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Samuel Beardslee’s Formal Post on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (Part 2)

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“You, who call Frankenstein your friend, seem to have a knowledge of my crimes and his misfortunes. But in the detail which he gave you of them he could not sum up the hours and months of misery which I endured wasting in impotent passions. For while I destroyed his hopes, I did not satisfy my own desires. They were forever ardent and craving; still I desired love and fellowship, and I was still spurned. Was there no injustice in this? Am I to be thought the only criminal, when all humankind sinned against me? Why do you not hate Felix, who drove his friend from his door with contumely? Why do you not execrate the rustic who sought to destroy the saviour of his child? Nay, these are virtuous and immaculate beings! I, the miserable and the abandoned, am an abortion, to be spurned at, and kicked, and trampled on. Even now my blood boils at the recollection of this injustice.”

“But it is true that I am a wretch. I have murdered the lovely and the helpless; I have strangled the innocent as they slept and grasped to death his throat who never injured me or any other living thing. I have devoted my creator, the select specimen of all that is worthy of love and admiration among men, to misery; I have pursued him even to that irremediable ruin. There he lies, white and cold in death. You hate me, but your abhorrence cannot equal that with which I regard myself. I look on the hands which executed the deed; I think on the heart in which the imagination of it was conceived and long for the moment when these hands will meet my eyes, when that imagination will haunt my thoughts no more.”(201-202) [bold type added for emphasis]

If this ultimate monologue (of which this is but an excerpt) given by the Monster is not a perfect example of disability being a cause for evil due to society, then nothing is.  Standing beside the creator who spurned him who lay dead before him, the Monster has no words of sympathy for the fallen Frankenstein.  Instead he declares his machinations complete: “in his murder my crimes are consummated”(198).  However, throughout this speech, the Monster does not show any level of pride for having destroyed his creator and all that he loved.  On the contrary, he seems to be giving a eulogy for himself as he comes to the resolution to commit suicide in an attempt to prevent any “curious and unhallowed wretch who would create such another as I have been.”(202)  This, paired with the quote found above “I, the miserable and the abandoned, am an abortion, to be spurned at, and kicked, and trampled on.”(201), makes a direct reference to practices of leaving a disfigured child to die which were not uncommon at the time of this novel.  Sadly, our society cannot claim to be wholly better than that of 200 years ago.  While some treatment of disabled persons have improved, new atrocities have arisen, namely the abortion of unborn children with Down’s Syndrome.

Frankenstein, while creating the companion for the Monster, fell prey to the thoughts that creating this new creature could unleash a race of devils on the Earth, and destroyed it.  Having broken that pact, the Monster would go on to haunt the man for the remainder of his life.  All throughout this journey of revenge, the Monster loathed himself and his actions, but he felt he had no other options when everything had been taken from him.  This leads to the obvious question: would that life that never was, the companion to the Monster, have been the positive influence to save not only himself, but also Frankenstein and his loved ones?  Because that life was snuffed, in addition to the past injustices committed against the Monster listed above, The Monster was left nothing but Frankenstein in his life, the man who forced him into this wretched state, and he could not fulfill himself with any other emotion besides revenge in regards to that man.

While the last words of Frankenstein make him an unpitiable man: “During these last days I have been occupied in examining my past conduct; nor do I find it blameable.”(196)  The Monsters final words drive home the injustice of it all, calling into question who was the true villain.  Was it the Monster seeking revenge against the man, the last representative of a unjust society, who denied him everything, including love, or the Man that wanted to protect society from this Monster he created?

It is sad when life becomes secondary to society.

Written by Spyden

September 27th, 2010 at 9:21 am

Katherine Sullivan’s Class Period Summary of September 13th: Shakespeare’s “The Tragedy of King Richard III”

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In our September 13th meeting of Professor Foss’ Disability and Literature course, our class examined and discussed Shakespeare’s “The Tragedy of King Richard III” through Act III, Scene iii. The meeting began with a brief, somewhat confusing lecture and diagram detailing the history of the royal English Bloodline, the War of the Roses, and more than a few Edwards and Henrys.  The large group discussion then functioned to prime for our small group activity by presenting the idea that disability may function with a text as a binary characteristic: either as an insignia, or marker of a character’s corruption, or as a causation of that fundamental corruption.  Each small group examined a short passage using this binary theoretical framework.

After the small groups were assigned their beginning passages, the groups discussed, argued, and recorded their findings regarding how each passage fit within the binary framework of insignia and causation. At the end of each singular passage discussion, the records were swapped between groups so that, by the end of class, every group was able to examine every textual passage with their own ideas as well as with the notes of every other preceding group.  The small groups worked with four passages from “The Tragedy of King Richard III”: Gloucester’s opening speech in Act I Scene I, Anne’s opening soliloquy of Act I Scene II, Gloucester’s ending soliloquy of Act I Scene II, and Gloucester and Margaret’s interaction in Act I, Scene III.

My small group generally agreed with findings of the other groups.  We identified Gloucester’s opening speech in Act I Scene I as an instance of disability being presented as a cause of Richard’s III evil nature that he uses as an excuse to gain sympathy from his peers, as well as the audience.  He also uses the pity and sympathy created in his community – by what Quayson would describe as “aesthetic nervousness” – to manipulate the other characters.  Anne’s opening soliloquy in Act I Scene II mournfully curses the unknown murderer of Henry VI, and damns the killer that their offspring may carry an “ugly and unnatural aspect” (1.2.23) as marker of his evilness, thus rendering this passage as an example of disability serving as an insignia in “The Tragedy of King Richard III”.  Gloucester’s ending soliloquy of Act I Scene II also identifies Richard’s III disability as an insignia due to the normalization that results from Anne’s loss of aversion towards him. “I do mistake my person all this while: / Upon my life, she finds, although I cannot, / myself to be a marvelous proper man.” (1.2.254) Essentially, Richard III validates his disability by asserting the he must be “normal” for her to desire him. Further, this scene develops Richard’s III apathy for his disability as well as his vanity.  Lastly, Gloucester and Margaret’s interaction in Act I, Scene III is a very clear example of disability’s presentation as insignia within this text: “The worm of conscience still begnaw thy soul, … Thou elvish-mark’d, abortive, rooting hog! / Thou that wast sealed in thy nativity / the slave of nature and the son of hell! / Thou slander of thy mother’s heavy womb! / Thou loathed issue of thy father’s loins! / Thou rag of honour!” (1.3.222, 1.3.228-233).  Overall, the small group discussions rendered the conclusion that disability was frequently used as an insignia of Richard’s III evilness except in his opening scene which served to cultivate sympathy from the audience.  Further, as Richard III emotionally and politically manipulates each character, he takes advantage of his disability and utilizes it as an empowering façade of self-pity.

After the small group discussions were completed and our large group was reconvened, we learned that because this play was first performed in the 1500’s, the audiences’ perception of disability may have varied slightly from the perceptions of the characters. While the characters may have simply assumed that a deformity was a hateful act of God, the slightly more modern audiences of the play’s first performances may have regarded Richard’s III disability as either a demonological portrayal of corruption, or as part of the natural order of variation in the world. Also in large concluding group, we were reminded to check Blackboard for Class Meeting Documents that would accompany our readings and large group discussions of the latter half of “The Tragedy of King Richard III” on Wednesday.  In conclusion, the class meeting of Monday, September 13th examined and discussed Shakespeare’s “The Tragedy of King Richard III” under the binary theoretical framework of the presentation of disability as either a marking insignia of corruption, or as a causation of that corruption.  The format of this discussion was transformed from a large group that gave a brief historical background, into four smaller subgroups that each talked about and shared their observations, and then again transformed back into the large group to conclude our discussion.

Word-count: 814

I hereby declare upon my word of honor that I have neither given nor received any unauthorized help on this work.  Katherine Sullivan

Written by Katherine Sullivan

September 17th, 2010 at 10:45 am