Words and Images
October 13, 2011
Lynn Ward’s Illustration
Lynd Ward’s illustration on page 151 really caught my eye which allows for some powerful interpretations to be introduced in the detail brought out in the image. This image displays tree limbs overpowering the monster as he struggles to support himself up before they come crashing down on him. “O! what a miserable night I passed! The cold stars shone in mockery, and the bare trees waved their branches about me: now and then the sweet voice of a bird burst forth amidst the universal stillness” (Shelley, 152). We can interpret this image to be the limbs acting as society trying to put pressure on him to conform into the social norms.
In society those who are in power cause pressure to be brought upon those who don’t conform to social norms. If we look at this image closely one can see that Ward shading of the trees start out at lighter shades and begin to fade into darkness on the collapsing end of the branch that continues to be exposed onto the monster. I feel it appropriate to say the darkness can symbolize an extreme weight of society’s pressure crumbling down on the monster. With the monster not only being right in the middle of the image and being the darkest object we can take this to be him struggling to pick himself back up from all that has be thrown upon him to conform to the social norms. This provides a powerful basis through conformity “which changes how you behave to be more like others. This plays to belonging and esteem needs as we seek the approval and friendship of others. Conformity can run very deep, as we will even change our beliefs and values to be like those of our peers and admired superiors” (changingminds). With power comes obedience to your superior such as that of children to parents. The monster knows he was created by a human being, Frankenstein, but has been abandoned and left to survive on his own. Looking back at the image, I take these lighter shades to mean there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. I am imagining the monster learning that all of the those who obtain power that have caused him to be trapped by the pressure to conform have caused him to establish a power of his own due to not allowing him to be a part of the norm.
In order to comprehend the degree of pressures being put on the monster, it is necessary to look at other small details carried out in the image. We can see how the trees can act has society bearing down on monster but one can also see in this image the monster becoming one with the tree limbs. With him blending in, I take this to represent the concept of him forming into what society sees him as, unnoticed. Also, this image as a whole is a gothic, dark setting with can be described as the monsters appearance. There is this notion of being the norm and being abnormal and in the monsters case he is seen as an extreme abnormality or outsider. He even states, “These amiable people to whom I go have never seen me, and known little of me. I am full of fears; for if I fail there, I am an outcast in the world for ever’” (Shelley, 149). What make the differences between an insider and outsiders is most definitely ideas of social norms. Norms in the eyes of the villagers being naturally born, beauty, fluently speaking and abnormalities fall under the categories such as hideous or atypical features, being created through many artificially parts, not speaking the language fluently. The monster wants to fit in with the villager but feels he set up failure. He speaks,
“I had admired the perfect forms of my cottagers—their grace, beauty, and delicate complexions: but how was I terrified when I viewed myself in a transparent pool! At first I started back, unable to believe that it was indeed I who was reflected in the mirror; and when I became fully convinced that I was in reality the monster that I am, I was filled with the bitterest sensations of despondence and mortification. Alas! I did not yet entirely know the fatal effects of the miserable deformity” (Shelley, 124).
As I show the monster being depicted as one with the tree limbs, we can see how the branches themselves are deformed and unstable from so much pressure falling down on them. Society disposing of the monster due to being an outsider and misunderstanding his heartfelt intentions has led him to become a helpless being.
With pressures that are bestowed upon individuals can cause as sense of helplessness and abandonment. With the two main topics discussed above I can argue that both power and norms cause individuals to be misunderstood which leads to becoming unstable and helpless. “Some things are within our control, and some things are not. It is only after you have faced up to this fundamental rule and learned to distinguish between what you can and can't control that inner tranquility and outer effectiveness become possible... Trying to control or change what we can't only results in torment" (Lebell). The monster being an outsider himself shows how he could be misunderstood for his intentions by the villagers. The image obviously displays this idea because he flees to the abandoned forest where he will not be judge for who he is and what he has been created into. The social norms denied his efforts in trying to conform to their liking and due to their misunderstanding he was decided to be his own person and rebel against the villagers.
Overall, the image appears to be easily understood when comparing it to the text. When looking deeper into the image though we are able to interpret more valuable meanings that Ward is trying to convey to the readers. The idea of power and norms cause society to develop rules that allow put pressure on people to conform. For those they feel are worthy enough to become part of their group are welcomed with arms wide open and the rest are left out to fight for themselves. “It’s you against the world.”
Lebell, Sharon. 'The Art of Living: The Classic Manual on Virtue, Happiness, and Effectiveness' -- A New Interpretation
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. The Lynd Ward Illustrated Edition. Mineola, New York: Dover