Thursday, September 22, 2011

Blog #2 - Frankenstein Part 2 - Everything we see is not what it seems

The image that caught my attention is the one that is opposite page 170 depicting Frankenstein in a boat in the middle of a lake. Many aspects of this image striked me as having deep interpretational meanings to them. “I passed whole days in the lake alone in a little boat, watching the clouds, and listening to the rippling of the waves, silent and listless. But the fresh air and bright sun seldom failed to restore me to some degree of composure” (Shelley, 170). This statement is clearly shown in the picture with the bright sun coming up behind the boat, throwing shadows on Frankenstein’s face and the water, and the water being so calm and clear without any waves in them.

Other than the obvious straight forward interpretation of the words into the illustration, I think Lynd Ward also wanted to depict some emotional plays of the character in the special shadings in his drawing. As Frankenstein said, “I took refuge in the most perfect solitude” (Shelley, 170). The body language drawn of Frankenstein relaxing in the boat supports this claim by showing that Victor is at peace when surrounded by nature and can finally relax away from his constant anxiety about the monster’s whereabouts and actions. The bright light that is drawn as a funnel arising from the boat, even though when taken literally might mean the “bright sun,” can also mean the hopefully bright future that Frankenstein is looking into with longing.

Ward was also careful to draw specific shadows on Victors face and below the boat, and the specific direction that Victor is facing. As can be seen in the drawing, most of Victor’s face is covered in shadows as if to show his internal melancholy and unrest that thoughts of the monster have caused him. The darkness under the boat might resemble Frankenstein’s dark past and the fact that Ward drew him so that he was looking away from this dark past into a brighter future might be showing that Frankenstein found a way to look away and forget about his disastrous past and achieve a brighter future. This hope is obviously the monster’s offer of leaving mankind alone if Frankenstein made another partner for him.

Another interpretation of the shadows can also be that they might be representing the possibility of being criticized and the blackness that might befall the Frankenstein’s name if the people found out about his taboo of an experiment. By turning away from it, Frankenstein is avoiding such confrontations.

The illustration can also refer to Frankenstein’s situation in the story at that time in the story particularly, since he is trying to stay away from the people he loved. We can see quiet clearly that he is alone in the vast water of the lake with nothing but nature around him.

Alas! To me the idea of an immediate union with my Elizabeth was one of horror and dismay. I was bound by a solemn promise, which I had not yet fulfilled, and dared not break; or, if I did, what manifold miseries might not impend over me and my devoted family!” (Shelley, 171-172). Ward may have wanted to stress on the above monologue of Frankenstein’s that Frankenstein was distancing himself from his loved ones by hesitating to marry Elizabeth and planning to go to a far off land to complete his assigned project.

What appears to be a normal picture at the first look, which only describes the words that are on the page, has many deep meanings that Ward intentionally tried to convey to us through subtle shadings and position of objects.


  1. I think this interpretation of Lynd Ward's image was an interesting view of the different shadings and position of objects. Although the use of quotes are relevant to the argument I think you can elaborate more by analyzing the quotes into a deeper meaning. I think the arguments used cover most interpretations that I assume Lynd Ward was trying to show. Possibly elaborate more on his issues with distancing himself from his family and connect it with him abandoning the Monster initially.

  2. Great job on reflecting new insights about the shadows. In my opinion Ward brought the darkness as Victor's monster like transformation takes place. The monster is known to be dark and scary and I believe this is one point Ward really was showing. Victor may look calm on the boat because he is accepting that transformation.

  3. @Elan: I think that's a good suggestion and would improve my argument further. Thank you!

    @Amanda: That's a really great interpretation of the picture!! Never thought of it that way. Thanks for the innovative thinking :D

  4. You are highly successful here in your attention to detail; you are showing, in fairly elaborate detail, how the state of Victor's mind is reflected on the page - or at least how we might argue it to be reflected on the page. My first level question is: "are you reading carefully, with attention to detail?" My answer is an emphatic yes.

    Much more subtly than with your first essay, though, you are still dodging the substance of the prompt. You do a very nice job of showing how some of the details of the text are reflected in the image - but reflection isn't quite the same as argument or interpretation.

    You might recall, for example, that Victor is obsessed with suicide through this part of the novel. Is Ward downplaying the idea of suicide here? Is he emphasizing it? How, for instance, does the cone of light interact with the idea of suicide?

    What I'm asking you to do, in other words, now that you are reading the image, is to respond to the way it reads the book - how does its reading effect your reading?