Who would have thought.

“I will probably never use this information again.” I thought as I walked toward the cathedral on my first day of class. I am a senior engineering student taking a summer English literature course. How is this going to be important for what I will do the rest of my life? Although I still asked the same question a few more times during this semester in frustration, I found that this class on Narrative and Technology would create a strong impact on my viewpoint towards engineering and technology.

I had an engineering class similar to this called sustainability, which I mentioned before on my previous posts. This class aimed at the same technological and environmental issues we dealt with in this course, but it had a different approach. It was solely taught with an environmentalism viewpoint. The course described all of the horrible things society has done to the environment, and the goal was to find the ways to analyze the damage. There was no talk about how to fix the problems or how to begin all of the changes needed to make a difference. When asked by the students on how we are going to solve this whole problem, the professors would just say that it was classified as a “wicked problem”, which meant that it was extremely complex and no one could solve it yet. We constantly watched documentaries and wrote reports basically saying how technology is ruining the world. Most of the time my classmates and I walked out of the class saying, “Well, that was depressing” and had no positive path to solve this problem.  I felt like I got nothing out of it.

So when I realized we were going to talk about these issues again in this class, I began to groan. It was such a relief though to realize that a different approach was going to be used instead. The book Frankenstein by Mary Shelley gave a solid introduction to the issue at hand, and began to illustrate the theme of taking care of your technology or “Loving Your Monsters”. Bruno Latour helped me see the interactions between humans and technology through translation and the actor network approach. Slack and Wise further described these theories with agency and assemblages. Keywords and discussions in class kept me constantly thinking about what I have read, and most of the time I left with a headache.

All of these ideas came together with the final piece from “Love Your Monsters”. The authors of Love Your Monsters had a Postenvironmental view on technology issues. Finally there were people that I completely agreed with! It was no longer a piece lecturing you to become a vegetarian and telling you how bad technology is. Their ideas revolved on taking care and fine tuning current technology and technology of the future. They encouraged technological growth, along with “continuing to care for unwanted consequences.” It was multidimensional thinking from all of these authors mentioned above that made me understand these issues.

So even though I may not be the best at making movies or writing in an English literature style, I got a lot out of this class. The master/slave dialect keeps me from being a zombie on my phone, Latour’s actor network theory gave me a valuable tool for solving very complex problems, and the postenvironmentalism take on technology gives me hope for earth’s future as well as mine.

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A letter to me… And a little more.

A letter to the future me…

  Dear Supatta,

  Never forget the summer of 2013 and the bitter taste left in your mouth after consuming the various readings from the Narrative and Technology class you took at Pitt.  Didn’t you learn a long time ago in Introduction to Biology that when things taste bitter you are supposed to spit them out because they might be poisonous?  Not everything you read can be purely scientific and factually based.  No wonder you had a six week headache as you tried your very best to think outside of the box!  And while you might not have enjoyed the readings that slithered before your eyes, lucky for you they were far from venomous.  You have to remember that you learned something valuable from this course.

  Translation.  Ontology.  Responsibility.  Control.  Culture.  Progress.  Technology.  ConnectionAssemblage.  These were all words thrown at you like a dodge ball you had no hope of evading.  Frankenstein, Aramis, Culture & Technology, and even Latour’s Love Your Monsters were all interdependent readings that formed an assemblage to coerce you into seeing the matrix of connection and responsibility between that of humans and non-humans. 

  But what did Latour try to convince you of as his words in Love Your Monsters snaked before your eyes?  Yes, you get it.  Victor Frankenstein did not love his creation.  Through divine example, God shows His Creation that He loves man by sending His Son to save what He created.  In return, man shunned His love and nailed His Son to a cross instead.  Is that what this argument has come down to?  That we have nailed our technologies to a cross left to die?  Technology will not raise itself from the dead.  It is up to us to love what we create; to nurture it before it nails us to a cross instead. 

   Remember an article you read before by Hugo Lindgren which appeared in the New York Times Magazine Innovation Issue:  Who Made That?  It’s too bad you didn’t suggest that this article be worked into the assemblage of readings from that Narrative and Technology class you took.  If you recall, Lindgren suggested that the last 50 years have lacked the transformational change that branded the 100 years prior.  A time traveler from the 70’s would not be impressed with the technologies of today.  Perhaps Latour could help Lindgren explain why that is.  Perhaps we have not “loved” or nurtured innovation enough to impress our time traveller, which is why nothing significant has bypassed such progress as the invention of the internal-combustion engine or electricity.  Sure, we have the Internet.  But are we “loving” the Internet the way we are supposed to.

  The major take home message from this class to remember is this:  The Internet, and similar modern technology, will nail you to a cross and leave you to die unless you take responsibility, control, and nurture that which God created through man’s hands.  We do not love the Internet, for example, in the right way.  Lindgren suggests that the Internet has “boosted our capacity for distraction, procrastination, extended inquiries into trivia, locating the ideal restaurant for every possible location and pornography”.  This is not a significant leap forward in progress.  The Internet (a non-human) has become the Master to you (the human) in this master/slave dichotomy.  Now that you recognize this through the enlightenment of the Narrative and Technology course you took, it is time to awake from the “dream of emancipation” and not exclude non-humans from the matrix of the living world.

Yours truly,

Supatta

 _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Something I need to say separate from this letter:

While I understand Latour is not trying to be blasphemous in his attempt to rewrite Mark 8:36 as “What good is it for man to gain his soul yet forfeit the whole world?”, I am compelled to rebut that this Scripture has meaningful connections to what we have talked about in class as it is originally written and intended.  Mark 8:36 states “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”  As I see it, Latour has taken this Scripture out of context to boost his argument with fallacy (I know, I know… I have it in for all the authors in this course).  So here is where I build back from what I tore down:  In context, this quote is referring to man willingly forsaking his own life for Christ and gaining eternal life in return.  But in denying Christ and saving himself, he forfeits eternal life instead (Mark 8:35).  So, not forsaking technology leads to salvation later:  i.e. air conditioning is an awesome innovation but it utilizes chloroflourocarbons, which deplete the ozone.  If we “loved” air conditioning the right way back in the 1920’s, and further developed faster it in such a way that did not murder nature, then maybe the ozone wouldn’t be in the dire condition it is today.  Will we not have to answer to God for destroying that which God created (example is ozone)?  That question is for those that believe in God, as I am not trying to be blasphemous myself.  But maybe I learned something about Latour in tearing his Scripture reversal to pieces (perhaps he doesn’t believe in God, which is fine.)  However, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” OR in context of this class “What good it is for someone to birth technology and leave it to fend for itself, yet forfeit nature?” 

Maybe these are incoherent thoughts, but I don’t think Latour needed to reverse the Scripture.  It is still applicable in its original form.

Reference:

http://www.nytimes.com/packages/html/magazine/2013/innovations-issue/#/?part=introduction

 

Doctor Frankenstein the Dummy

A living being has a pumping heart, flowing blood, and most certainly the ability to emotionally feel a certain way. How did Frankenstein not realize that with the endeavor to bring a creature to life, it would be emotionally connected to others and its surroundings? And, how did he not think that an existence of an eight foot tall, utterly distorted looking being wouldn’t be alarming to the people of the world? With a portion of the novel focused solely on Frankenstein’s accumulation of knowledge through texts and professors, I honestly think that Shelley spent the rest of the novel counteracting the fact.

Every year on Halloween, there will be green-faced children (and adults) prowling the trick-or-treating streets. This is on Halloween—when the entire motivation is for people to choose an identity that they could never possibly be.  So, when Frankenstein had an epiphany to create his form of life, did he strive for something to actually be able to live, or just to be able to breathe? With how difficult and meticulous it must be to create a living form, I presume that Frankenstein put almost zero thought into it. This is especially depicted when he is disposing of his semi-finished companion for the creature. On page 125, he states, “I felt as if I was about the commission of a dreadful crime, and avoided with shuddering anxiety any encounter with my fellow-creatures.” While he considers the monster’s actions as the utmost wrong doing and evil, he is thinking hypocritically. He didn’t even finish the female form of the monster, yet throwing its parts away made him feel lawfully wrong and embarrassed. As opposite he feels the monster being to a human, he feels that the human population would detest his disposing of the creature.

Also, on page 124, Frankenstein states, “The remains of the half-finished creature, whom I had destroyed, lay scattered on the floor, and I almost felt as if I had mangled the living flesh of a human being.” So, when Victor had decided to create his first living being, did he really think that any breathing creature other than a human would be accepted? When destroying the second creation, he compares it to a human being, but with the first he impulsively brought it to life.

My question is, if Frankenstein is so quick to comparing his semi-finished second creation to a human being, did he not think his first creature would act and feel like one as well? Ultimately, do you think the Frankenstein is as wise as Shelley portrays him in the beginning of the novel, and through Robert’s letters at the end?

Shelley’s Archaic Dichotomy

As noted in several previous blog-posts, one of the many dichotomies consistent throughout “Frankenstein” is that of Nature vs. Science. Shelley makes it clear which to her is superior; she condemns Frankenstein to a miserable fate as punishment for his pursuit of scientific progress, while Clerval stands as a shining beacon of happiness through his appreciation of all things “natural.” Throughout his wretched wanderings, Frankenstein continually ventures to places of magnificent natural beauty — alpine lakes and winding rivers — in search of temporary solace from his all-consuming anguish.

Throughout the reading, this theme becomes clearer and clearer. Throughout the reading, I found myself more and more displeased with her message, and the existence of this dichotomy in the first place. Science is not something unnatural, not some brand of sorcery, but simply the systematic study and application of nature itself. When a monkey uses a stick to catch bugs, or an otter a rock to crack sea urchins, it is not unnatural. Just so, neither are more complex human innovations. In creating life, Frankenstein did not disrupt nature, but instead explored one of its many previously unexplored capabilities.

To defy nature is, in fact, impossible; anything that takes place in the natural world must be inherently natural. The dichotomy presented supports a purely dogmatic worldview — that certain actions are locked within the realm of the “supernatural,” and for a mortal to attempt and succeed at taking part is the ultimate sin, bound to inflict irreparable damage and suffering on the human-race. Using the monster as her mouthpiece, Shelley urges her audience to “seek happiness in tranquility and avoid ambition, even if it be only the apparently innocent one of distinguishing yourself in science and discoveries” (208).

Her lesson is to squelch the desire to overstep the boundaries which contain men and impede greater understanding. Had Frankenstein not pursued such a lofty innovation, he would have spent his days cradled in his family’s warm embrace, instead doomed to perish among strangers in a frozen wasteland.

In breaking apart Shelley’s dichotomy, however, I do not wish to establish an inverted one of my own. Just as “disruptive” human innovation is not evil, nor is it intrinsically positive in consequence. Scientific progress itself is neutral, and must be judged based on its application. When Einstein helped invent the atomic bomb, he created an instrument capable of destructive power previously reserved to the gods — and destroy it did. However, most would posit that its use caused less destruction than had it not been created.

By refusing the genesis of a second monster, Frankenstein turned away from building his own atomic bomb — a scientific creation that could have either put an end to impending suffering, or multiplied it tenfold. “I did right in refusing, to create a companion for the first creature” (207), he declares on his death bed. In the end, he is content with his decision to cease playing-god, and Shelley places an exclamation point on her case against “gambling” with nature.

While Frankenstein should have been more comprehensive in his foresight, I think that Shelley goes too far in her condemnation of his actions. Do you think that, as stated in Connected, “growth for growth’s sake is cancer,” or is this a mischaracterization?

Disclaimer — I would  like to admit a personal bias: I am an entrepreneur, always trying to think up better, more innovative ways of doing things. Even if it “ain’t broke,” I still want to fix it. In my circles, “disruption” is a golden word, and, like Frankenstein, I know I’m not the most responsible of innovators, usually preferring to take the “jump-right-in” approach, rather than cautiously testing the waters. Don’t worry though, my “little monsters” aren’t going to be eating you anytime soon…hopefully. I just wanted to better frame the post with regards to it’s author.

Mary Shelley: The Most Boring Killer Ever to Live

In comparison to today’s movies and television series, Mary Shelley’s kills of her characters in Frankenstein were completely boring to me. It may sound slightly bitter to desire more details on such a morbid topic, but I feel that every death (and there were a lot of them) could have been described in much more detail.

The death that was particularly disappointing to me and led me to this discussion was that of Victor’s wife, Elizabeth. On page 145, Victor says, “I escaped from them to the room where lay the body of Elizabeth, my love, my wife, so lately living, so dear, so worthy. She had been moved from the posture in which I had first beheld her…” This was the only real detail given of the passing of Elizabeth, and I find it to be, frankly, boring and unexciting. This should be a part of the story line that really gets the reader excited and curious to keep reading. I feel as though Shelley should have had the monster sneak up and kill Elizabeth right in front of Victor. This would have caused a more interesting follow up and chase of the monster rather than the boring single missed gunshot and search of the lake.

Another death that I found rather boring was that of Victor’s father. He is killed off very suddenly and rather unexpectedly. Shelley writes, “He could not live under the horrors that were accumulated around him; the springs of existence suddenly gave way: he was unable to rise from his bed, and in a few days he died in my arms.” (147). I actually had to read this passage several times to make sure I understood because I was so surprised that this happened just two pages after the death of Elizabeth. I was still thinking of the disappointment of Elizabeth’s boring passing when seemingly out of nowhere Shelley hits us with another lame death.

Do you believe that Shelley intentionally left her deaths vague and boring as she did with the creation of the monster? Or do you disagree completely that the deaths were boring and poorly written?

Frankenstein is an Idiot

As I was reading the last section of Mary Shelley’s book, Frankenstein, I became increasingly frustrated with Dr. Frankenstein’s character. Throughout this whole book, Frankenstein’s lack of judgment and self-loathing are the main causes of his misfortunes, even though he gradually blames them on the creature.

The first major mistake Frankenstein made was the quick dismissal of his creation. If only Frankenstein had developed more time into thinking about the effects of his creation in the future, rather than hastily putting things together, he would have created a safer, more controllable being. He realized what a dangerous thing he created and abandoned it, which as a student of science myself, find incomprehensible. Furthermore, he blames the creature for all of his misfortunes instead of realizing that he is responsible. A comparable situation is if a structural engineer builds a bridge, and that bridge fails and kills one hundred people. In Frankenstein’s eyes, it was the bridge’s fault for failing and not the lack of foresight and knowledge of the engineer.

To elaborate on this theory, a passage from the final chapter illustrates a potential better outcome if Frankenstein stuck with his creation. “Oh, Frankenstein! Generous and self-devoted being! What does it avail that I now ask thee to pardon me? I, who irretrievably destroyed thee by destroying all thou lovedst. Alast! He is cold, he cannot answer me. (163)” The creature actually respected and wanted to have contact with Frankenstein. It reveals that the monster only wanted compassion and feel related to human beings. If Victor would have continued to work with the creature after he was alive, it would have resulted in a better outcome for all.

In the end, the monster realizes the mistake Frankenstein made. He takes the responsible route to make sure Frankenstein’s mistake will not be reproduced. “I shall collect my funeral pile, and consume to ashes this miserable frame, that its remains may afford no light to any curious and unhallowed wretch, who would create such another as I have been. (166)” Even the monster with a still developing brain realized how ugly he was, and Victor could not when he was making him.

Although I disliked Victor’s character in the story, I found Mary Shelley’s theme of responsibility for knowledge and power interesting. If Victor would have addressed the experiment in a more professional and responsible manner, he probably would not be dead on a boat in the arctic

Monstrosity Begets Monstrosity

An argument was brought up in our last class: that knowledge, Frankenstein’s knowledge of natural philosophy, and the creature’s knowledge of human civilization, were followed hand in hand by misery. In a way, I would say this is true: the creature’s learning of the goodness of men only set him up for greater pain upon his rejection. Victor’s knowledge (or even the anxiety of knowledge to come) of the creature’s deeds were, in almost all cases, followed by extreme malcontent. Even Elizabeth’s knowledge of a terrible truth that Victor would only reveal to her upon the day after her wedding night brings upon her a sense of uneasiness, apprehension, and foreboding. “Thus Elizabeth endeavoured to divert her thoughts and mine from all reflection upon melancholy subjects. But her temper was fluctuating; joy for a few instants shone in her eyes, but it continually gave place to distraction and reverie. (238)”

I assert, that it is not knowledge that caused the hardships of both Frankenstein and his creature, but the absence of rationalism. From the very beginning, Victor acted impulsively with respect to his creation: he shut himself away from the world for the labor of his creation, not allowing his outward appearance to affect his progress. He chose to take no precaution to the creature’s life: no steps were made to assure that the creature would not get out of hand. And when the creature inevitably did get out of hand, no effort was made to deal with the situation until it manifested itself upon him again.

In addition I argue that, were the creature blessed with any more rationalism than what his creator lacked, many of his hardships could have been avoided. The creature freely admitted to Frankenstein that the manner in which he approached the De Lacey family was partially responsible for causing their abandonment. Latching on to a frail old blind man in the hopes he might champion a perfect stranger to his family was wishful thinking, at best. And then, when viciously attacked by Felix, fleeing from the assault instead of attempting to dissuade the family with words could not have helped his case. The monster (and he is indeed a monster at this point and not just a creature) acted out of brash impulsive revenge toward William and Clerval when, I argue, it would be damning enough merely to reveal one’s self to Frankenstein’s family. This monster learned eloquence, persuasion, and even written speech from his stay at the De Lacey cottage, why did he not use these tools?

How could rationalism have helped Victor deal with a murderer attempting to pick off members of his family? Elizabeth suggested Victor forget the murderer of William and instead dwell on the remaining happiness of their family, but wouldn’t it have been prudent, at any point between Victor’s meeting the monster in volume II up until his return to Geneva to marry Elizabeth, to mention that this murderer was still at large and had demonstrated a will to commit death to those Victor held dear?

Most damning I feel, are Victor’s actions surrounding his second creation. Though he considers himself a slave of his monster’s will at this point, he is at least convinced that the monster will follow him, and will attempt to steal away the female creature upon its completion. He comes to the conclusion that releasing a second monster upon the world would ultimately be worse for humanity than allowing the one monster to torture him, and this is reasonable I feel. He has dozens of options at this point, many of which can be leveraged to gain an advantage. Even the problem of the monsters creating a race of devils could be dealt with – Victor is creating this female, after all. But instead, in a fit of impulsiveness and irrationality after just a glimpse of the monster’s face, Victor destroys the only bargaining chip he has with an adversary his physical superior. Gone is any chance for Victor to set a trap for his monster with the world’s most surefire bait, impossible now to put the monster into a situation in which his strength would not afford him any advantage.

Victor Frankenstein’s greatest competitive advantage against the solitary monster is the strength he and his fellow humans have in mutual defense. He mentions peasants willing to help him on his last journey into the frozen north simply because he is chasing the fearsome thing, much less Walton and his expedition. And yet, for the entirety of the novel, Victor refuses to leverage this advantage.

An intelligent being such as Victor need not have told anyone the truth about the nature of his creation for help to have been provided to him – not the magistrate who didn’t believe him, or even Walton’s expedition (though the story would have been far more mysterious). In fact I feel as if Victor isn’t just talking about the monster when he says that “He is eloquent and persuasive, and once his words had even power over my heart; but trust him not. His soul is as hellish as his form, full of treachery and fiendlike malice. Hear him not; call on the names of William, Justine, Clerval, Elizabeth, my father, and of the wretched Victor, and thrust your sword into his heart. (259)”. It is a shame, then, that the less hellish of the two would seek only to outdo the other in its inhumanity.

It’s over between us, Frankenstein!

I do not like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein…  period.

I find objectionable her chief character, Victor Frankenstein, even more. 

Based on my previous blog posts, one can easily ascertain that the lack of systematic detail as it pertains to the creation aggravates my analytical and methodical approach to the sciences.  Frankenstein would have been much more remarkable to me had the author provided scientific detail in support of the creation.  We know that stitching up random body parts accompanied by a jolt or two of electricity will not conceive a live being; but at least some bit of literary speculation could have added so much more to the amusement of this tale for me.  That is not to say that I would not have torn any piece of that speculated science to shreds; it is just to say that the entertainment factor would have been ten-fold in my opinion.

Given that, any reference to anything scientific in nature caught my attention.  The following excerpt widened my eyes a bit at the mention of Victor’s addiction to laudanum:  an opium infused cocktail if you will.

“Ever since my recovery from the fever, I had been in the custom of taking every night a small quantity of laudanum; for it was by means of this drug only that I was enabled to gain the rest necessary for the preservation of life.  Oppressed by the recollection of my various misfortunes, I now swallowed double my usual quantity, and soon slept profoundly.” (135)

This quote leads me to the following speculations:

1.  Did Mary Shelley have the knowledge to write this book from a viewpoint I, or anyone else for that matter, would have rather enjoyed?  She obviously knew enough to make reference to laudanum; hence, surely she could have concocted a protocol of some sort to shed light on the details of the creation.  Alternatively, if she did have the capability to give scientific detail to her story, did she deliberately choose not to?  Perhaps the following quote answers this:

“Sometimes I endeavoured to gain from Frankenstein the particulars of his creature’s formation:  but on this point he was impenetrable.  [“Are you mad, my friend? Or whither does your senseless curiosity lead you?  Would you also create for yourself and the world a demoniacal enemy?  Peace, peace!  Learn my miseries, and do not seek to increase your own.”]” (156)

Conceivably, withholding the details of the creation was Shelley’s intent and she justifies either her lack of knowledge, or purposeful omission, with the above quote from her main character.

2.  The second speculation I had that I wanted to touch briefly on, which has nothing to do with why the text is lacking scientific detail, is whether Victor’s apparent addiction to laudanum made him a “mad” scientist.  Laudanum is known to have the side effect of dysphoria; Victor was obviously depressed, but the drug may have enhanced it leading him to make poor decisions.  It is also known to cause constipation and who can think straight when they need to unload anyways (everyone quietly chuckle to themselves now).  He states that he takes the opium alcohol mixture every night since he recovered from fever.  Did this affect the decisions he made that lead to the death of his friend Clerval and wife Elizabeth? 

These are things I ponder as I close the door on Frankenstein; a book I do not care to open again.

Victor Frankenstein: the World’s Most Unintelligent Scientist

While the lack of accurate description of any scientific process in this book can be attributed to the fact that Mary Shelley was not herself a scientist, I find the character Victor Frankenstein’s decisions unbelievably stupid for someone who we are led to believe is brilliant enough to animate a lifeless body. After Frankenstein agrees to create a woman for his creature, he gets about halfway through the process of bringing her to life when, finally stopping to think about the repercussions of his task, he chooses to destroy his work after realizing that the monsters could breed and terrorize more people. Knowing full well how desperate his creature is for a companion, he tears her to pieces while the creature looks on through a window. Frankenstein has to know that this would drive the monster into an insatiable rage, yet he does it anyway, instead of doing something sensible like designing the female monster to be infertile. This certainly wouldn’t be difficult for someone as supposedly brilliant as Victor Frankenstein, and springs to mind relatively easily as the solution to his fears of monster children. Even if the monster would become angry that he could not have children, by the time he could realize this the female and himself would have already left Europe, and the cause of the infertility could not be directly attributed to Victor’s designs regardless. But no, it clearly makes much more sense to provoke the eight-foot-tall monstrosity you’ve created by promising to give him a companion that won’t treat him like a monster and then tearing it to pieces before his very eyes.

Frankenstein’s monster then explains pretty clearly that he is after revenge for this slight. ” I go;” he says, “but remember, I shall be with you on your wedding-night.” Victor then immediately assumes that the monster will come for him on the day of his wedding. Frankenstein enraged his monster by taking away his wife, his companion. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that a monster so blatantly motivated by revenge would seek to inflict the same pain upon Frankenstein by taking his own bride away. Frankenstein laments his blindness in hindsight, but how hard would it have been for him to understand this in the first place? Instead, he leaves his new bride alone with absolutely no protection, and-surprise! She is murdered. After his father dies of grief, Frankenstein has lost everyone he cares about.

These lapses in judgement make it hard for me to feel sympathetic for Frankenstein as a character. I understand that the story was building to a tragic ending, and there is nothing wrong with that, however the steps taken to orient the story in that direction are so silly to me that I find my suspension of disbelief completely shattered. The ending of this story did not have the desired effect on me, I’m sure. I did not feel an ounce of sympathy for Frankenstein after all of the tragedies he had endured. All I could think was that he brought everything on himself for refusing to act intelligently for even one moment.

Class: Do you find Frankenstein’s actions to be that of a believable character? Did this overshadow your experience of the story at all?

Knowledge: A Benefit or Burden?

I always assumed in the past that knowledge was always considered as a benefit. The more you know, the better off you will be in life. Mary Shelly has a reoccurring negative connotation for knowledge in the second portion of Frankenstein. Frankenstein’s monster, as well as Victor Frankenstein himself, deteriorates overtime with the accumulation of knowledge.

The monster’s development and accumulation of knowledge is described vividly in chapters 11 through 16. In the beginning of his existence, the monster’s knowledge is focused on the ability to survive on his own. This knowledge of survival leads him to cross paths with human beings. This is where, in my opinion, the monsters development in knowledge shifts from science and objective reasoning to personal connection and emotion. The monster realizes through the people in the cottage that he is much different than the rest of the people.  He develops disgust in himself and this incites his anger toward Frankenstein as shown in the following excerpt:

“And when I became full convinced that I was in reality the monster I am, I was filled with the bitterest sensations of despondence and mortification. Alas! I did not yet entirely know the fatal effects of this miserable deformity. (80)”

This emotion continues to grow as the monster gains knowledge and he realizes that he will never be able to fit into society. “I had never yet seen a being resembling me, or who claimed any intercourse with me. What was I? The question again recurred, to be answered only with groans. (86)”

Mary Shelly continues the theme that too much knowledge will lead to the destruction of one’s self through Victor and Clerval. She makes a direct comparison with knowledge and state of mind. Victor’s constant pursuit of knowledge leaves him miserable, while Clerval’s ignorance makes him enjoy every aspect of live. The two men travel to England and engage in the same voyage, but represent the voyage in entirely separate fashions. “’This is what it is to live,’ he (Clerval) cried, ‘now I enjoy existence!  But you, my dear Frankenstein, wherefore are you desponding and sorrowful?’ (112)” Victor’s knowledge of his wrongdoings weighs heavy on him and is restricting him from the happiness that Clerval gets out of the experience.

I somewhat disagree with Mary Shelley’s take on knowledge. She constantly associates knowledge with despair and happiness with ignorance and nature. I think that knowledge can be used to heighten your experiences and provide an avenue for greater happiness, as long as it is handled responsibly.

Do you agree with Shelley’s take on knowledge or do you think it can aid in one’s happiness?