Literature and identity

In Frankenstein, although the story is told by Robert we are being presented Victor’s view of the story. Therefore the novel becomes a story within a story. Frankenstein focalize events shortly after they happen. We can see this in the way Robert tells his sister that he will be in touch and he will continue writing to her as he learns more information. This gives us a sense of immediacy. We are told details as soon as he learns them from the source. We as readers are given a very limited perspective through Robert, “a story told from the limited point of view of a single protagonist may highlight the utter unpredictability of what happens.”(Culler, 91) This limited perspective can reflect to how little we know about ourselves and life and how this plays a role in the formation of our identity.

The story goes on slowly and is filled with details about what is happening up to that point time, a telescope view. The dates on the letters give us an idea of the speed. These letters are being mailed and take days or weeks to arrive. I feel that Shelly chooses this method of focalization to help us see how Robert changes as the story is formed and to emphasize that his identity is also being constructed through time. The story itself reflects how identity can be shaped. The more we learn of the world and the more encounters we have with different experiences, helps us learn more about ourselves and of things that we may otherwise have not known unless we underwent that particular experience.

We as reader’s step into Robert’s shoes. We are given the knowledge he has and as the story goes on the more details he shares with us, the more we understand. We know just as much as Robert. We are also given a unique insight to his feelings and emotions as he writes. Since we are told the story through his perspective, we may tend to sympathize with him more since he’s the character that we know most about. At the same time because we know so much about him and because we see how he changes and learn of his inconsistencies we may feel that he isn’t as reliable of a narrator as we think. This brings us to form our own identity as a reader because it puts us in a position where “we become who we are by identifying ourselves with figures we read about.” (Culler, 114)

 

One thought on “Literature and identity”

  1. I’ll be interested to see if any us in the class end up identifying with characters from Frankenstein or not. We are being promised some very romantic notions of bravery, discovery, and individuality, but as you point out maybe those are being undermined by the characters’ own reflection on their stories.

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