Category Archives: AQA LitB 4

A taste of Trump…

I thought I’d paste a little taste of Trump here for students to look over. we spend so many hours teaching students to write with clarity and to structure and organise… and then this:

TRUMP: We stopped giving them because we were getting quite a bit of inaccurate news, but I do have to say that — and I must say that I want to thank a lot of the news organizations here today because they looked at that nonsense that was released by maybe the intelligence agencies? Who knows, but maybe the intelligence agencies which would be a tremendous blot on their record if they in fact did that. A tremendous blot, because a thing like that should have never been written, it should never have been had and it should certainly never been released.

But I want to thank a lot of the news organizations for some of whom have not treated me very well over the years — a couple in particular — and they came out so strongly against that fake news and the fact that it was written about by primarily one group and one television station.

So, I just want to compliment many of the people in the room. I have great respect for the news and great respect for freedom of the press and all of that. But I will tell you, there were some news organizations with all that was just said that were so professional — so incredibly professional, that I’ve just gone up a notch as to what I think of you. OK?

All right. We’ve had some great news over the last couple of weeks. I’ve been quite active, I guess you could say, in an economic way for the country. A lot of car companies are going to be moving in, we have other companies — big news is going to be announced over the next couple of weeks about companies that are getting building in the Midwest.

You saw yesterday Fiat Chrysler; big, big factory going to be built in this country as opposed to another country. Ford just announced that they stopped plans for a billion dollar plant in Mexico and they’re going to be moving into Michigan and expanding, very substantially, an existing plant.

I appreciate that from Ford. I appreciate it very much from Fiat Chrysler. I hope that General Motors will be following and I think they will be. I think a lot of people will be following. I think a lot of industries are going to be coming back.

We’ve got to get our drug industry back. Our drug industry has been disastrous. They’re leaving left and right. They supply our drugs, but they don’t make them here, to a large extent. And the other thing we have to do is create new bidding procedures for the drug industry because they’re getting away with murder.

Pharma, pharma has a lot of lobbies and a lot of lobbyists and a lot of power and there’s very little bidding on drugs. We’re the largest buyer of drugs in the world and yet we don’t bid properly and we’re going to start bidding and we’re going to save billions of dollars over a period of time.

And we’re going to do that with a lot of other industries. I’m very much involved with the generals and admirals on the airplane, the F-35, you’ve been reading about it. And it’s way, way behind schedule and many, many billions of dollars over budget. I don’t like that. And the admirals have been fantastic, the generals have been fantastic. I’ve really gotten to know them well. And we’re going to do some big things on the F-35 program, and perhaps the F-18 program. And we’re going to get those costs way down and we’re going to get the plane to be even better. And we’re going to have some competition and it’s going to be a beautiful thing.

So, we’ve been very, very much involved, and other things. We had Jack Ma, we had so many incredible people coming here. There are no — they’re going to do tremendous things — tremendous things in this country. And they’re very excited.

And I will say, if the election didn’t turn out the way it turned out, they would not be here. They would not be in my office. They would not be in anybody else’s office. They’d be building and doing things in other countries. So, there’s a great spirit going on right now. A spirit that many people have told me they’ve never seen before, ever.

We’re going to create jobs. I said that I will be the greatest jobs producer that God ever created. And I mean that, I really — I’m going to work very hard on that. We need certain amounts of other things, including a little bit of luck, but I think we’re going to do a real job. And I’m very proud of what we’ve done.

And we haven’t even gotten there yet. I look very much forward to the inauguration. It’s going to be a beautiful event. We have great talent, tremendous talent. And we have the — all of the bands — or most of the bands are from the different — from the different segments of the military. And I’ve heard some of these bands over the years, they’re incredible.

We’re going to have a very, very elegant day. The 20th is going to be something that will be very, very special; very beautiful. And I think we’re going to have massive crowds because we have a movement.

TRUMP: It’s a movement like the world has never seen before. It’s a movement that a lot of people didn’t expect. And even the polls — although some of them did get it right, but many of them didn’t. And that was a beautiful scene on November 8th as those states started to pour in.

And we focused very hard in those states and they really reciprocated. And those states are gonna have a lot of jobs and they’re gonna have a lot of security. They’re going to have a lot of good news for their veterans.

And by the way, speaking of veterans, I appointed today the head secretary of the Veterans Administration, David Shulkin. And we’ll do a news release in a little while. Tell you about David, he’s fantastic — he’s fantastic. He will do a truly great job.

One of the commitments I made is that we’re gonna straighten out the whole situation for our veterans. Our veterans have been treated horribly. They’re waiting in line for 15, 16, 17 days, cases where they go in and they have a minor early-stage form of cancer and they can’t see a doctor. By the time they get to the doctor, they’re terminal. Not gonna happen, it’s not gonna happen.

So, David is going to do a fantastic job. We’re going to be talking to a few people also to help David. And we have some of the great hospitals of the world going to align themselves with us on the Veterans Administration, like the Cleveland Clinic, like the Mayo Clinic, a few more than we have. And we’re gonna set up a — a group.

These are hospitals that have been the top of the line, the absolute top of the line. And they’re going to get together with their great doctors — Dr. Toby Cosgrove, as you know from the Cleveland Clinic, has been very involved.

Ike Perlmutter has been very, very involved, one of the great men of business. And we’re gonna straighten out the V.A. for our veterans. I’ve been promising that for a long time and it’s something I feel very, very strongly.

So, you’ll get the information on David. And I think you’ll be very impressed with the job he does. We looked long and hard. We interviewed at least 100 people, some good, some not so good. But we had a lot of talent. And we think this election will be something that will, with time — with time, straighten it out and straighten it out for good ’cause our veterans have been treated very unfairly.

OK, questions? Yes, John (ph)?

Thank you to the BBC website, where you can find the whole transcript of the recent press conference.

It’s not a question of bringing politics into the classroom, but since many of use have used Obama as an exercise when discussing rhetoric, this ought to be considered…

 

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Ibsen: Doll’s House Introductory thoughts 2

In this powerpoint I try to outline further introductory thoughts for the Ibsen. Aimed at KS5 OCR new A level.

The first posts and screencast is linked here: https://jwpblog.wordpress.com/2016/04/01/introducing-ibsen-a-dolls-house/

ibsen dh 2

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That’s how we speak: Jerusalem and Shakespeare. Language in drama and other musings.

Caution: Explicit text!

MALVOLIO
By my life, this is my lady’s hand these be her
very C’s, her U’s and her T’s and thus makes she her
great P’s.

or:
HAMLET
Lady, shall I lie in your lap?
OPHELIA
No, my lord.
HAMLET
I mean, my head upon your lap?
OPHELIA
Ay, my lord.
HAMLET
Do you think I meant country matters?
OPHELIA
I think nothing, my lord.
HAMLET
That’s a fair thought to lie between maids’ legs.
OPHELIA
What is, my lord?
HAMLET
Nothing.

or:
BENEDICK
I will live in thy heart, die in thy lap, and be
buried in thy eyes.

and I have not even begun to explore the nurse… (ooh matron!)

All of the above are pleasingly filthy yet most students pass them with hardly a second glance. Depending on age we may discuss the double entendres, but the impression is that this is Shakespeare indulging in literary games for his own pleasure and to allow school children 400 years on to write essays about metaphor and Elisabethan puns. This misses the point, surely. For these jokes to work they must be recognisable to the audience and for any play to “work” the dialogue must needs reflect the common speech patterns of the audience to enable easy assimilation.

What we have here is filth, but recognisable filth from everyday parlance. Malvolio gives Shakespeare’s version of the coy “see you next Tuesday” gloss on the biggest taboo word in our language (though Chaucer of course knew no such taboo when he allowed Alisoun to be grabbed by the “queynt” -fashions change.); Hamlet repeats the same joke in his “country matters” and then employs the common reference to Nothing as representing the vagina – no “thing” -ha ha ha – which leads neatly to Much Ado About Vagina or Nothing and the common use of the verb to die to mean orgasm. Benedick’s offer to “die in Beatrice’s lap is not really the romantic gesture that it sounds.

One could go on and on and on. Shakespeare is writing in the language of the day for people of the day and it is this which i want to consider in terms of Jerusalem, which I am teaching in the Lower 6th this term.

At the recent English Association conference I heard David Hahn and Gordon McMullen speaking variously on “Language and Literature -a perfect match” and “Shakespeare today”. Both were engaging and thought provoking and this discussion was prompted by the talks. It is not an attempt to precis their presentations in any way, but rather is a riff on the ideas I heard as applied to my current teaching.

First then, to the aspect of language that many may find off-putting when bringing Jerusalem into the classroom. The first pages contain several “bollocks”, ‘fucks’, ‘fuckings’ and even a “cunt”, alongside the minor oaths – “bloody” and so on. The action depicts a feral outsider taking drugs and trying to humiliate authority figures in the shape of Parsons and Fawcett. But when the other day I suggested to my class that this was Shakespearian, they were surprised. I would argue that we don’t recognise Shakespeare’s oath strewn vernacular for what it is – everyday speech. All those “by’r’lady” or “God’s Wounds” no longer carry any cultural capital designed to shock.. and Falstaff is seen as a loveable old sot who, despite his appalling debauchery, is looked on with pleasure by theatre goers today. My point is this: if you record an evening in any pub across the land, the language is that of Rooster. If you record any group of schoolboys relaxing and engaging in “banter”, the language is that of Rooster. There is nothing intrinsically offensive in any word in the language other than society makes it so – and fashions change. Chaucer can write “queynt” quite happily, it seems, and Shakespeare can scatter sexual slang and blasphemy in the mouths of his characters. Interestingly, the sexual slang is now considered too graphic for many classrooms but the blasphemy has lost its potency. Drama must reflect the language of the day. Perhaps a good example would by to imagine Alan Bleasdale’s Boys’ from the Blackstuff with the language of the Liverpool streets removed:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e6I8-0eDxaY Indeed, I suppose that a post on Yosser and Byron as characters might be interesting to write…

Everyone swears in the play. But the language is needed if we are to believe in the authenticity of the characters. What I love is the inventiveness of the swearing and Rooster’s way with alliteration and use of animal imagery. There is genuine flair in his language once we move beyond the initial hurdle of allowing our students to say “rude words” in the classroom.

One of Dahn’s comments reflecting the work of Lakoff and Johnson explored briefly the idea that metaphor is a vital thought process in life and considered how common metaphor is in our life-journey (see?). Again there are links between the idea and the writers here – metaphors of travel – often sea travel- fill Shakespeare alongside metaphors of health, food and animals – hardly surprising that this should be so, given the society of the time and the main concerns of life in Tudor England. The point is that they are not somehow the magical choices of a unique writer, but rather the common ideas of the street, interpreted and raised by one writer amongst many writing for the stage in London at this time. They are the cultural currency of everyday speech – albeit recoined often as little sparkling gems. So, can we find the same thing in the Butterworth?

Certainly there is much to enjoy in the animal imagery abounding in the play – I want students to find their own, so no lists, but so much is made of cats, dogs, rats and so on in relation to young people that it is not hard to find. What Butterworth can do, when necessary is convey the “something special” about Johnny by his use of metaphor which deepens thought. In act 2, in his glorious challenge to society, he calls on his “beserkers” to rise “snout by jowl”. Given the common use of “cheek by jowl” and Rooster’s avoidance of the idiom in favour of the altogether more interesting and somehow darker use of “snout”, immediately implying hunting dogs or even pigs, we can begin to feel the extra depth and mystery which the character is required to convey. This is set in contrast to his acolyte Ginger, whose entire speech patterns seem to be based on what other people say – usually by referencing film and TV or the patter of those DJs so much more capable than he. This disparity of imagination in their individual narrative voices is an immediate indicator of their respective powers and depths – just as it is in poor Lee, whose narrative seems to consist of rare moments of lucidity amongst an utter inability to communicate at all.

The final idea to present here comes from a discussion that McMullan presented relating to Shakespeare’s “woods”. He covered ecocriticism and the need to see Shakespeare as part of a whole, when considering Elisabethan and Jacobean England. Again I shifted on to Butterworth and began to formulate ideas about woods and about the play being seen as part of a tradition starting with Chaucer and moving through Shakespeare and Bleasdale (and others) onto Butterworth and our world today. This is realism and is not therefore the stylised language world of Brecht or Absurdists, for example, and because of that we must recognise and value it for what is presented. Since Jerusalem seems to hark back to a “time before” throughout, both in content and in Johnny’s speech patterns, we must see the wood in this light. For Shakespeare the Wood was frightening even when being used as a Pastoral retreat, and this echoes the ideas from legend such as Robin Hood, where the hero creates his pastoral idyll in the very place which all fear because of highway murder and robbery- by Robin Hood… England has never had the fear of woodland of our North European neighbours, possibly because of the deciduous nature of our trees – much better at producing fertility figures and green Man than wolves and lonely grannies being devoured by predators… But here, the wood is frightening – not to Johnny and his nymphs and satyrs, but to the villagers 450 yards away across the stream (such liminal boundaries being common in all good stories of this kind). All those visiting Johnny have, therefore chosen to cross a boundary between society and the wood – they have entered an older and much darker place by doing so. For Shakespeare, wood was a prime building material and would later save the nation by being made into ships for Nelson’s navy- thus there was an intrinsic value to the woods which is recognised in plays like As You Like It, where Arden is such a positive place. For 21st Century readers, we wonder “what the fuck an English forest is for” – they provide little in the way of raw materials and are no longer the pleasure parks of Royalty that Chaucer would have known. For urban dwellers they are sanitised places of “nature” without danger and children being allowed to “Go Ape”. No wonder that modern society has few qualms about removing Rooster’s Wood to build houses – it adds nothing in our materialistic view of society. For Johnny, and his heritage through Falstaff or oberon all the way back to Pan and Dionysus, it is vital and integral to the world at large – a place of danger and safety, or life and death. A place in which Nature is presented in all its glory -red in tooth and claw. Closer to Ted Hughes than Wordsworth, perhaps… but that’s another post for another day.

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Filed under AQA LitB 4, jerusalem, ks5, OCR A level, OCR NEW English Literature, Paedagogy

Chaucer’s Verse: Structure and Form

A screencast and powerpoint to look at the structure and form in Chaucer’s Merchant’s Tale. This covers an introduction to the Iambic Pentameter and a look at the narrative form of the tale with some opportunities for students to work independently.

Chaucer’s verse and style

The screencast link to the John Lyon English Department You Tube channel:https://youtu.be/lrXpQUoYWoA

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Introduction to narrative voice in Chaucer’s Merchant’s Tale.

This screencast and powerpoint continue my materials for use with OCR A level students meeting Chaucer for the first time. I intend it to begin discussions on the layering of narrative voice in Chaucer and to encourage students to reflect upon the different responses to passages depending on the voice being used.

PowerPoint: narrative voice in Chaucer

Screencast, on John Lyon English Department You tube channel:https://youtu.be/ZoiEafiyyCk

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Chaucer: An introduction to the Merchant’s Tale

This powerpoint and screencast link offer an introduction to Chaucer to provide context for reading The Merchant’s Tale as part of the new OCR A level.

chaucer intro

The screencast is on the John Lyon English Department You Tube Channel:https://youtu.be/tq5Tdq-qnLA

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Frailty, thy name is … Eve? A passage in search of a discussion for Year 13.

It seems a little unfair to equate Eve with Gertrude who is so strongly told off and used as a synecdoche for the entire female gender by Hamlet in the quotation bastardised above, yet I want to explore the presentation of Eve in the first 400 or so lines of Paradise Lost IX, a passage in which Milton is foreshadowing the fall, and more importantly, beginning to implicate Eve as the begetter of all that follows. To a heavily misogynistic readership and in a firmly patriarchal society such as his, it is convenient to place the blame for the Fall onto woman in general. We need to see whether Milton leaves open room for doubt in his telling of the story.

LL: 205 – 250:
After the calm glories of dawn, and still with the memory of Satan travelling to Earth and hiding himself in the snake fresh in our minds, Milton allows the couple to emerge onto the “stage” of his writing and begin their dialogue. (In an exam which requires comparison with drama, I find it useful to consider sections of PL as a drama – dialogue and often narratorial comment which tae the place of stage directions.). Eve speaks first with little fuss: “ Adam, well may we labour…”. At this stage there is no great exordium to introduce the argument in debate, but rather a plain request to share out labour. Furthermore, the rationale seems quite worthy: “…which intermits/ Our day’s work brought to little, though begun / Early…”. Eve seems to be suggesting a simple solution to a problem – that of the work not being completed and even seems to suggest that “supper comes unearned”, thus equating the right to relax with the achievement of hard work.
It is interesting though to look at the language which she uses in this speech. The garden is described as becoming “luxurious”, “wanton” or “wild”. IN short, her choice of lexis is suggestive of a sensuous or libidinous world. That this language is natural to her his further suggested by the flower imagery used: although Adam will engage with manly ideas such as providing strength and security in his work with the woodbine and the ivy, Eve will work in a “spring of roses intermixed, with myrtle”. Although Myrtle was generally considered to represent fidelity, roses are of a different plane, suggesting not only beauty of softness, but one which is shortlived and inclined to the decadent.

Adam treats Eve well in his response – his exordium suggesting a willingness to debate the point, though possibly also a sense that as the male, he does not expect to lose the debate. His hyperbolic opening: “Sole Eve, associate sole, to me beyond / Compare…” with its homophonic punning and deliberate playing on Eve’s willingness to be flattered seems rather extreme after the plainness of Eve’s opening. Adam moves into his argument only after a rather chauvinistic comment about how a woman should behave: “nothing lovelier can be found / In woman, than to study household good, / And good works in her husband to promote”. In short: thanks, but no thanks. He further suggests that since mankind has reason, and the ability to feel emotions comes from this source, then God intends them to be more than a mere working pair ( “not ot irksome toil…”) but a pair to share love. Before he moves to his second argument, however, he seems to backtrack on himself. Here it is Adam who seems ot be falling over himself not to seem too didactic or patriarchal. Suggesting possibly that he is aware that Eve does not share his attention span for conversation of this type, he offers the possibility of a “short absence” and is able to see the potential benefit of short separation on the relationship.

It is from here that he picks up his argument which foreshadows the rest of the book. Satan is near and will try to tempt them. He is clear that i) Satan wishes to come upon them individually and ii) Satan is jealous of their relationship and will seek to split them up and tempt them. He concludes by repeating the idea that it is safer and “seemliest” for a wife to remain beside her protector.

LL 270 – 290: Milton’s stage directions are clear: Eve, in her “virgin majesty” is offended by Adam’s heavy handed attempt to control the situation. Milton suggests that she replies with “austere composure”. I like this. She knows what she is doing here, and austerity does not immediately suggest someone relying on their femininity to win a point. Eve is intelligent and perfectly able to mix it in debate with Adam. In a short speech she responds first in a voice of injured pride – “I expected not to hear” – that Adam is not telling her anything she has not heard before and she goes on to point out that she and Adam need not fear any physical attack (being immortal) and so it is only Satan’s “fraud” which Adam is fearing. She is insulted, I think, that Adam clearly believes that her “firm faith and love / Can by his fraud be shaken or seduced”. Once again, Milton’s choice of language is powerful – alliterative fs abound, but Eve once again suggests a sensual weakness by her choice of the verb “seduced” which allows the physical sexuality of the moment to be recognized.

LL291 -342: In this sequence, Adam’s comparative weakness is clear. Whether he is weak in the face of Eve’s beauty or her intellect is open to discussion. There is an absence of overtly flirty or flattering speech from Eve, and she seems to take some control of the scene for this point. Adam, in “healing words” (again the stage direction points the reader towards a clear understanding of the characters) offers more argument, though the material is weak: first he suggests that he is worried that Eve will be discredited by the attempt alone, and then that Satan is wish to attack him, being the stronger, since greater kudos will come to Satan as a result. He does suggest, however, that he gain strength from Eve’s presence and that he shall be driven to his “utmost vigour” by “you looking on”. He goes on to suggest that his vigour will help typo unite them.

In this passage, Adam is described both as “domestic” and as possessing “matrimonial love”. Eve is not impressed and Milton seems to be pushing us to see her as the home breaker here. She is offended still by the suggestion that she might be seduced and replies in accents “sweet” – presumably an ironic comment due to an enforced politeness. Certainly her response is swift in its attack on Adam’s ideas – she is in control of this debate and raises the essential question: “How are we happy, still in fear of harm?”. This, together with “What is faith, love, virtue unassayed / Alone, without exterior help sustained?” show a clear train of thought or reason here – there is no real life for the pair if they are in constant fear. There is also a hint at the pride to come in her idea that he and she will gain “double honour” by overcoming Satan. She sees no stigma from his attack and is focused solely on the glory of overcoming him. She challenges Adam to rethink his ideas concerning God’s gift of Eden – “frail is our happiness” she cries and forces Adam to respond “fervently”. It is as though he finally realizes that he will not win this argument based on logic and has to engage with his emotional response to God.

LL343 – 400: It is hard to see “Oh Woman” as anything other than a put-down. Certainly it is neither hyperbolic in grandeur nor expressive of love. It suggests that it is time for the Man to educate the Woman about God and his ways. Adam tries to explain Free Will and Reason, suggesting that God wants mankind to use reason but also to “beware…lest by some fair appearing Good surprised / she dictate false…” He offers a crumb of comfort by suggesting that he is not mistrusting her, but engaging in the sort of mutual support that will allow them to use Reason, yet not be deceived. His speech becomes rich with imperatives and he seems to be moving into the ascendancy until in Line 370 he offers another sharp contradiction: “Go, for the stay, not free, absents thee more”. It is hard to work out what Adam is doing here. The two obvious possibilities are i) that he is allowing Eve to use her Reason and will not seek to impose his will upon her, or that ii) he is actively pushing her away. I see no reason for ii. The effect tof the passage is that the decision to leave and therefore the beginning of the sequence leading to the fall either has to be seen as Eve’s choice following the options, or as Adam’s failure in that he pushes Eve away.

The next lines show Eve leaving. She is clear that she has heeded Adam’s most recent warning and clearly understands the risks, even though she does not believe that Satan will attack her. Here she seems to be offering Adam a sop. She has bested him in debate, but has no wish to seem overproud as she leaves. And she is the instigator of the farewell – “from her husband’s hand her hand / Soft she withdrew” and it is she who breaks the clear symbol of marital unity before leaving Adam he “pursued” her with “ardent eye”. She seems to be much the more reasoned of the two. Even at this stage Adam seems to be emotionally affected in a way we do not see in Eve. Far from being weak and driven by emotion, the Woman here is in full control of herself. Milton undercuts this by his choice of Simile and Classical allusion. Each of the nymphs mentioned will end up being seduced. We can understand that despite her victory in the debate, she will not return for “noontide repast, or afternoon’s repose”.

Her midmorning snack will put an end to this calm repose forever.

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Women in Frankenstein: Cue card revision activity

This powerpoint is a starter for an activity designed to encourage students to seek out relevant quotations with regards to key themes or characters. In this case I have put 13 slides together to consider the presentation of the female in the novel. It is not meant to be complete, but is to be used in a lesson to initiate discussion.

I have looked at the thread linking Caroline, Elizabeth and Agatha – all representing the “Angel in the House”, a title derived from Coventry Patmore’s poem of that name (exerpt):

Man must be pleased; but him to please
Is woman’s pleasure; down the gulf
Of his condoled necessities
She casts her best, she flings herself.
How often flings for nought, and yokes
Her heart to an icicle or whim,
Whose each impatient word provokes
Another, not from her, but him;
While she, too gentle even to force
His penitence by kind replies,
Waits by, expecting his remorse,
With pardon in her pitying eyes;
And if he once, by shame oppress’d,
A comfortable word confers,
She leans and weeps against his breast,
And seems to think the sin was hers;
Or any eye to see her charms,
At any time, she’s still his wife,
Dearly devoted to his arms;
She loves with love that cannot tire;
And when, ah woe, she loves alone,
Through passionate duty love springs higher,
As grass grows taller round a stone.

Also,I wanted to draw attention to the exotic nature of Safie – so unlike the others in appearance and passion and not part of the typical patriarchal Geneva-set.

I begin with Margaret Saville – denied a voice in the text and presented as Walton’s sounding board, yet given a clear personality at the very opening of the book.

There are a couple of passages here to make students reflect on the nature of Frankenstein’s relationship with Clerval. I compare the reaction to his death with that of Elizabeth and also the brief character description of Elizabeth and Clerval as children – so clearly praising of the male friend and dismissive (though understanding) of the female.

frankenstein women

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Frankenstein: planning a “3 narrators” question

This quick plan is in response to a question from 2012 – “The use of three narrators contributes significantly to the novel’s air of mystery”…

It is aimed at OCR AS level students and any others reading the text. I use these in class to develop bare-bones thinking. Students should go away and prepare quotations relevant to the question after using the PowerPoint as well as challenges to the plan.

frankenstein 3 narrators plan

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Frankenstein: Seduction and promises

Frankenstein: Seduction and broken promises.

This is a short stimulus piece designed to look at the pattern of seduction and broken promises that run through the novel. It is not an exemplar essay for examination.

Seduction, it should be remembered does not merely imply a sexual predation, but any attempt to win another over to one’s side and to keep them there.

In the opening Epistolary frame of the novel, Walton reports to his sister that he has met a stranger. Although Frankenstein is at first silent, once he is able to speak his ability to charm Walton and his crew suggests a similarity with a man trying to win over a potential lover rather than merely responding to kindness. Walton is clearly entranced by Frankenstein’s ability to speak: “When he speaks, although his words are culled with choicest art, yet they flow with rapidity and unparalleled eloquence”. It is clear that by the final letter, Walton is entirely seduced and has fallen under Frankenstein’s spell: “Will you smile at the enthusiasm I feel over this divine wanderer?” It seems that his suffering, together with the way he has told his story, has completely won over Walton who is trying to convey the power of Frankenstein’s words to his sister, safe in London and removed from the novel. Not only Walton, of course, but “even the sailors feel the power of his eloquence” to the extent that they temporarily view the ice cap as little more than “mole hills”. But it seems to be temporary. Once the voice is removed, so the power fades. Walton is clear that his sister will not be moved since she does not hear the tale “from his own lips” and this suggests a seducer who’s power extends to all who hear him, though they may not be aware of the seduction itself. In this there is a clear reference to the power of the “Glittering eye” of the Ancient Mariner, a poem referenced by Walton himself earlier in the frame. The voice seems to carry power. The reader should note that since Walton narrates the entire book of frames within frames, we are also likely to be spared the power of seduction since we never “hear” Frankenstein’s voice other than through Walton’s narrative. To this end, there is an interesting feature of the writing in that the voices of Frankenstein and the Creature are almost identical despite the assertion that the Creature speaks in a voice that though “harsh, had nothing terrible in it”. Thus there is no identifiable change in voice or tone regardless of which strand of the story we are reading and the focus sits squarely on the story itself. Character is denied a clear point of view.

It is rare to be led outside the narrative, but it happens in the Justine sequence in terms of the letter Frankenstein is reported to have received from Elizabeth. Crammed with detail that seems irrelevant but which sets up the first murder – that of William – the letter has a 2nd person narrative in terms of the introduction of “Justine, you may remember…”. This jars a little but is unavoidable in the telling. The full detail of this scene has to wait for the Creature’s telling in Frame 3 – Justine is unable to construct any meaningful defence (women in this novel seeming to be very poor communicators) to seduce her prosecutors and gain her rightful freedom since she does not know the truth of what happened. The only one who does is the creature, and the tale he tells suggests his response to failed seduction.

When the Creature narrates the events leading to William’s death, the image is clear. He wishes to seduce William to “seize him and educate him as my companion and friend”. Seeing William as unprejudiced he makes a clumsy attempt to befriend him (the wish for a companion echoing that of Walton), and finally kills him in a fit of rage as he hears the name “Frankenstein”. There is little doubt that his feelings are aroused by the image in the locket a she gazes “on the dark eyes, fringed by deep lashes, and her lovely lips” before his sexual passion is replaced by rage. However on finding Justine alone he gazes at the sleeping girl and remembering the locket is engaged once again in an attempted seduction: “Awake fairest, they lover is near”. Despite his body thrilling to the sight, he is once again unable to pursue his seduction and invents a pretext for killing Justine: “the crime had its source in her, let her be the punishment”. It is the telling of this tale in the frame in which the Creature is using his rhetoric to seduce Frankenstein that leads to the request to create the Eve-Creature. The honesty of the Creature’s narrative is designed to win the agreement of Creator to make a partner.

One can also see the Creature as a failed seducer in his attempts to win over the De Laceys. He watches over his family from “afar” and is material in assisting their recovery and relative prosperity before he decides to go to the next stage – integration. In his conversation with De Lacey, who is sightless, it is his ability to talk eloquently that seems to be the winning feature of the scene. He wins De Lacey’s confidence: “ I have no relation or friend on this earth”, before seeking to win his confidence in a story about his raising by a “French family” which avoids the need to tell the truth whilst managing not to be a direct lie. He finally resorts to emotional blackmail, crying: “You and your family are the friends whom I seek. Do not desert me in the hour of trial”.

The two stories are recounted in the Creature’s narrative and need to be seen in the context of his purpose – the seduce or win Frankenstein to his request for a partner. His wish is clearly for sexual consummation and he needs to extract a promise from Frankenstein to assist in his desire. Frankenstein will, while telling this tale attempt exactly the same from Walton at the end of the novel: “Swear to me Walton, that he shall not escape, that you will seek him…”. Although Frankenstein promised a moral tale at the beginning of his narration, the Creator and the Creature seem to have the same purpose in their narrative – to extract a binding promise form the listener.

Thus promises seem to dominate the Frames of the novel. In addition to the two mentioned, Walton has promised his crew that he would sail South as soon as the ice melted, only to seek to humour Frankenstein and renege. So we should consider the litany of broken promises in both the main narratives and the minor plot devices. Apart from the obvious breaking of the promise to create Eve-Creature, which absolves the Creature form his promise to leave the known areas of the Earth, promises are a feature of the narratives of Walton’s crew and the De Lacey’s which echo each other in the early frames. The apparent digression by Walton to discuss his first mate serves to show the power of a promise kept against the odds and bringing misery on the promiser. He remains “silent like the Turk”, a simile which gains relevance only when the tale of Safie is told at the centre of the novel. Here we see Safie’s father -a Turk – renege on a promised marriage and become the catalyst for all the woes to befall the De Lacey family. That both promises are concerning marriage is, of course, relevant given the role that Frankenstein’s broken promise on the same subject will play in the destruction of his own marriage to Elisabeth. The Creature makes a promise atop Mont Blanc when he promises to “quit the neighbourhood of man” and in so doing ensures his temporary seduction of Frankenstein to do his bidding. Whilst Frankenstein never speaks the words “I promise”, his adoption of the Creature’s request is evident form all that follows. In fact this is the last in a series of failed seductions. However powerful the Creature’s rhetoric, he has no hold over Frankenstein once the latter is out of the range of his voice and the Eve-Creature is eventually destroyed. It is this destruction that sets in train the events of Frankenstein’s wedding night thus ensuring that no marital harmony will exist in the novel.
At the heart of the destruction of the family and marriage lie broken promises. The promises are extracted by the force of rhetoric and all are driven by male narrators. It seems that women have little power to persuade by rhetoric in this novel and are regularly to fall victim to broken promises and failed seduction.

The single female who is untouched is Margaret, Walton’s sister. She sits outside the framework of the novel and is protected from the power of both Frankenstein’s and the Creature’s rhetoric by the power (or otherwise) of Walton’s narrative. Although the tale is meant to be “strange and harrowing” it is Walton who hears the “full toned voice” swelling in his ears and it is he who is seduced by the tale.

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Filed under AQA LitB 4, Frankenstein, OCR A level, OCR English Literature