What is the main line of argument for the relationship between environment and identity in the novels?
Both novels depict the way in which environment and treatment by society has an effect upon the individual identity:
- In Frankenstein, Shelley evokes the sentiment of Romanticism, demonstrating the often devastating effects of society in its corruption of the subjective individual
- Atwood enacts a feature of dystopian literature: the dehumanising effects of an oppressive regime upon the individual.
- profoundly and inextricably change the character of the monster
- do not permeate Offred’s inner subconscious, she remains aware of the effects of the regime on determining her outward identity
- –> fragmented chronology and inclusion of 1980s contemporary= cannot fully commit to the regime.
what are the individual points I want to make?
- 1.) Identity as something that is enforced on the individual
- 2.) Identity as something that is fluid and malleable in Frankenstein, versus something that is fixed and artificial in THT
3. ) Morality as an aspect of the identity, and the way in which it is shaped and determined by the environment.
what are the quotes for point 1?
point 1: Identity as something that is enforced upon the individual:
- ‘Offred’, women are subjugated and given separate roles, ‘Handmaid’ ‘red cloak’ uniform
- ‘a sister, dipped in blood’
Context: 2nd Wave Feminism, Betty Friedan with her works ‘The Feminine Mystique’ critiqued the way in which society enforced motherhood and the role of the ‘housewife’ onto women.
opens up into the discourse surrounding the role of women in her own society= dystopian complacency?
- ‘ I began to believe I was the monster he said I was’
‘ ghastly’, ‘ghoul’, ‘monster’
Context: the rhetoric of monsterism during the French Revolution, more general uncertainty of identity because of religion.
- the narrative framework ‘Chinese box’ structure, creature is contained and subjugated within other narratives. The first impression we are given of the creature is through negative Frankenstein ‘horrid contrast… dun… black wrinkled lips’- even after we have been convinced of the creature’s initial innocence
What are the quotes for point 2?
Point 2: identity as something that is fluid and changing in F, versus something that is fixed and artificial in THT
- ‘What I must now present is a made thing, not something born’
Context: Atwood references Simone De Beauvoir and womanhood as a social construct
Context: dystopian genre: pressure of oppressive regime causes a tendency to conform because of paranoia
- ’ strange system of hierarchy’.. ‘was I then a monster, a blot upon the earth, from which all men fled and whom all men disowned?’
Context: the monster’s identity is beginning to change from joy in the natural world to puzzlement in the ‘strange system of hierarchy is emphatic= Rousseau’s ‘the noble savage’
- Shelley advocates this Romantic ideal of isolation.
what are the quotes for point 3?
Point 3: Morality as an aspect of identity, and the way in which it is determined by the environment:
THT: ‘we lived, as usual, by ignoring. But ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it’
- the effects of an oppressive environment on morality- moral relativism and the effects of horror on our reactions
- ‘you have to work at it’= she is conscious of the effect of environment on reality= has not subconsciously effect her morality.
- Context: ‘everyman’ character contrasts the rebellious hero of the Dystopian novel, Atwood allows the reader to question their own moral fibre—-> rise of right wing extremism how the individual would most likely react.
Frankenstein: morality is entirely determined by his treatment by society:
- ‘when they were happy, I rejoiced’
- ‘curse the sun that gazes on your misery’… ‘inexorable’
‘inexorable’ portrays this as an unstoppable force- he cannot control it as is not his fault
Context: Shelley advocates a Rousseauian perspective of childhood- ‘Emile’
- affected her personally as her own mother died 10 days after giving birth to her.