This is a course blog for the members of EH236 at the University of South Alabama, Spring 2006.

Monday, March 06, 2006

In order for us to gain a proper perspective on history it is necessary for us to view it in a more holistic approach. If we only studied history through recordings of actual events the understanding of history itself would be about as accurate as any fictional novel. This is due to the fact that history is recorded by the "victors" or the ruling classes not by the common people or the defeated. If these "records" were our only means of understanding then we would surely be in the dark. For these records are polluted with countless hypocrisies and contradictions as well as biases. Are we to believe that the proverbial "good king" would ever allow himself to be known as a tyrant? Of course not. That being said we must open our minds and interpret things such as mythology, folklore, art and music. These things reflect the feelings of the people (directly or indirectly) better than any historical record could ever hope to. This point is quite relevant with concern to ancient history. So how does this pertain to modern history ?. The relevance is certainly justified, for intentionally or not the author of a fictional novel reflects his or her own feelings of the times through every aspect of the story.

This brings us to Shelley's Frankenstein and how it reflects the anxieties of European society regarding industrialization. Every story has many possible interpretations and Frankenstein is certainly no exception. At the time Frankenstein was written the western world was in the middle of perhaps the largest transitional period of modern history, perhaps all history. This was the era of industrialization which we are still in the grips of for people all over the world are still adjusting to this monster that swallows entire cultures, spreads disease, and destroys the very planet we call home. All this in the name of "advancement". We must ask ourselves just because we possess a few modern conveniences are we really that much better off. We created these "conveniences" in order to give ourselves more freedom to enjoy life. This is a paradox however for as many modern inventions as we surround ourselves with we just end up working more hours at tedious, monotonous jobs that the vast majority despises. The average hunter gatherer groups (which there are very few left) are able to sustain themselves in a healthy existence to life expectancy rates equal to those of modernized people and the do this on 16 hours of work per week. Should someone in an industrialized society attempt this (with omission to the very few exceptions) they would soon fall to the bottom poverty level and become most miserable. Sure we view them as primitive and miserable but that is not the case. There is an old saying that ignorance is bliss. So ask yourself how free am I really, do not the modern conveniences which we deem necessary to survival serve that purpose or do they ensnare us to a perpetual form of slavery we are totally kept unaware of by our constant need to uphold some status quo.

I must apologize for all the previous rambling, it was only there to aid me in supporting my point of view and interpretation of the story. Towards the end of the story during a conversation between Frankenstein and Walton. Walton ask how Frankenstein animated a corpse and Frankenstein basically replied that such knowledge is not fit to be searched for, he then implores Walton to seek happiness in life through ignorance and not to seek infamy among science for it will only serve to make one miserable and bring ones demise. In this I believe Shelley was making reference to the downside and corruption of science. Also I believe Clerval and his death was significant. Clerval was not interested in science but language philosophy and art. He was able to enjoy sunshine and beautiful days and all the other glories of nature. Frankenstein's monster killed Clerval and in a way I believe this represented industrialization effect on abstract thought as well as nature and all it's splendor. Williams death represented the death of innocence. The death of Elizabeth represented the death of love and Frankenstein himself represented society in general as his monster represented industry itself in a sense. For like industry the monster was not bad in the beginning nor in a sense in the end but he was corrupted by society just like industry. These are some of my interpretations however I am late for class and must stop abruptly and hope my basic point of view has been conveyed.
Steven Robbins


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