Long-Term Storage

Brain: David, we have once again successfully arrived at the conclusion of a college course! These past six weeks have been a feast of discussions, knowledge, information, and readings. I have consumed fact after fact, and dutifully processed the words of Bruno Latour, Slack and Wise, Mary Shelley, and Professor Campbell. This course has been quite a different experience than the science courses from the previous year; my right side has been active now more than ever. However, we must now begin that tricky process of deciding what to store in long-term memory. What will stay with us for the remaining years to come?


David: Brain, you know that I always hate this process. Why must we choose to keep some experiences while eliminating others? Can’t we just retain it all?


Brain: You know that such is infeasible. How can we hope to consolidate this entire course? Narrative and Technology has been an immense assemblage, consisting of both human and nonhuman actors. Your fellow students, the blog, the video memoirs, the movies, the computers, the readings, the professor, and even the snacks are just some of the few stars within the entire constellation. We cannot even conceive of retaining the name of each snack or the word of every classmate. Now, we must choose carefully. The ideas and words from this class that we store in long-term memory will be the ones that we will carry with us for the rest of our lives. I will now summon long-term memory.


David: Very well, let us begin. We’ll start with Frankenstein. I agree with Latour; Frankenstein’s greatest sin was not his hubris in creating the monster, but rather his fear that led him to abandoning his creation. Had he taken the time to cultivate his creation, it would have been something truly wonderful. Such can also be said of Aramis. It was due to a lack of true love that Aramis remained unrealized. If the engineers, politicians, contractors, corporations, and officials truly loved Aramis, then they would have found some way to bring it into existence.


Brain: This will be consolidated. Whew, for a second, I thought that you wanted me to remember every one of Latour’s philosophies.


David: Actually, you’re still responsible for those.


Brian: ……


David: Do your best.


Brain:  I’ll let you know how that goes. Anyway, continue.


David: Slack and Wise argue that our technologies are not discrete, autonomous entities. Rather, both humans and technologies are components of vast assemblages. The interrelations between humans and technologies are what give the assemblage agency. Let us not forget the example of the massive power outage in North America; human politics, an underbrush fire, and the flow of electricity were some of the many actants in the grid assemblage that contributed to millions of people losing power.


Brain: This will be consolidated. What else?


David: Well, if we are dependent on our technologies, and agency comes from the relations between humans and technology, then does a lack of love for technology mean that we do not love ourselves?


Brain: I do not understand. Elaborate.


David: Well, if both humans and technologies are a part of the same assemblages, then that means that the action of human actants will affect the nonhuman actants (and vice versa). If we neglect our technologies, then they will not improve. On the contrary, they can elicit many unintended consequences, which can hurt us humans. This interrelation is due to the fact that humans and technologies dependent on each other. Thus, if we do not love our technologies, then we are bringing suffering onto ourselves. Our lack of love for our technologies implies a lack of love for ourselves.


Brain: Interesting idea. However, I have my doubts. I think that our many conveniences like videogames, refrigerators, cars, and televisions indicate that we do love ourselves. Why else would we invent these things?


David: Perhaps the inventors of these things were consumed by the same obsessions as Frankenstein; they wanted to push the human limits that are identified by Slack and Wise: space and time. Maybe they wanted to show the brilliance of their own capacities. Certainly, not all technologies are left unloved. The creator of penicillin could have discarded that bacteria plate fouled with a fungus. Yet, he decided to cultivate this observation by discovering that the fungus secreted the antibiotic penicillin. With his careful work, he created an antibiotic that has saved countless lives. But on the whole, I believe that our race is in our current state because we have stopped loving our technologies, which indicates that we have stopped loving ourselves.


Brain: And your example of this is…?


David: American healthcare. Why is it that we have a third-world healthcare system despite the fact that we are one of the most powerful countries? Our system is old and inefficient, showing that we did not take the time to cultivate and update our healthcare. Thus, people with curable maladies continue to suffer. If we truly loved humans, then we would have changed our system despite economic consequences. How about electronic medical records? I have heard countless physicians complain of the difficulties that they have with the medical record software. Why use such difficult software? Simple: it’s cheap. Like the story of Aramis, if we loved our patients, then we would have found someway to birth effective software, despite the costs. Like Frankenstein, however, we have abandoned the systems that were designed to take care of humans.


Brain: This will be consolidated. What else?


David: Above all, we must not forget love. We must not try to emancipate ourselves from our surroundings, including our technologies. We have to intervene with love. We must start a long-term relationship with our technologies, so that we may save them and ourselves.


Brain: This will be consolidated. We shall remember this for the trials ahead.


David: Yes, for wherever we wind up in five, ten, twenty, fifty years, we must not forget to love the other actants. Without this love, we will have no agency for change.


Brain: This will be consolidated. According to the short-term memory, it is now time to switch the laundry.


David: Right!


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,



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.




A Dead Soul

When first putting a connection between the two of Latour’s statements, the phrase, ‘my soul is dead,’ comes to mind. A person can be up and running– a completely functioning flesh and bones being, however he/she could feel like his/her insides have literally shut down. I’ve come to notice that some people let the realities of life take them over. If somebody has a bad day, or does badly in school, it leads to a 180, and the person’s world as he/she knows it is over. That is because, as Latour says, “reality sets anyone who looks for it to quaking all over.” A person, just like a piece of technology, can just be inanimate. However, unlike the storybook– where there has to be a culprit– in reality, there doesn’t. It is true that there is usually a guilty party; somebody to blame. But, in reality, there are plenty of tangents that could perpetrate a ‘death.’ With a technological innovation, there’s a plethora of factors that could contribute to some sort of death within the process, but that does not create an assassinating, butchering, murder.
In the case of Aramis, Latour argues that “there was no murder,” even though it was a failed project. On page 292, Latour writes, “You had a hypersensitive project, and you treated it as if you could get it through under its own stream. But you weren’t nuclear power, you weren’t the army; you weren’t able to make the ministries, the Budget Office, or the passengers behave in such a way as to adapt themselves to Aramis’ subtle variations, to its hesitations and its moods. And you left Aramis to cope under its own steam when it was actually weak and fragile. You believed in the autonomy of technology.” He explains the fact that Aramis is a product of reality. The certainties of reality is that when things are too difficult for a person, and that person begins “quaking all over,” he/she will become overwhelmed. Aramis, as an actor, became completely overwhelmed with all of the intricacies within its operation. So, since its innovators couldn’t control every minuscule element, they didn’t intentionally and vigorously put an end to it. Aramis died out on its own.
If somebody claims that his/her ‘soul is dead,’ in a novel, then the truth of it is that he/she will rise up to the occasion, and come to a growing realization– ultimately being able to crawl out of the cave. The truth happens in novels. However, in reality it eats away at the person, and becomes a death, not a murder.
Latour’s statements connect directly to Victor Frankenstein’s creation in Frankenstein. The monster was created; he had flesh, blood, bones, a brain, and the whole package. However he, as an actor, came to a death as well. Without the correct guidance and supervision, his thoughts were maliciously directed. Ultimately, the monster was still there, but his emotions had died.

Connecting people to ideas

Many people define the word, “translation”, as a path to understanding the meanings of two spoken languages. My interpretation of Bruno Latour’s definition of translation in this novel is different. Latour depicts translation as the ability to understand the relationship between technology and sociology. As an engineer myself, I now recognize the lack of “translation” that occurs with many engineers today.

Generally, Engineers have a narrow scope of work that they need to accomplish to reach their goal. For example, a transportation engineer may design an extremely efficient subway station that can save an ample amount of energy and cost. However, if the routes to the subway stations are not convenient for the customers, or the stations are not at the desirable locations, the project will eventually fail. Latour’s vision of translation describes the relationship engineers need to have with the customers that their design will service. Bardet is considered a genius to Latour because he shares this idea of translation. The company Marta’s excerpt from its report also illustrates this:

“By offering users a free choice between two equally attractive methods, it (Aramis) gives the automobile’s “prisoners” their freedom back. By pulling part of the traffic off the roads, it improves traffic conditions… Aramis’s users constitute a clientele that appreciates the advantages of the automobile, while rejecting its disadvantages (40-41).”

This translation appeals to the consumers because it relates to their lives, and how this amazing system can increase the happiness for the users, as well as the automobile drivers. By relating the idea to the public, support of the project will increase and progress can continue.

An aspect of translation that I found fascinating in the novel occurs when an interview excerpt from the Aeroport de Paris on pages 46 – 48 is described. Here M. Henne, the head of the bureau of technological studies, describes why he helped fund the Aramis Project. “Aramis had to be done. Was it doable? I really don’t know. But you know, I still tell myself that if somebody came up with the idea of the automobile today and had to go before a safety commission and explain, I don’t know, let’s say, how to get started on a hill . . . ! Just think how complicated it is: shifting gears, using the hand brake, and so on. He wouldn’t stand a chance! He would be told ‘it can’t be done.’ Well, everybody knows how to start on a hill! It’s the same with Aramis. We hadn’t gotten all the kinks out, but yes, I think it was doable.”

This caught my attention in the novel. Bruno later says that “ambiguity is a part of translation (48)”. He describes that ambiguity and ‘faith’ in a project is the only way a project can finish. By criticizing the project on every level before it begins will provide no progress. A certain level of ambiguity is vital for the concept of translation.

Translation is necessary for great ideas to materialize into objects. Without the understanding of sociology and personal behavior, major renovations and improvements to civilization will not become reality.

This view of translation is similar in Shelley’s Frankenstein. Dr. Frankenstein creates the monster without any translation to society. He purely looks into the scientific aspect of his creation, and it is responsible for his and his family’s downfall. A possible great contribution to scientific advancement is ruined because of lack of translation.

Translating the Truth into Progress: The Scientists Dilemma

Victor Frankenstein grew up with a love of science. He was in awe of the forces of nature and ultimately inspired to bend them to his will when he witnesses lightning strike an oak tree in his youth. He conspires to bring a monster to life mostly because he wants to know if he can. Would the ability to reanimate corpses be useful? Would it benefit mankind? Victor doesn’t seem to consider these thoughts, or, in truth, really care about them. He purely is focused on the science, on constructing a creature to prove that he can do it.

Frankenstein’s monster and the Aramis system are pretty blatantly compared in Aramis: or The Love of Technology, even on the back cover of the book, but something I noticed was a comparison between those working to create Aramis and Victor Frankenstein himself. The people that are working to construct Aramis use what Latour calls “translation” to mask their desires to give birth to their creation with a desire to help the city of Paris, something they are not even sure their project will do:

“Bardet and Petit ask DATAR: ‘You want to save the city? Limit the growth of Paris? Then from now on you have to be interested in kinematics, in transfer machines, and in the AT-2000. ‘ ‘You really want to profit off of the advantages of the automobile?’ Matra’s people ask of prospective consumers. “Then you have to climb into a cabin that is also the same, but guided, called Aramis.’

Is this prospect of translation “false”, “misleading”, “rhetorical,” or “illogical?” Does Aramis really meet a need? We don’t yet know. “(Aramis, 42, emphasis mine)

Those conspiring to build Aramis are not truly seeking to “save Paris”, or whatever they claim. They’re translating their desires into the desires of other people in order to garner support for their project. Further down the page, that desire is reiterated: “To them, the conclusion seems obvious, irresistible: Aramis has to exist, Aramis can exist…”(42)

The decision for Victor Frankenstein to create his monster was made roughly the same way. Victor could bring a body to life, or so he hypothesized, so he had to. It can exist, so it HAS to exist. I wonder what would happen if Victor had to meet with investors during Frankenstein in order to get funding for his research. Would he mask his scientific fervor under the guise of helping his fellow man, in order to translate his desires into the desires of someone else? I feel as though Victor, before he could see the horror of his creation, was obsessed with bringing it to life so much that he would have done whatever it takes to bring his monster to life. While those involved in the birth of Aramis were not mad scientists like Victor Frankenstein, they still had fervor to complete their project, and if the truth needed bending somewhat in order to make that a reality, that was what had to be done.

By writing this, I am not condemning everyone who tried to bring Aramis to life. Nor am I condemning Latour’s “translation” as it can be used in order to interest those that are not scientifically inclined in a project. I merely thought it amusing that a parallel could be drawn between the desires of mad scientist Victor Frankenstein and the Aramis engineers. I’m sure plenty of scientific projects get their funding by first promising that they will be beneficial to mankind, and then later finding out exactly how. If all experiments had to have a clear practical use in mind at the end, scientific progress would stagnate. Obviously, not all attempts to give life to a project result in the birth of a horrible monster.

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.

The Law of Equivalent Exchange

In the anime and manga Fullmetal Alchemist the principle rule behind all creation or destruction is the law of equivalent exchange.  Alphonse Elric explained it best:  “Humankind cannot gain anything without first giving something in return. To obtain, something of equal value must be lost. That is Alchemy’s first law of Equivalent Exchange.”  In Frankenstein the creation of the Monster caused Frankenstein to live a half-life as the monster he created would only experience a half-life according  to the law of equivalent exchange.

From the time that Frankenstein created the monster his very life began to drain from him. His health deteriorated steadily throughout the story, and so did his happiness.  The monster did not start to take happiness from his creator until the chance of happiness was ripped from him. When left with no hope of ever having true happiness he deprives Frankenstein of exactly the same thing. “Your hours will pass in dread and misery, and soon the bolt will fall which must ravish from you your happiness forever. ”(pg 123) The law of equivalent exchange in action. By taking away a promise of a wife, the same was taken from him.

You can see the law in effect as the health of Victor declines. As the monster gets more powerful, as shown in his deliberate and planned killing of Victor’s friends and family, Victor gets weaker.  He becomes more frequently subjects to bouts of illness. Each emotional shock he experiences appears to completely break him.  As the monster worked it did not satisfy him because it did not bring him happiness. “For while I destroyed his hopes, I did not satisfy my own desires”(pg 165). The desolation of Victors life at first seemed to complete the monster but they are the same and by killing one you kill the other.

My question for the class is: in what pieces of media do you think can relate back to the book?

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?

Ignorance is Bliss

An infant absorbs all that is around them; particularly in their first few years of life.  This is what I immediately thought of when I read Frankenstine’s monster’s testimony about his travels.  The monster conveys how and what he has learned about human nature and life itself.  I felt sorry for the monster, and his story left me wondering if sometimes ignorance truly is bliss.

Victor Frankenstine’s monster was abandoned by his creator, leaving him alone and frightened.  Being a newly formed creation, he was much like an infant child in need of love and affection.  Instead of being loved or cherished, he was thrown out into the world to fend for himself and try to make sense of his situation. Since I grew up in a loving environment, it is difficult to imagine the sense of confusion the monster must have felt after being abandoned.  When Frankenstine abandoned him to die, the monster began to learn essential facts about the physics of the natural world.  His learning proceeded in a very childlike way by trial and error.  This was evident when he first encountered fire, and he said, “One day, when I was oppressed by cold, I found a fire which had been left by some wandering beggars, and was overcome with delight at the warmth I experienced from it. In my joy I thrust my hand into the live embers, but quickly drew it out again with a cry of pain. How strange, I thought, that the same cause should produces such opposite effects!” (72).  Having no guardian to explain what the fire actually was, he burns himself, learning that fire can cause both comfort and injury.

After learning many of these types of everyday tasks, such as how to find food sources and shelter, the monster begins to learn about human nature and history.  He begins to study a family living in a cottage.  After months of studying their behavior, he learns how humans show affection to one another and that they can communicate.  Due to his envy, he attempts to learn the language, so he can eventually reveal himself to the group.  When an arabian girl arrives and the family begins teaching her their language, the monster sprung into action by listening in on the lessons.  He becomes excited and learns quickly saying, “My days were spent in close attention, that I might more speedily master the language; and I may boast that I improved more rapidly than the Arabian, who understood very little.” (84)  This thirst for knowledge allows the monster to pick up on the human language and mannerisms quickly.  After finding a set of books he begins to understand even more about human nature.  I was interested to see the progression of the monster’s thoughts on the human condition.  He says, “For a long time I could not conceive how one man could go forth to murder his fellow, or even why there were laws and governments; but when I heard details of vice and bloodshed, my wonder ceased, and I turned away with disgust and loathing.” (84) The monster, being similar to a child, loses his innocence very early in his education.  Instead of seeing the good in man he quickly sees that many parts of human nature can be evil and unjust.  This is also when he comes to the realization that he truly is a monster and will not be accepted by the humans.

I feel pity for Frankenstine’s monster.  Continuing to read deeper into his story, I came to realize that he is only a monster physically, not at heart. The monster is forced to live alone and communicate with no one due to his grotesque figure.  This really made me wonder: Why did Victor Frankenstine not try to make his creation more appealing? In my opinion, I feel Frankenstine was so obsessed with creating that he never considered his creation’s well being and quality of life.  Frankenstine’s monster realizes he will never be accepted by the human species, and he becomes enraged, declaring war against them.  This makes me wonder, would the monster have been better off living in solitude? Did his integration into society single handedly lead to his anger and depression? Is ignorance sometimes truly bliss?

Question for the class:  Do you blame Victor Frankenstine for abandoning his creation, or do you feel that he was overwhelmed with the result and had a right to be frightened?