Sunday, 23 September 2012

Frankenstein: How does Shelley overwhelm her readers with such horrific events that they feel so despaired?

‘Frankenstein’ is a novel filled with tragedy and death. The narrator spends much of the novel in a deep depression, lamenting of his misfortunes by describing himself as “more miserable than man ever was before”. It is likely that Shelley created such a dark novel as a result of her own troubles in life, and as death follows Frankenstein wherever he goes, Shelley’s life was also shrouded in the death of her children, with only one surviving her. Few moments of joy are experienced in the novel.

A particularly horrific event is the death of Clerval. This signals the final destruction of any goodness left in the creature, as he finally embraces his evil instincts and kills purely for revenge on Victor. Shelley describes his wounds as “black mark of fingers on his neck”, with the report of the creature actively touching his victim suggesting quite an intimate kill, and developing the creature into a being that lusts for violence and death, enjoying the thrill of it. The self-destruction of the creature fills the reader with extreme despair, as the impression we received of him at the beginning of the novel showed a being with so much innocence and potential: “I learned and applied the words “fire”, “milk”, “bread”, and “wool””. His progression and attempt to learn to speak is endearing and beautiful to watch, and is in stark opposition to his character by the end of the novel. The creature aligns himself with satan from his readings of ‘Paradise Lost’ when he says “I ought to be thy Adam; but I am rather the fallen angel, whom thou drivest from joy for no misdeed”. This highlights again his potential, but also the fact that he had to learn from books to discover who he was makes his downfall even more horrific, as it is such an innocent act, to desire to find yourself, and he had to learn not from a parent, but from an outside source because of the rejection of Frankenstein. It makes it seem that he had little choice in his transformation to evil.

At the end of the novel, when Victor lies dead and the creature cowers in despair over him, Shelley’s critique on society is particularly poignant, and our involvement of the creation of such a monster is easy to see. He is extremely regretful, crying “that is also my victim”, whilst Victor simply says before his death “I am blameless”. We are aware that society will view Victor as a victim, and the creature simply as the villain, when in fact society was the true villain in her novel. Her father being the radical philosopher that he was, Shelley would have been open to criticisms of society, and therefore her portrayal of the people as the cause of all this destruction is unsurprising. Her own despair at the evil of society is seen vividly throughout the novel, although most here when the creature laments his crimes, whilst Victor denies his.
Shelley also shows the true position of women, depicting their oppression through the representation of Margaret, Justine and Elizabeth. Victor highlights the unfair treatment of women by saying that Justine was “far more innocent than I”. Although he was accused of the murder of Cleval, he was treated kindly, and time was given to find the truth about his death. However, Justine, being a woman, was denied this right, and put to death before proper evidence could be brought forward. Shelley highlights the unfairness in this by allowing Justine to leave her life with dignity, attempting to calm the others rather than despairing over her own fate. Her death is therefore even more horrific and tragic. Margaret is also shown to be oppressed, as she is denied a voice in the novel. In fact, Elizabeth is the only woman who is shown to speak directly to the reader (through her letters to Victor). Shelley does this to show the potential of strength in women, strengthening her argument by describing Elizabeth’s defence of Justine as “heart-rending eloquence”. She is shown to have few negative qualities, and before her death shows a willingness to sacrifice her happiness for Victor by saying “it is your happiness I desire as well as my own”. Whilst Victor is focussed on his own well-being and conscience, Elizabeth lives through him, only enjoying happiness when she knows that he too is at peace. The horrific imagery used to describe her death: “she was there, lifeless, and inanimate, thrown across the bed” shows the literal suffocation of women, highlighted by how quickly Victor moves on to his quest for revenge. Her mother being a feminist, Shelley would have had interests in the oppression of her sex, particularly as in her relationship with Percy, they appeared to be equals, working as partners to create her novel. It is therefore not surprising that she wished to show the horrific treatment of women in society at that time, and how their voices were stifled.

The novel, from start to finish, is filled with horror and ghastly events. The grandeur of the mountains and scenery merely makes the novel even more fearful, with this description: “at a distance, surmounting all, the beautiful Mount Blanc” showing the power of nature, diminishing the control each of the characters have over their lives, and showing how easily life, prospects and love can be lost. Nature lords over all, and shows the weakness of human life. ‘Frankenstein’ fills its readers with despair, and this seems to have been the aim of the author, as Shelley says in this note “I busied myself to think of a story… to curdle the blood and quicken the beatings of the heart”. She purposefully evoked fear in her readers, creating the ultimate gothic novel.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Integration v Preservation

Over the years, Britain has developed into one of the multi-cultural giants of the world. On our tiny little island, we have over 60 million people, split into the following ethnicities:

Britain has been known- almost infamous- for its lax immigration control, highlighted in the summer of 2011, which saw the end of Brodie Clarke, and the entrance of an unforeseen amount of illegal immigrants.
This, combined with a -usually- tolerant public, the glorified Human Rights Acts and a highly protective benefits system makes Britain a hotspot for immigration, and therefore a variety of ethnicities. We therefore should not be surprised that Britain, in all its history and culture and glory, is changing.

And on each side of the story are people fighting for a different country. There are those with their hearts in the past, wistful for a different society; perhaps, one could argue, a stronger, more collective and spiritually together one than our explosion of cultures allows us to preserve. But there are also those with more progressive ideologies, looking to a future with a more open mind, accepting of a change in cultural identity.
Ultimately, we will lose the classic image many preserve of this romantic past. Perhaps we will never again see innocent nurses dancing with brave young soldiers, or elderly couples sipping tea with their Yorkshire Terriers yapping playfully at their heels. Oh god, we can’t lose the tea...
Britain will change, just as the dramatic Tudors gave way to the more reserved Stewarts, and the classical Roman Empire fell apart to leave way for the Germanic Tribes and Byzantines. Progress is natural in an ever evolving world. As agricultural Britain was pushed aside by the Industrial revolution, there may have been moans and discomforts and dissatisfied citizens, but ultimately it bred the society we live in today, and all the beauty of the past. It didn’t stagnate. It flourished. Without the acceptance of new ideas you probably wouldn’t be able to read this article, because we wouldn’t have mass printing, free education or the internet. Mull that over for a minute.

Nostalgia for the past is common in everyone, and often goes back to a time in one’s childhood, adolescence or young adulthood. For this reason, younger people are often more accepting of changes to their culture than older people. They have less of this nostalgia to cling onto.
However, our vision of the past is anything put clear. Psychologists reveal that nostalgia is mainly displaced, and our memory, helpfully or not, often avoids moments of displeasure or pain. Try to remember your most painful moment. You can probably recall the occasion, but the specifics and details of the pain are quite indescribable. To fully understand your experience you would have to completely revisit it, and afterwards you would still fail to fully remember the physical details.

Furthermore, we usually resort to nostalgia at our most difficult moments. At these times, the past is obviously going to appear remarkably more beautiful than you could have described it at the time, because for a few moments, in comparison with a down time, your past is the most golden thing in the world.
The past also shines of prospects, freedom and youth. Even if you are remembering a moment that is truly bliss, and cannot comprehend a difficult childhood, this is often because of the joys that abandon us as we age. Childhood is, in reality, a time without responsibility or stress. Adolescence is the beginning of a future only you can shape. Regret is normally absent, and therefore these times can appear more perfect because of the stage you were at in your life.

For these reasons, those who discourage a progression and change in culture do so off a basis that is not necessarily trustworthy. It is easy for us to look back and see only greatness. When we really look back and see what our culture existed of back then, do we want to remain there? Can change really be that bad? Because each era had its faults and its imperfections, and the integration of different cultures into Britain cannot really destroy anything of huge consequence.
Different political parties have varying views on the integration of different races, and therefore different cultures, as is represented in their manifestos. Possibly the most close minded to the possibility of change is the BNP (British National Party), who’s ideology states that multiculturalism cannot work, as to integrate into a different culture, one or other of the two societies would have to lose their cultural identity. They accept other ethnicities existing in Britain on the grounds that they mould themselves to the British culture.

They do not, however, understand that no culture is clearly defined, and within it the people have the right to choose for themselves what traditions they will follow. If someone has moved into another country, surely they believe in its most fundamental laws, and therefore there is no problem? Small differences are exciting to debate, and often more personal than of cultural values.

At the other end of the spectrum are the Liberal Democrats, who are possibly the most open to the possibility of multiculturalism. Their leader, Nick Clegg, believes in engaging with difficult and different viewpoints, rather than ignoring them. He supports the integration of other cultures, not alienation.
Ultimately, by fighting crudely against multiculturalism, as many groups of people have-namely the EDL and BNP- Britain does not present itself as a society to preserve. No matter what its argument, racist assaults and offensive language is nothing but shameful, and to be used for any cause immediately defeats all purpose of the cause.

It isn’t just that change is inevitable, it can be welcomed! Integration comes with many benefits, such as a further understanding of varying beliefs, and a country full of exciting people. As long as all parties are willing to move together, and not stubbornly reject conformity and compromise we can allow for freedom of belief and prompt adaption. Conformity. A new collective can be formed, just as supportive as those of the past.
I believe that change is good. We won’t lose our culture, we’ll progress naturally into a fresher one as long as we work together. Ultimately, it is down to the individual to decide what their values are.

What do you think?