Monday, October 04, 2004

The Birthmark

I'm creating this thread so we can discuss the story the Birthmark (we're supposed to post comments on it here as we didn't get to it during Friday's class).

I think that the story is actually fairly similar to Frankenstein. Certainly, the Almayer character is modeled on Victor Frankenstein beyond any doubt. However I think what the story is really critiquing is not the idea that humanity has the the right to interfere with nature, but rather patriarchal values - essentially the idea that the rich powerful white guy (who certainly is Almayer) has the right to impose his will on anything other than himself, because he's apparently making things "better." Of course I'm probably just reading my own leftist views into the story, but the way that Georgiana is treated (even though she seems to lack any will of her own) seems to lend itself to a critique of her husband imposing his will on her rather than the institution of science. The reason things end up so badly is that Almayer always believes that he is doing the right thing and this justifies any risks he might be taking, even with other people's lives. It also justifies him lying to Georgiana, in a move not unlike what Plato said in The Republic - that the educated upper classes have the right to keep everyone else in the dark because they know best. Damn was Plato ever an asshole (pardon my language).

Further thoughts shall appear...


Blogger Meshon said...

Wow, Plato said that in The Republic, hey? So that's where the name of the right-wing American party comes from. Now I see that the control of media is totally justified by some ancient philosophy. Well, I guess they're okay now...

Uh, sorry, got side tracked. I think that Aylmer quickly comes to see Georgiana as another phenomenon to be observed, understood and added to his repertoire of tricks. He doesn't actually seek her consent for the final risky step; that fact that she gives it is irrelevant, as he was already prepared to take it. That she shows little agency (and is even scolded for reading) suggests that she has already internalized the idea that a Republi... uh, a "rich powerful white guy" has the right to decide for her what is fine and good and worthy of respect. I agree that we have a critque of a certain mindset that often attaches itself to the pursuit of science, not of science itself. Technology provides a window through which to view modernity and it's attendant social problems.

Also, I seem to have lost my reading package that contains this story (either at the bar or grocery store); could I borrow one to make a copy of?

5:30 PM  

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