Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Monster's Struggle

(This entry is referring to the illustration on page 151.)

This image depicts what I see as the monster straddling two rocks or two pieces of land. Whichever it may be, it is obvious that he is struggling and using the tree for support as well as extending his arm for balance. The two sides he is stuck between represent the way that he is stuck partly in human life and partly in the life of a monster. This is a never-ending struggle for him since, while he has all of the qualities of a human being, unfortunately the humans in the book do not see him as one.

If we look closely at the physical qualities of the monster in this drawing, there are faint horizontal lines covering all of his visible skin. Since these lines are present in all of the pictures earlier and later on in the book, they are a permanent quality of the monster. They show the skin that Victor created him with, stretched tightly across the muscles and bones beneath it.

The monster’s left arm is extended in such a way that it looks like he is trying to keep his balance. This would go hand in hand with the notion that he is balancing himself between two separate worlds, or in this artistic representation, the two pieces of land. The monster’s right arm is shown holding on to the tree above his head. Since his palm is facing down, it only makes sense that he is pulling the tree down with him for support. It is reasonable to believe that this tree could represent Victor. As creator of the monster, Victor inadvertently rooted himself into the two worlds that the monster is trapped between, just as this tree is rooted in both parts of the land. Though Victor is clearly a human being, he established a presence in the monster world as well by creating the creature. The monster pulls Victor into his struggle during the book just as he is pulling down the tree. The fact that the trees are so deeply rooted into the ground and can only give the monster so much support and balance during his struggle shows how the monster, no matter how powerful he may be, is still somewhat controlled by and dependent on Victor. On the other hand, one could say that perhaps it is showing the monster’s sensibility and awareness of his strength that was shown in the scene right before. “I could have torn him limp from limb, as the lion rends the antelope. But my heart sunk within me as with bitter sickness, and I refrained." He has the ability to rip the tree right from the ground but is choosing not to. Also, in doing so he would ruin his whole plan, or in the drawing’s case would lose the only thing giving him support.

Since this illustration is in the book right after the monster was attacked by Felix, the mood is dark, hence the reason for the dark colors, dead looking trees, and dry, cracking earth. There is not much happiness or life in that scene, only sadness and defeat. Out in the distance, there appears to be a tree that is lighter colored than all the rest. Possibly this is because there is some kind of light of hope shining down on it and it could be the destination that the monster is trying to reach.

The monster’s body greatly resembles the trees he is surrounded by. Aside from comparing his massive size and strength to a tree, this could be a representation of his desire to fit in with the things around him. Though he would prefer to blend in with normal human beings, it becomes clear later on that that will never happen. So, nature is the only thing left that he can turn to.

Not only is this illustration a symbol for emotions and relationships that happened thus far in the book, it is also a foreshadowing of what the monster says in the next chapter. He describes how he was so filled with anger than he began running through the forest. He was filled with rage and “wished to tear up the trees, spread havoc and destruction around me, and then to have sat down and enjoyed the ruin.” “But,” he says, “this was a luxury of sensation that could not endure; I became fatigued with excess of bodily exertion, and sand on the damp grass in the sick impotence of despair.” This means that the drawing is not a picture representation of the monster ripping down trees, since he did not do that. Instead, it could be seen as glimpse into the monster’s head… the picture of the scene he had wanted to take place but instead was too tired and full of misery to carry out.

Though this illustration is small, it is not one to be skimmed over. The two main things that it depicts are key to understanding the monster as a character in the book. Most obviously, it shows struggle: a struggle the monster’s mere existence causes him every day. Looking deeper, it shows the monster’s relationship with Victor and the gloomy mood that seems to lower a fog over every scene the monster is in.


  1. The following is what stood out to me:

    1. In the first paragraph, you state "it is obvious he is struggling and using the tree for support", but in class we had a lengthy discussion about the various ways the monster's posture could be interpreted in this image, so how is it obvious?

    2. I don't really see the purpose of the second paragraph, but if you like having it, I would absolutely move it because it interrupts the flow of your argument that you just stated in the first paragraph.

    3. I really like the idea of the tree as a symbol for Victor.

    4. The second-to-last paragraph makes a really good point that the monster didn't actually rip out the trees, but the image is possibly a "glimpse into the monster's head."

    I think you make very strong points, but the organization (and a few grammatical errors) threw me off a bit. My last comment would be to not use the word "obvious" considering it is a piece of art and it is up for subjective interpretation.

  2. Following off of Alex...

    His #1 is very important. When you are doing work which directly relates to a discussion in class, you don't want to either ignore or repeat that discussion - you want to build on it or challenge it.

    #2 - agreed. No purpose.

    #3 - this is a very important point - Victor himself uses a tree to symbolize himself in the text of the novel. You could write a whole essay on Ward's visual response to the image of the "blasted tree" in the novel

    But going beyond what Alex said. Your reading of the image is interesting and worthwhile, although it should have been contextualized with our discussion in class. What is absent here is a critical part of the prompt - you're supposed to be responding to Ward's "reading" of the novel - not just telling us what it is.

    For my part, I think focusing on the image of Victor-as-tree and monster-with-trees has a great deal of possibility as a place to explore and then respond to Ward's reading of Shelley - but you need to get beyond simply analyzing the visuals, and move on to responding to what you do in that analysis.