Johnny’s and Zampanò’s Dissimilarity

Zampanò, as either the author of The Navidson Record or the mind behind the entire concept of the house and documentary, is the sole source of the obsession Johnny experiences, as everything Johnny reads has been transmitted to him through Zampanò’s interpretation or imagination. At various points, Johnny compares his mental state to that of Zampanò’s while he wrote this work: their apartments become similarly disheveled and accommodating to their paranoia, both intermittently lose contact with the outside world. It could be said, by attempting to interpret Zampanò’s work, Johnny enters into the same world of ambiguity and anxiety and is similarly devolved by it – that Johnny, in the end, becomes Zampanò.

However, such a statement is precluded by the fact that Johnny and Zampanò have differing levels of awareness of their obsession. Johnny, with Zampanò as an example of what such obsession can do, at times can sense the influence that the book has on him. He certainly knows that it impacts him negatively, and is able to take stock of how his living conditions and mental state have changed because of it. Johnny can separate the book from the narrative of his life, and in the footnotes, there are two sides to Johnny: that which is overcome by fear, and that which attempts to deal with it. Zampanò is never shown to have any sense of his obsession – The Navidson Record is his life (from what little the reader knows of it through anecdotes from those who helped him write it). He rather wallows in his obsession, because it is what drives him complete the record, which he views as a contribution to academia and society.

It is only Johnny, who constantly looks for escape from the fear that The Navidson Record conjures in him, who does escape, who finishes his task. Zampanò, who surrenders to the work succumbs to it.


Explanation Post: Henry’s Bones

The section on Henry’s death in Frankenstein left me pretty underwhelmed. Immediately after the fact, Shelley very rapidly shifts to Frankenstein’s ensuing depression and, though Henry is obviously the cause, he isn’t really the focus. I wanted to give Henry a more fitting tribute. Since we never really learn the details of what happened to Henry after his death, I may have embellished that he was eventually buried in Ireland and never brought back to Geneva, but again, Frankenstein as a narrator, in the middle of his episode, didn’t give me much to work with. Leaving Henry there in Ireland seemed to me to emphasize how overcome Frankenstein had become by this point. So I used an unnamed villager as a narrator to tell how the whole town felt about this event and also to reflect the mystery surrounding it, and tried to match the feel of the book with the language my narrator uses.

Henry’s Bones

Here lies Henry Clerval – or so we believe, as his grave remains unmarked.

He certainly lies somewhere under this earth, still as foreign to it as his death was to this town.

Such insufficient markings cannot reflect the spectacle of it all, but as one stands on the spot where the man now lies, the feelings and memories of the past reanimate.

His lifeless form discarded on the beach is under our feet.

Our wavering certainty in the guilt of his friend still clouds our minds.

The solemnity of his burial wets our eyes and makes us reach for the hands of our companions. 

How can it be that we know so little of him – save for his name and his death – and still are so affected by what became of him?

Perhaps it is the anger that calls us back here, towards his companion who may have murdered him, and then became mad with grief and left him to wither among our dead.

More likely, the memory of this fallen man stirs in us some appreciation for the order of things. In our struggle to determine the details of his death, we examined closely the nature of humanity, what could drive one to so malign another, and decided that we were glad that this event marked an extreme that we will probably never witness again.

And so, at this conclusion, we depart from him, the only Swiss bones in a cemetery filled with Irish skeletons, and return to life.

Fate in Frankenstein

Intertwined within the narrative of the first volume of Frankenstein, the title character constantly experiences moral dilemma as a result of his actions. The whole story being told in retrospect makes the reader aware that, in the present, Frankenstein fully understands the destruction that he and his creation caused and in the time leading up to and following these events, he considered the factors that saw them to completion. However, what Shelley doesn’t make quite clear through this story-telling technique is that Frankenstein considers himself fully responsible.

In the 1831 revision of Frankenstein, Shelley strays from the idea that the doctor himself, and any underlying corruption of morality on his part were to blame for the evil he ended up creating. In this way, Frankenstein’s creation is instead the result of a confluence of predispositions that could have influenced anyone with Frankenstein’s interest in science and life history to have completed the same action and have arrived at the same result.

It seems that with each misfortune along this timeline that Frankenstein describes, he’s compelled to send a shoutout to fate for being the reason they were ultimately unavoidable. When his mother dies, he calls the death an “omen of future misery,” owing to his ensuing preoccupation with death. Even to seemingly ordinary elements of his personality he assigns a great significance over what happened in his future (i.e. his passion for science), but blames fate and destiny for being the reasons that he couldn’t stop himself from following a path that would lead him to creating the monster.

In some instances, Shelley’s preoccupation with the idea of an unchanging fate serves on a somewhat shallow level as fuel for the movement of the plot, in that some events are written-in solely so that Frankenstein will eventually find himself at a place where his decision to create the monster seems like the only available one. In this way, fate is a force that seals itself, regardless of Frankenstein’s say in the matter. On another level, Frankenstein’s continual accusation of fate redirects any discussion of his morality for the characters in the book and supposedly also for Shelley. In reality however, such an argument might not hold the same ground.