Thursday, January 12, 2012

Brave New... Frankenstein?

My New Year's Resolution was to publish two posts a week, and I plan on keeping that resolution. So here's this week's first. Not quite the short story post I promised last week. I should have that one up tomorrow, so be sure to come back and keep an eye out for it.

This week I am proud to say that I have finished reading Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, both of which I had been reading off and on over the last year. There's always something to distract you, and the stuff that you had in mind to do somehow gets stuck on the back-burner, sitting, forgotten for long periods of time.

Now, I know what you're thinking. "So what? You read Frankenstein and Brave New World. Who hasn't?" Well, I think the answer is a lot of people. Some might have to read it in high school, but I never had to. Unfortunately it was never on our curriculum. However, now that I have more time to myself, I have decided to jump into the classics and see what it is that I've been missing all that time. So let's stop yapping about it and jump in already

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
I enjoyed reading this book. Is there any character out there better than an ambitious scientists whose greatest creation goes sour on him and even causing his downfall? I know it's a trope these days, but Victor Frankenstein was one of the originals. And the monster? I went into this novel expecting the same monster I had seen on TV and in the movies. I wanted to see the slow, dull-witted, green creature with bolts in his neck who walked with his hands out in front of him. Ha! Was I wrong! The monster Shelley crafted was clever, faster than any human, and actually quite talkative. He even showed emotions, though the may have been twisted and contorted.

However, like all great books, this one leaves you with a question which leaves you stumped: Who is the real monster of the story? The way I see it, there are four vague answers, with numerous points defending each.

  1.  The easiest: The monster is the monster. No one can bare to look at him, he kills people, and he drove his creator to the end of his wits.
  2. Frankenstein is the monster. He brought this horrible beast into the world in the first place. And rather than caring for it, he banished the monster. All the monster wanted was love and acceptance. All he ever got was the opposite. Because of that, he retaliated. From that point of view, he may seem more human than Frankenstein.
  3. They both are monsters. Upon learning how hideous he was, the monster chose to make out of Frankenstein what Frankenstein had made out of him:  monster. Thus began the deadly spiral of our main characters, falling deeper and deeper into the pits of their insanity.
  4. The hardest: Neither of them are monsters. Humans do horrible things, and these two only acted out the part.
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

I love the way Huxley set up his book. It starts with birth and ends with death. Quite literally, too. This
is the shape Huxley's utopia/dystopia takes. It's world in stasis. A world built around complacency. Everything remains the same so long as the Controllers believe it should, and no one will rise up against them because nobody cares anymore.

Nobody seems to care about the lack of true culture. They have a few things that make them feel great about themselves, but it never even glazes the feeling of true happiness. If people do show signs of happiness, it's superficial. In order to know true happiness, one must also know sadness, but no one in that world is ever sad. They keep distracted with their soma and feelies. Just the way the Controllers want them to stay in order to keep a certain level of stability in their world. Controller Mustapha Mond sums it up best in the 16th chapter of the novel when he explains the situation to John the Savage: "[T]hat's the price we have to pay for stability. You've got to choose between happiness and what people used to call high art. We've sacrificed the high art. We have the feelies and the scent organ instead."And high art isn't the only thing missing in this world. They also lack religion and an advancement in science, all to keep the stability, to keep the world complacent. This raises a question to truly ponder on.

Actually, instead of posing it and going on, I want you to actually think about it. When you go away, I want this to be on your mind, bugging you.

How much are people, both as individuals and as a society, willing to lose in order to gain stability?

You can learn more about these books at their Wikipedia pages:
Brave New World
One of these classics is even out in the Public Domain. Why not check it out at Project Gutenberg?
And while it's still under copyright, you can always find Brave New World at your local bookstore or library.

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