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Presentation

Kelly J. Morton

HUM200
z My second work is a novel by English author
1. Overview
Mary Shelley titled Frankenstein, or the Modern
Prometheus: Originally published in
Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, by
My first work is a large, grey, black, and white Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (Project
oil painting on canvas, created in the home of Gutenberg, 1993) The version I am reading is
Spanish artist, Pablo Picasso in Paris, during English not the French translation. It was
the year 1937. The painting now housed in created in London and was released on the first
the Museo Reina Sofía in Madrid is of January of the year 1818.
called Guernica.

This Photo by Unknown author is licensed under CC BY-


SA.
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Theme in both works:
◦ The theme expressed through both of these works is
obviously horror but also that knowledge can be
dangerous and that man's constant attempt at
"playing God" and being consumed by obsession
often has horrific consequences including death. I
also see a commonality of the use or representation
of electricity and fire in both pieces. Guernica, by
Pablo Picasso and Frankenstein, or the Modern
Prometheus, by Mary Shelley, both express the theme
of horrific consequence when man attempts to play
the role of God in his pursuit of knowledge, often
ending in tragedy. Both works also have a common
element of the use of electricity represented as well,
while one is used to create life, the other is used to
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2. Impact the Audience

 The theme of dangerous knowledge and mans pursuit to constantly advance


technologically is one we should all as human beings pay close attention to. As our
world constantly progresses and advances in technology we sometime lose sight of
what makes us human. Our ability to think and reason is taken over and done by
artificial intelligence and as our realities become virtual we need to stop and think
about when it will be enough if ever? In history whenever man attempts to play God
and trifles with the power of creation at some point it seems to always end up
tragically. With electricity fueling our ever advancing world of iPhone's and Artificial
Intelligence we are losing touch with what makes us human to begin with. With
computers handling our reasoning and understanding, we neglect to think critically
and analyze situations for ourselves. If we continue on this path of advancement, with
technology being the heart, and electricity being the blood it pumps, we as humans
must act as the brain. We must take clues from the humanities such as the painting
of Guernica, and the story of Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus, and pay
attention to the message they are trying to communicate to us, which is that
knowledge itself can be a double edged sword. Knowledge can be used to create and
destroy. We must think about the future and realize at some point it's possible in our
pursuit of knowledge, that we will go to far in our quest to make our world virtual. The
more we allow these machines to do our thinking for us we will become desensitized
and dependent upon electronics until we lose our instincts all together, impacting all of
humanity tragically, and with disastrous consequence.
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3. Evidence

At the time Frankenstein was being written electricity had just been discovered and was an interesting topic for
people to read about. (shelleysfrankenstein.weebly.com, 2019) In Shelley's novel she refers to Prometheus and
how he stole fire and gave it to man causing progress in civilization leading Zeus to punish him by having his
liver to be eaten by birds because Zeus had already set limitations to humans in their progress by withholding
fire due to unworthy sacrifices. Frankenstein parallels this because Victors unhealthy obsession lead him to use
galvanization (which is the process of using electricity to cause muscle contractions), and alchemy, along with
chemistry to create his monster in his pursuit to unlock the secrets of life. (Wikipedia.org, 2019). The story is of
a scientist named Victor Frankenstein who creates a monster with the use of electricity and scavenged body
parts. "Victor creates the monster because he wants to beat nature and God by bringing something dead back
to life. He is successful, but nature does end up rejecting the monster anyway. Victor defies nature in order to
obtain glory. He thinks that by creating his monster he will obtain glory." (Weebly.com, 2019) The Weebly.com
site continues to elaborate by stating that, "Victor searches for knowledge everywhere throughout the book and
he is always searching for the wrong reasons. He wants to find glory by being the first to create a living creature
from the dead. This all backfires on him because he finds no glory, but instead his entire family ends up dead
as either a direct or indirect result of the creation. This shows how many bad things can come from pursuing
knowledge for glory. Shelley proves this throughout the book." (Weebly.com, 2019) '"The biggest symbols
throughout Frankenstein are Light and Fire. Both fire and light are good and bad. They each bring good things
and bad. Light is usually used to when talking about knowledge and new discoveries. This helps support the
theme of pursuing knowledge for glory. For the monster, and people in general, light seems safer and therefore
we gravitate towards it. However, the light allows the humans to see the monster which therefore leaves the
monster alone and without friends. Fire symbolizes nature. Nature doesn't reject him at first, but eventually it is
obvious that nature does reject the monster. This becomes obvious when the monster builds a fire which at first
warms him, but then burns him." (Weebly.com, 2019) https://frankensteinap.weebly.com/why.html In the
Picasso painting known as Guernica, we see the artists depiction of the aftermath of the bombing of the town
by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy during the Spanish Civil war. Hitler's unhealthy obsession with technology
and casual bombing of the town in partnership with Franco, shows the results of war created by humans
through their use of electricity to create bombs to terrorize people. (Trueman, 2019) The painting depicts what
some refer to seeing as a type of "electric sun" during the bombing, symbolized by a light bulb in the top center
of the painting.(McKinnon, 2015) There are candles, and flames throughout the piece as well as the disastrous
results of the bombings aftermath. Guernica, is a depiction of the horrors of war with a reference to dangerous
knowledge and the consequences of technological advancements such as atomic bombs often referring to fire
or the electric sun as represented by the electric light in the top of the painting. Interpretations of Guernica vary
widely and contradict one another. This extends, for example, to the mural's two dominant elements: the bull
and the horse. Art historian Patricia Failing said, "The bull and the horse are important characters in Spanish
culture. Picasso stated that the horse represented the people of Guernica." (pablopicasso.org, 2019)In one
work electricity (or fire) is used to create the spark of life through galvanism, "(galvanism1:a direct current of
electricity especially when produced by chemical action)" (Merriam-Webster.com, 2019), that brings the
creature to life bringing about death and destruction. In the painting by Picasso, electricity (or fire) is used in the
creation of atomic bombs and depicted as a burning light bulb symbolizing the bomb being dropped on the city
and the horrific and tragic aftermath that followed, best described in this quote from research done in 2019 on
This Photo by Unknown author is licensed under CC BY. the totallyhistory.com website, "Above the head of the impaled horse is a light bulb which glares outward like an
evil eye, it can also be likened to the single bulb hanging in a prison cell. Picasso may have also intended the
symbolism of the bulb to be associated with the Spanish word for light bulb which is “bombilla”. This brings to
mind the word “bomb”, which could symbolize the detrimental impact which technology can have on humanity."
(totallyhistory.com, 2019)
4. Personally

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My personal experience in connection to these pieces is due to the fact
that my father recently had a heart attack and was in the hospital for a
very long time during that time he told me stories of his experiences and
these two works made me think of him. My father is a Vietnam veteran
and lost in his legs due to stepping on a bomb buried in the ground. The
bomb blew him into the air and my father watched his body parts fly up
into the air around him and as he hit the ground chunks of his body fell all
around him. When I see the painting I am reminded of this story my father
told me of his war experience. He spoke of heads on the ground with their
eyes and mouths open. Animals and people on fire around him and the
blinding light he saw from above as he was collecting pieces of his body
and pulling them towards his chest so he could be put back together.Here
is an image of the painting to further understand
why.(https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/7/74/PicassoGuerni
ca.jpg/350px-PicassoGuernica.jpg)I also know that my father and other
soldiers like him had to bomb and burn villages like the town
of Guernica although for different reasons. This is another reason this
painting reminds me of him. Here is an image of a soldier in Vietnam
setting fire to a village much like the town of Guernica.
(https://allthatsinteresting.com/wordpress/wp-
content/uploads/2017/10/vietnam-war-photos-flames.jpg)When I am
reading the story by Shelley I am also reminded of my father as they tried
to patch and sew him back together in the V.A. hospital he often referred
to the doctors as "mad scientist" and how he felt like an experiment much
like Frankenstein's monster in the novel which was one of my dad's
favorite books to read (ironically) while he was in the hospital, as their
failed experiments caused the loss of his left and right legs over time
leaving him in a wheelchair for the rest of his life except for when he used
his prosthetic legs, which were painful to use and caused him to walk
exactly as Frankenstein's monster is portrayed as walking in the movies.
My thesis statement helps explain why I chose this theme, "Guernica, by
Pablo Picasso and Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, by Mary
Shelley, both express the theme of horrific consequence when man
attempts to play the role of God in his pursuit of knowledge, often ending
in tragedy. Both works also have a common element of the use of
electricity represented as well, while one is used to create life, the other is
used to destroy it. However, both end in tragedy." I chose the theme I did
instead of anti-war because I am going into the Information Technology
field and I think it's important to take care to preserve what makes us
human while pursuing advancement. I worry that one day technology will
turn on us ending in disaster. Some could argue it already has.
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