If the young woman represents the Nation, as Huguette Krief suggests, one should see a reflection of current political attitudes in her actions Krief Six suitors present themselves, each symbolizing a trend in science and technology as inflected by various controversies of the day. The first suitor offers a walking steel tripod. An allusion to Vulcan, the god of metallurgy and fashioner of tripods, is patent.
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It is also to be recalled that the revolutionary period was heavily marked by tripartite imagery as in the iconography of Masonic triangles: an analogy for the three estates Paulson The three legs of the tripod, each moving on a hidden system of gears, form a timely parallel to the deputies of the three estates, each responding to the will of their constituents. Like the tripod, the Assembly was not supposed to follow its own caprices, but rather to stand firm in service to the nation.
The second suitor arrives with luxury objects, viz. But when the heroine harnesses the chariot to a housefly, it disappears out the window. Observing the ephemeral spectacle, the senator grumbles that the great ship of Lutecia would not sink so easily. Too delicate to be useful, they are quickly lost and forgotten. After an erudite discourse on the plurality of worlds, he invites Aglaonice to view them with his machine. While she peers into the telescope searching for lunar inhabitants, the inventor vanishes, having stolen all her money and jewels.
This episode alludes to the widespread suspicion of charlatans — both in finance and science — that was prevalent at the time, and casts aspersions on period optics Stafford; Mousnier. He is also a public enemy like his namesake the Scottish economist John Law, whose innovations wreaked havoc in French finance during the s.
Many Parisians saw this accident as a provocation and sought arms to fight back, thus leading to the events of 14 July. View all notes Counting on the avarice of the heroine who is, after all, only a poor commoner, he presents an enormous hot air balloon and invites her to climb in, join his conspiracy, and ascend the social hierarchy as his wife. He thus conspires to overthrow Roman rule and establish an oligarchic regime.
Like a shady fairground showman, Aristos exaggerates the virtues of his machine, claiming it will not only revolutionize planetary travel, but will benefit the military by allowing generals to recruit on the moon.
It is the last two inventors who win: one marries Aglaonice, the other marries her sister. According to the German legend cited by Florescu, a certain Konrad Dippel of Frankenstein was known for his alchemical dealings Florescu 65— Ask, and the metal itself will obey. View all notes Without further ado, the machine bows to the group and starts to play. As noted above, magic seems to be at work. This interlude contains multiple elements of the Frankenstein legend.
The inventor is described with awe and admiration: he is a handsome man of learning and culture whose gifts are compared with those of Prometheus. Although the flautist startles and frightens observers at first sight, the beautiful music it plays brings people closer together and creates intimacy. Ambition comes across differently in the two books as well. Indeed Aglaonice would have accepted the Gaul for her husband, had he not prompted her to meet his rival.
The automaton proposed by the last suitor makes its predecessor pale by comparison. Given his association with foresight and prosperity, Nicator must stand in for the Swiss financier Jacques Necker, who served for years as finance minister under Louis XVI, played a pivotal role in the Estates General, and guided fiscal policies of the early Revolution. Nicator, like Necker during this brief honeymoon with the French public, incarnates good judgment and financial stability.
The Genevan banker Jacques Necker was named finance minister in and enjoyed an illustrious if not uncontroversial career as advisor to the king until his first dismissal in May Brought back into public life in August , he presided over the stormy meetings of the Estates General, until he was dismissed again, and rehired again, in July View all notes He is described as a Chaldean shepherd who, like his ancestors, understands the stars and is thus able to predict the future, but who is also gifted in more modern arts of mechanics.
But the movement between these different allegorical meanings, of the marriage plot, the French revolutionary politics, the historical similarities between the Syracusans and the Lutecians under Roman rule, is rather confusing.
It is particularly difficult to piece out the distinction between the Lutecians and the French, since their shared historical origins make them virtually synonymous. View all notes But that is precisely the point. View all notes Moreover, he anchors the text in an actual debate, warning readers to act immediately, as le furieux Bergasse is already mounting an effective Catholic propaganda campaign to stir up the peasantry.
Nicolas Bergasse was a Lyonnais lawyer who, although elected to the Estates General by the Third Estate, in the course of —90 became known as a partisan of the conservative nobility. View all notes The author and his confederates win, and the nation faces a bright future free of the Church. Nogaret thus follows in the footsteps of the philosophes and contributes to the battle over state control of Church properties and functions that was already well underway Tackett.
Most startling is the apostrophe to the reader which we noted above. What interests us is how Nogaret yokes the political impetus to science and manufacturing, and makes mechanical devices tell a normative lesson on how technology could support the new nation. The unwieldy tripod designer is dismissed for his excessive ambition. The duplicitous telescope operator sneaks off and warns us against lending credence to charlatans disguised as patriots.
The successful inventions here are both based on a human image and serve human functions. They play music, bring gifts, and offer to serve. In the two later editions and , however, Nogaret disengaged from politics. See the text of this dedication in n. But perhaps the most glaring change lies in a passage that was not revised from the edition, but which would have created a completely different effect in or than it did in the original. The variants and anachronisms make the story read like an antiquarian fable rather than a polemical commentary on current events.
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View all notes Perhaps the missing passages of the later editions were deemed no longer necessary, given the effective suppression of the Catholic Church in France by Nogaret would return to political propaganda in a publication and describe himself as a veritable martyr to the republican cause.
It made sense in this context for Nogaret to recast his allegory as a titillating romance; the genre was highly favored and apparently sold well. But it is also possible that, after witnessing the gruesome fate of Louis XVI and the ravages of the Terror, the author had second thoughts about the notion of remaking society along political lines. His later comments certainly suggest that he changed his mind about using literature in ideological warfare. Without the paratextual attack on the clergy and the call to arms against deputy Bergasse, the urgency dissipates.
There can be no hopes for constitutional monarchy, no return to the time when a fatherly king might have established a more just society.
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But perhaps such prismatic illusions are inevitable, double meanings being implicit in the mechanism of automatism. By imagining a mechanical being that walks and talks like a human, bears an uncanny resemblance to a human being and nevertheless remains entirely subservient to the will of its maker, Le Miroir belongs to the tradition of mechanical utopias. The world, in Le Miroir, is never but an idealized or vilified object for our perception.
It is only with Frankenstein that we see an author imagining not only how to replicate a human appearance but also how to reproduce a human psychology and subjectivity. View all notes Of significance are the ambitious readings undertaken by Mary and Percy Shelley in the years —7. Ronald Paulson and Pamela Clemit have shown how a tragic awareness of the human suffering caused by political ambition loomed large in their conversations. There is a parallel between the narrative movement in Frankenstein from idyll to suffering and the chronological movement of the Revolution.
As months go by, he enjoys watching the De Laceys through the window of their cottage: he learns their language, listens to their readings, and dreams of joining their fireside chats. Touched by their poverty, he secretly offers them gifts of wood. When a beautiful foreigner arrives, he watches as they greet her warmly, and usher her into their home where she joins their quiet life of subsistence farming. We thank Greg Kucich for his insights into the gender dynamic of the ideal family in Frankenstein. Victimized in turn for her own beliefs, Safie had apparently been searching for her friends for many months before finding their retreat.
But when the creature finally tries to enter their fold, he is rudely cast out. In destroying this idyll, Shelley marks the end of functional family life in Frankenstein. Anne Mellor maintains that by the time she had begun writing Frankenstein , the author had become disillusioned regarding any radical change without safeguards, such as the proper care and provision for the disenfranchised and protection of the family But as it turns out, no family can withstand the tensions in Frankenstein.
All the families in the novel are destroyed or estranged for a number of reasons, guilt and fear being primary among them. In the scene of the lonely creature peeking in on communal life that he can never enjoy, the novel casts a starkly pessimistic comment on the possibility of caring, of community, of nationhood itself.
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One might see in this disillusionment an allusion to the politicized imagery of failed fathers and broken homes that marked French revolutionary thought in the wake of Varennes. But he never hears the reply. Initially, the young hero is praised by colleagues who envision a brilliant future lying ahead. One cannot deny that he creates life.
And yet criticism dogs his every step in the later parts of the novel. Some claim that the very name Frankenstein would have recalled an ancient legend of failed science for Shelley, stemming from a chance encounter on a trip to Germany. View all notes By interpreting the protagonist as operating on an amalgam of modern and superseded ideas, Marilyn Butler describes Victor Frankenstein as a misguided amateur, whose obsession gets in the way of his studies and sets off a disastrous chain of events —7.
Desacralizing human reproduction, Lawrence proposed bold experiments in human breeding to improve what he saw as a degenerate species, declaring: A superior breed of human beings could only be produced by selections and exclusions similar to those so successfully employed in rearing our most valuable animals. Yet, in the human species, when the object is of such consequence, the principle is almost entirely overlooked.
Hence all the native deformities of mind and body, which spring up so plentifully in our artificial mode of life, are handed down to posterity, and tend by their multiplication and extension to degrade the race. These poor habits are worse among the civilized than the savage, Lawrence claimed, and worst of all among the ruling class where inbreeding had created generations of idiots.
In the debate on vital energy, Lawrence ridiculed the vitalist notion that the life principle was some kind of extraneous element, analogous to electricity, that could be added or extracted from bodies. It could be argued that Victor Frankenstein proves incapable of realizing his grandiose dream.
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The appearance of his creation reveals the shortcomings of his skills as a surgeon and an anatomist: his lips and eyes are horribly discolored, and his skin is uneven: it barely covers the body at some spots and is wrinkled in others Frankenstein , Although designed as a thing of beauty, the final product is ugly, fearsome and destructive. Perhaps the raw materials are to blame. Whether one tried to effect abrupt change through vitalist, mechanical, or political means, efforts to create a new man would inevitably be fraught with difficulty.
As Mellor and others have noted, Mary Shelley was not entirely cynical about the possibility of social reform, but after witnessing the wreckage left by the Revolution she believed that the only way to reform mankind was gradual, following the organic model of generational transference. On the other hand, whatever his origins, the creature is depicted as a being with an incredible capacity to learn and adapt: within a few months he becomes literate and sympathetic to others; he undertakes good, charitable deeds with no motive but kindness.
He can even be regarded as a child, with the potential for good and evil, and who may be trained correctly with the proper approach or social education. Even the most highly sophisticated machines often reflect unintended aspects of their designers: humanoid qualities include physical traits like head and arms as much as character traits such as shyness. Do not return to your families with the stigma of disgrace marked on your brows.
Blinded by oversized ambition, he views life not as a natural progression but rather as a solitary battle of one against all. By the last scene, when the characters face off in the arctic ice floes, one realizes the ultimate instability of the Frankenstein story — about science, technology, or about politics. The coincidences of name and action linking Le Miroir and Frankenstein point to an important and original epiphenomenon in literary history.
Where the family stands in as a metaphor for the ideal state in Le Miroir, in Frankenstein it is but a fragile icon of a lost age of innocence and hope. These analogies suggest a literary ancestry rooted in different ideological homes and political moods, but all share a fascination over the impact that technology and its artificial creations have in the world, for better or for worse.