Professor Michael Cross
The Dark Sides of the Modernization
During the earthly 19th century, countries like France, Spain, British, and other countries making up the Western countries suffered a radical political and social upheaval. These upheavals included the French Revolution as well as the Industrial Revolution. The revolutions made the agrarian society, a society consisting of noble control, to change into an industrial society. Capitalism became the main stream to this society. It led to evolution of classes consisting of labor and capital.
Later it caused a conflict amid capital and labor, like the Luddite, which was a social movement in Britain during the nineteenth century. In this case, textile artisans who were fired destroyed loom machines, which was against the Industrial Revolution, also brought the amendment of labor laws and the suffrage right. Again, through the movement, males made up the major bodies of power struggle. The social reforms were mainly made up of male members. The males also controlled females.
Mary Shelley wrote the novel Frankenstein, in 1818. She was born in the same social mood. For about two hundred years, the novel was acted in movie stories, performed in theatres, and presented as cartoons. The story mainly emphasized on violence of a monster. Due to this, the novel becomes referred to as the horror story and the name of Frankenstein, who was a scientist and the monster creator in the novel, has been viewed as a monster. However, the recognition could be wrong, making the novel to be hardly a horror story. The novel is not a horror story since in the novel, Mary Shelley argues that modernization cannot answer wishes humankind. This aspect shows the dark side of the nineteenth century and modernization within the Western World.
The novel “Frankenstein” portrays modernization as based on the principle of materialism, which consist of high human desire. Modernization and industrialization come in as key parts in the human history because they provide the opportunity to the development of the quality of human life both technically and socially. With the great progress, humankinds become concerned about creation of human being and life. The novel defiance about the authority of God, and it is against the natural law.
In the book, “Man and his Symbols,” Carl Gustave Jung, the writer, notes “Myths of a religious nature can be interpreted as a sort of mental therapy for the sufferings and anxieties of mankind in general” (Jung 68). According to the statement, myths are deeply related to human desire. It seems that looks the novel is mainly linked to myths. The original title was Frankenstein. This title was also taken to refer to the Modern Prometheus. According to the title, the writer uses Prometheus, one of the characters in the Greek mythology. This character steals fire from another character, Zeus, and hands it to the humankind because Vector Frankenstein was similar to Prometheus. Within the same mythology, the character known as Prometheus is viewed as a traitor to the god since he steals the authority of the god, which is fire. The humankind becomes the benefactor in this case. It seems Vector Frankenstein thinks of the purpose behind the creation of new life as being due to the humankind such as Prometheus. Frankenstein note in the novel, “Yet, when I considered the improvement which every day takes place in science and mechanics, I was encouraged to hope my present attempts would at least lay the foundations of future success. Nor could I consider the magnitude and complexity of my plan as any argument of its impracticability. It was with these feelings that I began the creation of a human being. … Life and death appeared to me ideal bounds,, which I should first break through, and pour a torrent of light into our dark world. A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me. No father could claim the gratitude of his child so completely as I should deserve theirs” (Shelley 58).
According to this words, Frankenstein appears proud of the creation of the given human being. Frankenstein is highly portrayed as being narcissistic. Later in the story, Frankenstein finds that his idea meant the severance with people and the defiance about the authority of the god and the realm women since the created creature is a monster. Frankenstein says that, “I had gazed on him while unfinished; he was ugly then; but when those muscles and joints were rendered capable of motion, it became a thing such as Dante could not have conceived” (Shelley 61).
The monster in the novel kills everyone, directly related to Frankenstein, like his wife Elizabeth, as well as his sister. Frankenstein attempts to kill his created monster with revengeful efforts and odium, but he fails to do so.
From the story, arrogance of humankind is shown. The effect of the modernization on humankind leading to emergence of human desire is also shown including its dangers to humankind. Therefore, the novel can be educative for humankind.
The novel not only reflects on the human desire due to modernization, but also shows various gender roles. By modernization, various aspects of society change and progress, but gender stereotype remain constant. This stereotype, is considered close to the issue of male chauvinism in the primitive age. In the primitive age, scientists and scholars theorize that males hunted and fought as a way of protecting their tribes as well as families. The male in the society were also more powerful than the females. They were too brave to face difficult situations within their societies. From the two views, it seems that the gender roles were set through social conditions, which contributed to a common stereotype. In this stereotype, the males are portrayed as powerful while the females are seen as weak. Despite that the 19th century is hardly the age in which the males had to hunt and fight in the attempt to protect their families, the roles of females were specifically limited to their homes. According to the way the society was organized, having many children was considered as socially important during this period. This aspect made female have to focus on baring and bringing their children up as per the social demands. One of the most important duties for the females was housework but later, this societal organization naturally brought in the concept that opportunities in education was for the males while the females did not have any legal right. Various literatures in the 19th century showed the same case in gender role as well. An example of such literatures is the novel “Pride and Prejudice,” written by Jane Austen. This novel was written in 1813. In the novel, Benet says that, “It is from my cousin, Mr. Collins, who, when I am dead, may turn you all out of this house as soon as he pleased. … I do think it is the hardest thing in the world that your estate should be entailed away from your own children.” (Austen 43).
Through the word of Benet, females do not have any right to inheritance of property. It could be possible that their parents may wish that their daughters got married by males with power and money. The females within a society did not have the right to make choices in marriages. For this reason, the life of females was taken to be under the protection of the males. Pride and Prejudice are also issues of concern by Frankenstein who reflects gender roles and social moods in the same period. In the same novel, Caroline, a character, talks to her children saying, “My children, she said, my firmest hopes of future happiness were placed on the prospect of your union. This expectation will now be the consolation of your father. Elizabeth, my love, you must supply my place to my younger children” (Shelley 49).
From this case, Caroline request Elizabeth to marry to Victor, and she forces Elizabeth to care for her child because she highly believes that the marriage life of females is under the economic power of males as a natural phenomenon. Females are seen as being destined buy the prevailing social mood.
According to literatures from the 19th century, the role of females is to devote themselves to their husbands and to their child. Contrary to this, the males are the main stream both socially and economically. By expressing the existing differences in gender roles in the novel, “Frankenstein,” which reflects modernization and social mood in various forms, readers could find out that under modernization female are deprived off their rights in sex.
Through the creation of the monster in the novel, “Frankenstein,” Shelley expresses class-consciousness. A key aspect in modernization within the Western World is that Democracy is finally established. After the French Revolution, European started become concerned about the equality in human rights as well as abolition of various class distinctions. On the other hand, the majority rule, constituting the foundation as well as the identity of Democracy, became a weak point because the minority had a complaint, and the majority treated them.
In the film “Frankenstein, directed in1931 by James Whale, the monster acts by using the brain of a criminal and looks violent and ugly. This aspect makes people frightened of the monster, and they maintain distance from the monster. Unlike in the film, the novel “Frankenstein,” reveals the weakness of the majority rule in a plain way. When Frankenstein creates the monster, it acts innocent like a child, though people avoid it due to its ugly appearance. In the novel, the monster states that, “But, unfortunately, they are prejudiced against me. I have good disposition; my life has been hitherto harmless, and in some degree beneficial; but a fatal prejudice clouds their eyes, and where they ought to see a feeling and kind friend, they behold only a detestable monster” (Shelley 120).
In the book, “Sexual/ Textual Politics: Feminist Literary Theory,” the writer is Toril Moi and cites the lecture of Freud. Freud says that, “It is the eye that decides what is clearly true and what isn`t”. (Moi 132). Freud has his statement implying that misjudgment and preconception is made through one’s eyes. Through the preconception of people, one cannot join the human society although he has the soul and can speak. Through readings from books, the monster understands the organization of society, and he recognizes that without lineage or wealth and power, it is impossible for the monster to enter the human society. The monster is finally angry, and he notes, “I heard of the division of property, of immense wealth and squalid poverty; of rank, descent, and noble blood. I learned that the possessions most esteemed by your fellow-creatures were high and unsullied descent united with riches. 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” (Shelley 109).
From his word, the monster comes out as a minority and he is seen as a victim of democracy. The monster does not have parents, siblings, friends, members of same blood, and so on. Although Frankenstein creates the monster, he is considered the father of the monster even though he ignores it without any good reason.
In the book, “Issues and Methods in Comparative Politics; An Introduction,” the writer, Todd Landman, cites the statement of Aristotle`s, “Polity is rule by the many for the common good, while democracy is rule by the many for the many, or what Aristotle called ‘mob rule’ “(Landman 7). Again, Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States, says that, “A democracy is nothing more than mob rule where a fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine percent” (Casperson 139). According to their words, democracy has fatal weakness in that the opinion of the minority or the existence of the minority tends to end up being ignored by the majority. In the novel, the monster has been ignored because he is alone, and he is thus the minority in human society. Therefore, Frankenstein shows the weakness aspect of democracy.
“Frankenstein” is the only novel that expresses the social condition of the 19th century in the Western World and modernization, but through several conflicts or revolutions, Shelley mostly focuses on the dark sides of the modernization of the period that we forget or cannot find easily. With the moderation, Frankenstein expresses human desire that defies the authority of god and which goes against the natural rule, an andocentric society, and minority discrimination, which comes out as a weak point in democracy. Hence, the novel “Frankenstein” shows modernization as the right answer, which humankind wishes to have, and this weak point can to create a real monster, which destroys humankind.