Monday, October 09, 2006

Widow of Frankenstein, part the third, which begins with some dull philosophical discussion, but finally advances the story line!

“Alright, now where were we?” I said, handing her one of the glasses, “Does the bride of Frankenstein,” I grinned at her costume, “have a soul? Right?”
She nodded. “As I see it, the matter rests upon this question: Where does the soul begin? Or, to put it another way, At what point does a person receive a soul?”
“I’m not sure that Scripture is so plain on the matter, but my gut feeling is that it happens at conception.”
“Most texts on theology that I have read said the same thing. Now, man-made creatures–like Frankenstein’s creation–are neither conceived nor born, in a traditional sense of those words. They’re pieced together from the parts of dead human beings. . . and then the--spark of life--is bestowed upon them. That being the case, do they have souls?”
She had definitely warmed to her topic, and it was obvious that she had put some serious thought into it. I remember thinking at the time that I might be getting in over my head.
“Or,” she continued before I could respond, “If you don’t like that analogy, how about one of more current scientific significance? Do cloned people have souls?”
“Well, you’re dealing with theoretical possibilities, here. Such things may not even be possible! As far as clones are concerned, I’m reserving my final judgment for when–or if--they ever succeed. Of course, twins have their own souls, and I don’t think there’s any question that test-tube babies do–so why not cloned babies?”
“Very well, but what about Frankenstein’s creations? Do they have souls?”
“Like I said, that’s all theoretical,” I dodged. “Frankenstein addresses some fascinating issues, but it is a work of fiction.”
“Fiction? Do you really think that tame Mary Shelley could have come up with such a horrifying plot on her own without there being some truth to it?”
Now, I hate to call anyone crazy without reasonable evidence, but she was certainly beginning to push the boundaries, in my estimation. I tried to remain calm.
“Well, she does say something in the foreword about being inspired by a discussion of Darwin’s theories, and then also a nightmare she had. However, there’s never any indication that she thinks the story is true.”
“I would say it is more probable that she stole her material from Robert Walton, whom she likely met while still a young girl. It is possible that she had forgotten the strange stories he told of his journeys in the cold frozen north, and that perhaps her nightmare brought them once again to the surface of her consciousness.”
“Robert Walton. . . ? I don’t think I’m familiar with him.”
“Captain Robert Walton was the captain of the vessel that Frankenstein died in. He heard the whole story from Frankenstein, and also met the. . . creature, before he burned himself to death.”
“Oh yes. That Robert Walton. It’s been awhile since I read the book. Was he a real person, then?”
“You need to brush up on your English naval history. He made some very notable contributions.”
“And he told stories similar to what Mary Shelley wrote?”
“I said it was probable. He did not, to my knowledge, leave any written records of those encounters. Suppose, though, that he did tell such stories as factual. Who would believe him? They would be discredited as the ravings of a sailor with too many pints in him.
"Suppose, however, that young Mary Godwin heard these stories. It would certainly explain her knowledge of the events and Walton’s inclusion in the story. Since he died not many years after his return to London, there was no chance for him to validate her story. The end result is that it maintains its classification as fiction.”
“Let me get this straight: Are you seriously suggesting that Mary Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein, is a true story? That there really was a Dr Frankenstein, and he made a monster out of dead body parts, and made it come to life, and it went around killing people, and all that?”
“That is precisely what I am saying.”
“And you believe this–why?”
“Because the stitches you have been staring at all evening are not part of a costume. I am the Bride of Frankenstein!”
Well, I guess not everyone can be sane.

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