Thursday, November 26, 2015

Frankenstein : Anger and Alienation

I love the part of Mary Shelley's novel, Frankenstein, where Walton writes his sister reciting Frankenstein's retelling of his creature's life story. This is the same type of second or third account storytelling used in Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights where the story is written by Heathcliff's tenant, Mr. Lockwood who, halfway through the book announces that he's going to continue the story using his own words to retell Nellie, the housekeeper's, version of the family history.  In both works of fiction, we're obviously reading what the novelists want us to read; however, in real life, how much of such a retelling would you take as literal truth? It's like listening to rumors at work or at school, where the story might become embellished or parts omitted with each telling. 

Anyway, Shelley does an impeccable job of portraying the pain of rejection, physical and emotional, by the only people the creature loves and also the resulting pain of loneliness and isolation when she describes the creature's failure to become accepted by his beloved De Lacey family.

"I continued for the remainder of the day in my hovel in a state of utter and stupid despair. My protectors had departed and had broken the only link that held me to the world. For the first time the feelings of revenge and  hatred filled my bosom, and I did not strive to control them, but allowing myself to be borne away by the stream, I bent my mind towards injury and death. When I thought of my friends, of the mild voice of De Lacey, the gentle eyes of Agatha, and the exquisite beauty of the Arabian, these thoughts vanished and a gush of tears somewhat soothed me. But again when I reflected that they had spurned and deserted me, anger returned, a rage of anger, and unable to injure anything human, I turned my fury towards inanimate objects." Mary Shelley

The De Laceys didn't know who he was or that he even existed until they saw him clutching the legs of their invalid and blind father. After observing the family from behind a wall in their house, the creature's desperate loneliness and need for human empathy and interaction brought him in the habit of thinking of these people as his own family with hopes of joining them and living happily ever after. It goes to show how people need to belong to achieve a personal sense of identity, whether it's daily interaction with the group or from a distance, to be accepted as a member. 

When the creature felt rejected by those he hoped to join and already had an emotional attachment to, although only in his mind, he was overwhelmed with anger and felt the pain of his alienation from the world more sharply than ever. Since the creature's hope of belonging to the human race was destroyed, he sought revenge on his creator and those who rejected him. He essentially became a terrorist.

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