Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Frankenstein Essays That Didn't Make the Cut

This week, for the F&SF course, I ended up writing three essays.  These two didn't "make the cut" because I could not adequately support my thesis within the 320 word limit.  I ended up submitting a piece that was less provocative and perhaps even not quite as interesting.  Anyway, here are my rejects.

Victor Frankenstein’s hubris is typically defined by his attempt to create life out of death, reanimating the pieced together bodies of various corpses.  However, this act, rooted as it is in ignorance, is far less arrogant than his determination to confront his Creation for, even in the face of the threat the creature has made, Frankenstein does not hesitate to marry his cousin, Elizabeth, ensuring further suffering because his pride would not let him learn the lessons of his past experience.

When confronted with the horror of what he has created, rather than take responsibility for his choices, Frankenstein rejects the Creature.  This is the first of many rejections which together conspire to evoke in the Creature a need for revenge.  With an opportunity to avenge himself on his very creator, he begins to systematically hurt Frankenstein.  He first murders Frankenstein’s brother and effects to frame Justine, a beloved servant in the Frankenstein home.  Because Frankenstein does not confess all he knows, he allows the Creature to continue to reap vengeance upon him. 

The Creature, for his part, offers to disappear but Frankenstein is unable to fulfill the demands, fully expecting that he will be killed by his own creation.  Instead, it is Henry Clarvel, his best friend, who is murdered.  This is not enough to keep Frankenstein from presuming to be anticipatory of the Creature’s next move.   Rather, with full awareness that the Creature has promised to be there on his wedding night, Frankenstein moves forward with his intention to marry Elizabeth, believing that, in doing so, he shall either kill his creation himself or be killed.  Unfortunately, it is not Victor who is assaulted but Elizabeth and her death further results in the death of Frankenstein’s father. 

Having already experienced how the Creature sought revenge, not by directly attacking Frankenstein but those who were close to him, Frankenstein’s determination to marry Elizabeth is more an act of hubris then the experiment that resulted in his nemesis’ existence.  If ignorance allowed him to reach for the stars, it is his hubris that causes the stars in his life to be destroyed, resulting in his own inevitable destruction.

And the other.  I usually don't put in my citations until I revise.  The next essay has a few in because I wrote it the morning the essay itself was due to be turned in and I knew that, if it had been chosen, I'd have less time to search for each reference I needed so I was trying to avoid the extra stress.

Thematically, incest infuses Shelley’s Frankenstein, with several relationships blurring the lines of what was becoming an impropriety.  While consanguinity between cousins was still acceptable, between siblings it was frowned upon by Georgian society.  The ambiguous definition of Elizabeth’s role and relationship within the Frankenstein is alluded to by several characters in the novel, including herself.

Frankenstein’s parents both encourage Victor to marry his cousin but his father further suggests that his son may not wish to do so because “you . . . regard her as your sister” (120).  Victor himself says that she is “more than sister” and later suggests that she is “more than daughter” to his father.  Likewise, Elizabeth identifies herself as a mother to Victor’s younger brothers as “our dear children” (43). 

Everyone within the family, including Elizabeth, sees her as cousin-spouse-sister-mother-daughter, a complex overlapping of her familial position and role suggesting that, even within a society where marriage between cousins is permissible, the marriage between her and Victor Frankenstein is more implicit and may be, if not physically so, an emotionally incestuous union. 

Correspondingly, when the Creature confronts his creator and demands of Frankenstein that he provide for him a companion like himself, due to the androcentric ontology of his own existence, the Creature is, in effect, asking him to make both a sister and spouse.  The latter is evident when Frankenstein, realizing the full implication of what he is doing, chooses to destroy the female creation before giving it life, because of the dread he feels at the thought that the two would reproduce “a race of devils would be propagated upon the earth” (??).  Frankenstein is horrified at the very thought of his creation procreating with a second creation and their off-spring carrying on the legacy of incest with the inevitability of siblings being mated to one another for several generations to come.

In fact, all of Frankenstein’s familial bonds are blurred into distortion—his parents seeing his cousin as a daughter, his cousin seeing herself as mother and wife, and even his own awareness that his creation is indeed his child, creating a more complex and clearly incestuous confusion by implication if not by fact.  

The punchline (or is it a slap in the face?) to my having written not one, not two, but three variations of Frankenstein essays is that I received a plagiarized essay to be peer reviewed.  It's disappointing, to say the least and all the more frustrating given how very much I struggled to find a thesis that was small enough to be fully developed within the word count limit.

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