June 15, 2007

FRANKENSTEIN: LIVING THEMES, UNSOLVED PROBLEMS



This public domain image comes courtesy of www.moviewallpapers.net.

El Cabrero hopes you have enjoyed Frankenstein Week at Goat Rope. If this is your first visit, please click on the earlier entries, which discuss current events in addition to Mary Shelley's novel.

To wrap it up,this story is a gold mine of themes and inter-related stories which literary scholars refer to as “intertextuality.” Here are some examples:

*The story echoes the philosophy of Jean Jacques Rousseau, a key influence on the French Revolution and the later Romantic movement. For Rousseau, people are good by nature but are corrupted by society.

*The subtitle of the book is “The Modern Prometheus,” referring to the myth which was the subject of an ancient Greek tragedy by Aeschylus and a verse drama by Percy Shelley himself. In the myth, the titan Prometheus fashions humanity and gives it the gift of fire. In the book, Victor dreams that "A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me." It didn't quite work out that way. Victor had plenty of troubles and Prometheus was chained to a rock by Zeus. An eagle or vulture would tear out his liver each day. At night, the wounds would heal only to be reopened.

*The creature is also compared to Adam in the Biblical narrative and resembles Satan from John Milton’s Paradise Lost, which is one of the books the creature read. (See yesterday's discussion of a monster's reading list.) Like Milton's Satan, he reached a point where he said, in effect,

So farewell hope, and with hope farewell fear,
Farewell remorse; all good to me is lost.
Evil, be thou my good.


Here are a few of the lasting human themes of this story I came up with:

*The tragic tendency of people to overreach their proper limits, cross forbidden boundaries, and bring about their own destruction (a common theme in myths, literature, history, and... uhhh...politics);

*The dangers of scientific and technological research unchecked by ethical considerations;

*The danger of bringing a being into the world without caring for it;

*The unintended consequences of human action;

*The relationship between emotion and intellect and the dangers of the unchecked will to knowledge (another mythic theme);

*Today, the book reminds me of the increasingly blurry line between the living and the non-living.

Official Goat Rope verdict: Mary did pretty good.

EFCA GOES TO THE SENATE. The Employee Free Choice Act, which passed the U.S. House in March 241-185, is moving to the Senate, where it may come up for a vote as soon as June 20--WV Day. EFCA would effectively restore the right of US workers to form unions by recognizing representation when a majority of workers sign cards indicated their willingness to join. It would also increase penalties on companies that harass, intimidate, or retaliate against workers who try to organize. Among WV's delegation, only Shelley Moore Capito opposed it.

JR. JET SET. According to The Week Magazine,

Wealthy New York City parents are hiring private jets to take their children to summer camp, says The New York Post. Charter company Revolution Air has set aside more than 20 jets for the service, which charges $8,000 per child and offers a special menu of ice cream, chicken fingers, and peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches...


THE PENTAGON'S latest assessment of President Bush's Iraq strategy paints a grim picture that tells us what we already knew: the "surge" isn't helping matters.

NEW NOTES. For the Rev. Jim Lewis' latest "Notes from under the Fig Tree," click here.

GOAT ROPE ADVISORY LEVEL: ELEVATED

6 comments:

Brecht said...

Yep, Mary did pretty good.

You didn't do so bad yourself. Thanks for a consistently interesting and entertaining blog.

El Cabrero said...

Thank you for reading it!

Suggestions for weekly themes are always welcome, by the way...

Brecht said...

I'll have to chew on that for a while and get back to you. I never told you I was a goat, did I?

I may even have to look back over your archives and see what I really like there. I notice you interviewed Lear once - I'm a huge Shakespeare fan (for being the best user of language and the best psychologist; nothing human was alien to him) and that's my favorite play.

So if it were just me I might suggest more Shakespeare or 'The Master and Margarita' or 'At-Swim-Two-Birds'. But I think you deserve a larger audience, so maybe mixing it up more with movies, rock music...of course, then you end up writing about Paris Hilton, and that way madness lies.

Anyway, I'll have to chew it over and get back to you. Incidentally, I still haven't told you I'm a goat.

El Cabrero said...

Have you found the series on the Iliad? I think it's the pick of the litter, aside from the ones on happiness, Machiavelli, and game theory.

Your Shakespeare suggestion is well taken, although I must say Hamlet tops my list. I think I feel a theological digression coming on next week.

Re: your coming out as a goat. I can only assume by your courtesy and civility that you are not an alpine like the ones we have here.
They are a surly lot.

Thanks!

brecht said...

I find Hamlet too Hamlet-centric, and Lear better balanced. Plus, Hamlet's full of cliches.

I don't see any easy way to search your archives, but I just walked through the archives from Genesis to last December. I found all the ones you mentioned (if by 'happiness' you mean 'economy & the pursuit of h.').

I noted the dates so I can find and read them all later (The Iliad must wait till I've read the book, as it's unopened on my shelf). Also saving Blake.

I stopped along the way to enjoy your musings on Zoroastrianism & Evil: Inside Human Violence and Cruelty. Cornelius was good on Greek tragedy, and Molly was wonderful on literary theory.

I'm not really a goat, which is why I never told you I was. I'm a ram. In the East I'm a serpent, though my friend's wise Korean mom tells me I'm a monkey inside.

El Cabrero said...

As flies to wanton boys...

I need to run down the Margarita and Swim/bird references.

Re the Iliad, I'd recommend the series first, then trying the epic. I wish I would have had that before I tried it.

At some point I want to do Dante but that will be a daunting task...