Thursday, November 3, 2011

Concepts of Nature

Nature tends to play a role in both novels, City of Glass and Frankenstein, which can be linked to the idea of self-identity. Using nature to identify with one’s self and finding that comfort place in society is a big part of what we have seen displayed by both Quinn and the Monster.
Paul Auster’s novel is taking place in New York City; a city that brings a variety people of different characteristics into one big area. Being to New York City myself, I feel that this is a place where you never feel alone and something is always going on. For Quinn though,
 New York was an inexhaustible space, a labyrinth of endless  steps, and no matter how far he walked, no matter how well he came to know its neighborhoods and streets, it always left him with the feeling of being lost. Lost, not only in the city, but within himself as well. (Auster 4)
Nature, in this sense, is always causing Quinn to questions who he is and what he is supposed to become because he has been in his own world for several years since his wife and son passed. I believe that with the concept of nature in mind, Quinn has developed this sense of hopelessness that he has become unidentified and lost in society with no one to point him in the right direction. He has become an outcast, “the world was outside of him, around him, before him, and the speed with which it kept changing made it impossible for him to dwell on any one thing for very long” (Auster 4). In all, it looks as if Auster is using nature to show the overwhelming obligations to keep up with what is going on in society.  
None the less, in Mary Shelley’s novel, nature can be interpreted in a couple different ways. The first idea is that nature is used to show how society comes crushing down on the Monster due to rejection from the villagers. Secondly, it seems the Monster uses the concept of nature to blend in and become a part of the outside world because it symbolizes him being unnoticed/forgotten. In order to clear his head from feeling lonely and unwanted, the monster turns to nature to break away from society’s unneeded judgment. In both City of Glass and Frankenstein, there is a similar concept of nature that plays out. Each presents both characters to be a lone figure, living and surviving alone.
I personally feel more in touch with Mary Shelley’s concept of nature. Being brought up in a small town, I never experienced the crazy, non-stop changing environment seen in New York City. For me, fitting in with society is a major reason why people tend to loss their self-identity. I remember having friends that did a complete turnaround because they change who they were and how they acted to fit in with the norm. I will admit there were those times when I wanted to conform to the norms and would lose my own identity. After learning my lesson, I have now become a person who does my own thing and if people don’t like me for who I am then I just turn to those who accept me for who I am. Just as the Monster does, he tries to conform to societies wishes of being part of the norm but is rejected so turns to nature who accepts him for what he really is.
Finding a place to be one’s own self can be challenging, especially in the world we live in today. Auster and Shelley both do an excellent job at linking nature to concepts such as self-identification and feeling accepted or not accepted. For most, the feeling of acceptance is all they need to identify with themselves and for those who are rejected tend to lose their sense of worth and self-identity.


  1. I find your argument really fascinating. You have a clear and concise thesis of linking nature to self-identity and you have a strong introduction and conclusion paragraph.

    The thing that I feel you could improve if you chose to revise this essay would be the middle of your essay where you argue in favor of your thesis. You often describe events in the book and then just say something like "with the concept of nature in mind" in the same sentence, but you never really connect the two ideas.

    You have great examples, but you need to develop them to "prove" to the reader that these examples confirm your thesis. How do they show the relationship between nature and self-identity? I know it may seem redundant, but you need to hold the reader's hand and do a little more spoon-feeding to really flesh out your argument.

  2. One minor point: how is "self-identity" not a redundant way of saying "identity". Maybe it isn't - but it seems that way to me, which might mean that I'm missing something.

    A larger point: you are using Quinn's encounter with new York and (I think) the monster's encounters with the wilderness to talk about nature. There needed to be a little more reflection here. *Ordinarily*, New York City is the *opposite* of what we mean by "Nature": it is human, not natural in the ordinary sense.

    Does this make your approach wrong? Not necessarily. I do think that nature is very alive in the novel, but you can't just assume that nature = New York City as a whole, without any thought or justification.

    I think your *approach* of relating both nature (proper) and the city to the formation of identity is a strong one. It needed to be better developed, though, especially by showing that you actually understand and can explain the concept of nature in both novels (this is where you're very vague, with the identification of the city with nature being only the most obvious problem). Introducing the personal material seemed like a good idea, but also like it was going in another direction - it would work well, I think, in a (much) longer revision.