioned without turning up any essays. Could you be more specific?

[> [> [> [> [> [> Do you think the Monster had a soul? -- WickedBuffy, 16:27:06 08/03/03 Sun

[> [> [> [> [> [> [> Re: Do you think the Monster had a soul? -- dmw, 21:36:13 08/03/03 Sun

While I'm not sure of precisely what a soul is or how to tell if someone has one, I think that if Victor had a soul, the Monster did too.

[> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> Re: Do you think the Monster had a soul? -- WickedBuffy, 10:04:58 08/05/03 Tue

I agree with you on that one - about knowing exactly what a soul is. And I'm certain Victor had one.

But why would the Monster automatically have one if Victor did? I'm just thinking how demons don't - and not that he was a JossDemon, but he was reanimated from dead parts that once all had souls in them.

[> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> Re: Do you think the Monster had a soul? -- dmw, 20:28:14 08/05/03 Tue

It depends on what you think souls are and how they're created. If you think they're only created or summoned as a part of conception or during the gestation process, then the Monster wouldn't have one, but if you think they're simply a part of being sentient, then he would have a soul despite being created in a different fashion than most people.

[> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> ahh ... thinking automatically = soul from that pov? -- WickedBuffy ::filing it away in my "soul" theory file::, 10:49:01 08/07/03 Thu

[> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> Yes, that's basically the idea -- dmw, 18:41:02 08/07/03 Thu

[> [> [> [> [> [> My two cents is here -- KdS, 02:25:50 08/04/03 Mon


[> [> [> [> [> [> location of KDS essay on Frankenstein -- sdev, 15:24:58 08/07/03 Thu

KDS kindly reposted the essay. It is almost at the end of this thread:

Date Posted: 15:43:46 08/04/03 Mon
Author: KdS
Subject: Repost for sdev - "Transexual Villainy"

[> [> [> [> [> Limited choice and sentience -- sdev, 16:29:38 08/03/03 Sun

Yes, sentient was a poor description. You described it much better- as a matter of free choice. Although I donít see him as hypersentient nor as having no choices. He was hypersentient about some thingsóthe physical condition of his environment perhaps. He was hyposentient about othersóhuman emotion for example, the meaning of friendship. And those deficiencies defeated him. As a programmed being he had access to a limited array of choices based on the sophistication of his program. His ending is very revealing of his limitations. He is totally bewildered by what Buffy has accomplished when she attacks him at the end of Primeval. He remains unable to think out of the box like she did to engineer his defeat.

DMW you said:

He needed a purpose and like many people, he took his parent's purpose as his own

Children may co-opt their parentsí purpose but they have other choices. It was Maggieís programming alone that in fact taught Adam and gave him this purpose. My impression is Maggie gave him very limited and specific goals, unlike the way children are raised with more general goals and morality. Maggie had only one interest in creating Adamó to create a new race of demon-human hybrids that would be superior to either species by itself. Therefore she had no need to include what must have seemed like extraneous and harmful programs. He was never meant to be a whole person. We can extrapolate this insight by contrasting her feelings for how Riley was going astray by his relationship with Buffy. Maggie did not have the total control over Rileyís life and ìprogrammingî as she had over Adamís. It was apparent she would have eliminated what she considered irrelevant and potentially disruptive programming in Riley if she could. Instead she opted to accomplish similar narrowing of Rileyís program by eliminating the external source. She thought she could at least eliminate Buffy. Also, I had the distinct impression that Adamís sole function in life was to ìfatherî this new race. As I said in an earlier post, the future and success of AI may well depend on its purpose.

I also never thought the reemergence of Maggie and Forrest was as Zombies. They were created like Adam from parts.

[> [> [> [> [> [> Re: Limited choice and sentience -- dmw, 21:32:51 08/03/03 Sun

Maggie thought she gave Adam a very limited set of goals to be a good demon hunter under her control, but his subsequent behavior in killing her and later Doctor Engleman to take over 314 for himself proved that he wasn't limited to her goals. In fact, that's the design flaw he mentions to Doctor Engleman in Goodbye Iowa when he refuses to obey his commands. I agree that Maggie meant for him to have no choice about his purpose or obeying her, but I don't think she succeeded.

I wouldn't describe Adam's lack of understanding of humanity as being hyposentient, though it is a deficiency. He's not of our species or even phylum so it's a bit much to expect him to understand our emotions. Returning to Riley, I find it interesting that Maggie did have the potential for complete control over him through his thoracic implant but she refused or was never pushed far enough to use it like Adam did when he summoned Riley in TYF.

Forrest was a hybrid like Adam, but Maggie and Doctor Engleman were nonsentient reanimated corpses, having no demon or computer parts (though they did have some sort of external plastic circulation system.) Adam tells Riley in Primeval that Maggie and Engleman were just workers and that Riley's destiny was much greater.

[> [> [> [> [> [> [> Re: Limited choice and sentience -- sdev, 22:32:48 08/03/03 Sun

Even though he circumvented Maggie's purpose, he still had very limited ability to choose his own because, as you say, he was given limited material to work with.

The comment about hyposentient was precisely in comparison to humans and in response to Arethusa's post calling him hypersentient. I meant that compared to humans he excelled at some perceptive functions and was diminished in others.

Good point about not activating the implant in Riley. I think Maggie was waiting for the right moment-- after the new corp was assembled perhaps. Had she done it too early she would have revealed her entire plan prematurely.

How do you know that Maggie and Doctor Engleman were reanimated corpses? I don't think we were given enough info to come to that conclusion. The comment about just being workers could have another interpretation such as lower level hybrids with inferior brain circuitry.

[> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> Reanimation and Choice -- WickedBuffy, 10:34:31 08/04/03 Mon

Forrest and the other two did seem very different. Forrest was like himself, but with a focused evil goal aligned with Adams. He acted more closely to a new vamp than Adam did when he first awoke. Adam seemed to have a basic drive to learn and understand, probably based on having no memory. Forrest carried with him his anger, dedication to the job and focus to get it done.

M & Dr. E. didn't appear to have the persona's they had predeath. Maggie had been a leader, outspoken, authoritive and in control and command. After death, she appeared more like a zombie (minus the gotta eat right now trait). She was in the role that Adam was supposed to be in and vice versa.

So there appeared to be three types of reanimation. Adam. Forrest. Maggie and Dr. E.

Victors monster seems to most resemble Adam, even though he didn't have computer chips in him. But the Monster had emotions, something Adam seemed to have lacked. Same as the Buffybot lacked.

So would choice be something emotions produce? To feel the impact you are making on the world, and that the world is making on you? Not just on a logical level, but on a feeling level.

If so, then the Monster did have choice. The others didn't.

[> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> Agree -- sdev, 23:12:05 08/04/03 Mon

If so, then the Monster did have choice. The others didn't.

Agree. I see the Monster as fully human and a monster in appearance only. The Monster did have choice and chose to kill. But there were terrible circumstances of nurture and environment that drove him to these acts of violence. As Sara said in an earlier post, who could imagine being that alone and isolated, to have every person run from you in terror, to have your very creator/parent despise you and wish you dead. So the Monster turned to violence, first as a means to an end, to coerce Victor into creating a mate, and then just as an act of revenge.

Ponygirl remarked on the Monster's choice of victims, and I have been thinking about it. The first victim is William, Victorís much younger brother of eight (guessing here). This child was young enough to have been Victorís child. I believe that is why he was chosenóas a surrogate child toward whom Victor had loving and protective parental feelings where he had none towards his actual creation, the Monster. The second victim, Elizabeth, Victorís mate, represented what the Monster longed for as well. Even in his bitterness and hatred, the Monster lashed out in a controlled and meaningful way. He did not spill his hatred on the world at large, but on the one most deserving of it, Victor.

By the way, I still don't get it. Do you think Maggie and Dr. E were really Zombies? How did Adam know how to make Zombies?

[> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> Zombies -- dmw, 06:48:43 08/05/03 Tue

Do you think Maggie and Dr. E were really Zombies? How did Adam know how to make Zombies?

Definitely. They're reanimated corpses that shuffle around slowly without a will of their own, responding only to the commands of the hybrids. They have no hybrid parts, whether human, demon, or computer, and the flesh of their faces is rotting. They look and act completely differently from Adam or Forrest.

I'm not sure where Adam learned to make zombies, though it seems to me to be an obvious first step on the way towards making a hybrid like himself. The zombies are much simpler organisms, in terms of both structure and behavior; their only noteworthy technology is their external circulatory system which may have to be there because they don't have functioning hearts, an idea which their obvious external decay appears to confirm. Neither Adam nor Forest shows any sign of rotting, so I think that they're both fully living beings, despite being made of reanimated parts.

[> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> Plus, Adam lived in the most knowledgeable high-tech monster-studying facility existing. -- WickedBuffy, 10:00:58 08/05/03 Tue

[> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> Thanks for the explanation -- sdev, 13:23:00 08/05/03 Tue

I thought Zombies, unlike Adam, were a product of magical reanimation and that did not correspond with the overall functioning of the Initiative which was science and technology based and pretty much wholly ignorant of other, mystical systems of knowledge. (example-they were wholly ignorant of The Slayer).

[> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> Tradition vs Innovation in Frankenstein & Buffy -- dmw, 20:23:35 08/05/03 Tue

Ah, I understand your confusion with my labeling them zombies. I'm actually familiar with a larger number of scientific zombie stories from the classic horror film Night of the Living Dead to the current movie 28 Days Later than I am with magical zombie stories like Buffy's DMP.

The theme of season 4 was magic vs science, the innovative methods of the Initiative against the traditional methods of the Slayer. As you point out, Adam can't comprehend what he's facing in Primeval. He (and I suspect Maggie as well) sees the Slayer as an exceptionally strong person with leadership abilities, caring nothing about the ancient, mystical traditions of a line of chosen ones.

Frankenstein shares a similar theme with the new, coldly scientific, method of creating life compared with the better, loving natural method. The doctor discovers that he can't love his creation despite his initial enthusiasm for his project before it awakened. However, the Monster sets on his course of destruction for reasons opposite to Adam's--he sees and perhaps understands that natural aspects of humanity and society that he's missing.

Both stories show the triumph of the old over the new, a story that wouldn't have had to be told except for the amazing triumph of the new over the old in Western Civilization starting as early as the Renaissance and accelerated by the Scientific and Industrial Revolutions. People can only sustain so much change before they rebel against it, and part of that rebellion is expressed in stories such as these.

[> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> Can someone catch me up to speed on one point? -- WickedBuffy, 11:18:18 08/07/03 Thu

I know there have been several posts about Shelly's own childbearing experiences, but this thread is so long now that I'm not sure where they are.

"The doctor discovers that he can't love his creation despite his initial enthusiasm for his project before it awakened."

Did someone say that Shelly did have a deformed (due to premature birth) child and rejected it? or it was surmised that she probably rejected it and it might have paralleled what dmw summarized?

or did I imagine that part? ::wearing dunce hat::

[> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> discussion of birth defects -- sdev, 15:18:38 08/07/03 Thu

I am not aware of Mary Shelley ever having had a child with birth defects. I think the discussion you must be referring to was comparing the Monster's appearance to a child born with birth defects, and how a parent would respond to such a child.

The discussion is three posts beginning with Sara's:

Date Posted: 18:55:38 08/02/03 Sat
Author: Sara
Subject: Men and the Creation of Life

[> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> ahh, thanks, sdev! I had it in my head she'd had a premature child. -- WickedShortTermMemoryLoss, 16:17:17 08/07/03 Thu

[> [> [> [> [> Frankenstein in the archives -- sdev, 18:16:13 08/03/03 Sun

I also highly reccommend shadowkat's essays and KdS's about Adam, Frankenstein and robots in the archives

I just looked for this. Is it the one called "Transexual Villainy" from 3/30/03?

[> [> [> [> [> [> Yes -- KdS, 02:28:48 08/04/03 Mon

[> [> [> [> [> [> [> Great analysis -- sdev, 09:10:59 08/04/03 Mon

Really agreed with your take on the "amoral pure scientist who refuses to confront his responsibility to shape the application of his discoveries."

Can't this be reposted?

[> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> Repost for sdev - "Transexual Villainy" -- KdS, 15:43:46 08/04/03 Mon

The gender issues in S4 don't become really apparent unless you've read Mary Shelley's original Frankenstein (very different from most of the films).

To avoid confusion in all the discussion below Frankenstein (italics) refers to the novel, Frankenstein (plain text) refers to the character Victor Frankenstein.

Frankenstein has become very interesting to feminist literary critics, firstly because MS was the daughter of the early feminist theorist Mary Woolstonecraft, but also because it examines so many male anxieties about women's character and the childbirth process. A scholarly edition I read a while ago included, for example, statements that "Frankenstein is what happens when a man tries to have a baby" and "Frankenstein is portrayed as a male hysteric." If you haven't read the book, the highly intelligent Creature (as opposed to the retarded Monster of the films) is morally a blank slate when first created, but is embittered to the point of murderous psychosis by the superstitious rejection of everyone who meets him. The pattern starts when Frankenstein, on first seeing the creature he creates, is seized with revulsion and drives it out into the streets (the neglectful unfeeling mother). Frankenstein's behaviour for the rest of the novel is a long sequence of self-centred cowardice that makes him the real villain - he allows an innocent woman to be wrongly convicted and executed for the Creature's crimes, he agrees to create a mate for the Creature but goes back on it, driving the Creature to its final vengeful attacks, he allows the deaths of his closest friend Clerval and his fiancee Elizabeth by failing to warn them about the Creature, through moral cowardice but also because he's so self-centred that he completely fails to recognise the threat to them. (The Branagh film broadly followed Shelley until the final portion, but made repeated and unpleasantly subtle changes to events to whitewash Frankenstein. For example, Judith was lynched by a mob instead of being legally tried and executed over a period of weeks while Frankenstein struggled with his underactive conscience.)

By contrast Maggie Walsh doesn't abandon her children Adam and Riley but instead tries to maintain an unhealthy level of control over them with scientific mind control techniques. The unemotional and logical character of her mind makes her less the evil controlling mother (who is usually seen as irrational and emotion-driven) than the evil controlling father. While Shelley is very conflicted in her attitude to science and technology (the novel is not an attack on science, but on the amoral pure scientist who refuses to confront his responsibility to shape the application of his discoveries), ME takes a far more traditional "things that man was not meant to know" view (Adam is driven to violence and destruction by his demon nature).

The contrast comes between the endings of the two stories. Adam has to be destroyed by a mix of masculine and feminine powers. The Creature on the other hand commits suicide after the death of his creator. Possible ideas of feminine self-sacrifice here?

What is interesting is that both Victor and Maggie invert the traditional gender stereotypes of villainy. Victor's shallowness, squeamishness, lack of forethought, emotional lability and moral cowardice are negative mental attributes which are usually considered feminine by misogynistic men. By contrast, Maggie's amoral logic, desire for cold control and unthinking technophilia are negative mental attributes which are usually considered masculine by one-sidedly anti-male feminists. In both the 19th and 20th centuries, MS and ME challenge sexual stereotypes of evil by creating villains who epitomise the most negative attributes traditionally associated with the opposite sex.

(Addendum - the initial post caused some discussion about whether Adam's demon part predisposed him to violence - I continue to believe that this was the mysterious "design flaw" he talked about.)

[> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> TY -- sdev, 23:15:18 08/04/03 Mon

[> loving the analysis, anyone want to do the same with bram stoker's dracula? -- btvsk8, 07:15:25 07/30/03 Wed

[> [> Dracula's in 2 weeks. -- Rob, 07:31:11 07/30/03 Wed

[> Keeping the thread alive -- fresne, 07:41:14 07/30/03 Wed

Would that I had time for some truly, deeply reflection on one of my favorite horror, science fiction, pivots.

We have the epistolary format that contains more and more embedded worlds. Beginning with the outside, with a man driven to explore cold frozen. Then Victor and his story. Then the creature telling his tale. And within his tale three really, really big books: Gibbon's Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire, Paradise Lost, and the Sorrows of Young Werther.

So, while the external is a cold harsh world, the internal is the infinite spectrum of the imagination. Where cruel Lucifer and Adam/Eve are the children of God. Where sorrowing German woe wanders. Where Empires that rise, fall.

I remember one of my professor's joking that Victor's problem is he doesn't understand that to create life, all he has to do is get married and have kids. But he wants to delve into Nature's feminine secrets. He wants to steal fire. Electricity. Power to create life.

I remember being surprise the first time I read the book because it is by no means clear to me that Victor stitches together dead flesh and zaps it with a jolt. There is no Abby Normal brain. There is Victor visiting charnel houses and working with chemical s and creating a creature with a consistent golden skin tone. Beautiful features that are made horrible when he sees it live. This isn't just reviving the dead, this is creating something new.

Which in that post partum of birth, he rejects, pulls away. And sets in motion the dominos that come.

And thus the lectures on Frankenstein as commentary on colonialism. With its associated commentary by Frankies dear departing friend.

Consider also that my Gothic Imagination class read Frankenstein and watched Alien in parallel. Horrific, unnatural birth that kills. The monstrous feminine.

Nineteen year old Mary Shelly dreaming of her dead child and of the central moment in the book when Victor rejects his creature. Mary who was wooed by the perennially seeking Shelly on her own mother's grave. Mary Wolstoncraft. And how did the writer of the Vindication of the Rights of Women die? Childbirth.

And, of course, I cannot go without mentioning the moment of the sublime. The mountains beautiful and powerful and beyond.

I should quote Prometheus Unbound, by Percy but I really need to go to work, lest my obligations rise and consume all that I love.

[> [> Re: Keeping the thread alive -- CW, 08:59:11 07/30/03 Wed

Fresne's professor had the right idea. It's not the monster that is Prometheus, but Victor, stealing the secret of life from the gods and, yes, by extentsion from women.

Remember that the period at which this was written was one of almost as explosive industrial change as say the late 1980's were in the field of electronics. Mass production was a fact of life, and steam power was rapidly beginning to make it's smokey, dirty presence known. Railroads were being dreamed of, and a few mines in Britain had already replaced mules and horses with locomotives to haul cole from the earth. Although the Darwin M. Shelly quotes in her introduction isn't the one we think of, it was Charles' grandfather Erasmus. Revoultionary ideas about life are already being discussed.

The monster is dangerous because it has neither spiritual links to its creator who repeated rejects assuming his parental role, nor viable emotional links to the feminine side of life. The monster perceives these things missing in his life, but Victor can only see the horror of giving his experiment true life and free reign to live it. Victor tells his friend and read "Learn from me, if not by my precepts, at least by my example, how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge." Victor is both a bad god, and a bad parent; and the fire of technology he has stolen looks dangerous even from the perspective of the late 1810's.

[> Re: Frankenstein Book melee-Round 2 -- ponygirl, 08:24:25 07/30/03 Wed

That was great sdev! And I do agree with the Victor/Creature as two halves of the same person theory. I think Mary Shelley was showing us the split between science/art, Romance/Reason, and science/nature.

I wonder though, was the Creature a complete blank slate shaped only by his constant rejection? He seemed to make a conscious and willful choice to become the monster he had been named.

Another quick question, does anyone know if the section where Victor is blown off course on his small boat near the Orkneys was added, or altered, later? It struck me that in light of Percy Shelley's death it was either an attempt to understand what had happened to him or eerily prescient.

[> [> The Monster's Choice -- Sara, 16:54:54 07/30/03 Wed

I have mixed feelings about the monster's choice in becoming evil - on the one hand, he made it clear that he understood morality and evil, both from watching his protectors and from reading the books he found, and yet how much can concepts hold sway against the reality of an isolation none of us can even imagine. I found in this reading of the book, I was struck most by the unrelenting loneliness the monster felt. To have noone to turn to, to have every single person who sees you either try to destroy you, or run from you in horror, and to know that this is unending fate, that there will never be anyone to connect to - I actually find this unimaginable. I expect that there is no one born who ever experiences that level of rejection and hoelessness. I have to say I find the monster to be Victor, and he never takes any real responsibility for his actions, which his creation does - and feels real remorse. Victor clearly felt himself a victim, and yet he was the true monster in this story.

[> [> [> I agree, Sara. And also that the Monster's choice was limited. -- WickedBuffy, 17:29:52 08/02/03 Sat

I felt that way, too.

"I have mixed feelings about the monster's choice in becoming evil - on the one hand, he made it clear that he understood morality and evil, both from watching his protectors and from reading the books he found, and yet how much can concepts hold sway against the reality of an isolation none of us can even imagine."

The Monster had no childhood, no slow and gradual awareness of the world and himself. He was full-grown. He didn't have years and years experiencing and acclimating to the world. He read and observed, but had little time to live and learn from his actions and from others. While others sauntered into an understanding of what was around them, the Monster plunged.

He did, as you pointed out, have to deal with unrelenting loneliness. Intensifying alieniation and rejection at a level we probably can barely imagine. I wonder if it's really fair to judge him in the same way we would judge others.

Which reminds me abit of Connor. He came from a very hostile environment. His actions and reactions were based on experiences no one else at AI ever had.

But instead of being alienated and rejected, he was ultimately loved and accepted. Connor was given the exact opposite of what the Monster was given. In response to that, Connor began to return it. Just as the Monster chose to return how he was treated by the people around him.

Connor was shown and experienced concepts that the Monster only read about or observed. And concepts are more deeply understood when they are able to be felt.

I agree that Victor was much more a monster. He had all the advantages of growing up and learning about life at levels the Monster never had. Victors choices were consciously made, fully aware. The Monster had no such advantage.

Now for some weird reason, this is all making me want to reread Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde. :>

[> [> [> [> Connor and Love -- Sara, 20:21:56 08/02/03 Sat

Connor did come from a hostile environment, but he always had love and connection. Both Angel and Holtz truly did love him. Connor wasn't dealing with isolation, instead he had to deal with trusting the love he was offered. That may be why Jasmine meant so much to him. Since everyone loved her, than he could relax and trust the love and affection that was the result of her appearance. But it may have resulted in the same lonliness that the monster felt. If you can't trust any love that you receive aren't you as alone as if you had no love to begin with?

hmmm....re-reading Jekyl and Hyde does seem like a good idea, maybe after Dracula...

[> [> [> [> [> Re: Connor and Love -- Arethusa, 22:18:38 08/02/03 Sat

I agree that Jasmine was tremendously important to Connor as part of the family he always wanted, someone to love him and for him to love back.

But I wonder about Holtz. I always assumed Holtz loved Connor because of Holtz's need to replace his slaughtered family and their conversations in Benediction.

Holtz: "Yes. I found I had to stay alive that I might pass on my legacy of hate. But something happened in that place, Justine, something changed. Amidst the most unspeakable ugliness the hate turned into love. Love for a son. Hate is not enough. I found that love is far more powerful. Now there is just one thing I need you to do for me and then I can finally be done with vengeance."

But Connor later casually tells Angel about Holtz tying him to a tree as bait for any predator, than leaving him to escape and protect himself on his own. That's not a loving act, even if he was trying to teach Connor survival. There are safer ways for a small boy to learn.

In his final letter to Angel, Holtz tells him:

Holtz voice over: "Dearest Steven, this is a most difficult letter for me to write. You mean more to me than anything in this world or any other. But your best interests must come first, which is why by the time you receive this, I will be gone. I hope one day you will be able to forgive an old man's weakness, which compels him to say these things in a letter. But to attempt a good-bye in your presence would be impossible for me. I fear I would never let you go. And I must let you go. I know that if I didn't you would only end up hating me. And that I could not bear."

Yet by sending the letter to Connor he sets in motion the events that could have ended with Connor's death, and did end with the removal of the boy's main protector. He didn't love him enough to put Connor's welfare before revenge.

So if Connor did not grow up with Holtz's love and from what we can tell had virtually no contact with any nonviolent society, he would be a great deal like the Monster, developing in a world set out to destroy him, unable to love or connect because he had never been given these essential human gifts. Angel loved him, but he only knew teen Connor for a very short time before Connor sank him into the ocean. So yes, I think he knew very well the type of lonliness the Monster felt. After all, his greatest desire was for a family.

Quotes from buffyworld.com

[> [> [> [> [> Mary Shelley might have some idea -- Rahael, 13:18:08 08/04/03 Mon

What it might feel like to be isolated in society. Not that she was maltreated going up, but that she was the daughter of a radical growing up during a time when such views were considered unpatriotic. Godwin's memoir about his wife created a scandal in society, and made it difficult for any public expression of feminism, unless it was suitably modified and circumscribed.

And then, the young Mary creates another scandal by running away with the married Shelley. I think Shelley's wife commits suicide as a result though I may be wrong.

Anyway, it was a life lived in the public eye, and during the years of conservatism in English public life.

[> [> [> [> [> [> The Shelleys-Spoilers for the 18th century -- Arethusa, 06:35:07 08/05/03 Tue

These people were astonishing. I've been reading background on the family and I had no idea people behaved like, er, people back than. It reminds me of a book I read about 17th century New England village life that said sixty percent of the children born in the village were born less than nine months after their parents' marriage.

Shelley's wife was pregnant when he ran off with Mary, and she killed herself some time later. (Interestingly, she was again pregnant at the time, so the direct reason could have little to do with Mary and Percy Shelley.) I read somewhere Mary and Shelley were practically run out of England after Harriet Shelley and Fanny Imlay, Mary's half-sister, committed suicide.

Mary had a serious bout of (perhaps postpartum) depression after her daughter died, I believe. Meanwhile, as far as I can tell, Harriet's child with Percy lived. That must have been terribly difficult for her; she was still just a teenager. Mary seemed to be obsessed with her mother's life and death in child-birth, and before writng the book she dreamed her child came back to life.

So was Victor based on Shelley? It seems he might have been, which puts their relationship in a very interesting light. Despite her radical upbringing, it must have hurt that Shelley wanted to experiment with "free love," was also sleeping with her half-sister, and was encouraging her to have affairs too.

[> [> [> [> [> [> [> I too see the imprint of her life -- Rahael, 09:19:58 08/05/03 Tue

Perhaps there is some sense in which the relationship between Frankenstein and his monster resonates for Mary Shelley.

She didn't get on with her stepmother, and her father wasn't very demonstrative - and losing your first three children, and a husband dragging you across Europe, and encumbered by step sister you didn't much like who was probably having an affair with your husband - poor Mary!!

I won't yet venture to say whether there are shades of Shelley himself in Frankenstein - I'll get back to you tomorrow!

[> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> Me too -- sdev, 13:16:11 08/05/03 Tue

I keep seeing Mary feeling abandoned in life, motherless, yet guilt ridden for her mother's death, from an infection related to childbirth, ten days after giving birth to her. Like the Monster, no parent figure. Like the Monster the cause of destruction to her creator.

[> [> Blank slate getting filled -- sdev, 17:30:15 07/30/03 Wed

Thank you.

I wonder though, was the Creature a complete blank slate shaped only by his constant rejection? He seemed to make a conscious and willful choice to become the monster he had been named.

I think in the first part of his story he is shaped by his perception and love for the natural world, his observation of the love between the members of the De Lacey family, and his reading of Milton, Goethe, and Plutarch. But when he is rejected all of this is turned inside out- nature becomes the bitter, frigid, inhospitable cold, love turns to hate, and he becomes allied with Satan not Adam and the obsessional Werther.

I forgot to make one point. I found it very interesting that he was never named. He remains the generic monster, another reason audiences may confuse him with his creator, Frankenstein. Anyone have any thoughts on that?

[> [> Conscious or unconscious -- sdev, 09:11:39 07/31/03 Thu

On the previous thread (that was prematurely archived overnight by the Voy demon) you mentioned that you had lost sympathy for the Monster after he killed the child, William. I started thinking about who he killed and obviously it was a very controlled and methodical thing. All of it was about extracting something from Victor, first his attention, then his compliance in creating a female companion and finally just his misery. Yes these were conscious decisions and yet so mediated by the unconscious- a kind of primal Oedipal rage against the father.

He was not a monster in the world at large. He was Victor's monster. I guess this is another way to see the split person idea.

[> [> [> Re: Conscious or unconscious -- ponygirl, 11:51:22 07/31/03 Thu

Victor said that the Creature was deliberately going after the innocent, and it is notable that Victor's father was not touched. However I do think it was rage at his mother's death that motivated a lot of Victor's actions. Hmm, though William was killed when he gave his father's name to the Creature...

If the Creature was Victor's monster I wonder if the victims were parts of Victor as well? William his innocence, Justine his faith, Clarvel his intellectual curiousity, Elizabeth his hopes for the future.

[> [> [> Quick thoughts -- Rahael, 13:02:01 08/04/03 Mon

I haven't read Frankenstein yet, though I mean to so I can contribute. Maybe I'll be too late and will have to tack on my thoughts ot the next book melee thread. Maybe I can read fast.

I was struck that you mentioned that Frankenstein kills a child. I wonder now about Adam's first killing being a child - were we meant to see a parallel?

[> [> [> [> The scene with Adam isn't so much based on the book -- KdS, 15:49:15 08/04/03 Mon

...as on a scene in the original Universal Frankenstein with Karloff. The Monster comes across a little girl tossing flowers into a river and plays with her innocently for a while, then tosses her into the river expecting her to float off like the flowers and she drowns.

[> [> [> [> [> Thanks! -- Rahael, 02:11:29 08/05/03 Tue

I remain handicapped as a Buffy fan in my total and complete ignorance of the horror film genre

[> Re: Frankenstein Book melee-Round 2 -- Malandanza, 08:34:27 07/30/03 Wed

The other half of the Prometheus story is the suffering he endured, chained to a rock -- not because he brought fire to man, that was the excuse Zeus used, but because he knew the name of the goddess who would bear the next revolutionary, the child who would overthrow Zeus as Zeus had overthrown his father. Zeus was so worried that one of his infidelities would produce his downfall that he even consumed one of his girlfriends (and we get the story of Athena being born full grown from his skull as a result). Eventually, Zeus relented and allowed Heracles to free Prometheus, then Prometheus revealed the name of the goddess (Thetis, whom Zeus promptly married off).

But Prometheus came to symbolize the refusal to compromise in spite of all external pressures. We see his shadow in works like Enemy of the People where the character suffers for his convictions without possibility of reward. In Victor Frankenstein's case, he did suffer. One by one each of his friends and family was stolen from him -- murdered by his creation, with his certain foreknowledge of their eventual demise. All he had to do to prevent their deaths was compromise with the monster -- make it a mate and unleash a race daemons on mankind. Yet Victor is steadfast in his convictions. He suffers. but he does not surrender.

Like Fresne, when I first read Frankenstein I found it interesting that Victor did not stitch together a monster out of scraps of human flesh and animate it with a bolt of lightning, while shouting "it's alive!" in hubristic zeal. I also found the two professors interesting. M. Krempe almost succeeds in completely dissuading Victor from his course of studies by his straightforward approach to science. Victor complains that:

"Besides, I had a contempt for the uses of modern natural philosophy. It was very different, when masters of the science sought immortality and power, such views, though futile, were grand; but now the scene had changed. The ambition of the enquirer seemed to limit itself to the annihilation of those visions on which my interest in science was chiefly founded. I was required to exchange chimeras of boundless grandeur for realities of little worth."

M. krempe has no poetry in him, no vision. For him, science is the collection of facts. No so for M. Waldman, who, in a brief lecture, manages to inspire Victor, which he wraps up by saying that modern scientists "have acquired new and almost unlimited powers; they can command the thunders of heaven, mimic the earthquake, and even mock the invisible world with it's own shadows". We have man's domination and subjection of nature laid out in all its poetic majesty. The results are immediate for Victor:

"Such were the professor's words -- rather let me say such the words of the fate, enounced to destroy me. As he went on, I felt as if my soul were grappling with a palpable enemy; one by one the varous keys were touched which formed the mechanism of my being: chord after chord was sounded, and soon my mind was filled with one thought, one conception, one purpose. So much has been done, excliamed the soul of Frankenstein, -- more, far more, will I achieve: treading in the steps already marked, I will pioneer a new way, explore unknown powers, and unfold to the world the deepest mysteries of creation."

Frankenstein is not an engineer, plodding mechanically through his studies without considering possible results. He is a visionary -- and it his vision that gets him into trouble.

[> "I don't know nuthin' 'bout birthing no monsters." -- WickedBuffy, 09:57:50 07/30/03 Wed

This isn't about Victor, it focuses on ME vampires and the Monster. The patient is ready for dissection. ;>

1. Does anyone know what the current beliefs concerning conception and childbirth were at the time Shelly wrote Frankenstein?

I enjoyed what Diana and Rendyl posted in the first part of the Frankenstein discussion, "A woman's contribution to mythology" - Archive #2. None of the previous offline Frankenstein discussions or lectures I've heard brought this up. I have a big hole in my information though, so can't really go any further with the essay in my head. That's the why of the first question. Does someone have facts on that to share?

2. The parallels and differences between vampires and the Monster. Both begin their journey by rising from the dead. Vampires from a single corpse, the Monster from several corpses. Both need a creator with the specific intent to reanimate. Both recreations were done by a human (a vampire was once human), entering the world full-grown, with great strength. One carries memories of a past, one doesn't. The vampire who sired plays God - perhaps partly as a way to shake a fist at the heavens. Victor also played God, more as a way to feel, maybe actually be, God. The result is a Post-Human.

A vampire theoretically wakes with a spectrum of good and evil in them, but it's more heavily weighed to the evil side. There is no guilt monitoring its actions. It's driven more by desires - to feed on blood, to kill etc. The Monster wakes as a fairly empty slate, then is driven towards evil-doings as a reaction to events more than any other motivation. It doesn't seem to understand choice or that there are choices. It is driven by emotions. Drink some soup - happyhappy. Light a torch - fearfear. The emotions weigh more heavily to the evil side and eventually the Monster begins to make choices in that direction.

Vampires, excluding Angel and Spike, don't have souls. Did the Monster? I feel not. Victor couldn't create a soul anymore than a vamp could pull the soul back into the body it was siring. Neither seemed to care at all about it, anyway. It didn't seem to matter to their creations, either.

Vampires seem to focus more on themselves and the moment. They'd snap the neck of their current partner with as much remorse as if they'd snapped a pencil in half. But the Monster wanted a relationship and not just a fishing buddy, but a mate.

Who is farthest from human?

(This post is running on my opinions and observations, your mileage will probably vary)

[> [> Re: "I don't know nuthin' 'bout birthing no monsters." -- Ann, 10:59:18 08/02/03 Sat


This site has a biography of Shelley.

"The story is well known: Mary herself told how she, Shelley, Lord Byron and Doctor Polidori, Byron's physician, after reading ghost stories to each other, agreed to each write an equally horrible story. She could not think of anything for a couple of hours ...then after a discussion of the powers of galvanism and some experiments by Erasmus Darwin, fell into a trance which showed her a student standing beside a corpse he had animated. Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus was conceived. Mary had been having nightmares about the death of her daughter, and her anxiety obviously brought on the "waking dream". As she was writing the novel, Mary increasingly identified with the abandoned child. A child deprived of a loving family becomes a monster, as the Creature itself knows. The Creature's argument that lack of love has made him evil is partially derived from Jean Jacques Rousseau's seminal educational treatise in narrative form, Emile, in which the French philosophe argues that lack of a mother's love permanently damages a child. Mary felt ambivalent towards her creation and called it her "hideous progeny.""

Assuming this is correct, it is interesting that the birth of the idea of this monster story was at the same time as dreams about her dead child.
Bearing a child who only lived two weeks, enough certainly to be nursing and bonding with the daughter, who was premature and sickly, we can only imagine the birth defects that child may have had ("hideous progeny") and this plus the loss of that child would cause nightmare of the worst kind. Later in her life another child was stillborn. Potential genetic defect in the family. Doctors today do a genetic screen after two miscarriages, stillbirths or infant deaths. Her son William died when he was three. Tough life.

[> [> [> Mary's mother died giving birth to her -- sdev, 14:42:36 08/02/03 Sat

[> [> It only took me a week to figure this out, Miss Scarlett, LOL -- sdev, 14:12:28 08/05/03 Tue

[> [> [> but you GOT it! heh, and now Miss Scarlett is in the Library with the Noose. -- WickedBuffooon, 10:23:54 08/07/03 Thu

[> Oops, wrong book -- mamcu, 15:35:50 07/30/03 Wed

But that's ok, I'll catch up, and then I'll be ahead.

[> Playing god -- dmw, 06:32:04 07/31/03 Thu

Learn from me, if not by my precepts, at least by my example, how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge, and how happier the man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow

Frankenstein is often taken as a condemnation of modern science "playing god." Of course, that leads to the question of what precisely is "playing god." Ideas on what areas of knowledge "playing god" covers have changed dramatically even over the course of my lifetime.

When I was in school, in vitro fertilization (or "test tube" babies) was considered "playing god," but 25 years later this once highly controversial procedure is generally accepted by the public and accounts for almost one percent of babies born in the U.S. Today we have the beginnings of another controversial way to produce life: cloning. Interestingly, the arguments used against cloning are almost identical to the ones used against in vitro fertilization in the 1970's.

In the 15th century, the Chinese admiral Zheng Ho explored the oceans, reaching India, Arabia, East Africa, and Indonesia, perhaps even discovering Australia and rounding the Cape of Good Hope to reach the Atlantic. His ships were far superior to those of Columbus and were quite capable of crossing the Pacific Ocean to the Americas. However, when Zheng Ho returned from his last voyage, the emperor commanded that cessation of such ocean voyages. Even the knowledge of how to build such ships was lost and the Chinese coast suffered from piracy for centuries. China turned inwards, missing the economic and scientific revolutions that began in Europe, only to discover them too late when the European powers exerted their new strength to dominate China.

Modern civilization is not monolithic like the Chinese Empire so it's impossible to globally prevent a science from being pursued, though it can be slowed down. Should the US shut itself off from the rest of the world like the Chinese once did by forbidding certain types of knowledge, and if it did, would its eventual fate be any different?

[> [> I always considered Victor as playing a god. -- WickedBuffy ::ramblings::, 10:05:07 07/31/03 Thu

I'm a liberal about labels, so I've never considered test tube babies or in vitro as playing god.God? I'll go with "a god".

Mainly because the people doing it are duplicating how it's always been done, just using different cariers and steps. But the baby still progresses from sperm and egg - going on in the regular human growth sequence.

The Monster was created from dead corpses, full grown. Victor completely bypassed the usual human creation and growth sequence. From some religious povs, Victor threw out "God the Creator"s trademarked method completely. And created life a totally different way.

So Victor became another creator, or god.

Science today sticks pretty close to the same basic steps. Even cloning is done near the inception of life.
If a cloning method is devised that uses grown animals, "Hi s'kat-alpha, hello s'kat-beta", I feel that would fall in Victors area. But cloning is also being done following the same progressive guidelines.

And he gets an A+ in recycling.

[> [> [> Re: I always considered Victor as playing a god. -- sdev, 12:37:51 07/31/03 Thu

LOL on the recycling. Quite advanced for the beginning of the industrial revolution or should I say we've gotten past that now.

I don't think Shelley was condemning science as much as the irresponsible use of it and the motivations for some of it. I think if the monster was inherently a monster from the moment of "birth" that view would hold. But this monster was initially benevolent (albeit major ugly, troll-like). The monster was created first by Victor's treatment, lack of parenting, and next by society and their superficial prejudices.

The problem is Victor played a lousy god/parent. I wonder how much parental attention Mary Shelley received. her mother died giving birth to her. Her father was pretty busy with his writing and socio-political career. Who raised her?

[> [> [> [> AI, or The Modern Frankenstein -- dmw, 19:57:13 07/31/03 Thu

I agree that Shelley wasn't condemning science in general (btw, I found your idea that she might actually be condemning pre-scientific disciplines like alchemy intriguing), but her work is often interpreted that way, especially by modern authors who have reworked it to deal with the newer "threat" of robots and AI, machines with the body and/or mind of a person.

AI is created in a way that bypasses the normal creation and growth sequence in most stories, so it seems that it would qualify as "playing god" for WickedBuffy. There's an abundant literature that deals with AI in a manner more or less similar to Frankenstein; The Matrix is probably the best known of such stories, though its sequel offers some intriguing hints that the resolution of the conflict between artificial and natural intelligence will not follow that of Shelley.

Why do we fear our creations, especially ones not yet born? I think the many retellings of the story of Frankenstein, such as the story of Maggie Walsh and Adam in Buffy s4, demonstrates that the book's appeal is wide, at least in its basic story which touches something deep within the unconscious fears of modern humanity. While most of the retellings are as ephemeral as Jaws, I think the original will endure and continue to inspire future stories of a similar nature.

Perhaps sdev is right and AIs need what Frankenstein's creation needed: good parenting and societal acceptance. I suspect we're a long way from making an AI, both from a hardware perspective (a Pentium 4 has around 50,000,000 transistors, most of which are a simple array of memory cells, while the human brain has 100,000,000,000 neurons, each far more complex and more widely connected than a transistor) and from a software perspective (in that, we have little understanding of what consciousness is.) However, I suspect that when we get there, the process might resemble a person growing up and learning than programming one of today's computers.

[> [> [> [> [> Re: AI, or The Modern Frankenstein -- sdev, 21:16:04 07/31/03 Thu

First, I had to reread your post twice because I kept thinking AI stood for Angel Investigations (LOL).

Victor's failure began at the motivational stage of creation. What were his purposes? Thoughtless ambition and a desire to play at being god resulted in a poorly made creature and no interest or sense of obligation after the fact. I suspect that may have relevence in the pursuit for an artificial intelligence. As to the scientific aspects I am wholly ignorant.

I agree with your statement about the book, "I think the original will endure and continue to inspire future stories of a similar nature." It has endured with me.

[> [> [> [> [> [> I believe Victor was "pure" scientist, focused on objective, not subjective. -- WickedBuffy, 11:11:30 08/01/03 Fri

Victor was totally focused on creating life - as in a strict biological sense. If Victor had a background heavy in philosophy, psychology, ect., I believe the Monster would have been treated much differently from its first conscious moment.

As mentioned earlier, his early negative experiences in the world appeared to shape his violent ways later. The less tangible, visible parts of the Monster weren't ignored in it's creation as much as it didn't even cross Victors mind. (Plus, he didn't have that wire monkey sans hugging research to read.)

He made it out of dead bodies and so treated it pretty much as a dead body that was reanimated. Similar to how bodies on the autopsy tables are viewed - purely clinical. Everything else is already gone - the mind/thinking, the soul or whatever other intangible pieces of us there might be. Victor hadn't figured in the possiblity that his creature even could have thoughts any more than a corpse does.

[> [> Playing God and 'The Modern Prometheus' -- Rahael, 13:10:06 08/04/03 Mon

Trying to preserve thread until I read Frankenstein!

But, isn't it interesting that it's titled the modern prometheus? bearing in mind that the Shelleys would not necessarily think of Prometheus in a negative light?

Also, it's instructive to note that the acquirement of knowledge thing reeks of the Garden of Eden.

I think the message of Frankenstein has to be more ambiguous than that.

Another note - Mary Wollestonecroft Shelley here has written a Gothic novel but has also explicitly tied it to the tradition of the South, invoking Prometheus.

Further historical note - Frankenstein was published in 1818, I think. That was the same year that her husband wrote a parody/satire of the Gothic novel, entitled 'Nightmare Abbey'

[> [> [> All things Gothic on BtVS -- Rahael, 02:09:42 08/05/03 Tue

A link to an excellent essay by Slain:


He shows why the Gothic would be politically subversive in the period of underlying disturbance and reactionary consolidation in the wake of the Napoleonic wars.

But I'd want to say that I don't think Mary abandons reason, but rather incorporates the need for reason, as others have pointed out here.

After all, Frankenstein is written a little after the high watermark of the Gothic Novel in England (due in some part to the repuation it was acquring - one conservative critic found another late Gothic novel, Melmoth the Wanderer, had something of the 'cloven hoof of infidelity' about it.

And an important correction (which teaches me to post without reading reference stuff. It's not Percy who writes Nightmare Abbey, but his friend Peacock, and it is seen in part as teasing Shelley over his early fondness for Gothic.)

[> [> [> 'The Modern Prometheus' -- dmw, 06:59:41 08/05/03 Tue

I was likewise intrigued by this title of the work and its contrast with the vastly different consequences of Doctor Frankenstein's and Prometheus's gifts of knowledge. Both givers are persecuted for their gifts, but for completely different reasons; the persecution in Frankenstein comes from the gift itself turning on its wielder instead of from an external source (Zeus) jealous of mankind's possession of it. Frankenstein is more closely akin to Prometheus's twin Epimetheus, whose name means afterthought, for he only understands what he has done in retrospect and his gift bears a closer resemblance to that of Epimetheus' wife, Pandora with her box, rather than to the Gift of Fire brought to humanity through the forethought of Prometheus.

It may be that the title is intended to be ironic, but it may instead speak of the Romantic Era's different interpretation of the advancement of knowledge, its feeling that science was ugly and dangerous in stark contrast to the gifts of nature, just as Frankenstein's Monster is ugly, dangerous, and fundamentally unlovable for its parent in contrast to a naturally born child.

[> [> [> [> There's another Prometheus legend. -- Arethusa, 08:37:18 08/05/03 Tue

The forward to my Penguin Classics Editions says Mary read Ovid's Metamorphoses, in which Prometheus actually "creates and manipulates men into life."

(BTW, Jane Austen's Gothic parody Northanger Abbey was published in 1818.)

[> [> [> [> [> Prometheus' Creation of Man -- dmw, 10:40:05 08/05/03 Tue

Being focused on the interpretation of Frankenstein as the bringer of knowledge, I hadn't thought of that legend while I was writing, though Ovid is my favorite recounter of the classical myths. Here is the relevant passage from book 1 of Ovid's Metamorphoses:

A creature of a more exalted kind
Was wanting yet, and then was Man design'd:
Conscious of thought, of more capacious breast,
For empire form'd, and fit to rule the rest:
Whether with particles of heav'nly fire
The God of Nature did his soul inspire,
Or Earth, but new divided from the sky,
And, pliant, still retain'd th' aetherial energy:
Which wise Prometheus temper'd into paste,
And, mixt with living streams, the godlike image cast.

Thus, while the mute creation downward bend
Their sight, and to their earthly mother tend,
Man looks aloft; and with erected eyes
Beholds his own hereditary skies.
From such rude principles our form began;
And earth was metamorphos'd into Man.

This is from the 1717 translation into English verse by John Dryden and others, found at the Internet Classics Archive and elsewhere on the web. The Penguin Classics edition of Metamorphoses is a prose translation by Mary Innes; it's a bit easier to read, but my copy's at home.

[> [> [> [> [> [> Thanks, that's lovely. -- Arethusa, 12:20:52 08/05/03 Tue

Man looking aloft at his hereditary skies-I like that. Maybe that's why we've been driven to travel into space. ;)

[> [> [> The political context -- Rahael, 08:50:18 08/05/03 Tue

I just bought my copy of Frankenstein!

And I have a day off tomorrow so am very hopeful of getting some of my own thoughts down here.

But I have some preconceptions. One is that Prometheus reappears in a significant poem by Percye Bysshe Shelley, and that is 'Prometheus Unbound' and its my vague remembrance of that poem that is influencing me in this thought. I shall go back and read that too - the contrast may prove interesting. Mary Shelley did annotations for Prometheus Unbound too, so she is very well aware of all these issues.

Secondly, there is also a political angle to the whole tension between society and Frankenstein's monster. 1816 was just toward the end of the conservative reaction on England in the wake of the Napoleonic Wars. Radical sentiments were very unpopular. Everywhere there was an emphasis on the needs of society above the individual. Harmony above disruption. The stifling of dissent, and only the most moderate of disagreements.

Marilyn Butler (Romantics, Rebels and Reactionaries) argues that much poetry and prose during this period had an intensely political nature (which, if one considers the larger output of the Shelleys and their friends, holds up pretty easily) and posits that Mary Shelley has an intellectual argument to make:

"It has to be set against an explicit allegory in favour of humanistic social idealism, and against the conservative religious idealism of the recluse. Frankenstein , like the novelís other solitary protagonist, Walton, claims through his scientific explorations to be serving his fellow-men. In mind he is apparently as beautiful as in person. But he is solipsistic, and always motivated by selfish considerations. His initial failure ot love the Monster is a failure to love something unlike himself : for Frankenstein, love is narcissism. The Monster has already killed Frankesteinís brother, father and friend, yet when he threatens ëI will be with you on your wedding nightí, Frankestein assumes that he rather than his bride is in danger. However the story may have rooted itself in the popular consciousness, as a study in the frightfulness within, it seems clearly designed to convey a social message, which indeed argues against the very kind of inward interest it is usually taken to illustrate."

By the religious idealism of the recluse, Butler is here referring to prominent and influential poets like Wordsworth and Coleridge, former radicals, and now at the heart of the conservative reaction.

I now notice that the annotated edition of Frankenstein I bought has a intro by Marilyn Butler so I look forward to hearing her extended thoughts.

[> Preserving for later comment -- Arethusa, 09:23:50 07/31/03 Thu

because I just found my copy of Frankenstein. The search took forever because every time I asked the kids, "Where's Frankenstein? Where's my Frankenstein?" they laughed so much they couldn't help me look.

[> Vague thoughts. But footnotes! -- MsGiles, 09:31:56 07/31/03 Thu

Natural science, in mid 19c Europe, was nearer to its roots in alchemy than it is today. Shelley specifically references alchemy in the early chapters of the book: Victor is obsessed with their work as a young man, even though he later finds that their ideas have been superceded. There is the implication that although he embraces the new scientific approach, he has been in some way corrupted by his alchemical obsessions, and it is these, rather than the more modern ideas, that bring about the disaster of his monstrous creation. There is perhaps the implication that Shelley approves of the new science - it is after all opening up society to new political ideas - and wishes to exonerate it from blame. It is the older way of thinking, the alchemical search for power, that pollutes Victor's mind, and it is the fatal combination of this old mindset with new technical skills which is the real disaster.

What then was alchemy, apart from optimistic mystics trying to turn base metal into gold? Alchemy, considered from the physical standpoint, was the attempt to demonstrate experimentally on the material plane the validity of a certain philosophical view of the Cosmos. We see the genuine scientific spirit in the saying of one of the alchemists: "Would to God . . . all men might become adepts in our Art -- for then gold, the great idol of mankind, would lose its value, and we should prize it only for its scientific teaching."(From http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/RedAlch.html)(1) Alchemy sprang from mystical/religious teachings, but evolved into a practical art, that was used, for example, in the creation of pigments, and to other such practical ends, as well as in pursuit of the promise of gold and power for which it became infamous.

It was from the work of alchemists like Paracelsus (b. 1493) that the philosophical basis on which contemporary science or knowledge rests was established: the development of theory on the basis of experiment and observation. Paracelsus, a practitioner of medicine, championed the idea that empirical data, the results of experiments (or in this case, the results of treatment), could be important in developing new practice. Prior to this, it was assumed that the theory had to precede the practice, and that while an experiment could prove the correctness of the theory, the results could not contribute to formulations of new theories - that could only be done by going back to philosphical first principles and re-examining the reasoning and the premises. Paracelsus however was still steeped in alchemic lore, and claimed to have created homunculi - living humanoid beings beings - in vitro.

The alchemic tradition persisted well into the beginnings of what we consider to be modern science - Isaac Newton (b. 1642) was a practising alchemist. It really only faded away during the 18thc with the theories of Lavoisier and Dalton, the beginnings of modern chemistry. By the time of 'Frankenstein' alchemy would have been a thing of the past as far as scientists were concerned, but still alive in the public imagination. The Victorians were fascinated by the occult; it has been suggested that this was partly because of the undermining of Biblical literalism by scientific rationalism:
"For the Victorians, the quest is to revive the [lost] divine spirit within human beings and sublimate life as
an antidote to growing materialism" (Sikorska). Therefore, pseudo-scientific and pseudo-religious engagements like
"magnetism, mesmerism, hypnotism, spiritism [and] electricity" (cf. Sikorska)
'Frankenstein' (like Stoker's 'Dracula') hit a popular nerve when it was published, and perhaps the above has a bearing on this. Like Peter Benchley's 'Jaws' (3), a competent but unremarkable book which became a runaway bestseller, possibly due to its cultural timing, rather than its intrinsic literary merits.

In the same way that Dracula and the vampiric in Victorian literature is a coded way of talking about sex, desire, power and infection, so Frankenstein perhaps codes issues of reproduction, nature and nurture, control and family relations. As others have pointed out, Shelley, as the daughter of one of the most active radical politicians of her generation, would have been well aware of gender issues, as well as of the ethical problems raised by scientific advances, and these will certainly have informed her foray into the gothic.

On another level, as sdev points out, the monster and his creator can be considered as two aspects of the same personality: the analytical/scientific, and the emotional. Certainly there is an incompleteness in both fictional creations which is resolved when they are seen as a pair. The monster feels himself to be incomplete without his creator, and devastated by his abandonment. Victor, although he runs so desperately from his creation, is lost without it. It represents to him the embodiment of his ambitions - ambitions of which he is in mortal fear. Maybe there's something of Shelley herself coming through here: a woman ahead of her time, brought up in a freethinking environment which was by no means universal, she might well fear the implications of her aspirations, and worry about the possible scariness of her future.

Happy confluence of IRYJ with Frankenstein for the book melee. Although IWMTLY might be closer to F in theme, IRYJ the first time the series ventures into the 'entities created technologically' field, and this is another tack to follow up. If I have time. Maybe.

Footnotes !!

(1)In his History of Chemistry, James Campbell Brown, late professor of chemistry in the University of Liverpool, sums up the ends which alchemists sought to achieve, in the following paragraphs:

"This, therefore, was he general aim of the alchemists - to carry out in the laboratory, as far as possible, the processes which Nature carried out in the interior of the earth. Sven leading problems occupied their attention: -

1. The preparation of a compound named elixir, magisterium medicine, or philosopher's stone, which possess the property of transmuting the baser metals into gold and silver, and of performing many other marvelous operations.

2. The creation of homonculi, or living beings, of which many wonderful but incredible tales are told.

3. The preparation of the alcahest or universal solvent, which dissolved every substance which was immersed in it.

4. Palingenesis, or the restoration of a plant from its ashes. Had they succeeded in this, they would have hoped to be able to raise the dead.

5. The preparation of spiritus mundi, a mystic substance possessing many powers, the principal of which was its capacity of dissolving gold.

6. The extraction of the quintessence or active principle of all substances.

7. The preparation of aurum potabile, liquid gold, a sovereign remedy, because gold being itself perfect could produce perfection in the human frame.

Sikorska, Liliana. "Alchemy as Writing-Alchemy and Writing: A Study of Lindsay Clarke's The Chymical Wedding."


[> [> My feet can't write -- sdev, 15:06:01 07/31/03 Thu

Great point about the old science new/science split. This explains the impression that Shelley may be anti-science when she really is only rejecting the old false, science represented by the Alchemists. Victor's clinging to the old science contradicts his professed desire to contribute new discoveries to better the world. Like everything about Victor, it is not what it seems.

For me, the literary merits of the book are invisible in the Victor story but come out when the Monster's story begins. The book's popularity survived till today, I think. Do you think its appeal is only in an academic, woman's studies setting or that its appeal is more universal and timeless than "Jaws"?

Very impressive footnotes, but if they are required, don't expect much but a one-liner from me!

[> [> [> Alchemy vs Modern Science -- dmw, 19:29:39 07/31/03 Thu

Interesting post, MsGiles. It's been a while since I read the book, so I had forgotten about the distinction between alchemy and modern science. I've always been fascinated how Isaac Newton, the father of physics, was also deeply involved in alchemy. Has anyone read J. Gregory Key's Age of Unreason books, an alternate science/history series where Newton discovers alchemy instead of physics, thereby altering the future of the world drastically? I picked them up recently at a used book store but haven't had time to read them.

[> [> [> maybe more well-known through the many films than the book? -- MsGiles, 09:14:40 08/01/03 Fri

Thanks for your kind comments, btw

I do think the book has more *stuff* in it than Jaws, really (I prefer the film as well :)) I admit I do have some difficulties with the writing style of the time, particularly the melodrama, the arm-waving, effusive, hug-happy relationships that everyone seems to have.

I think it's a brilliant central idea, which has actually got a lot more social/cultural/psychological complexity than the shark. As far as the realisation goes, I've mixed feelings. She uses the landscape for atmosphere and as a metaphor for emotion well, and she's obviously seen a lot of real landscape. She has a sense of different cultures and classes, of justice and injustice, social imbalance. The monster particularly has an articulate voice, and his passage from innocent hope to despairing hatred, his realisation that he is excluded purely because he looks ugly, is very engagingly put.

On the other side, I found all the other people rather one-dimensional, and Victor positively obnoxious. They are all wonderful, loving and kind and beautiful until they see the monster, and then all, even the boy William, turn into homicidal maniacs.

Some of the details are unconvincing. The handy discarded briefcase containing key works of literature and a set of clothes? I get the feeling Shelley just couldn't be bothered with the details here, so she just stuck it in: it's like one of those medical boxes in Quake - you get to this point in the story and lo! you find the briefcase. The exotic Turkish beauty - what's she doing there? Maybe to show that you can get by being alien as long as you're pretty, but I'm not totally convinced. I half wonder if she's a passing Sue.

The actual construction details. Ok, this isn't a Stephen Baxter book, and we don't need details for the story to work, but assembling dead people in Orkney? Where did he get the body parts in a community of five persons?

I think I'm quibbling here! There is one particular authentically nightmareish image in the book for me: the moment, described by Victor, where he wakes to find his creation looking down at him:
I started from my sleep with horror; a cold dew covered my forehead, my teeth chattered, and every limb became convulsed; when, by the dim and yellow light of the moon as it forced its way through the window shutters, I beheld the wretch -- the miserable monster whom I had created. He held up the curtain of the bed; and his eyes, if eyes they may be called, were fixed on me. His jaws opened, and he muttered some inarticulate sounds, while a grin wrinkled his cheeks. He might have spoken, but I did not hear; one hand was stretched out, seemingly to detain me, but I escaped and rushed downstairs. I took refuge in the courtyard belonging to the house which I inhabited, where I remained during the rest of the night, walking up and down in the greatest agitation, listening attentively, catching and fearing each sound as if it were to announce the approach of the demoniacal corpse to which I had so miserably given life.

[> [> [> [> Stephen Baxter -- dmw, 10:27:12 08/02/03 Sat

Ooh, now that's a thought: a sequel to Frankenstein by Stephen Baxter. His The Time Ships was simply amazing, and not just because his science is so much better than that of HG Wells in The Time Machine.

WickedBuffy, I agree, Young Frankenstein is great fun.

[> [> [> [> My personal favorite is "Young Frankenstein" with Gene WIlder. -- WickedHerrBuffy, 12:18:02 08/01/03 Fri

[> [> Undermining the homunculus -- KdS, 04:00:55 08/01/03 Fri

I don't have any of the books in my personal collection, but wasn't the homunculus meant to be a sinless, unfallen entity because it had been conceived without sex? (An idea with obvious misogynistic implications.) If that memory of mine is true, the book could be considered a parody of alchemy.

[> [> [> It was also thought by some. -- Rahael, 04:24:51 08/01/03 Fri

that women played no part in the actual creation of life, apart from simply to bear the child. The creation came from the man's sperm, and therefore the sperm was a perfectly formed little human, the homunculus.

The woman's contribution was simply to allow it to grow and then give birth to it.

But I can't cite anything for this belief, it's something I've come across.

However, here is Tristram Shandy's discription of the moment of his conception:

The Homunculus, Sir, in however low and ludicrous a light he may appear, in this age of levity, to the eye of folly or prejudice;óto the eye of reason in scientific research, he stands confessedóa Being guarded and circumscribed with rights.óThe minutest philosophers, who by the bye, have the most enlarged understandings, (their souls being inversely as their enquiries) shew us incontestably, that the Homunculus is created by the same hand,óengendered in the same course of nature,óendowíd with the same loco-motive powers and faculties with us:óThat he consists as we do, of skin, hair, fat, flesh, veins, arteries, ligaments, nerves, cartilages, bones, marrow, brains, glands, genitals, humours, and articulations;óis a Being of as much activity,óand in all senses of the word, as much and as truly our fellow-creature as my Lord Chancellor of England.óHe may be benefitted,óhe may be injured,óhe may obtain redress; in a word, he has all the claims and rights of humanity, which Tully, Puffendorf, or the best ethick writers allow to arise out of that state and relation.

Now, dear Sir, what if any accident had befallen him in his way alone!óor that through terror of it, natural to so young a traveller, my little Gentleman had got to his journeyís end miserably spent;óhis muscular strength and virility worn down to a thread;óhis own animal spirits ruffled beyond description,óand that in this sad disorderíd state of nerves, he had lain down a prey to sudden starts, or a series of melancholy dreams and fancies, for nine long, long months together.óI tremble to think what a foundation had been laid for a thousand weaknesses both of body and mind, which no skill of the physician or the philosopher could ever afterwards have set thoroughly to rights.

[> [> [> [> seems right -- MsGiles, 13:47:02 08/01/03 Fri

In relation to homunculi, I find there is a possible connection between Shelley and Konrad Dippel, (b.1672) who had pretensions to alchemy, claimed to have created a homunculus, and inhabited at one time the Castle Frankenstein, which was near one of Byron and the Shelleys' stopping points on their tour. It's a slightly tenuous link, and there's no evidence she visited, apparently. I suppose its circumstantial evidence, in 'tec terms.

Here's another source on homunculi:
'Already in late Antiquity, alchemists were arguing that humans can make artificial metals and precious stones that are identical to their natural prototypes, and in some cases even better than the models upon which they are based. From the Islamic period onward, this claim engendered a growing criticism that alchemists were "playing God" in their attempts to surpass nature. The crowning example of alchemical hybris came with the claim of pseudo-Paracelsus in the sixteenth century that he could make a homunculus - an artificial man. Like the gold of the alchemists, which was said to exceed the 24 carats of the best natural gold, the homunculus was supposed to be better than a natural man. Being made in a flask from human semen, he was free of the catamenial substance that, according to the current theories of generation, supplied the material basis to an ordinary fetus. According to pseudo-Paracelsus, the homunculus was a semi-spiritual being that had an immediate apprehension of all the arts and a preternatural intelligence.'
- obviously improved by the female absence from the process, then! Catamenial, according to the medical dictionary, means menstrual. Nasty icky corrupting stuff(unlike the noble semen;))

[> [> [> [> [> I wonder -- Arethusa, 18:43:43 08/01/03 Fri

if Frankenstein was in part Mary Shelley's response to such an attitude. Victor goes in and out of madness due to his usurping of women's God-given powers of creation. The Monster is no Little Gentleman, and is reject by society. Mary often compares the beauty of the humans to the hideousness of the maan-created monster. Maybe she was playing on the same type of male vanity that would usurp all of God's attributes for itself.

[> [> [> [> [> [> Interesting that V couldn't bring himself to make a female -- MsGiles, 03:01:42 08/04/03 Mon

and that he doesn'r attempt to make a female first off. Hypothetically, the story could have had him making a female - a 'perfect woman' maybe. The movie 'Weird Science' comes to mind, also of course 'I was Made to Love You., the Buffy take. But he doesn't, he makes a male, and clearly it's not sexless, because it wants a mate. A female.

Perhaps Shelley was showing two aspects of the male here: the kind that is attractive outside but cruel and ambitious inside, and the kind that is horrible outside but good inside.

Victor's physical attractiveness is dwelt on at length by Walton, the guy who picks him up at sea -
his full-toned voice swells in my ears; his lustrous eyes dwell on me with all their melancholy sweetness; I see his thin hand raised in animation, while the lineaments of his face are irradiated by the soul within.. Although it seems that Shelley is in sympathy with his plight, Victor is actually selfish and self-centred in in his actions, both when creating the monster, and after it is created: he is so concerned to protect himself from either censure or ridicule that he will not even begin to warn his friends of the danger he has put them in.

The creature, on the other hand, though physically repugnant, shows great patience and sweetness of nature in all the early part of the book, and only prolonged mistreatment and rejection causes him to turn on those around him, and on his creator. He does not seek to dominate or control, but only to be accepted, and when this is denied, he seeks solitude.

So maybe, as well as a critique of male egocentricity, there's a critique of the readiness of society to accept an attractive surface appearance as evidence of spiritual beauty, and likewise condemn ugliness as evidence of inner corruption.

[> [> [> [> [> [> [> Plus, he probably knew the workings of a male body much more intimately than a female one. -- WickedBuffy, 10:11:24 08/04/03 Mon

I wonder how much of that had to do with society then, and how it would react to a man building a woman to spec. The inferences and all.

Even though a woman wrote the book, it was her character Victor who was actually doing the hands-on work.

But I am not up on the mores of that time or how they reacted to such things.

[> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> Re: Victor's inability/unwillingness to make a woman -- Dyna, 12:39:56 08/04/03 Mon

I don't have the book with me here (silly me, I had no idea this discussion was going on until Rahael brought it to my attention!) so I can't quote, but basically Victor's reason/excuse for not making a female monster is that he doesn't want the monster to be able to reproduce. He says something about not wanting to be responsible for populating the earth with a race of monsters.

Of course that's just Victor's explanation, and as he's an incredibly unreliable narrator (lacking self-awareness as well as having a need to twist his story in the way that's most self-justifying) it doesn't hold up well. I read Victor's abrupt destruction of the woman he's working on as a way for him to avoid what he must suspect will be a failure--and should be a failure, from the story's point of view. As a man who creates another man Victor has already set himself up to usurp the role of woman in the perpetuation of life. For him to create a woman--to manufacture a vessel that will have the means to perpetuate life without his involvement and outside of his control--well, if he could actually do it, it would be a problem, but I think the real issue is Victor knows he can't do it, and to avoid that knowledge he makes up a reason why he won't attempt it. (Or actually, why he gets almost entirely done with the woman, then destroys her--not exactly the project plan of a guy who doesn't want to do something because it's just wrong.)

Victor's excuse that he won't create the woman because then the monster would be able to reproduce doesn't hold water because, in short, if Victor's building the woman he's entirely capable of leaving out the parts that would allow reproduction. The fact that he makes so much of this anyway suggests that it's actually a cover for some other anxiety that he can't own up to. Victor claims to believe that if he created a woman, she would be able to bear children. He admits to no doubt about this--his arguments against making the woman are all predicated on the idea that it's true. What's at stake for Victor in making the experiment at all is that failure--"failure" meaning that the outcome is not what Victor predicts, and the woman cannot reproduce--would put the lie to Victor's pretensions about himself as a master scientist and as someone who has command over life itself. This is self-awareness that Victor is hiding from, hence the destruction of the woman just at the point where it would have been put to proof.

There are all kinds of other interesting implications to the thing, but since I'm at work I'll just throw this in. Later!

[> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> I don't understand your premise -- sdev, 22:34:36 08/04/03 Mon

For him to create a woman--to manufacture a vessel that will have the means to perpetuate life without his involvement and outside of his control--well, if he could actually do it, it would be a problem, but I think the real issue is Victor knows he can't do it

What makes you think he can't? He created once before successfully. How and why would this be different? If you are saying that the beings he created would not have the ability to procreate, this might be true. That is an unknown, but that would also be desireable to Victor under the circumstances.

Victor claims to believe that if he created a woman, she would be able to bear children. He admits to no doubt about this--his arguments against making the woman are all predicated on the idea that it's true.

The procreation issue is just one reason Victor gives for not wanting to create another monster. He also cites (Ch.20) a number of other reasons including just not wanting to add even one more monster to the world and the possibility that the female monster would not want to be with the original Monster and thus both would roam the world wreaking additional havoc. He really does not make much of the procreation issue. He refers to it in only one quick sentence immediately before he destroys the work he had begun on the new being.

Also, considering he did not even have enough control to effect the appearance of the beings, I would not assume he could eliminate the ability to procreate at will.

[> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> making lists -- MsGiles, 09:25:56 08/06/03 Wed

How neat - as I write this reply, I see the 'Universal Monster Figures' ad mentioning Frankenstein at the top of the page ..
Interesting posts from Rah, sdev, WB, Dyna, & others, still reading all the threads

There seem to be several possible takes on the question, I'll have a stab at listing a few:

1)-Did F not make a woman because he knew it would be wrong?

2)-Or because he knew he wasn't competent to do so?

3)-Or because the audience wouldn't have bought it?

4)-Or because he wanted to be the sole progenitor of his new life forms?

5)-Or because Shelley wanted the monster to be alone?

1) I would say that neither Frankenstein nor his creation seem to have a sense of right and wrong for its own sake (as opposed to F's guilt at being responsible for so many deaths). In this, F prefigures the modern scientific ethical dilemma, which came to a head in the popular consciousness with the creation of the atom bomb. However F's refusal to create the female being does seem to be partly based on a suddenly awakened sense of responsibility.
Even if they were to leave Europe and inhabit the deserts of the new world, yet one of the first results of those sympathies for which the demon thirsted would be children, and a race of devils would be propagated upon the earth who might make the very existence of the species of man a condition precarious and full of terror. Had I right, for my own benefit, to inflict this curse upon everlasting generations?
A moment later, however, he abandons rationality for passion:
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.
So yes, it seems that F has become aware that his work has implications, and that is part of the book's 'moral', if it can be said to have one.

2) F doesn't seem to harbour any doubts that he could create a functioning female, though it's an interesting idea

3) Could it have been a step too far for the audience? I'm not sure, but looking at the plots of other gothic novels of the time, I would guess possibly not. Seduction, prostitution, abortion could all be dealt with if the conclusion was morally acceptable. I get the impression that the climate lightened towards the end of GeorgeIII's reign, and into the Regency period, with the Napoleonic wars over. And Shelley makes it quite clear that any female would be just as physically repugnant to F as the male, so there wouldn't necessarily be an implication that he was making a partner. on the other hand .. maybe she saw it leading off that way, and decided she just didn't want to go there..

4) Is it because F is playing god, and making a woman (who could play God herself by reproducing) would compromise that?
This raises all sorts of interesting stuff, like the Garden of Eden scenario. If F is, subconsciously or consciously, playing God, then his next step is to create woman. In the story, God creates man, man asks for a mate, and God creates woman from his rib. But woman will corrupt man. F's man has already been corrupted from his initial innocence, by the rejection of his creator. If F is God, he is flawed. he can see no good in his creation. But Shelley could - she describes the creature's growth and search for love with great sympathy. Could it be that there is something of a criticism here, of a male God who abandons his children and declares them flawed?

5) It seems likely that Shelley's disrupted childhood and isolated position in society, as well as her loss of many children, informs her image of the monster's acute loneliness . This bitter, misunderstood, loneliness is one of the key impressions the book leaves, and draws us towards the monster at the same time as the graphically shocking descriptions of his physical appearance repel us.

At the same time, the attractive appearance and mellifluous tones of Victor are dwealt on at length by his rescuer, Robert (who practically falls in love with him), but we are alienated from him by his inability to behave heroically, to face his error and attempt to protect his friends, of whom he has many. So Victor and the monster mirror one another. The one is socially acceptable, makes friends wherever he goes, succeeds at whatever he does, is attractive and well liked, but is also callous. The other is impossibly ugly, but innocent and good-hearted.

Victor and his monster are two aspects of one being, who, superficially rational and scientific, suppresses his emotion and fears its implications, causing his own nature to turn from being innocent and loving, to being vicious and destructive. because they cannot work togther, they are both destroyed. On another level, Victor is both Mary Shelley's husband and her father, and she is their creation, doomed to be rejected by society and deprived of a proper family, wrestling with a terrible sense of abandonment.

A thought on Shelley's hazy grasp on science. Shelley claims in the introduction to the 1831 edition that she picked up her ideas on Darwin from hearing Byron and Shelley talk, and they were pretty inaccurate:
'They talked of the experiments of Dr. Darwin,(I speak not of what the Doctor really did, or said that he did, but, as more to my purpose, of what was then spoken of as having been done by him,) who preserved a piece of vermicelli in a glass case, till by some extraordinary means it began to move with voluntary motion.'

[> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> Adam or the Fallen Angel? -- Rahael, 11:38:31 08/06/03 Wed

Excellent point about Eden and the creation of Eve, Ms Giles, which was precisely what I was thinking.

I am now about half way through Frankestein - I must say, I didn't expect such a page turner. Though I do have a weakness for novels of this period.

This is what is most striking to me - how much the natural world figures in the novel, which is unsurprising when you consider how much Romantics valued the natural world in its wild state. The whole world seems to crackle with the electricity that is the spark of life.

What seems emphasised to me is how much Frankenstein's monster fits into the natural world, more so than Frankenstein himself, who is an onlooker. Indeed at one point the monster has to ask him to move further down the mountain, to a kinder climate to Frankenstein. The Monster on the other hand, seems more at one with natural surroundings. Presumably, mountains and glaciers cannot percieve his ugliness and reject him.

It also strikes me that Victor didn't so much trespass against the natural order of things when he created the monster, but that he behaved like an unkind God. He created the monster on a whim, without kindness, without caring, and then abandoned the creature and ran away. He didn't care for his welfare or his future.

So is Victor so much as wrong for the initial action, or for not having the magnitude of mind and character for being responsible for what he did?

Is the problem the creation, or what happened afterwards? Victor is the irresponsible patriarch. There seems some pointed commentary in that. It's also noteworthy that this takes place in Geneva, where there is no monarchy - Shelley explicitly refers to this - by having Elisabeth? Frankenstein? - saying that a republic meant that people behaved better towards each other.

I've just got to the point in the novel where Victor and the monster are talking to each other. The monster asks whether he is Adam or the Fallen Angel. This definitely asks us to parallel another story of creation.

As others have already pointed out, there's a very definite sense that the Monster is some part of Victor - the guilt that Victor feels at the murders for example. All very interesting.

And on a sidenote, which may be completely irrelevant. The Jura mountains keep being mentioned here. The only other place where I've encountered the Jura region is that it was one of the places where the European witch craze reached. It was unusual for having a lot of men condemned as witches, and, in another unusual particular, the status of witch was linked in Jura with religious heresy.

[> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> From the Monsters POV, do you think he considered Victor as God? (at least at first) -- WickedBuffy, 10:53:08 08/07/03 Thu

[> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> I don't know -- Rahael, 17:02:56 08/07/03 Thu

It seemed more meaningful within the context of the novel that he regarded Victor as a father, a cruel one at that.

The novel is rife with interesting kin relationships - the kindly blind grandfather, with his grandchildren, to whom the monster tries to plead with. Victor's relationship with his own father. Justine, the child they take in, who is later seen by society as an ungrateful monster. Family, society and those who are dislocated from it. The Arabian, whose father cheats her. There are more examples of the failed parent, including the one who loses at business and dies in dire poverty, leaving his child unprotected in the world.

The monster reflects all this, in his longing to belong within society, to have someone who would not flee from him.

And of course, many people address God, as 'Father' too.

I am still reading Frankenstein, and at this point, the monster seems very much a part of Frankenstein, expressing deep resentments that Frankenstein doesn't realise he has. He seems to be a deeply unreliable narrator.

[> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> "Dr. Darwin" -- KdS, 15:27:50 08/06/03 Wed

Note that the "Doctor Darwin" referred to here is not Charles, whose work on evolution came much later in the 19th century, but his less well-known grandfather Erasmus. Erasmus rather oddly straddled the borders of science and literature, writing two book-length works on plants in heroic couplets. The experiments which Mary Shelley referred to were claimed to prove the 19th century believe in the spontaneous generation of "lower" animals from rotting organic matter, which was finally disproved by Pasteur.

[> A bit of historical context stuff (all one long footnote really) for Chapter 1 -- MsGiles, 09:29:55 08/01/03 Fri

The book originates in 1816, when Shelley was staying with Percy Shelley and her sister Claire near Lake Geneva (and Byron) (She died in 1851, surviving both Percy Shelley and Byron).

Victoria reigned from 1837-1901, so 'Frankenstein' properly belongs to the Georgian era (which spans three Georges, and, briefly, a William, lasting from 1714-1837). George III was ruling at the time of writing (1760-1820). To his reign belongs the American War of Independance (1775-1783), the Irish Rebellion(1798) and the French Revolution (1789-1815 approx, if it's counted as ending when Napoleon fell). The Napoleonic wars had thus effectively just ended, and Europe was at peace. For the UK, the theatre of war would now move further afield, with wars in China, India and South Africa marking attempts to politically consolidate the economics of the British Empire. At the time of writing however, this was in the future.

In 1769 James Watt had demonstrated the steam engine, and in 1790 Arkwright launched the Spinning Jenny, which began the large-scale mechanisation of textile manufacture. Steam looms soon followed, and the weavers of Yorkshire and Lancashire found their livelihoods threatened by machinery that could do the work of thousands of artisans. The Luddite riots of 1811, and many local acts of sabotage and protest, resisted the trend, but the Industrial Revolution was under way. While the changes in society were bringing increased tolerance of religious and political freethinking, they were also paving the way for the abuses of early industrialisation: urban squalor and poverty on a far wider scale than hitherto seen, the horrors of 19c factory labour, and the accumulation of vast riches for the few at the expense of the many.

The book begins its framing narrative in St Petersburg, with the narrator, Robert Walton, heading for the North Pole. The Russian Revolution would not take place until 1917, and Russia in the early 19c was undergoing reforms under the moderate tsar Alexander I, with the abolition of serfdom beginning, and the lifting of bans on foreign books, so Shelley probably wouldn't have seen Russia as a hotbed of revolution at this time. It's interesting to note that Russia was at that time undergoing wars of conquest in Europe and Asia, and had been expanding into northern America, even as far as Northern California, establishing settlements.

This introductory passage does however establish the use of scenery as a literary device in the book. Shelley had been travelling in Europe with two poets very much attuned to the new Romantic (ant MUSIC!!) celebration of scenery, and she uses her observations effectively. Gothic literature of the late 18th/early19thc used landscape, architecture and weather to convey heightened emotion and brooding threat, and Shelley picks up on this convention to make the Swiss landscape one of the most vivid and appealing facets of the book.

To return to the Pole.. Walton expresses his desire to reach it, and his hope that its discovery will provide new scientific revelations. In 1816 the north pole was still very much terra incognita: while its existence had been deduced, it was hard to accurately place in the arctic icefields, let alone reach, in the wooden sailing ships of the time(1). So, when Shelley talks about reaching the pole, she's talking about something symbolic, more remote than the moon is to us now.


(1)(from http://www.geolab.nrcan.gc.ca/geomag/expeditions_e.shtml) The early nineteenth century was an exciting period in the history of magnetism. Interest in finding a sailing route through the Arctic islands, the so-called Northwest Passage, led to the British Royal Navy sending numerous expeditions to the Canadian Arctic. Because of its importance to navigation, the Royal Navy was also interested in magnetism and thus included magnetic observers on many of its expeditions, the most notable being Edward Sabine and James Clark Ross.

By 1829 sufficient magnetic observations had been made in the Canadian Arctic to restrict the location of the North Magnetic Pole to a hitherto unexplored section of the central Arctic. At this point the British Admiralty suddenly lost interest in Arctic exploration. However, John Ross (the uncle of James) was able to obtain sponsorship from the wealthy distiller Felix Booth for another attempt at the Northwest Passage ñ one that would go through the uncharted territory in which the North Magnetic Pole was thought to reside. Ross's expedition was remarkable in many ways. His ship, the Victory, was steam powered. This first attempt to use steam power in the Arctic caused the elder Ross to write "there seems indeed no end to the vexation produced by this accursed machinery..." The expedition was forced to spend four winters in the Arctic due to the imprisonment of the Victory in the ice. Eventually, the crew abandoned the Victory and reached the north coast of Baffin Island in lifeboats where they were rescued. In four years only three men were lost, a remarkable feat of survival for the time.

The location of the north pole was not accurately determined until the 1940's. However, the Norwegian Amundsen came within 400m of it during an expedition through the North West Passage in 1904.

[> Victor/the Monster and Angel/Angelus -- Arethusa, 21:49:14 08/01/03 Fri

I see Victor as a person split in two also, and one passage made me immediately think of Angel and Angelus.

I considered the being whom I had cast amoung mankind and endowed will the will and power to affect purposes of horror, such as the deed which he had now done, nearly in the light of my own vampire, my own spirit let loose from the grave and forced to destroy all that was dear to me. (pg. 124)

In the 18th century two men, through misplaced desires for fortune and glory, let their passions lead them to fatal mistakes. One embraced a prostitute and split in two, a monster and the man who made him. The other also created a new being that is not quite a man. And both see their creations create destruction to revenge themselves against their creators.

Victor Frankenstein wanted to learn the "secrets of heaven and earth" (pg. 86). He was eager for the "glory [that] would attend the discovery if I could banish disease from the human frame and render man invulnerable to any but a violent death!" (pg. 89.) And he was determined to imitate God through the power of creation. But this act lead to disaster and death, as the monster Frankenstein refused to recognize took his revenge. Angel's ideas of glory were not of imitating God-they were of personal glory. "I always wanted to be a prince," he tells Cordelia. His desire to live a life beyond that of ordinary men leads him to Darla, and to the release of his own monster, Angelus. Angelus also sought revenge against his creators-his father and God.

Rejection by their creators infused the monsters with purpose. Frankenstein's Monster was crushed when Victor rejected him on sight for his ugliness. "Oh, Frankenstein, be not equitable to every other and trample upon me alone, to whom thy nustice, an even thy clemency and affection, is most due. Remember that I am thy creature; I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel whom thou drivest from joy for no misdeed." (pp 145-146) He vows revenge on the creator who sentenced him to live his life separate from all humanity.

Liam, later Angelus, also hates his father for rejecting him.

Angel: ìDisappointment? A more dutiful son you couldnít have asked for. My whole life youíve told me in word, in glance, what it is you required of me, and Iíve lived down to your every expectations, now havenít I?î
Dad: ìThatís madness!î
Angel: ìNo. The madness is that I couldnít fail enough for you. (The Prodigal)

Darla: ìBut his defeat of you will last life times.î
Angel: ìWhat are you talking about? He canít defeat me now.î
Darla: ìNor can he ever approve of you ñ in this world or any other. (The Prodigal)

Angelus vented Angel's resentment towards his other creator, God. His resentment towards God was most evident in Sommnubulist, where Angel revealed he used to carve a cross on the cheek of his victims to "mock God." This fascination with desecration was mentioned several times. Angelus was said to prefer convents as feeding grounds, and pursued devout Druscilla, whom he met in the confessional while feeding on a priest.

Angel was also devestated by the rejection on his next creator, Darla, when he gained a soul, to the point of being fixated on small blondes. (Guise will be Guise) At one time Darla plays on his fear of being rejected by God by telling him, "God doesn't want you, but I do." (Darla) Finally, Angelus held his other self, Angel, in contempt. for attempting to live and be like the humans that often fled from Angel in terror when they saw his monstrous face.

To get their revenge against their creators, the Monster and Angelus sought to destroy all those Victor and Angel loved. The monster killed almost everyone Victor loved, to make him as alone as himself. Angelus fed quickly on his family, and on his second appearance, triggered by Buffy, sought revenge by threatening her friends and family. Both monsters were the tragic results of men who crossed mortal boundaries for fortune and glory.

[> [> Re: Victor/the Monster and Angel/Angelus-agree -- sdev, 22:32:50 08/01/03 Fri

"I considered the being whom I had cast amoung mankind and endowed will the will and power to affect purposes of horror, such as the deed which he had now done, nearly in the light of my own vampire, my own spirit let loose from the grave and forced to destroy all that was dear to me. (pg. 124)"

Can you give me a chapter for this as I'm sure I have a different edition.

Really interesting. Great parallel between the rejection by the fathers creating the monsters. And there is something similar in the methodical and calculating way Angelus and the Monster pursue their respective deeds of horror and death.

[> [> [> Thanks. -- Arethusa, 12:33:43 08/02/03 Sat

Chapter 7, about 2/3 of the way through the chapter.

And yes, both are methodical and calculating in their revenge. I thought it was fascinating that instead of rejecting the creator who rejected him, the Monster decided to get revenge. The thought of being forced to live alone forever made him "miserable, and [mankind] shall share my wretchedness."

[> [> [> [> Found the quote thanks -- sdev, 22:30:31 08/02/03 Sat

I wanted to see the context. Good pick-up.

The Monster had, at least initially, a goal in killing those close to Victor. At the outset, he hoped to convince Victor to create a mate for him. After that he went into vengeance mode. It was extortion, but purposeful and logical. Angelus was more helter skelter especially with Buffy. Both exhibited exquisite planning and control in going directly for their goals.

[> Great post -- Rahael, 12:40:47 08/06/03 Wed

Now that I'm reading the book, I can appreciate all the points!

Very nice analysis. I also found it significant that the monster points out that God made adam in God's image, and Frankenstein had made his monster in his own image. And that has accursed him.

And as you said elsewhere in this thread you can see Mary's own feelings reworked by her imagination in this creation of hers, the monster's feelings of alienation and yearning to be a part of human society is so resonant and powerfully made, that it eclipses all the other voices in the novel.

I hadn't expected to be so moved. It's a very complex book, very rich. No wonder it has stayed in the popular imagination. Glad this thread impelled me to actually read it.

[> [> TY. I'm glad so many people seem to have liked this book. -- sdev, 20:43:19 08/06/03 Wed

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