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Amanda Gorman’s Formal Blog Post on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (Part 1)

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“And what was I? Of my creation and creator I was absolutely ignorant, but I knew that I possessed no money, no friends, no kind of property. I was, besides, endued with a figure hideously deformed and loathsome; I was not even of the same nature as man. I was more agile than they and could subsist upon coarser diet; I bore the extremes of heat and cold with less injury to my frame; my stature far exceeded theirs. When I looked around I saw and heard of none like me. Was I, then, a monster, a blot upon the earth, from which all men fled and whom all men disowned?  I cannot describe to you the agony that these reflections inflicted upon me; I tried to dispel them, but sorrow only increased with knowledge. Oh, that I had forever remained in my native wood, nor known nor felt beyond the sensations of hunger, thirst, and heat!” (pg. 103)

In this passage Frankenstein’s “monster” first comes to the horrible realization of the fact that his identity is doomed as that of the monstrous Other in society.  Whereas he is very peaceable and calm when he is at first estranged from society, when later on in the novel he is over and over again looked at with shock and horror and scorned, he becomes the monster he is seen as by society.  In chapter 15, the “monster” is able to gain the empathy of a blind man who, without being able to react to the “monster’s” hideous form notices first about him his sincerity.  Clearly his form is not directly what made him monstrous.  Rather, his monstrosity comes into being as revenge for the cruel reactions to his form.  Frankenstein’s “monster” is not born a monster, but becomes a monster through the crippling stigma in his society attributed to deformed bodies.
The passage reflects the importance of knowledge of one’s creator upon his/her identity formation.  At this point Frankenstein’s “monster” does not know about his creator, he implies that he knows his creator was someone different than the creator of humans, because his body is inhuman.  It is interesting to note that whereas Frankenstein’s “monster” was not created by God, neither was he created by the Devil.  Rather, he was created by a bungling mad-scientist-type, and so his deformities are not a demonic curse but a byproduct of scientific accident.  In this way, although deformity as accident may not be a particularly elevating representation of disability, it is a step up.
However, Shelley introduces an even more interesting complication in this part of the “monster’s” inner dialog: “I was more agile than they and could subsist upon coarser diet; I bore the extremes of heat and cold with less injury to my frame; my stature far exceeded theirs.”  If we see here the “monster’s” unique skills alongside his limitations as a metaphor for certain kinds of disabilities, this may be a very fruitful comparison as well as a more well-rounded view of difference.  For example many people with bipolar disorder experience incredibly prolific creative periods as well as a decreased need for sleep.  Rather than see the potential for greatness here, it has long been the perspective of society-at-large to dismiss these potential perks, forcing bipolar patients to get sleep, and dismissing creative work as the product of mania.  Frankenstein’s “monster” wonders why it must be the case that perks of difference are almost always seen as overshadowed by the greater problem of their being different, and consequently threatening.

Written by gormanda

September 24th, 2010 at 3:13 am

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