A'alaa AlMajnouni

Victor Frankenstein Vs. The Created Monster: A Textual, a Structural, and a Psychological Study

In Uncategorized on December 1, 2011 at 2:25 am

The novel of Marry Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) carries within itself a great mount of arguments and inclinations from the date of publication till the present day. There are aesthetic phases of this novel, yet some located within its mythological subtitle, its narrative structure, and its deep penetration to the characters’ psychology. Therefore, this paper aims to explore: at first, the interconnection between the novel’s subtitles with its contents. At second, provide a study of the novel narratology in both psychological and structural sides. At third, speculate selected extracts for the reason of explaining how Love and Hatred are treated relating to the character of Victor Frankenstein versus his created Monster.

 

Frankenstein’s tale of the 18th century got a subtitle as The Modern Prometheus. Although different features inspire both titles yet in a way they collaborate to foretell about the environment of the novel. The Prometheus myths according to The Concise Cambridge History of English Literature are two: [1] the Ancient Greek original legend, which the Prometheus challenged the power of gods to help humankind and later suffered horrific punishment. And the [2] Roman version of the myth recounted by Ovid[1], whose character was the Creator of life (Baxter 253).  The role of this subtitle noticeably deals with its first as Frankenstein, and specifically towards the character of Victor. For ‘Victor Frankenstein’ can be compared to the ‘Prometheus’ when he tried to play the role of God, as God is the only owner of power to give or take life, Victor stated: ‘when I found so astonishing a power placed within my hands…I possessed the capacity of bestowing animation’ (51;ch.4).  As the Prometheus stole fire from Zeus[2], Victor used the power of Hurricane to give life to fragmented limps of human. Victor implies: ‘like a hurricane, in the first enthusiasm of success. Life and death appeared to me ideal bounds, which I should first break through, and pour a torrent of light into our dark world’ (52;Ch. 4). As a result we can imply that the two versions of the myths are unified to portray ‘Victor’ as ‘Prometheus’ and specifically a Modern one. Where I personally, find the character of Victor is partially of both; a Greek version when he used the stolen fire imbedded in the Hurricane and partially Roman in the role of being the Creator of life.

 

What is more interesting! Is the extra subtitle Joseph Kestner in his essay “Narcissism as Symptoms and Structure” gave to Frankenstein as ‘The Modern Narcissus’ (70). This innovative title by Kestner deals with the novel psychologically and structurally. He provided an analysis regarding the characters’ interrelation of Captain Walton, Victor Frankenstein and the Monster, who are mainly the narrators of the story. Actually this essay is a critical study based on Richard Sennett’s analysis on Pathological Narcissism in literary works. And this term means as he explained: ‘the Narcissus myth; illustrates that there are rarely one type of individual involved in this pathology: in reality, there are two, one whose reaction evolves an hysterical ‘demon’, another whose symptoms induces a solipsistic, benumbed self-projection’ (69). It’s where Kestner makes Frankenstein as one of the greatest exploration of the pathological narcissism by his character. As I get from the definition: Victor is the rare individual, the person whose got himself into a situational reality where he got a doubled faces, the ‘demon’ and the ‘solipsistic’ – the view or the theory that the self is all that can be known to exist. Accordingly, as brief as Genette emphasizes this concept of Narcissism what noted by Sennett to make Frankenstein applicable to the myth is that: ‘the narcissist desire is to Flee ‘on the next person who is idealized as perfect until he or she begins to care’ (69). True, the novel implies the element to ‘Flight’ because as to Genette the flight is the result of the reflection. How? Is so clear as in (Walton to the pole, Victor from the creature, the creature in pursuit of Victor) and mainly Victor Frankenstein is longing for the other, then the fleeing from the other again; these all are outcomes of the narcissist’s reflection, or a Flight (70).

 

Consequently, and to a further discussion on this myth, Genette again notes: ‘the self is confirmed, but under the species of the other; the mirror image is a perfect symbol of alienation’ (70). To direct us to the question been raised in the essay of Kestner of How does this ‘Mirror image’ become functional as a literary structure? And this exactly what will lead us to the method of narration in Frankenstein. However, many essays had provided answers for the structural presentation of narcissism in literary works, but Jean Ricardou’s “The Story within the Story” is one example at this paper. Ricardou calls this system the mise en abyme when the story comes within another story, this technique; the narrative is ‘imposing on itself in a narcissistic manner’ (71) which makes the novel of Mary Shelley’s a perfect exemplar.

 

More details on the novel’s narrating strategy are by Pitter Brooks’ “What is the Monster?” The essay encloses an understanding around Frankenstein’s narrators. Brook stated his method on Frame narrative structure, it’s a narrative, which involves framed or imbedded tales, then a tale within a tale: at first, in the outer frame, we have Captain Walton writes to his sister Mrs. Seville, and tells us about the meeting of Frankenstein as the Arctic. The second is Victor Frankenstein narrates his story to Walton, yet in the innermost tale is the Monster’s tale to Victor. Then third, the frames resume backside from the Monster, to Victor, then back to Walton writes to his sister (81). To shorten the idea of Frame narrative is as Beth Newman’s visualizes it as ‘receiving a Chinese-box of stories-within-stories’ (168). As a result the narratology in Mary’s novel takes the form of frames structured narrations in order to harmonize the contents of Frankenstein’s events with the novel writing form- or -in other way; the plot with the style. However, this method of narration serves the novel Frankenstein to a next further aspect at this research paper.

 

On the third aspect of this paper, the previous method of telling the story helps a study on the content of Frankenstein tale, which focuses upon the theme of humanity’s deepest feelings! The novel revolves on a redemptive power of Love and Hate, and this interrelation is evidently explained throughout the interconnection between the structure form together with the character of Victor Frankenstein verses his created Monster. By comparing and contrasting the narrators of each frame; the two characters despite the differences, there lays distinct parallelism between Frankenstein and this Monster. They all are exposed in the novel by sharing the love of nature, thirst for knowledge, along with the desire of vengeance. In addition to personal beliefs, where both are find himself victimized, and secluded from society.

 

Hence, we can absorb the love of Nature described in Frankenstein by two; level one is colorfully bright, peaceful and fruitful, while, level two is depressing, monochromic and miserable. In the monster’s request to Victor regard creating a female companion the first level is clearly used: ‘“I swear,” he cried, “by the sun, and by the blue sky of heaven, and by the fire of love that burns my heart, that if you grant my prayer, while they exist you shell never behold me again’ (168; Ch.17) The abandoned Monster used the beauty of nature magnificently and with sensitivity. Given that his dislikable looking, the Monster used the action of fierce love in ‘fire’ and ‘burns’, and promised peacefulness ‘that if you grant my prayer…shell never behold me again’ all by nature to prove his monstrous figure is never harming but appreciable to Nature around him.

Nevertheless this appreciation turned to play level two of melancholy miserable ending stated by the Monster speech: ‘I looked upon them as superior beings who would be the arbiters of my future destiny.’ (127;ch.12) once more hatefully and inhumanity the monster declares after Victor rejected his request and broke his promise: ‘I vowed eternal hatred and vengeance to all mankind’ (159;ch.16) and ‘I cannot believe that I am the same creature whose thoughts. But it is even so; the fallen angel becomes a malignant devil’ (258;ch. 24).

 

On a comparison to the other usage of nature expressed by the character of Victor Frankenstein, we can absorb a combined two levels in one of his speech, stated at the extract below:

The birds sang in more cheerful notes, and the leaves began to bud forth on the trees. Happy, happy earth! Fit habitation for gods, which, so short a time before, was bleak, damp, and unwholesome. My spirits were elevated by the enchanting appearance of nature; the past was plotted from my memory, the present was tranquil, and the future glided by bright rays of hope and anticipations of joy.  (127; Ch. 13)

Victor used at first ‘the birds sang in more cheerful notes, and the leaves began to bud forth on the trees. Happy, happy earth!’ to drive us to wonder, what a pleasant content speech at first! What misery accrued to make Victor ends up his speech with ‘bleak, damp, and unwholesome’. 

 

However, and despite the agreed love of Nature, both of Victor and the Monster himself repulsed and despised the Monster’s physical appearance, clearly shown by the lonesome Monster’s lament “hateful day when I received life!” I exclaimed in agony. “Accursed creator” why did you form a monster so hideous that even YOU turned from me in disgust? (145;Ch.15).  At this point, we can absorb the concept of beauty to Victor and his Monster! The nature for both is more a physical existence, and thus will always be admiralty beautiful. Contrarily to the Monster’s character, the concept of inner beauty crosses to show negligence from the side of Victor and the other, as the cottagers, Victor’s brother William and the rest. They all failed to witness the benevolent within the monster, only the hideous outside of him.

 

Up till now both of them, Victor and the Monster started out with good intentions, which ends up with misfortune! Canonically, begins with the intention of knowledge; Victor’s thirst of knowledge encourages him to study natural science ‘I have described myself as always having been imbued with a fervent longing to penetrate the secrets of nature…I always came from my studies discontent and unsatisfied’ (34;Ch. 2) but his thirsty ambition soon led him astray and desperate, which is clearly described after the creation of his own abhorred creation. Victor Frankenstein at first was megalomaniac by this ecstasy of knowledge, unaware of the outcome where he stated: ‘a new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me’ (52;Ch.4). Though victor himself at last suffered an unfortunate death out of agony. Victor Frankenstein here and again is illustrating the Greek Prometheus with his end. For Zeus punished the Prometheus for his crime by having him bound to a rock while a great eagle ate his liver every day only to have it grow back to be eaten again the next day (Roman Jupiter online). Similarly here, Victor is punished by the existence of his created Monster slaughtering his entire beloved ones ‘the death of William, the execution of Justine, the murder of Clerval, and lastly of my wife’ (274;ch.23) to drive Victor to his collision stated ‘In his murder my crimes are consummated; the miserable series of my being is wound to its closed’ (282;ch.24).

 

Still, secondly, and parallel to Victor’s, the family of De Lacey was the resource to the Monster thirst of knowledge. The monster never had a life full of opportunity like Victor’s lavish education. Oppositely he has only this family, De Lacey who played the role of his knowledge, as the monster declared to Victor: ‘such was the history of my beloved cottagers. It impressed me deeply. I learned, from the views of social life which it developed, to admire their virtues and to deprecate the vices of humankind’ (142;Ch.15) and ‘I learned from Werter’s imaginations despondency and gloom, but Plutarch taught me high thoughts; he elevated me above the wretched sphere of my own reflection’ (144;Ch.15).  Although the De Lacey was for him the family, he, the Monster never been considered one for any of their members. Even with his instinct to love and be loved, their reaction to the monster appearance is one of heartbreaking to a monster and hideous to them if not repulsion stated by first stepped emergence at their cottage:

The cottage door was opened, and Felix, Safie, and Agatha entered. Who can describe the horror and concentration on beholding me? Agatha fainted, and Safie, unable to attend to her friend, rushed out of the cottage. Felix darted forward and with a supernatural; force tore me from his father…he dashed me to the ground and struck me violently with a stick.   (151;Ch.15)

 

The novel of Frankenstein steps forward to continue the discussion of Love and Hate interrelations, by expositing a mixture of good interconnected intention considering the personal sanctuary and social acceptance. Then, the character of Victor Frankenstein and of his created Monster, are all agreed to share an inclination to love, and to be loved, but their loving intentions are however, swiftly transformed to hate, grudge and then to isolation at the end. Specifically, Love and Hate join up through the characterizational similarities of both Victor Frankenstein against The Monster. So far hate on the other hand, interconnected with the consequences of the dissimilar environments!

 

Thus, from the very start of the novel we absorbed that Victor has a loving family; ‘No human being could have passed a happier childhood than myself’ (31;Ch.2) whereas the Monster was family-less. Victor again was surrounded with friends, and a lover then a wife – Elizabeth. But the Monster on the contrary was abandoned the moment he was born by his own creator, expressed by the Monster in ‘I, the miserable and the abandoned, am an abortion, to be spurned at, and kicked, and trampled on’ (258;ch.24).  Once again, Victor is isolated by his obsession to work; this work was mainly his passionate process of giving an animated life to the dead ‘I had worked hard nearly two years, for the sole purpose of infusing life into an animated body’ (65;ch.5). Yet this turned up to sorrowful obsession drove Victor to isolation and solitary; ‘everywhere I see bliss, from which I alone am irrevocably excluded’ (128;ch.10) and because the Monster killed off those he loved, the feeling of hate grows harder in him ‘my rage is unspeakable when I reflect that the murderer, whom I have turned loose upon society, still exist’ (279;ch.23).

 

Conversely, the Monster is isolated for another reason that diverged his creator, Victor. The Monster chooses isolation because of his ugly appearance, the one he got from his creator; ‘I am alone and miserable; man will not associate with me; but one as deformed and horrible as myself’ (195;ch.16) which this also led him to held a great mount of hatred towards humankind who abhorred his out looking ‘believe me Frankenstein, I was benevolent; my soul glowed with love and humanity; but an I not alone, miserably alone?’ (168;ch.14).

 

On another phase, heartbreakingly, the Monster asked for his humanist rights as a living creation. He asked out of Love and desperate seclusion for a companionship, embodied as a female-monster lover, and a friend! In spite of his monstrous form, he again used his knowledge, which he acquired by De Lacey to illustrate, that, Satan is Evil embodiment and yet he has companions, if I’m considered as malevolence and danger as if Satan, I’m yet all-alone! Stated is this line; ‘even the enemy of God and man had friends and associates in his desolation; I am alone’ (256;cp.24).

 

To sum up, Marry Shelley’s novel Frankenstein: or the Modern Prometheus illustrated aesthetically the potential of Evil in Human and inhuman beings excessively. The novel within a scientific plot produced two diverged characters whom the first; Victor Frankenstein is the reason of the second character existence, the Monster. Those characters served the paper analyses on certain dimensions; starting form the novel’s titles, passing studying the characters’ approach of narrating the tale, ending with their interconnection humanitarianly.

 

 

Works Cited

 

Gérard Gennette, ‘Complexe de Narcisse’, Figures I (Paris, 1966), pp. 21-2

“Dactylic Hexameter – What Is Dactylic Hexameter.” Ancient / Classical History – Ancient Greece & Rome & Classics Research Guide. Web. 03 Nov. 2011.

Jean Ricardou, ‘L’histoire dans l’histoire’, Problémes du nouveau roman’ (Paris, 1967), p. 172; trans. Joseph Kestner as ‘The Story Within the Story’, James Joyce Quarterly, 18 (1981), p. 323-38.

Richard Sennett, ‘Narcissism and Modern Culture’ October, 4 (1977), 71.

Sampson, George, and Reginald Charles. Churchill. The Concise Cambridge History of English Literature. London: Cambridge U.P., 1970. Print.

Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft, and David Stevens. Frankenstein, Or, The Modern Prometheus. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1998. Print.

<http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/poets/qt/081309DactylicHexameter.htm&gt;.

“ZEUS : Greek King of the Gods, God of Sky & Weather | Mythology, W/ Pictures | Roman Jupiter.” THEOI GREEK MYTHOLOGY, Exploring Mythology & the Greek Gods in Classical Literature & Art. Web. 03 Nov. 2011. <http://www.theoi.com/Olympios/Zeus.html&gt;.

“Brooks, “What Is a Monster?”” University of Pennsylvania | Department of English. Web. 24 Oct. 2011. <http://www.english.upenn.edu/Projects/knarf/Articles/brooks2.html&gt;.

“Newman, “Narratives of Seduction”” University of Pennsylvania | Department of English. Web. 24 Oct. 2011. <http://www.english.upenn.edu/Projects/knarf/Articles/newmanb.html&gt;.


[1] A Roman poet wrote his Metamorphoses in the epic meter of dactyllic hexameters. It tells stories about the transformations of mostly humans and nymphs into animals, plants, etc.

[2] He was the king of the gods, the god of sky and weather, law, order and fate. He was depicted as a regal man, mature with sturdy figure and dark beard. His usual attributes were a lightning bolt, royal sceptre and eagle.

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Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven” as an Anti-Transcendental Poem

In My Research Papers & Essays on June 9, 2011 at 6:46 pm

The Law of Newton’s Action-Reaction“…The direction of the force on the first object is opposite to the direction of the force on the second object…”applied on physics. Yet, this law is partially applicable to some literary movements too. For each movement emerges as an action there is the reverse reaction towards. Transcendentalism as an Action is a famous American movement or a philosophy based on the ultimate reality of God, the Universe, and the Self. It is idealistic and optimistic because it could find the answer to any existential question through intuition and observation of the natural world (Harmon & Holman 527). However, its Reaction formed the Anti-Transcendentalism, or ‘Dark Romanticism’ which is based on the total diverged from the first, mainly about the destructiveness of the human race. For the reason that Anti-Transcendentalism revolves on pessimistic beliefs and believed that Transcendentalism was naïve, selfish, and unrealistic. It viewed nature as vast and incomprehensible, a reflection of the struggle between good and evil (Harmon & Holman 458). Therefore, this paper seeks to present a concise attempt to analyze the elemental aspects of Anti-Transcendentalism applied on the poem of Edgar Allen Poe “The Raven”.

The perspective of Anti-Transcendentalists towards the world is viewed as evil as an entity, and the sin as an active force within. They believed in a higher authority, and humans could not understand the nature of which in a complete individualism. Hitherto this proposition by them would lead to selfishness and man’s fall into wickedness. Moreover, and on the artistic level, their works reflect these beliefs and often include either an allegory of the fall of man or supernatural intervention and man’s depravity. Accordingly, Edgar Allan Poe considered by many critics as one famous Anti-Transcendentalist for his prevalence of human depravity through all his works (RTA). However, the works of him are noticeably coherent with his personal aesthetic beliefs and judgments. The thematic tales of Poe are commonly connected with fear and terror where they present the elemental aspects and emergence of ‘American Gothicism’. Furthermore, James Lowell stated to support:

Mr. Poe as a great master of imagination has seldom restored to the vague and the unreal as sources of effect. He has not used dread and horror alone, but only in combination with other qualities, as means of subjugating the fancies of his readers.  (qtd. Rasmus 23-24)

Although Poe did not publically mention Ralph Waldo Emerson, the founder of Transcendentalism, but he relentlessly attacked his ideas and American Transcendentalism in general. In short, Edgar Allen Poe meant to jeopardize the ideal of nature all through the nineteenth century (“The Domain of Artifice” 1) and in the United States in particular. Besides, they were constructed on a base of deep rejection to his transcendentalist’s contemporaries on their ethical and aesthetic myths (RTA).

“The Raven” is Edgar Allen Poe’s most popular poem and it was first published in the New York Evening Mirror on January 29, 1845. Yet again, “The Raven” as an anti-transcendental work is as well a renowned category of finest example of Gothic poetry! Poe meant not to have a meditation on death nor a philosophical examination of how death affects our lives after the loss of our beloved in this world, but he made Death as a crucial part of its existence (Campbell & Ford 19). In “The Philosophy of Composition” Poe’s own essay about “The Raven” describes it as one that reveals the human weakness for “self-torture” as evidenced by the speaker’s tendency to weigh up himself through grief (qtd. Graham’s Lady’s and Gentleman’s Magazine). For Poe in order to establish the proper extreme of grief in the poem’s speaker, he needs to be absolutely drained of any tiny hope of seeing her again, ‘Lenore’. Wherever, only death could provide such an absolute!

“The Raven” is opening with an exhaled of ‘Ah’ and agitated emotions of the narrator on a cruel day of December, with the bitter coldness, and lifeless isolated house, where the atmosphere is so dark death-like and so horrifying. Poe starts:

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; – vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow – sorrow for the lost Lenore –
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels named Lenore –
Nameless here for evermore.  (7-11)

It is assumed that the narrator to be a scholar, who might be Edgar Allen Poe himself. The narrator is sitting alone at this night lamenting and trying to read volumes alone forgetting the death of love the gloominess of love the struggle between remembrance of love and forgetting. Here, he is trying to forget to deny living, as nothing happened to overwhelm oneself with books and reading to pass the time to take the mind of problems. As the Poetic tale continues the landscape quickly broadens with fear and uncertainty in where the poet in the prison catastrophic richly furniture room heard a gentle tapping on his chamber door. Filled with excitement and fear, the poet decided to open the door as the essayist Dana Gioia assumed:

He thinks at first it is a late night visitor, but opening the door, he finds only “Darkness there, and nothing more.” (This initial glimpse into black nothingness will prove prophetic of his ultimate fate.) Half afraid, half wishful, the speaker whispers the name of his dead lover. Irrationally he hopes the visitor is her ghost. There comes no reply, however, except the echo of his voice. Soon the tapping resumes-now at his window, Opening the shutter, he finds a Raven.  (33)

The next stanza hold up more anti-transcendental portions shown clearly on the Gothic atmosphere, and once the narrator began to have a hysteric thought about his love; he is so moved by remembering her, his Lenore! Poe wrote:

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the darkness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, `Lenore!’
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, `Lenore!’
Merely this and nothing more.   (25-31)

He whispered her name he is wishing that the late mid-night visitor will be his Lenore. He fears he wonders and he still loves. He is living in hopes and dreams of everlasting love. The Raven the omen of bad things or the angel from heaven might be seeking shelter from the coldness of winter into the room with the dead amber. Yet, the Raven might represent nothing maybe it is all inside the mind of the narrator the images he seeks or desire the most. But B. J. Bolden in his essay of “Poetry for Students” said:

Though logic tells the young man that the raven’s “Nevermore” is merely a rote response, he is beyond reason. Having experienced a turbulent shift in his emotions, from dreamy melancholy to irrational hope, by the second half of the poem, the young man is precariously perched on the brink of insanity. As though the raven can divine the source of the young man’s grief over the lost Lenore and the desperate hope that he will once again “clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore-,” the raven continues to utter only the solitary word “Nevermore.” The young man’s spirit sags over the finality of Lenore’s death, yet he proceeds to indulge in sweet torture by his rhetorical interrogation of the stoic raven, as if his desperate questioning keeps her precious memories alive.  (qtd. Gale 28-29)

The narrator now is in a situation that can’t be described he is in a state of hysteric to madness. He first thought the bird as a messenger from heaven as a ghost of his passed lover as a joyous memory later in the second half of the poems his mind swung completely as he now think of the eternal vision of nothingness or as bad omen. Once again on what Dana Gioia supposed:

A devil sent to claim the speaker for the underworld. The speaker’s dawning awareness of his hellish doom is reflected in the poem’s changing refrain, which begins as “nothing more” and “Evermore,” but darkens once the bird speaks his prophetic “Nevermore” By the poem’s last line, the narrator has accepted the bird’s dire prophecy. Echoing his shadowy tormentor, he declares his soul “Shall be lifted-nevermore.”   (34)

As the narrator now in a agitation and because he needs to cling to the memories of his lost Lenore, the young man experiences inner turmoil as he tries to face the thought of life without her. Finally, he chooses the torture of past memories over the pain of present emptiness. As a plot device, this works fine, because the reader is assured that there is no way they could ever be reunited. The poem’s weakness, though, is that the bald fact of death is not used to generate any new understanding. Grief is an honest, basic response to death, but Poe does not take it anywhere. The speaker does not think about his own death or life, nor about what his time with Lenore was like or whether her life was full and significant in the short time she did have: he just grieves and grieves and grieves. The reader would be right to question whether this is a realistic response to death, and whether in real life people do respond to death with such perpetual and chronic sorrow. It is a characteristic of Romanticism, the literary movement that Poe is associated with, to stretch a human emotion beyond the shape that we are familiar with in real life: beauties are stunning and unforgettable beauties, suffering is agony, and grief is uncontrollable. Death is one of the few things that cannot be fixed or reversed, and the enormity of it is therefore entirely appropriate for the exaggerated emotions in Poe’s work (BR).

Thus, we can understand that he has quite lot of deep meaning behind the surface of horror poem alone. So, What is the main idea behind the text? What is the major aspect? What does Poe want to tell us? Are the images the main source behind the text? Or is it the persona? Is it the atmosphere? Or they are all combined together to show us the hidden meaning between Poe compositions. Poe with his creative imagination spellbound readers and he as well confuse scholars and critics for they can not decide of what is the real meaning behind it or who is the persona who represents Poe, maybe none or both N.P Williams in the death of Edgar A. Poe said: ” The Raven was probably much more nearly than has been supposed, even by those who were very intimate with him, a reflection and an echo of his own history.

He was the bird’s

Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster

Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore

Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore

Of ‘Never-nevermore.'”

A harsh master treated the bird just like his harsh experiences deprived Poe of all faith in man or woman. It might suggest that he was a hard worker and not being appreciated by society and getting low wages and money for his great works. On the other hand some critic like Dave Smith said that:

Poe is the narrator himself the lonely gloomy figure who permits the witness to Some close to his creature and yet keep safe, a glimpsed but not engaged threat. Still, having summoned the raven, Poe cannot so easily deny or repress it: he tells us the bird sits in the forever of that last stanza, a curse neither expiated nor escaped. Poe loved women who died, often violently, diseased. His mother went first; he was two and an orphan. He was taken in and raised as ward of John Allan and his wife Frances, a sickly woman who would die on him, but first there would be Jane Standard, on whom he had a fourteen-year-old’s crush. She was thirty-one when she died insane. Poe suffered the death of three women before he finished being a moody teenaged boy.  (40)

To sum up, Edgar Allan Poe is one of the major influences of Dark Romanticism. As an anti-transcendentalist he not only addressed the central question of nineteenth-century romantic symbolism, or that of reality over illusion or the power of the imagination (Gale 31). Indeed, Poe in his narrative “The Raven” transported Romantic symbolism to new heights, and envisioned the Dark side of Nature as pessimistic, evil and dark mystery if not centers on the Death as a main premise.

Works Cited

Baym, Nina. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. New York: W.W. Norton &, 2008.

B. J. Bolden, in an essay for Poetry for Students, Gale, 1997.

Campbell, Killis, The Mind of Poe and Other Studies, New York: Russell and Russell, 1962.

Dana Gioia, in an essay for Poetry for Students, Gale, 1997.

Dave Smith, “Edgar Allan Poe and the Nightmare Ode,” in Southern Humanities Review, Vol. 29, No. I, Winter, 1995, pp. 4-10.

Harmon, William, C. Hugh Holman, and William Flint Thrall. A Handbook to Literature. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2000.

Hastrup, Rasmus. A Crack in the Mirror. Echoes, Reflections, Doubles and Confined Space in the Life and Work of Edgar Allan Poe. København, 2001.

Poe, Edgar Allan, ‘The Philosophy of Composition,” in Graham’s Lady’s and Gentleman’s Magazine, Vol. XXVII, April, 1846, reprinted in Literary Criticism of Edgar Allan Poe, edited by Robert L. Hough, University of Nebraska Press, 1965, pp. 20-32.

 

A Marxist Analysis on Class Conflict in the Novel of Sir William Golding’s Lord of the Flies

In My Research Papers & Essays on June 9, 2011 at 6:45 pm

Mahatma Gandhi once declared that; “Liberty and democracy become unholy when their hands are dyed red with innocent blood” (Non-violence in Peace and War, 1948). Thus far, Sir William Golding’s Lord of the Flies overarches a premise that humanity is pessimistic and corrupted and brutally chaotic instincts throughput a characters of children. In order to have a better understanding, this novel is first Published in 1954 shortly after the WWII and its firmly rooted in the sociopolitical concerns of its era. It advertingly narrates London Blitz (1940-1941) where children were evacuated from the metropolitan area: some were sent to Scotland, some to Canada and Australia (teachrobb.com) and to provide an authentic environment to the text. Thus, this paper seeks to point out the Ideology of Golding in Lord of the Flies through a Marxist reading over the Class Conflict.

The Ideology of Sir Golding alludes to the Cold War conflict in between the Liberal Democracy in his presentation of “Ralph’s” whereas “Jack Merridew” is the totalitarian communism (teachrobb.com). Since “Marxists do not see any literary works as an aesthetic objects but a product of the socioeconomic aspects.” (Dobie 94) appropriately, the novel of Lord of the Flies substantiates a Marxist principle elucidated by the Class Conflict throughput the boys’ attempts of civilization and devolution. Despite the boys mimicry of the social organization that they think would reflect the adult world realistically (“Article Myriad”) it turned into savagery and bloody violence.

Terry Eagelton had stated that; “Marxism is as inseparable from modern civilization… as much part of our “historical unconscious”…” (Bressler 161).  Therefore, Lord of the Flies as work of fiction is an applicable text accepts the elemental perspective of Marxism. The story revolves on a conflict between groups of English boys who trapped on a deserted island with no grownups survivors. The philosophy of Sir Golding and the “historical unconscious” of the Cold War materialized allegorically. Additionally, to know that Sir Golding as a British naval commander in WWII and to know some of the facts of the British involvement in the war helps in understanding a relation to the premise of the text (“Article Myriad”). Thus again, the Children Conflicts presented all through the struggle among the characters to develop their sociopolitical system until they get rescued! Yet, Karl Marx proclaimed about the social constructions that:

“It is not our philosophical or religious beliefs that make us who we are, for we are not spiritual beings but socially constructed ones. We are not products of divine design but creation of our own cultural and social circumstances.”   (Dobie 92).

Then subsequently the struggle of the groups turned to be a completed dystopian[1] society and the children alone are the champions.

By scrutinizing the major three childish characters in the Lord of the Flies, Sir Golding uses “Ralph” and “Piggy” together and “Jack Merridew” along with “Roger” as major characters to portray his theory that; when Man is left in certain situations to survive and fend for themselves, they will ultimately resort to cruelty and evilness (“Article Myriad”).  For “Ralph”, he is the embodiment of Democracy and the protagonist of the story. He is one of the oldest boys on the island and quickly the leader and a Crouch-holder. This young boy is around the twelve years old, well built and in the novel you would get the impression he might grow into a boxer one day yet never to a ‘Devil’! (qtd. Golding viii). “Ralph” embodies democracy by the qualities of being fair, sunny, decent with the other boys, sensible and considerate as well as the quality of leadership stated in the novel as; “There’s another thing. We can help them to find us. If a ship comes near the island they may not notice us. So we must make smoke on top of the mountains. We must make a fire.” (46; ch.2) and through this; “‘I’m chief. We’ve got to make certain [that there is no beast] There’s no signal showing [on the mountain]. There may be a ship out there.'” (98; ch.6). However he does not understand the world around a lot – and that’s why he needs the help of “Piggy”, still as a Democrat he has two things in his mind very clearly fixed: (1) they will be rescued yet not when and how. (2) In order to be rescued he sees that they must hang together! These two facts of “Ralph” is stated as; “This is our island. It’s a good island. Until the grown-ups come to fetch us we’ll have fun.” (41; ch.2). Although to “Ralph” calmness and rationality, with sound judgment and a strong moral sensibility he is yet susceptible to the same instinctive influences that affect suicide the other boys. It is demonstrated by his contribution to both Simon’s death and Piggy’s, stated at the end of the novel; “Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart, and the fall through the air of a true, wise friend called Piggy.” (248; ch.12) which as well shows the shaking base of the Democratic Party through the Cold War. Nevertheless, “Ralph” remains the most civilized character throughout the novel with his strong commitment to justice and equality as described in the novel; “Ralph launched himself like a cat; stabbed, snarling, with the spear, and the savage doubled up.” (279; ch.12) and when the Officer at the novel closing asked; “ who’s boss here? “I am,” said Ralph loudly.” (283; ch.12).

On the other hand, the character of “Piggy” is a bit multifaceted, for he represents culture within the democratic system embodied by “Ralph”. Although he is described as chubby, awkward, and averse to physical labor for his asthmatic condition, “Piggy” still sensitive, conscientious and the intellectualist of the island (qtd. Golding viii). “Piggy’s” intellectual talent endears him to “Ralph” in particular, who comes to admire and respect him and make him the Brain Trust. “Piggy” is dedicated to the ideal of civilization and consistently reprimands the other boys for behaving as Savages; “We’ve got to have rules and obey them. After all, we’re not savages. We’re English, and the English are best at everything.” (40; ch.2).

Yet, on the contrary, is the character of “Jack Merridew”, the leader of a boys’ choir; “Jack” exemplifies Militarism as it borders on Authoritarianism. He is cruel and sadistic, preoccupied with hunting and killing pigs, stated: Kill the pig. Cut her throat. Bash her in” (75; ch.4). His sadism intensifies throughout the novel, and he eventually turns cruelly on the other boys; “[Jack and the two hunters] weremasked in black and green.” (160; ch.11). He feigns an interest in the rules of order established on the island, but only if they allow him to inflict punishment. For he represents anarchy which proved by the rejection of “Ralph’s” imposed order: “‘Which is better — to be a pack of painted Indians like you are, or to be sensible like Ralph…” (164; ch.11). But the bloody results of this act indicate the danger inherent in an anarchic system based only on self-interest. “Jack’s” transformation from civilized bully to savage killer has begun. He’s obsessed with hunting at the expense of all else, even rescue; They knew very well why he hadn’t: because of the enormity of the knife descending and cutting into living flesh; because of the unbearable blood.” (31; ch.1) “Jack” fears killing the pig at first, a fear he overcomes as he sheds civilization and adopts the way of the savage, but; “He tried to convey the compulsion to track down and kill that was swallowing him up.” (51; ch.4.). Thus, his hunting mask has obliterated that small semblance of civility, for Jack had: “The mask was a thing of its own, behind which Jack had liberated from shame and self-consciousness (64; ch.4).

However, the Children Conflict at Lord of the Flies holds the reader to a critical purpose towards the childish constructed government that indicates allegorically a relevant of our modern politics. Sir Golding visualizes the naïve; inexperienced boys into a place where there are no adults, no social institutions and no order yet a try to mimic the social organization that they think would reflect the adult world faithfully (“Article Myriad”). The children government is shaped and it is created out of necessity: they identified a leader by election to be “Ralph”; “‘All right. Who wants Jack for chief?’ ‘With a dreary obedience the choir raised their hands.’ ‘Who wants me? [Ralph] ‘Every hand outside the choir except Piggy’s was raised immediately.” (23; ch.1). Selected an item that give their society-building significance illustrated by the ‘Conch-shell’ to be Democracy that brings all the voices together. Established rules to fulfill their basic human needs; making ‘Fire’ in order to get rescued by the smoke, warmth and sheltered. Besides initiating workable relationships with one another stated in the text:

“[The boys] found themselves eager to take a place in this demented but partly secure society. They were glad to touch the brown backs of the fence that hemmed in the terror [of the makeshift beast] and made it governable.   (138; ch.9)

Nevertheless, it starts smoothly at first yet the group moved violently. It emerged first between “Ralph” civilization’s representative and “Jack” the incivility transformer, each by his group. These two groups are fighting each for diverse perceptions of the word ‘Survive’ and ‘Rescue’; the group of “Ralph” focuses on Fire, whereas the group of “Jack” focuses on Meat. At the beginning of the novel, “Ralph” has been elected as a chief, and has the majority of the Conch, an item of power at the novel. Yet, “Ralph” found “Jack” unpleasant by the election result so as a Democrat who seek to please his fellows he gave him the hunters; “‘Jack’s face disappeared under a blush of mortification. He started up, then changed his mind… Ralph looked at him, eager to offer something.’ ‘The choir belongs to you, of course.’ ‘They could be an army or hunters—.’” (23; ch.1).  This was a quietly good idea, thus “Jack” will drive his focus on other than Ralph being the chief. The materialism along with the thirst of power in “Jack’s” character prolongs after “Ralph” and exceeded to thought he was better and the only deserver! Consequently “Jack” wanted something just to show that he still had some type of power, so he started to dominate the Group a bit more than usual (teachrobb.com). Now “Jack” got the Hunters ‘Choir’ and the Meat, he is no longer interested to get rescued, gradually “Ralph’s loss of boys and Meat left his slowly weaker and powerless and “Jack” is capitalizing on the Island, as stated: “‘Which is better — to be a pack of painted Indians like you are, or to be sensible like Ralph is….Which is better — to have laws and agree, or to hunt and kill?'” (164; ch.11) in the quote, “Jack” was lecturing the other boys and declaring the uselessness of “Ralph’s” Authority. To sum up the Group Struggle, these boys however young are not innocent. Each of them reflects the influence of Man’s infection of Evilness. They also mirrors the Cold War terror, humanity in the children turned savagely inhuman, two boys got killed and the others went wild and this all explained at the end of the novel by:

“The officer grinned cheerfully at Ralph. ‘We saw your smoke. What have you been doing? Having a war or something?’ Ralph nodded. ‘Nobody killed, I hope? Any dead bodies?’ [Ralph] ‘Only two. And they’ve gone.’ [Officer] ‘Two? Killed?’ Ralph nodded again. Behind him, the whole island was shuddering with flame.’  (282-283; ch.12).

To conclude, Lord of the Flies provided a political theme-tale in a children framed society. Sir Golding alludes to the modern society between the same forces translated through both of “Ralph” and “Jack” (qtd. Epstein 293). So, it is not a book of confrontation but a sample that; “may help few grownups to be less complacent and more compassionate, to support Ralph, respect Piggy, control Jack, and lighten a little the darkness of Man’s Heart.” (qtd, Golding xii). As a permissible perception to the Marxist critic in order to express the personal view of the Ideology, I agree with Sir Golding attempt to trace the defect of society back to the defect of human nature stated in; “‘Maybe there is a beast….maybe it’s only us.'” (80 ;ch.5).

Works Cited

Bressler, Charles E. Literary Criticism: an Introduction to Theory and Practice. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2003.

Burris, Skylar Hamilton. “What Makes Things Break up like They Do?” Alternative Explanations For the Societal Breakdown in William Golding’s Lord of the Flie (1999). Web. <http://www.rbhs.w-cook.k12.il.us/Mancoff/lofancient.htm&gt;.

Dobie, Ann Brewster. Theory into Practice. Australia: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2008.

Golding, William. Lord of the Flies. New York: Penguin, 2003.

Harmon, William, C. Hugh Holman, and William Flint Thrall. A Handbook to Literature. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2006.

Lund, Mark. Literary Criticism: A Primer An English Office Publication. Thesis. Baltimore County Public Schools, 1996. Towson, MD. <http://www.teachrobb.com/documents/Criticism.htm&gt;.

Smith, Nicole. “Article Myriad.” The Role of Government in “Lord of the Flies” by William Golding(2010). <http://www.articlemyriad.com/lord_flies_government_society.htm


[1] In another words, the construction of the novel is an exemplar of Dystopia; an imaginary place – the coral island- where life is extremely difficult and a lot of unfair or immoral things happen.