Munmun Masud

October 29th, 2010

The Creator of One’s Own Destruction: Victor Frankenstein

Posted by munmunmasud in Uncategorized

Victor Frankenstein is an intelligent individual who becomes overwhelmed by his cowardice traits. If Victor mentally was a strong being, he would not allow himself to become the victim of his own creation: this is an aspect we have not yet encountered in any of our texts. We all can agree that Victor Frankenstein is the epitome of the clichéd term “the mad scientist” as he was able to construct a creature wholeheartedly with the use of chemicals and deceased body parts. However, we can also agree that Victor Frankenstein is a spineless creator as ultimately he is frightened by his own product. Therefore, representing a “new sort of” creator, Victor becomes the creator of his own destruction.

Both Robinson Crusoe and Victor are skillful and become experts within their field. Crusoe learns to adapt in a stranded island by creating necessities as well as luxuries for survival and Victor creates for the need to accomplish a never-ending desire—to discover the secret of life. Robinson “creates” for survival, and Victor unknowingly “creates” his impending doom. This life and death contrast is significant because it sheds light on Victor and his irrational morals; he constructs a monster, he becomes terrified and thus abandons his creation, he allows many deaths to occur, and finally, he dies himself.

We have not yet encountered a protagonist that vows to seek revenge on his own creation. Prospero did not seek vengeance on his magical abilities, he only utilized it to obtain an apology from the ones who did him wrong. Crusoe did not seek revenge on any of his productions because his art was limited to materialistic things, such as cultivation.

This “new sort of” creator that Victor embodies correlates with several non-humanistic qualities that allows him to be as selfish, secretive, and most of all, retaining detestation for the monster—the exact opposite of what his product longed for since “birth.” Typically, an invention or creation is assembled to make one’s or others’ life easy. In this case, this monster was created for only experimental purposes.

In regards to mechanical creations, the monster is not so different from a clock. He too was composed of “inanimate” materials and objects that come to life, similar to the hands of a clock that move repetitively in a circle. Time is something we cannot control, it will progress, whether we want it or not. The monster is similar to a clock because he was not under anyone’s control. Thus, the monster was able to progress. The chase between Victor and the monster can be seen as the chase between time and death. A clock is a utensil that records the time of death, and the monster was the utensil that recorded Victor’s time of death, simply because he was there.

October 23rd, 2010

French Empire Mantel Clock

Posted by munmunmasud in Uncategorized

As I was searching for a historic clock, I came across this piece of art that is displayed above. First and foremost, I would like to state that I noticed the clock after gazing at the god and goddess-like mini statues. When Professor Buell said to look for a “provocative image,” I guess I became a bit overzealous.

The picture you see above is known as a French Empire Mantel Clock. Such clocks were made during 1804-1814 in France. For the most, these types of clocks were intricately decorated, embellished with gilt and patina (a thin layer of gold and sheen). Because of their decorative sculpture-like appearance, shapes and styles, the French Empire Mantel Clock participated in an art movement of the 18th century—Neoclassicism.

Bronze was the main material used in constructing the clock. However, a stone base of marble, porphyry and alabaster were frequently used. Because of the magnificent talent employed in these clocks, they were viewed as exceptional pieces of art that exuded human and animal expressions and affections that achieved a high degree of realism, perfectionism, and elegance.

During the time these clocks were made, society highly esteemed gods and goddess, thus they portrayed symbolic figures in this specific timepiece. The sculptured artwork included in each clock revealed a new artistic language that included classical designs, allegories and motifs in visual form—as figurines. Allegories, gods, goddesses, muses, cupids, classical literary heroes and mythological compositions were other inspirations behind the construction. For example, the “pendules au char” (chariot clock) was a remarkable type among the French Empire Mantel Clocks. In this type, classical gods and goddesses; Apollo, Diana and Cupid served as the symbolic and victorious chariot driver. To an extent, clocks glorified the “conduct of warfare.”

Classical authors and famous philosophers were also inspirational to people in this era and so, many bronzier’s incorporated such icons into the timepieces to everyone’s liking.

The clock that I have chosen to examine retains the quintessential quality of “provocativeness.” As you can see, above the actual round clock, sits a man and a woman with her breast exposed. If this isn’t provocative, then I don’t know what is. The figurine’s body language displays passion and deep emotion. This sensuous body-language displays love between a man and woman. Their eyes are stuck on one another and to an extent, radiates. The entire piece is somewhat elevated as it stands on four wedges—as if the structure is somewhat trophy-like and much too sacred to be placed without a pedestal.

The round cover around the clock as well as the hands inside are also embellished with gold. The Roman numerals on the clock are painted in a rather dark shade so it can be viewed from afar. The clock itself, is rather bland and in one simple shade of white. This is purposely prepared so it does not diverge the attention away from the artwork strategically placed on top. This specific model is the idealistic symbol of being vogue as the French society took pleasure in style through many forms of texts, and this type of clock is just one of the many.

The remaining French Empire Mantel clocks are a part of royal collections, and several are located in palaces, mansions, embassies, ministries, and museums. Today, manufacturers attempt to re-create these clocks with the usage of meticulous craftsmanship to match with the historic pieces that were made several hundred years earlier. This illustrates that people are still enthralled with French Empire Mantel clocks over two hundred years after its first creation.

October 17th, 2010

A Tool for Survival: Crusoe’s Journal

Posted by munmunmasud in Uncategorized

The function of Crusoe’s diary, it seems, is not to anatomize the self, but rather to keep track of it in the modern fashion that Riesman [David Riesman, author of The Lonely Crowd] describes: “The diary-keeping that is so significant a symptom of the new type of character may be viewed as an inner time-and-motion study by which the individual records and judges his output day by day. It is evidence of the separation between the behaving and observing self.”

–Leopold Damrosch, Jr., “Myth and Fiction in Robinson Crusoe”

One can say that a significant aspect in Robinson Crusoe’s life would have to be his journal. As a reader, I was compelled to believe that the book in its entirety was written in the form of a journal. For instance, every chapter title either begins with an “I” or “We,” being portrayed from a first person diary-like stance. Riesman states, “The function of Crusoe’s diary, it seems, is not to anatomize the self, but rather to keep track of it in the modern fashion.” Indeed, Crusoe does not use the journal to analyze himself; he clearly uses the journal as a tool to keep a track of his daily tasks.

Anatomizing himself is the last thing Crusoe tries to achieve in his diary. He focuses around all subjects including his plantations, possessions, and his need to complete many more tasks that he considers mandatory for survival. The journal, in which Crusoe writes rather insipidly in several sections, allows us to only read about his encounters—even though his encounters with the cannibals are perceived to be lively and full of energy at the moment, he writes it rather blandly in his journal. Crusoe lists them as such, “3 killed at our first shot from the tree, 2 killed at the next shot…21 in all” (232). However, Crusoe writes vigorously when it comes to his achievements (his inventions, plantations, taming of animals, etc). This proves that all his activities, even with the inclusion of human encounter, are all “outputs,” in other words, productions that simply just get listed.

Riesman describes the journal as viewing the “inner time-and-motion study by which the individual records and judges his output day by day.” Riesman’s word choice, “day by day” sheds light on an important factor: Crusoe’s obsessive need to keep referring back to the journal. Crusoe routinely incorporates the slightest of details into his journal. There are two motives for this. The first is the fact that this may be the result of paranoia as he does indeed fear for his life ever so often, and keeping a track of all his doings will assist him in the time of need if he does become endangered in any event. The second relies on Crusoe’s need to remain alert of his surroundings at all times.

Yet another obsessive factor is Crusoe’s need to date certain events. Incident’s such as the day he grinds his tools gets dated although, he fails to mention the day he meets his counterpart, Friday. Such occurrences prove the fact that Crusoe becomes engulfed with recording only his tasks and endeavors that was required for his daily survival.

October 3rd, 2010

Sounds that Reshape, Sounds that Educate

Posted by munmunmasud in Uncategorized

Elaborate sounds initiated through Prospero’s demands help the reader understand what this once fallen duke desires throughout William Shakespeare’s final play, “The Tempest.” The sounds heard by many characters can either be defined as “natural” noises that inhabit the island, or we can assume the sounds are being produced through the use of a technological instrument/device created by Prospero’s spirit servant, Ariel. The latter will be argued for the purpose of this essay. Technology is formed through knowledge and skill, of which are available to any human society for the provisions of life. In this play, Prospero uses his knowledge which was acquired through books, and his skills for magic—at times with the help of Ariel, to create sounds and noises that reshape and educate the individuals on the island.

The initial sounds are heard in Act one, which indeed are created through the use of Prospero’s magic and spirit servant, Ariel. It is the thunderous sound of the tempest. Even before the characters speak, the act begins with “A tempestuous noise of thunder and lightening heard.” This is where Shakespeare’s sense of practicality comes into question because, in fact, only “thunder” is “heard,” and “lightening” can only be seen.Hence, Shakespeare overshadows sight by placing more emphasis on sound; the sound created by Ariel’s device. The sounds of the roaring tempest foreshadow each character’s outcome in the act, and quite accordingly the following scene. As we learn it is Prospero himself who ordered Ariel for the rise of this tempest allowing Boatswain, Master, Alonso, Sebastian, Antonio, Ferdinand, and Gonzalo to swim ashore and be reformed as better individuals towards the conclusion of the play.

In Act one, Prospero begins to inform and finally educate Miranda about their past. Prospero repeatedly questions her if she is listening to his tale. Prospero’s act of telling the story and Miranda’s act of hearing it displays the role of sound for Miranda’s character. She is so confined of a creature that Shakespeare chooses to have Miranda hear rather than live her history, before resorting to the island.

Prospero’s act of telling Miranda her past dictates how he wants to reshape his daughter for what she will soon encounter in the following scenes; as she has never met a populace outside of the island. Through storytelling, Prospero educates Miranda about the existence of people other than himself and Miranda in the world they inhabit in. He also prepares Miranda for the following scenes, that there are creatures other than herself and those who inhabit the island. Because Prospero took the initiative to have Miranda hear about her past, she was filled with excitement rather than fear once her eyes were laid upon the unfamiliar beings. She claims, “O wonder / How many goodly creatures are there here! / How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world / That has such people in’t” (V. l. 182-185). Such words are excitedly announced once she encounters the royal shipwrecked party upon her father’s island.

Shakespeare does not fail to acknowledge how Prospero takes on a challenge to shape Caliban, as the sounds produced from Prospero’s magic even has an affect on the beast-like creature of the island. In a drunken manner, Caliban states,

“Be not afeard, the isle is full of noises,

Sounds and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not.

Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments

Will hum about mine ears, and sometimes voices

That if I then had wak’d after long sleep

Will make me sleep again ; and then in dreaming

The clouds methought would open and show riches

Ready to drop upon me, that when I wak’d

I cried to dream again” (III. l. 140-148).

The above verse reveals Caliban’s appreciation of the noise he hears in the island. This dialogue is Caliban’s explanation to Stephano and Trinculo of the mysterious music they hear all due to Prospero’s magic. We clearly understand these beautifully constructed words and the complex nature of this speech that comes out of strictly Caliban’s mouth—an appalling figure that Shakespeare fashioned for us the readers, to hate. However, we cannot ignore the person behind the scene, the person who produced such language out of a brute’s mouth. It was Prospero who had taught Caliban to speak the language that he utterly dreaded. It was Prospero who educated Caliban and to an extent failed because Caliban refused to reshape his monstrous self into a decent being, as towards the beginning of the play, we were told that the only upside to Caliban learning Prospero’s language was the fact that it gave him the ability to curse. Opposite to this, it also gave Caliban the ability to speak in the most delicate and pleasing fashion as displayed in his speech.

Towards the end of the play, Prospero finally seeks out the shipwrecked crew. Prospero first speaks to the royal party even though they were in an enchanted state. As readers, we do not understand why Prospero chooses to speak to the crew while at a charmed condition. There are two reasons, each opposing the other: the first of which can be another of Prospero’s plans were he allows his voice to program the crew’s definitive state, almost reshaping them through the use of Ariel’s enchantment and his voice. The sole reason behind this would be the fact that the royal party will be forced to seek forgiveness through Prospero’s voice during the charmed state, and allow him to return to his role as duke of Milan.

The opposing reason to the one stated above would be the following: Prospero speaks to the crew at their charmed state so they would not be able to hear Prospero’s anguish that he has kept to himself for over a decade but finally has a confrontation without allowing them to hear, and therefore, after being awakened, they would altogether, themselves, without the influence of Prospero, seek forgiveness from him. Ultimately, in regards to this theory, Prospero allows the royal party to reshape themselves.

Either of the two conclusions stated above resort to the end of the play, where Alonso utters, “But O, how oddly will it sound that I / Must ask my child forgiveness?” (V l. 198-199) and Prospero replies, “Let us not burthen our remembrance with / A heaviness that’s gone” (V. l. 201-202). At this point, Alonso is seeking forgiveness, and quite frankly, in wonder of how it will sound, almost relating to the music and noises of Prospero’s magic carried out by Ariel. Prospero wittingly forgives him, by stating that the past is of no issue in regards to his future, and proceeds to say, “A heaviness that’s gone,” in other words, his impended stoppage of the practice of magic and of course Ariel, who Prospero will liberate, as promised.

It is sound, whether heard in the form of music or thunderous roar that seizes the attention of almost all the characters. Using an elemental technique of magic, Prospero becomes an influence, either positive or negative on those he tries to reshape and educate. However, we understand that his manipulation does in fact lack an element: complete independence. It isn’t Prospero alone who manages to reshape the individuals, he was compelled to use Ariel. As a result, we readers are left to believe that Prospero’s knowledge is the internal power and Ariel is the external—together they formed a supreme being that Shakespeare permitted to maneuver each of the character’s lives.

Works Cited

Shakespeare, William. “The Tempest.” Ed. David Horne. London: Oxford University    Press. 1955

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