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)

 

Logic of Supplementarity

Derrida’s logic of supplement helps me understand Foucault’s view on “sex” and how it has changed to something we now use to identify ourselves by rather than what it used to be see perceived as in the past. She explains this logic as the thing that is identified as a “supplement”, comes to also need supplementation, because it shares the qualities thought to only be present in the original supplement. Derrida states that “the idea of the original is created by the copies, and that the original is always deferred – never to be grasped,” meaning that the original, becomes a supplement which will then leads to more supplements needed to help explain it (original). This causes a never ending chain of supplements.

When viewing Foucault’s view on sex, the original in this case would be the thought of “sex” in the past centuries when it was seen as a natural act. This act was repressed in different ways during that specific time period. The ways in which it was repressed become the supplements. The supplements serve to add, complete or compensate for the lack of something. Therefore, because “sex” was subjugated it led to the talks/discourses of sex to become its way of making up for the way in which it was repressed. In other words speaking of what is not supposed to be spoken about/done becomes its form of release, which makes up for its absence.

These supplements were necessary for the transformation of the concept of sex. The discoursing become the copies of the original (sex) in the sense that it was a topic that was being talked about in different ways. As a result of these supplements, the original (sex) came to mean something entirely different, which Foucault explains as “an artificial unity of sex” which is made up of the supplements. This unity has become what we now use to attempt to identify ourselves with. This original like Derrida mentions can “never be grasped.” Sex becomes a means of identifying ourselves. Identity is constantly changing depending on our surroundings and how we perceive ourselves in at different times. Identity cannot be grasped and therefore becomes a supplement because like it has the same qualities supplements have, they need to be linked to something other to be understood. Keeping this in mind, if we attempt to identify ourselves through sex, we will find ourselves connecting different aspects, such as female/male, and other characteristics that can explain who we are. These characteristics become supplements and are essential to us making sense of what we define ourselves as since identity cannot do it on its own, it becomes a supplement because it needs supplements.