Frankenstein (2): Science and the Consequences of Creation. Chaps 3-10 Main Issues: The Nature of Scientific Creation vs. Family and Nature Destiny vs. Responsibility. Outline. Chap 3-5: Starting Questions Contemporary Science and Victor’s Pursuit of Knowledge
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The Nature of Scientific Creation vs.
Family and Nature
Destiny vs. Responsibility
Contemporary Science and Victor’s Pursuit of Knowledge
Study of Death and Creation of Man
* Destiny or Choice
The Creature and * Victor’s Responses (escape guilt duty)
the Role of Family and Friends; The Use of Letters;
The Role of Nature
* Justine and Frankenstein’s Secret
* Monster vs. Victor
Pursuit of Knowledge:
Under what conditions does Victor go to study?
What does he feel about studying? How does he change with studying?
Creation of Man: Destiny and Responsibility:
In the previous chapter (2), Victor sees all the development as a matter of destiny. Do you agree?
What are the characteristics of his creation of a man? Is it described clearly?
Elizabeth ill with scarlet fever,
The Mother contracts it and dies of it.
Before her death, she asks for Victor and Elizabeth’s union in marriage. (43)
Victor’s mourning process:
cannot accept her departure; reflections on her sounds and images in grief realizes his own duties to move on
Elizabeth’s responses – veils her grief and comforts others (44)
Cherval: cannot go.
(45)Alone: “ I loved my brothers, Elizabeth, and Clerval; these were "old familiar faces," but I believed myself totally unfitted for the company of strangers. Such were my reflections as I commenced my journey; but as I proceeded, my spirits and hopes rose. I ardently desired the acquisition of knowledge.
Is he changed? Or is he just not sociable? (Are you in a way similar when going to college?)
Between two teachers natural philosophy (note): Mr. Kempe and Mr. Waldman
M. Kempe: “you must begin your studies entirely anew.” (46)
Victor: not disappointed, but not convinced either (46) by the “little conceited fellow” to “exchange chimeras of boundless grandeur for realities of little worth” (47).
M. Waldman: convinces him to believe in chemistry or modern masters and to explore different branches of natural philosophy. (47)
"The ancient teachers of this science … promised impossibilities and performed nothing. The modern masters promise very little; they know that metals cannot be transmuted and that the elixir of life is a chimera but these philosophers, whose hands seem only made to dabble in dirt, and their eyes to pore over the microscope or crucible, have indeed performed miracles.” (47)
“Unless I had been animated by an almost supernatural enthusiasm, my application to this study would have been irksome, and almost intolerable“ (51)
“To examine the causes of life, we must first have recourse to death.”
From Death to the causes of life: the science of anatomy process of decay of human body.
Not afraid of darkness, churchyard. (note)
I saw how the fine form of man was degradedand wasted; I beheld the corruption of death succeed to the blooming cheek of life; I saw how the worm inherited the wonders of the eye and brain. I paused, examining and analysing all the minutiae of causation, as exemplified in the change from life to death, and death to life, until from the midst of this darkness a suddenlight broke in upon me--a light so brilliant and wondrous, yet so simple, that while I became dizzy with the immensity of the prospect which it illustrated, I was surprised that … that I alone should be reserved to discover
so astonishing a secret.(?)
The cycle of life; how the “human” gets disintegrated into the non-human but life goes on.
(p. 52) “After days and nights of incredible labour and fatigue, I succeeded in discovering the cause of generation and life; nay, more, I became myself capable of bestowing animation upon lifeless matter.
Victor: cannot stop his interest
Sees it as destiny:
(chap 2) His Views: e.g. nothing can alter my destiny (p. 30; 38; 42)
P. 45 Chance--or rather the evil influence, the Angel of Destruction, which asserted omnipotent sway over me from the moment I turned my reluctant steps from my father's door--led me first to M. Krempe
M. Waldman gives him some books, which “decide[s his] future destiny.” (49)
Hesitates over how to use his power but persuaded by his obsession, ambition and pride: pp. 52-55
Obsession and single-mindedness: his supernatural enthusiasm for something irksome;
Ambition and Pride: Thinks that he “alone” finds the secret. (p. 52) “What had been the study and desire of the wisest men since the creation of the world was now within my grasp.”
p. 53 I was encouraged to hope my present attempts would at least lay the foundations of future success.
P. 54-55 –continued expression of pride, transgression of boundaries and obsessiveness
“Life and death appeared to me ideal bounds, which I should first break through, and pour a torrent of light into our dark world.“
“If I could bestow animation upon lifeless matter, I might in process of time (although I now found it impossible) renew life where death had apparently
devoted the body to corruption.
restless, frantic, (54) engaged, heart and soul, in one pursuit. (55)
his lack of correspondence
His Father – V thought him “unjust” then; now he sees himself as not being “altogether free from blame.”
pursuit of study affects his “affections” and “taste for simple pleasure” (pp. 55-56)
Isn’t this a good reminder for us to balance our own “passionate” pursuit (of knowledge, happiness, etc.) with maintaining our sympathy for those around us and our simple pleasures in regular lives?
What are Victor’s responses to his creation of the creature? Why is he disgusted by the creature?
How does he fail to be responsible?
What do you think about the use of letters in these chapters?
The negative words used even when he describes his efforts: e.g. “dabbled among the unhallowed damps of the grave or tortured the living animal to animate the lifeless clay? ”(54) “collected bones from charnel-houses and disturbed, with profane fingers, the tremendous secrets of the human frame. ” “filthy creation”
Collects materials from charnel house, dissecting room and slaughterhouse implications: monster as a collage, symbolic of our own identities
pp. 57-58 --mixture of beauty and horror ” The creature: His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful! Great God! His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun-white sockets in which they were set, his shrivelled complexion and straight black lips.
Two kinds of dream – his dream of creation and his nightmare of his mother and Elizabeth
“I embraced her, but as I imprinted the first kiss on her
lips, they became livid with the hue of death; her features appeared to
change, and I thought that I held the corpse of my dead mother in my
arms; a shroud enveloped her form, and I saw the grave-worms crawling
in the folds of the flannel.”(58)
nightmare as a condensation of Victor’s multiple desires and feelings
of guilt and horror over his lack of responsibility, and his assumption of the role of a Creator ( the Mother’s role)
of desire for Elizabeth and the mother.
Signs of death intertwined with that of life. (later: the mother’s portrait as evidence of Justine’s guilt p. 79)
First Responses: “the wretch, the miserable monster” Escape, glad to see his enemy “fled”; ill, sees his creature as his “enemy” haunting him (p. 61)
(temporary relief –with Clerval and in nature)
The father’s letter about William’s death Remorse;
(p. 80): the monster as “the living monument of presumption and rash ignorance”
(pp. 91-92) “I had been the author of unalterable evils, and I lived in daily fear lest the monster whom I had created should perpetrate some new wickedness.
First encounter: wants to “extinguish the spark which [he] so negligently bestowed” (99)
End of chap 10: “For the first time, also, 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. (102)
comes to rescue just in time (59) and “brought” back Victor’s memories of his family
Nurses V when he is sick
Moves his apparatus away
Never asks to draw secret from him (68) Victor does not tell either.
Interested in oriental languages Victor finds in them temporary amusement (69)
Taught V to love nature and the cheerful faces of children
Recovery: (p.62) –observe outward object with pleasure; thanks Clerval (62, 70)
gaiety regained: chap 6 (70) “A selfish pursuit had cramped and narrowed me, until your gentleness and affection warmed and opened my senses; I became the same happy creature who, a few years ago, loved and beloved by all, had no sorrow or care. When happy, inanimate nature had the power of bestowing on me the most delightful sensations.” (70)
“A serene sky and verdant fields filled me with
ecstasy.” (chap 6) (chap 7, after the letter) “The sky was serene; and, as I was unable to rest,…”(75) (more later)
Letter: to show concern and to report the recent development of his family members (father, Earnest)
Happy and contented with doing “trifles.” (p. 64)
“Reminds” Victor of the way Justine arrives and she used to be his favorite.
Justine’s return prepares for the later development
The father’s and Elizabeth’s letters: make them more present in Victor’s life and the novel as a contrast to Victor’s negligence of them.
Unconvincing in terms of story-telling
a convention in the 19th-c novel.
As evidence of identification: (identity—artificial construct)
Elizabeth Lavenza– when introduced to Frankenstein's family, she has her mother's fortune secured to her "via accompanying documents" (F, 65);
Safie -- arrives at the de Lacey cottage in possession of the "letters" composing hers and Felix's earlier relationship (F, 148);
Frankenstein -- on the Irish shore along with letters which conveniently identify him to the local magistracy during the period in which he is comatose
Frankenstein’s object of study: Natural Philosophy – the causes of nature
Nature // human nature: F, as well as the monster, finds solace in nature—before they get entangled in their battle of revenge
“the natural” F changes the natural course of life (larger and later implication) Frankenstein Food//GM food
Finds solace in grander nature (the sublime) // a motif of the Romantic hero
(p. 74) "'Dear mountains! My own beautiful lake! how do you welcome your wanderer? Your summits are clear; the sky and lake are blue and placid. Is this to prognosticate peace, or to mock at my unhappiness?'"
tempest (76) This “noble war in the sky” elevates his spirit
[sees the monster at the spot of the murder]
[after the Justine case]
Like a Romantic Hero, he seeks to release his passions and forget himself by wandering in grand natural scenes. (the Alpine valleys) cease to fear
(94) “The immense mountains and precipices that overhung
me on every side, the sound of the river raging among the rocks, and the dashing of the waterfalls around spoke of a power mighty as Omnipotence--and I ceased to fear or to bend before any being less almightythan that which had created and ruled the elements, here displayed in their most terrific guise. Still, as I ascended higher, …”
(more on chap 10: pp. 96, 98) grief subdued, pleasure found ( cannot find comfort in nature later wandering in North Poles)
p. 96: “These sublime and magnificent scenes afforded me the greatest consolation that I was capable of receiving. They elevated me from all littleness of feeling, and although they did not remove my grief, they subdued and tranquillized it. ”
P. 98 “My heart, which was before sorrowful, now swelled with something like joy”
Suspicious because 1) she’s out all night; 2) when being questioned, she looked “very strangely”; 3) the picture found on her clothes pocket; 4) she falls ill (hysterical) immediately after the body is found.
Out at an aunt’s house;
Goes looks for Williams and sleeps only a few minutes at a place near the dead body;
Forced to confess “a lie” (87)
What do you think about Victor’s silence re. Justine’s innocence?
P. 76 – has no doubt that the monster is the murderer;
"My first thought was to discover what I knew of the murderer, and cause instant pursuit to be made. But I paused when I reflected on the story that I had to tell“ (77) nobody would believe it
Nobody could arrest him. (77)
"I was firmly convinced in my own mind that Justine . . . was guiltless of this murder. I had no fear, therefore, that any circumstantial evidence could be brought forward strong enough to convict her" (80) the story will induce horror and be seen as mad
Still silent 88
90 believes that he does it with good intention.
The Monster’s plea for his right to be happy (Victor’s duty), to cherish his life;
His plea for compassion and justice
His threat of having more power; of seeking revenge
“Listen to my story and then decide.” Gives Victor a choice
Frankenstein: 1) fight
(“Begone, or let us try our strength in a fight, ”);2) selfish concern
(“You have made me wretched beyond expression. ”)
Identity and right: "I will not be tempted to set myself in opposition to thee. I am thy creature, and I will be even mild and docile to my natural lord and king, if thou wilt also perform thy part, the which thou owest me."
Equity, justice and compassion: "Oh, Frankenstein, be not equitable to every other, and trample upon me alone, to whom thy justice, and even thy clemency(仁慈) and affection, is most due" (100)
In the beginning of the nineteenth century, London surgeons and students bought and mutilated thousands of dead bodies that had been stolen by the so-called “resurrection men,” the lowliest members of society. During this period, the midnight quiet of graveyards could suddenly erupt in gunfire and confrontation between the "resurrection men" (or grave robbers) and authorities.
In natural philosophy, we discussed the phenomenon in the Nature world, including cosmology, material objects, space, time, motion, natural law, and the origin of life, etc. I think the range is wider than physics and science, because natural philosophy also discuss something metaphysical. The major difference between natural philosophy and science lies in the "goal." Science searches for "what" and "how" in the Natural world; however, natural philosophy searches for "why" (the ultimate reason). Therefore, these two kinds of knowledge can exist at the same time and they do not conflict. (Alfonso Liu)
Considered to be either the counterpart, or the precursor of modern science (source)
Studies of cosmology, chance, elements and quantities of nature. In today’s univ, occupied mainly by Physics professors.
"Mary Shelley: Frankenstein", in Literature and Its Times: Profiles of 300 Notable Literary Works and the Historical Events that Influenced Them, Volume 1: Ancient Times to the American and French Revolutions (Prehistory-1790s), edited by Joyce Moss and George Wilson, Gale Research, 1997.