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Thaddeus Pinakiewicz

Thaddeus B. Pinakiewicz
Professor Moll
English 1010-33
7 March 2013
Historical Schmistorical
In Mary Shelleys Frankenstein, Frankensteins creature was incorporated
from the body parts of a multitude of people. Frankenstein, as a work of literature
when disassembled for analysis, gives many more differing interpretations than
organ donors for the actual monster. One of those interpretations, Frankenstein as
Historical Metaphor by Elizabeth Young, analyses the use of Frankenstein as
metaphor in political rhetoric over the past two centuries of American history.
Young concentrates her analysis on the creator-creation relationship in the
metaphor and specifically, the culpability of the creator when its creation rebels
against it. Young concludes that the use of the Frankenstein metaphor in political
rhetoric is an effective method firstly as a, condemnation for those in power for
making monsters (Shelley, Frankenstein 276) and secondly, as a defense of the
monsters themselves (Shelley, Frankenstein 276). Youngs analysis is agreeable up
to a point, but in rigidly framing the creator-creation conflict with the onus of the
relationships failure upon the creator she undermines her thesis. Furthermore,
incongruences between Youngs examples and a lack of depth in her historical
analysis both serve to weaken her argument.

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According to Young, the Frankenstein metaphor in America consists of three
distinct elements: a monster is amalgamated from body parts; a monster is
reanimated from corpses; and a monster engages in revolt against a creator
(Shelley, Frankenstein 275). Beyond the basic structure of the metaphor, Young
focuses on the creator creation relationship. The creator-creation relationship is a
main theme throughout the novel Frankenstein from its introduction, I bid my
hideous progeny go fworth and prosper (Shelley, Mary 193) to its penultimate
page, [h]e is dead who called me into being, (Shelley, Mary 178)and that
relationship is the emphasis of Youngs analysis of the rhetorical use of the
metaphor. Young further refines her analysis by framing it though the lens of Mary
Shelleys own depiction of the monster as a sympathetic creature (Shelley,
Frankenstein 272). Pursuant to Youngs assertion that the monster is a sympathetic
creature, it follows that the monsters creator bears the weight of responsibility for
the failure of the relationship and ultimate conflict between the two.
Young conducts her analysis of American political rhetoric in reverse
chronological order, starting with post 9/11 rhetoric and ending with post
emancipation proclamation rhetoric. The first example she gives is the Americas
creation of a Frankenstein monster in the form of Saddam Hussein. This is an
improper application of the three-part Frankenstein metaphor that Young outlined.
Following to that outline, the US would have had to create the Frankenstein Saddam,
which is patently untrue. In reality Saddam rose to power via his own machinations
without US help and only received American assistance after the fact. In this case the
US acted as a nurturer of Saddam after his inception (as a leader), the inverse of

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Frankensteins relationship with his monster, of creator and subsequent neglector.
Young also states that Saddam at first heeded orders but subsequently would no
longer do what he was told by his master, which is a faulty association with
Frankensteins monsters actions, as he never did what he was commanded from his
inception. The Frankenstein metaphor cannot be properly applied to the US-Saddam
relationship for the aspects mentioned and because of Youngs usage of the word
creation. The creation in the Frankenstein refers to inception while Young is using
creation in the sense of transformation of a body into a shape of ones choosing.
There is a vast difference between; creating something and being responsible for its
future actions, and attempting to change anothers actions and being responsible for
their actions. Through Youngs use of the word creation, any that gave aid or
assistance to the monster Saddam would also be considered his creator, yet that is
overlooked. These various issues with Youngs analysis combine to undermine her
assertion that the US created the monster Saddam and the use of that assertion as a
foundation for her further arguments.
Continuing in her analysis, Young uses the international proletariat as
another example of a Frankenstein monster. She mentions in her analysis that the
use of the proletariat is as an example is clearly faithful to Mary Shelleys own
depiction of the monster as a sympathetic creature, (Shelley, Frankenstein 272). By
using the international proletariat as another example of a Frankensteinian
monster, Young has created an indirect correlation between the international
proletariat and Saddam Hussein. While the analysis of the international proletariat
in isolation is fair, in combination with the previous analysis of Saddam as a

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Frankenstein monster Young tenders a glaring contradiction. If the international
proletariat and Saddam are both Frankenstein monsters, and the monster is a
sympathetic creature, then one would have to conclude that Saddam too is a
sympathetic creature. One cannot be a student of history and agree with that
statement. Saddam is a man who rose to power through a series of machinations,
assassinations, a coup, and once in power he used chemical weapons on his own
people. To call such a monster as Saddam sympathetic is simply impossible without
changing the words definition.
In her analysis, Young frames the prior two examples as general and the use
of Frankenstein as contemporary political critique, and in particular, for voicing
dissent against elites whose policies are seen as misguided in intention and
disastrous in effect (Shelley, Frankenstein 272). Youngs point is valid in that
evoking the metaphor of Frankenstein and his monster can be effective when
critiquing those in power. Youngs examples on the other hand are contradictory,
and in combination her use of the Frankenstein metaphor is too general for a
consistent analysis. It would be more prudent to replace the Frankenstein metaphor
with another to avoid generalizing the Frankenstein metaphor to a point of
obsolescence.
Young moves on from her contradictory examples to a concentration on the
themes of: blowback, (Shelley, Frankenstein 275) where ones actions towards
another lead to a failure and reprisal against oneself, and sympathyto explain
monstrous violence, if not to defend monsters themselves (Shelley, Frankenstein
272-273). Youngs choice of themes provides good tools for analysis of use of the

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Frankenstein metaphor, but as demonstrated Youngs supportive evidence in
lacking in substance. Young then digresses onto other uses of Frankenstein in
political culture, describing its use to represent monstrous creation(s), (Shelley,
Frankenstein 273). While Young cites the many uses of the Frankenstein metaphor
as the vitality of the Frankenstein metaphor, and its applicability to many
situations, I would attribute it to a phenomenon Lawrence Lipking mentioned in his
essay, Frankenstein, The True Story, that everyone misunderstands it
[Frankenstein]; or more accurately, hundreds of millions of people who have never
read the book think that they know what it is about. The proliferation of different
versions of Frankenstein, be it film, photo or literature, has so generalized the
metaphor that it is widely applicable but also less effective in its use.
Young proceeds onto her conclusion where she combines the parts of her
argument into one example, the black (African American) monster in America. This
is her most concrete example, it fits her 3 part outline for the Frankenstein
metaphor for: the problems in America after slavery relating to African Americans
were directly a result of the proliferation of slavery in America representing the
creation of the monster, the freeing of the slaves embodying the animation of the
monster, and the subsequent violence in the ghetto and social unrest following
freedom as the revolt of the creation against the creator. Youngs fundamental
analysis is fantastic up to a sweeping point she makes at the end; that any colored
monster in American popular culture is a derivative of an archetypal Black monster.
She fails to mention monsters such as Yeti (indomitable snowmen) who are

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depicted as white, and the closer relation of Frankensteins yellowish color to dead,
jaundiced skin than to Black skin.
Young provides an interesting insight of the use of the Frankensteinian
metaphor in America as political commentary, but bases her conclusions upon a
contradictory set of examples and an overly wide use of the metaphor. I agree with
Youngs fundamental basis of analysis and her statement that the Frankenstein
metaphor is useful and appropriate when critiquing misguided and failed policy. At
the same time I disagree with her application of a generalized metaphor piecemeal
to fit her examples. Youngs stroke is too broad when applying her analysis and in
doing so she dulls her argument and unnecessarily weakens her thesis and
conclusion.
Works Cited
Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft, and J. Paul Hunter. "Frankenstein As Historical
Metaphor." Frankenstein: The 1818 Text, Contexts, Criticism. New York: W.W.
Norton &, 2012. N. pag. Print.
Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Susan J. Wolfson. Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's
Frankenstein, Or, The Modern Prometheus. New York: Pearson Longman, 2007.
Print.