Gerald’s Garden

The sun shone brightly down on Gerald’s garden that morning.  As soon as the boy walked through the entrance gates his senses were overwhelmed. His sight soared from flower to shrubbery unsure as to which magnificent piece of life deserved his attention most. When he would close his eyes he would take a deep breath and it was as if the purest air was filling his lungs. When he exhaled it was as if passion and life itself moved through him. Then he gazed upon the mother of this garden. Nestled in the center of the garden exuding vitality and surrounded by her children was a breathtaking oak tree. She stood high above the garden fences and her powerful branches stretched to the heavens beckoning them to gaze upon her.

The boy tried in vain to capture, in a single photograph, the true essence of this garden, but its beauty escaped his camera. After a few more failed attempts trying to find a perfect vantage point the photographer found himself at the foot of the giant tree and let himself fall at her feet and rest in the shadow of her foliage. It was here that Gerald found him.

“What are you doing in here?” asked Gerald.

The photographer looked at the man who had created this gift onto earth with an immediate fear. Gerald was nearing 80 years old but the voracity of youth still lingered in his eyes. He was a tall and slender man and towered over the boy.

“I’m sorry sir; I’ve been driving for days just exploring the country side and I saw your magnificent tree towering over the fences and was just dying to see what was in here. I’m sorry if I disturbed you.”

“My private garden is not a tourist destination boy,” Gerald stated staring down at him, “but I suppose I can hardly blame you for being enchanted by it. Captivating isn’t it?”

“It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.”

“How old are you son?”

“22.”

A smile crawled across Gerald’s face as he bowed to the boy. “It’s a pleasure to see such a young man already enamored with the beauty of nature. I myself did not discover it until much later in life.”

“You’d have to be a fool not to appreciate this paradise,” he said looking around him.

“I thank you for your kind words; I’m sorry what was your name?” Gerald asked.

“Jonathan.”

“Well, Jonathan my name is Gerald and I must say I have been working on my garden all morning and am absolutely exhausted. I imagine you are as well since I found you near sleeping in my garden. Would you care to join me inside for a cup of tea? I very rarely get to enjoy the company of another human being out here.”

Jonathan was exhausted from his trip and tea sounded fantastic so he accepted the kind invitation without hesitation.

“Do you live alone sir?” Jonathan asked.

“Please call me Gerald,” he started as they approached his front door, “and I live with my dear wife Emilia.”

Gerald opened the door and Jonathan walked in. Immediately he felt the life of the garden sucked out of him. The world he had entered could not possibly be attended to by the same creature who nurtured that magnificent garden outside.  All around him Jonathan could see nothing but gray and black. Dust covered all surfaces, and the corners of the home had been selected as the adopted home of several spiders. Dark heavy curtains hung over each window allowing nearly no light to enter the house. When Gerald closed the door behind him the room got surprisingly darker.

“The living room is right this way,” Gerald said as he passed Jonathan and led the way forward, “I do apologize for the mess.”

Jonathan slowly moved forward following Gerald and passed a grand piano that looked like it hadn’t played a tune in years.

They entered a large room where two large black chairs surrounded a coffee table.  A chandelier covered in web hung above them and a large grandfather clock in the corner of the room incorrectly told all attendants, if there ever were any in this home, the wrong time.

“Please have a seat,” Gerald offered Jonathan the cleaner chair and Jonathan thanked him.

“I’ll be right back with the tea.”

Jonathan stood in silence after Gerald departed. This poor old man and his wife probably didn’t have the strength to do anything much less clean the house.  He was sure they hired help for the garden and they probably couldn’t afford to hire a housekeeper. Jonathan walked over to a fireplace filled with rotted, dead wood and saw several frames standing on the mantelpiece. He saw a picture of a much younger looking Gerald and a woman Jonathan assumed must be the wife. They stood outside this same house but no garden had been erected yet it seemed. In this picture Gerald hardly looked like the man he does now. He looked young and vibrant, and actually bore a striking resemblance to Jonathan himself. Next to their photo he saw a large framed diploma; a PhD in Biology for Gerald.

“Ah, I see you’ve found the old memory shelf,” Gerald said as he came back into the room carrying a tray with tea cups. He set it down on the table and once again offered Jonathan a seat.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to pry,” Jonathan said as he sat down.

“No worries Jonathan, I’ve already noticed what a curious mind you have. Sugar?” Gerald asked. Jonathan shook his head.

Jonathan picked up his cup and took a sip of his tea. He closed his eyes as he felt the sweet nectar activate his taste buds. Gerald noticed the smile on his face.

“It’s good isn’t it? Made from the tea leaves in the garden.”

“It’s divine,” Jonathan said, “that Garden truly is a piece of art.”

“Oh it’s more than art, Jonathan, it’s my child truly. I have raised that garden outside for the last 50 years of my life. I watched that tree grow from a tiny seed into the majestic overseer that it is today.”

“Well, you have a lot to be proud of in your child sir.”

“Gerald, please.”

“Sorry.”

“Yes I suppose it is quite noteworthy. Everyone who’s ever seen it has been quick to tell me so.”

“It’s a shame you’re so far out in the country, I’m sure a lot more people would love to come and visit the garden. You could probably make a lot of money with visitors.”

Gerald scoffed at the idea

“Oh Jonathan, money is a young man’s game I have no interest in money. Nor do I particularly want many people in my garden, I’m very protective of it.”

Jonathan felt the cold air of the house getting to him and took another drink from his cup. The warmth sent a wave of euphoria through him.

“What made you want to make the garden?” Jonathan asked.

“Pardon?”

“The garden, I saw in the picture with your wife that there wasn’t always one outside, what made you start growing it.”

“Ah, well it’s a bit of a sad story I’m afraid,” Gerald started. Jonathan sat comfortable in his seat and gave no sign that he wanted Gerald to stop. “Back when Emilia and I got married we wanted to start a family. Fill this house with the sound of children laughing and little footsteps running down the stairs.”

Jonathan drank more tea as he listened to the story.

“Emilia’s sisters had all already had children; I think her oldest sister had four. For a few years we tried but fate never seemed to want to stop on our doorstep.”

“I’m so sorry,” Jonathan said, “ she wasn’t able to get pregnant?”

“Oh no, she was. Poor Emilia, she carried…I don’t know how many children before we gave up. They just never seemed to…Sometimes…Well, let’s just say that sometimes things don’t go as planned. I studied medicine in school but I couldn’t figure out what was wrong and we went to the best doctors in the state but a baby just wasn’t for us.”

Jonathan felt tears welling up in his eyes as he finished his drink. He sank further into his chair as he searched for a response to Gerald’s story.

“Poor Emilia, after the seventh baby we lost she just couldn’t take it anymore,” Gerald took a sip from his cup; “I walked in on her in the bathtub one day and found her wrists pouring blood into the water.”

Jonathan remained still.

“She thought she was the only one suffering, her plan was to leave me on this Earth alone, suffering, childless, wifeless. Well, I wasn’t going to let her do it. I dragged her out of that bathtub screaming and fixed her up good. She’d lost a lot of blood but she wasn’t going to die on me.”

The cup slowly slipped out of Jonathan’s hand and crashed against the floor, shattering into pieces. Gerald looked over at Jonathan in the chair, drool spilling out of the corner of his mouth.

“Oh Jonathan,” Gerald said calmly, “don’t you worry about that. It was the drug’s fault not your own I assure you.”

Jonathan’s eyes darted from side to side, scanning the room, panicking. He saw Gerald get up from his chair and walk towards him. Jonathan tried to jump up and run for the front door but was no longer in control of any of his limbs and remained motionless in his chair.

“Don’t struggle, it only makes it worse ,” Gerald said. He walked behind Jonathan and bent down beneath the chair. He removed the latches the held the wheels in place and began to lead the chair out of the room.

“I think it’s time you met my wife,” Gerald said.

Jonathan tried to scream but he could feel all consciousness leaving his body, he barely had the strength to keep his eyes open. He watched in terror as Gerald led him down a long hallway that led into darkness.

“Now, your original question was what made me want to start a garden, I think you deserve the answer to that question.”

They reached the end of the hallway and Gerald opened up a door behind the giant staircase and pushed Jonathan in.

“After that wife of mine tried her damndest to leave me I swore I was going to get the child I was promised, with or without her help.” Jonathan’s view was slowly fading as he looked around and saw giant tubes filled with water and giant lumps floating inside them. He tried to make sense of it but was unable to concentrate.

“So I quit my job, I had no need for it anyway, I already knew what I was going to do. I set up shop here at home and started getting to work. I was going to get me a baby.  The doctors had all told me I was fine, I was a strong young man who should have no problem making a child, but she was too weak. Her womb couldn’t keep a baby healthy.”

Gerald stopped the chair in front of a large tube filled with water, larger than the ones they had passed before. It took a while but Jonathan was able to focus his vision and saw through the glass the body of a woman floating in the water. She had pipes sewn into her stomach, her mouth, and all over her body. Despite this terrible condition Jonathan immediately recognized her as the woman in the painting he had seen on the fireplace. She hadn’t aged a day.

“Beautiful isn’t she? Keeping her young and alive in there was the easy part. Recreating her womb not so much. I worked for months and months and finally I got one to stick.  Can you imagine that feeling Jonathan, to create human life with your bare hands. It was our child, Emilia’s and mine. And she was beautiful. I lifted her out of that tube of water and her cry was more beautiful to me than any composition you’d ever heard. But when she opened her eyes at me my heart dropped. I don’t know where I went wrong. I had made an error in calculation along the lines but I knew that I could fix it. I looked down at what I now realized was a monster and knew that I could do better. So I put her back into the water until she stopped crying.”

Jonathan was starting to feel a little life come back to him. He was able to feel his fingers once more.

“I knew that I had to keep trying, but I couldn’t possibly have a house full of dead monsters, can you imagine Jonathan? So with that first beast I created that beautiful oak you so admired outside. And then I went back to work, but time after time after time something went wrong. The hair was the wrong color, the mouth was too big, too many hands, I couldn’t get my calculations right. And so my garden grew.”

Jonathan knew that he had the strength to get up but he wasn’t sure if he could get away from this psychopath yet. It was then that Gerald stepped in front of him and dropped himself down onto his knees.

“I’m so close Jonathan, so close to getting it right. She’s going to be beautiful, I know it.” Gerald got up and walked behind Jonathan, he could hear him opening cabinets and shuffling instruments around.

“But I’m old now Jonathan, I no longer have that power to give life. I thought that was the end of it. I knew my project had an expiration date and I had reached it, but then you came along like a gift from God. Such a strapping young man, thankfully one who looks like I did in my better years.  Yes you will do perfectly.”

Jonathan gripped the armrests on his chair to shoot himself up when he felt the needle pierce his neck. As the drugs raced through his veins his vision quickly faded and the last thing he saw was Gerald filling up another tube with water right next to Emilia’s.

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Knowledge In Frankenstein

“How dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow”

I have not yet completed the novel so I can’t comment on Frankenstein as a whole just yet but after reading the first volume one of the many, many recurring ideas that kept resonating through the pages was related to the pursuit of knowledge.

Obviously after years of being exposed to Frankenstein through film, video games, other stories, etc. We know from the beginning that Victor Frankenstein’s experiment does not end well. Whatever is going to happen in these upcoming pages is going to end up with Victor stranded, near death, on some glaciers on the way to the North Pole where he is saved by Walton. As far as how and why this experiment failed I can’t say yet but the text of volume one certainly does seem to place a lot of the initial blame on the pursuit of knowledge itself.

In one of his first letters Walton states to us his want and his need to travel. Ever since he was a child he has slaved over books and let them fuel his imagination and desire. This is a desire that can only be satisfied by stepping onto a piece of the world that no other man has yet touched. Of course alongside all this reading and imagining we learn that Walton sacrificed a lot of friendships and relationships with other humans by spending so much time with his books, and he seems to feel that, because he’s done this, he is due for a great discovery.

“Do I not deserve to accomplish some great purpose?”

Walton asks his sister. He believes that devoting his entire life to his study should now come full circle and reward him with this discovery in the north pole. Walton also talks about similarities he sees between him and his lieutenant, a man of similar kindness to him but who suffers from a deep loneliness. His story also parallels to us Victor Frankenstein’s time at college where he puts aside all relationships and family matters for years while he slaves away at his studies, grave robbing, and experimentation.

In both Walton and Victor’s stories their avid pursuit of knowledge has been associated with loneliness, depression, and in Victor’s case of course the creation of something that he is immediately terrified of. Upon bringing the creature to life, Victor flees from it and when it comes to his bedside he flees his apartment entirely and doesn’t see the creature for years.

Now the science isn’t too explicit on how this creature came to be but a part of me assumes that Shelly wants us to treat the creation of the creature like a birth. Victor himself, while working on his creature, states that this creation would bless him as it’s creator, and likens himself to be the father of this creature. So if we believe that then this creature is a baby new to this world and every single action it makes is a step towards learning something about this world he’s entered. One of his first actions is to reach out to his father and in return his father abandons him for years and we can only imagine that he suffered through years of loneliness and desperation until he and Victor meet again.

So what is Shelly trying to say? As a romantic novel a criticism of the pursuit of knowledge would be vastly against type, but perhaps she is just trying to say that there is a limit to the lengths humans should go. Maybe there’s a line in Nature that we are not meant to cross. Maybe Shelly is trying to advocate for a life lived in Nature as opposed to in the study. Every time Victor feels happy in this volume is when he is surrounded by family or witnessing the beauty of nature, and whenever he’s sick or depressed or haunted Shelly makes a point to let us know that he is missing all the nature happening around him.

I can’t answer these questions yet as I’m only 1/3 of the way through the novel but I’m interested in seeing how this idea of the pursuit of knowledge continues to occur in the novel.