Victor Frankenstein, Harvey Weinstein, and #metoo

[Disclaimer: this post is not intended as a platform for personal stories as told on other platforms–as with the Facebook or twitter #metoo posts.  Instead, it is an invitation to my students and other readers of this blog to offer thoughtful, respectful responses to the questions below, each of which grows out of Mary Shelley’s novel.  I reserve the right to decide when this conversation veers too far from its intended purpose. I acknowledge the risk in publishing this post, and promise to monitor the conversation in a responsible manner.  As administrator of this blog, I decide which posts to approve before they become public.]

A young woman writes a novel about a man whose passionate pursuits create unexpected misery for himself and those around him, including those he claims to care about.  What he does not claim soon enough is responsibility for this misery.

What went wrong?  What makes a monster? Who is a monster?  What is monstrous?  What influences how we respond to monsters and struggles, internal or external?

I have invited high school seniors in my literature classes to discuss the title of this post–in light of recent events, and in light of Mary Shelley’s novel, published two hundred years ago.  If these students are not already old enough to vote and enlist, they will be soon.  Why not encourage them to discuss and respond to significant social/cultural issues?  Experience teaches me to trust their opinions and insights.

If you are not one of these students, you are welcome to contribute to this conversation, or simply to see what today’s young adults are thinking about an important moral issue.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Victor Frankenstein, Harvey Weinstein, and #metoo

  1. That is an amazing comparison. Can you make a post about what discussions were had around this topic, I am genuinely interested in knowing what students said when contrasting the two. (or in a comment reply, I’m not picky, no pressure)

    • We will wait to see what comments students leave on this post. I encouraged them to contribute to the conversation, without requiring it. After being introduced to the post, they had time to walk and talk in small groups about the issue and the post. When we returned to class, I recommended they compose their post offline before publishing it. They know that the audience for their comments is wider than just our class. They have already composed an original essay about light that Shelley’s novel sheds on a significant contemporary issue. Some chose issues directly or indirectly related to the those presented in this post.

      Also today, after I had already planned this activity, our Head of School emailed faculty with an excerpt from Grant Lichtman’s book, “Moving the Rock – Seven Levers We Can Press to Transform Education”:
      “If there is a single fatal symptom in the flawed system of traditional education it is the lack of relevance that students feel for the reason behind what they are doing for all of those hours, days, and years at school….” This passage resonates with a number of my students, which set us up well for this activity. As I said, we’ll see what responses emerge, and how this part of the larger conversation goes.

      Thank you for expressing interest in their ideas.

  2. When considering the connections between Mary Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein, and today’s news involving Harvey Weinstein, one can’t help but see the immediate similarities between the two. Dr. Victor Frankenstein and Mr. Weinstein share more than a similarity in the spelling of their last name. Their actions have both come to light without any preemptive claim of responsibility. How each of us responds to these monstrous actions is a reflection of our personal paths. Whether someone has personally been victim to actions similar to Weinstein’s or knows someone who has been, one can’t ignore the scale of hurt these actions cause the victim and all their loved ones.
    The question: what influences our responses to monsters and struggles, whether internal or external, can be further related to Shelley’s novel. Throughout Shelley’s story, she enlightens the reader on the path of Victor Frankenstein, and how his monstrous actions affect others. The reader can then draw from how those repercussions span much of the character index that the monstrous actions cannot be justified by intent. Whether those justifications are in the name of scientific advancement, or simply stating “rules about behavior and workplaces were different” (Weinstein), one cannot help but respond to the effects and see how the resulting hurt, cannot be excused.

    The source for my quote is below. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/10/05/us/statement-from-harvey-weinstein.html

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