Forward

When you are in despair,
You often hope to turn back time—

“If I had one wish,
I’d wish for a second chance”.

But,
Every chance,
Presents a desire for another;
Chance after chance, another flaw.

You’re trapped,
In a cycle of what-ifs.
You’re chasing your tail;
Each route, a different regret.

Take this moment off repeat.

Destiny

Destiny, what is it?

If you ask me, destiny is a series of coincidences enabled by chance, that the naive define as fated, or intended by some greater being. But why would anyone ask me? If you deliver this same question to the biggest producer of “Love-lines”, you’ll get a completely different answer. To begin explaining exactly what this product is, let’s go back to the word, “destiny”—that’s the name of the company after all.  They claim to serve as the guardian of your destiny, as soon as you purchase a Love-line of course. The tagline for the product itself is: “Love-lines, your string of fate”. Not only do I find this ironic, but once we get into the actual logistics of a Love-line, I would go as far as to call it false advertising. A string of fate depicts the exact naive connotation of destiny that I had previously mentioned; that you and your “soulmate” are connected by an unseen thread, which will ultimately bring you together. So, how does a Love-line work? Here’s when the irony comes in. It’s just a simple GPS system. Okay, there’s a bit more to it, but the only “string of fate” I see, is the figurative network of lines that connects most of us to the World Wide Web. Each Love-line has a digital screen, showing you how far away your soulmate is, and which direction you should travel in order to meet them. The back of each Love-line uniquely fits into another of the same colour. This brings us to the one aspect of Love-lines that loosely depends on each distinctive consumer; a single question determines and sorts you into a category of “lovers”. These lovers are matched with one of six, coloured, palm-sized, heart-shaped gems, known as Love-lines. In a way, this is what sold me.

I assume you’re pretty intrigued about my sudden decision to buy into these elusive, match-making gems. One way or another, I’ll let you in on my exclusive, Love-line review. Destiny doesn’t have a storefront. They only sell Love-lines online. It’s relatively popular, sitting as your top hit for web searches of “destiny”. Out of mild curiosity, a week after seeing Destiny’s advertisement posted on a billboard outside my apartment, I went on destiny.com.

The website was tacky. It was bright and in-your-face. It even had trailing hearts that followed your cursor. My first thoughts? Ugh. There was one large, rectangular counter on the top of the page.

452, 990

Strings Of Fate Have Been Tied

You may have questioned the peculiar omission of “red” in “red string of fate”—from the origin of the saying. Further down the website, the display is populated by images of each “string of fate”, accompanied by what gems of each colour represent.

The Red String of Fate: The Passionate Lover

The Orange String of Fate: The Dependable Lover

The Yellow String of Fate: The Positive Lover

The Green String of Fate: The Adventurous Lover

The Blue String of Fate: The Understanding Lover

The Purple String of Fate: The Sensual Lover

Finally, after scrolling a bit further, there is a lone question, followed by one-word options.

What is Love?

Sex

Commitment

Exploration

Happiness

Comfort

Consuming

Artificial

“Strange”, I thought. I questioned why there were seven choices and clearly only six outcomes. Out of the same “curiosity”, or whatever you want to call it, I decided to answer the question. I reasoned with myself, concluding that it didn’t mean much anyway. Naturally, I chose my honest opinion, which didn’t seem to correlate with any “strings of fate”. Love is “artificial”. I felt slightly uneasy as I waited for the few seconds it took to process my answer.  The screen shouted:

Congratulations! You’ve discovered the mystery string of fate.

The Black String of Fate: The Secret Lover

The description pissed me off—”We will prove you wrong”. Was it supposed to be endearing? A marketing tactic disguised as a challenge? Whatever it was, it was only a $5.00 product. In a moment of impulse, with little hesitation, I bought it.

It arrived, sooner-than-expected, in my mailbox the next day. It was packaged in a small, plain, cardboard box. Out of the box, the gem felt like cheap plastic. Embedded into it was a solar-powered, digital screen. On the back of the gem, there was a protruding, awkward, puzzle-like piece. Everything about the physical object was as advertised, I suppose. What surprised me the most, is what was actually on the screen.

3 Kilometres, North

I checked my watch—another small, depressing object, 10:20 a.m. It seemed as good a time as any. When was the last time I left my apartment? I scanned my chaotic, mess of a bedroom. It was filled with takeout boxes, crushed soda cans, and candy wrappers. It’s been at least a month since I’ve visited the corner store across the street to refill my stash of snacks. That makes a month since I was last acknowledged as a citizen of this planet , by anyone other than my online contacts. I work as a freelance writer, right from my dainty, garbage-infested, single-room living space. The desire to go outside is as buried as my instant ramen cups underneath weeks of unwashed clothing. Needless to say, this $5.00 bet has already ruined my week. I opened my door to the outside world and was hit by a blast of cold wind. “I’ve already gone this far”, I thought to myself. I grabbed a thick hoodie from the ground near me and began my journey to “true love”.

It was a Monday, so the streets were quieter than usual—my area being secluded, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. The only sound I could hear was the rustling of leaves on a couple of alien trees. After just two minutes of walking, I stopped. Waves of regret, anxiety, and most importantly, fear, hit me. Who was I expecting to find? Another species like my own? What am I going to do after finding them? What is my goal? In a heartbeat, call it an epiphany, the long suppressed feelings of loneliness came to surface. I don’t know what love is. As a matter of fact, I don’t care what love is. I just want it—love, lust, or any other name it is known by. Something more than the less-than-nothing that I have. I ran in the direction that promised me love.

2 Kilometres…

1 Kilometre…

562 Metres…

104 Metres…

63 Metres…

I returned to a walking pace. For the first time, I was excited at the thought of love.

37 Metres…

I truly believed that my world was going to change.

12 Metres…

The possibility of happiness seemed in reach.

0 Metres

A few steps away, I spotted a figure. I patted down my hoodie and fixed my hair, even though I knew it didn’t do anything for my appearance. He was a tall man. Not perfect by any means, but he had a kind face. It came as a bit of a shock when he closed the distance between us, and opened his mouth to speak.

Are you my Love-line?

It was such a smooth, calming voice. His smile was gentle, and I couldn’t help but imagine holding him close as we sat beside a fireplace, warming up during a harsh winter. I quickly snapped out of my daze. When I was finally rid of the distracting thought, I looked down at the Love-line he held out to me. “Ah”, I thought, “a harsh winter does indeed approach”. It was blue—so was I, but not my Love-line. He must have also looked down at my own. The last words we exchanged were “sorry”, and “good-luck with finding your love”. He did add that it was an interesting colour. To dull my disappointment, I responded with, “for interesting people”, and managed a half-hearted smile. After that, he realized his target had moved 1 kilometre, southwest. He relayed a rushed goodbye as he left my field of vision. As if someone were playing a very bad joke, Mr. Wrong’s departure had revealed the truth hidden behind him—a black heart, in the trash. I mentally scolded myself for neglecting to foresee this situation. My body turned to react as the area started to fill with the noise of people heading to lunch. I dragged myself home after connecting my Love-line to my soulmate’s.

What is Destiny? Wrong.

 

 

 

Love, Aesthetics, and the Role of Women

The appearance of the Duchess of Monmouth represents a spark of female rebellion in the novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde. By exploring the personality, social identity, and goal of this character, we may be able to recognize an implied or direct critique of the three main, male protagonists. We can further our understanding in the themes of love, aesthetics, and the role of women in the novel, through an analysis of Gladys, or the Duchess of Monmouth.

We meet the Duchess of Monmouth very briefly at the start of Chapter 17 where she first appears. Her personality is easy-to-grasp, because she stands out from the rest of the female characters we encounter in the story. Her presence reveals important insight about other characters, with additional regard to women. At first, we think that she can only be a fool for trying to chase after Dorian Gray. Building up to this point in the novel, we already know that many of those who have relations with Dorian Gray, either have fatal ends, or run away before that point is reached. On the contrary, the Duchess proves to be rather witty. Instead of being smitten by Dorian Gray’s beauty, she seems to almost view him as another plaything. This is likely the case because the Duchess has already taken part in numerous past affairs. A larger indication of this is found in the line, “I am quite satisfied with my own name, and I am sure Mr. Gray should be satisfied with his” (208). Prior to examining the line itself, it is important to emphasize that unlike Sybil Vane, the Duchess is always aware of the consequences of her actions, and knows that her fleeting adulterous romances are both temporary and carry no real meaning. Sybil Vane, on the other hand becomes obsessed with just the idea of love, and the beauty of Dorian Gray; this which leads to her suicide as a result of heartbreak—since similar to Sybil, Dorian Gray’s love for her in return, is just as shallow. From the starting point of Sybil Vane versus the Duchess of Monmouth’s relationship with Dorian Gray, we can see that the Duchess is unlike the naïve romantic who will have her fate determined by the actions of a man; the Duchess is “satisfied with [her] own name”, something important to recognize, since female characters like Sybil Vane, are only recognized by their relationship to one of the three male protagonists—Dorian Gray in this case. This is also significant because when we compare Sybil Vane, or any other female character, to the Duchess of Monmouth, she stands out with an intelligence and independence that is her own. The other female roles are dependent on one of the protagonists to establish their place in the story. The Duchess is interested in Dorian Gray, but we remember her as someone who rebels against both Lord Henry and Dorian Gray’s objective views of women. This is especially worth noting because she accurately pinpoints the problems in the perspectives of these three men, with a generalization of a man’s view on women during this period of time. She is also introduced as one of the only people who can oppose Lord Henry’s viewpoints; viewpoints we see that lead to Dorian Gray’s death when followed as advice.

The Duchess of Monmouth’s social identity is reminiscent of those present for any high-standing member of society. There is a moment in the text when the Duchess states that, “Royalties may not abdicate” (208), as a response to Lord Henry’s distaste for titles. It is clear that the Duchess recognizes the negative social impact of her actions, but this draws into a potential theory for them. In response to Lord Henry’s question, “Has he never been jealous?” (221), referring to the Lord of Monmouth, the Duchess replies, “I wish he had been” (221). Although short in length, the line seems to invoke a sort of sadness which helps us recognize that perhaps the goal of the Duchess is to experience true love. Further down from these lines, the appearance of a mask in the statement, “I have still the mask” (221), may serve to symbolize the Duchess’s mechanism for defense. From an outsider’s view, the Duchess hops from one affair to another, but they are all united by the same cause—a search for genuine romance.

The Duchess of Monmouth indirectly, but correctly comments upon the errors of each of the main protagonist’s views on either aesthetics or women. Lord Henry Walton, Basil Hallward, and Dorian Gray, all have very particular views on women. Basil Hallward holds the most neutral view, but even then it is simply indifference. We learn early on that Basil Hallward is homosexual, if we understand the confession he makes when he says that his painting of Dorian Gray contains “too much of [himself]” (7), likely represents the exposure of his sexuality. However, instead of a specific comment about a heterosexual relationship, we can say that it is Basil Hallward’s strive towards aesthetic values which leads to his death. This is relevant to the Duchess because she states that, “We women, as some one says, love with our ears, just as you men love with your eyes, if you ever love at all” (211). An obvious relationship exists between her claim that men “love with [their] eyes”, and Basil trying to capture Dorian Gray’s innocence in a painting. Basil, even up until his death, is blinded by how Dorian looks. Basil continually believes that the pure, innocent boy he remembered is still present in the current, physical form of Dorian Gray—he is wrong. Without ever meeting with Basil Hallward, at least with the knowledge we have, the Duchess explores an idea which becomes Basil’s fatal flaw; “[loving] with your eyes”.

Dorian Gray falls somewhere in-between Basil and Lord Henry on a spectrum when we measure the character’s opinions of women—in-between Basil’s suggested indifference, and Lord Henry’s condescension towards the opposite sex. Dorian Gray tries to imitate Lord Henry, but when he first meets Sybil, ignores Lord Henry’s warning about the brevity of “love”. Dorian Gray, like Basil, is struck by aesthetics. The only difference lies in the one who suffers from the consequences. Dorian Gray is fascinated by Sybil Vane after her performance simply due to the beauty of her acting. The last, mediocre play that Sybil “ruins”, is the simple, irrational turning point for Dorian Gray; her bad performance somehow destroys the alleged “love” that Dorian had for her—but, he is almost entirely unaffected by Sybil’s suicide shortly after. The Duchess of Monmouth accuses Lord Henry of a claim that the Lord of Monmouth’s marries Gladys, simply because she is “the best specimen he could find of a modern butterfly” (210). This, however, is what probably happens to Dorian Gray. Unlike the other actors and actresses on the stage, Sybil is a moving performer. By becoming infatuated with Sybil on the sole basis of this point, it results in a love that does not last. Here, the negative consequences that ensue are fatal for Sybil; another fatal flaw caused by mistaking the admiration of beauty with love.

Lord Henry has the most obscure view of women. He sees them as almost ornamental, and object-like. Lord Henry becomes almost uncharacteristically frustrated with the Duchess’s remarks. This can be argued because he usually chooses to speak “artfully”. For example, “Sphinxes without secrets” (212) is the phrase he uses to describe women. Meaning is conveyed through association and metaphorical devices. However, right before Dorian Gray faints, Lord Henry states, “Women are not always allowed a choice” (212)—a line that has a straight-forward, negative meaning—almost like he is beginning to lose his ground. As we have established, the Duchess is unlike the other females in this novel. In particular, if we delve deeper into her rebuttal to Lord Henry’s statement, “You disarm me, Gladys” (208), with “Of your shield, Harry, not of your spear” (208), we are left with a character who blatantly points out the possibility that Lord Henry uses his words to reason for his absurd beliefs, in order to hide his own insecurities. The Duchess is not fazed or swayed by Lord Henry’s opinions, and in fact, provokes him to question himself.

In the larger part of the first-third of the novel, we hear remarks about women which are both offensive and degrading. Women have little place in the story, and serve to function either as the punchline of one of Lord Henry’s speeches, or in the specific case of Sybil Vane, a “romantic” death in order to advance the plotline—until the addition of Gladys Monmouth. She conveys the flaws of the protagonists without suffering from their consequences.

Works Cited

Wilde, Oscar. The Picture of Dorian Gray and Other Writings. New York: Pocket, 2005. Print.

The Consequences of Love Ideals in Frankenstein

The concept of love is one that is hard-to-grasp and the meaning of love itself is highly-debatable. However, we often remain in search of love even though it cannot be defined. Through an analysis of Mary Shelley’s, Frankenstein we recognize the consequences of having misconceptions about love. A suppressed or misidentified passion presents negative consequences.

Although a commonly discussed type of love falls under the category of romantic love, the suppression of Victor Frankenstein’s love of knowledge is what becomes his tragic flaw. An essay written by Carina Brannstrom analyzes the theme of alienation in Frankenstein. Brannstrom states that, “Victor isolates himself from society, and all his time and effort is devoted to the desire of knowledge” (9). It is not the love for a significant other that drives Victor actions, but the “desire of knowledge”.  Victor chooses to “[isolate] himself from society” for science—at the price of his family. Not only this, but Victor is disillusioned into believing that after his attempts to advance science, that he will be able to return to the family and friends whom he truly “loves”. This is a misconception that Victor does not see himself.  Victor grows up as a part of a “picture-perfect” family. His mother and father both care about Victor greatly up until their deaths. However, Victor seems to mistake obligation with love. From the moment that Victor leaves for his studies as a young child, up to the point of traveling to complete his experiment in adulthood, he has little to no regard for his family’s worry for him. Victor reassures his family that he will properly spend time with them after his scientific goals are achieved; he claims that family is his main priority. Contrary to this claim, once he leaves to actually pursue these goals, he provides little to no contact to his family. Once the monster is created, the blatant indifference that he shows towards his family, shows his claims of love to be a lie, albeit unintentional, that is even more glaringly obvious. From here we may be able to recognize that perhaps the only reason Victor makes these claims, is because it involves people with whom he is related to either by blood or a similar family-like bond. One may argue that Victor’s obsession with killing the monster towards the end of the book, is invoked by Elizabeth’s death—since she is the last remaining hope for his happiness—but if we follow the theory that Victor forms his ideas of love based on formality and what is expected of him, then we realize this is not the case. Victor’s goal is to use science in order to overcome the boundaries of life and death.  This becomes his incentive to move away from his family. Victor is willing to remain in isolation to further his passion. When Victor dies, the last thoughts on his mind are united by one thing—not the regret that he could not protect his family and friends, though he does feel this way, but that he let his “ambition” take control of him. Victor states, “Seek happiness in tranquility and avoid ambition” (200). Although there is a specific emphasis on avoiding “ambition”, science itself is Victor’s strongest interest. He has a love for science that is irreplaceable with his family and friends—even if it appears that he values the love for his family, his actions prove that they are simply fallbacks for when his science fails. Perhaps it is indeed beneficial to “avoid ambition”, but in Victor’s case, though he was ambitious, science is one of the only things that Victor has a care for. The love for science, unlike his family relationships which are forced, and unlike a wife that is suggested to him, is the only passion formed by Victor’s own free will. It is not ambition that we should avoid, in this case, but rather the inability to recognize passion, and that the sacrifices we make for these passions can come at the costs of our own lives.

Victor believes that “tranquility” can be achieved from marrying Elizabeth. Even just the idea is not one formed by Victor’s independent thinking. We learn that Victor is full of ambition with the exploration of science and wants to utilize science to change the world. If his experiment with the monster is a success in his eyes, we are left to question whether or not he would be truly satisfied with “Seeking happiness in tranquility”. By leaving such a quotation as a sort of final legacy we are inclined to believe that Victor is suggesting that if anything, the moral of his story is to avoid ambition. This is hypocritical when we realize that Victor only considers finally marrying Elizabeth after the failure of his true passion. It may be true that to marry Elizabeth from the start, would likely ensure a “tranquil” life, but it then challenges the idea of “happiness”. The “happiness” that marrying Elizabeth promises, is one catered to the opinions of Victor’s family—not subjective to Victor’s own opinions.

The monster that Victor creates often acts as Victor’s double. This helps emphasize the recurring idea that misconceptions about love lead to devastation. A relevant example of this presents itself when the monster’s life, just like Victor’s, is met with an end caused by an irrational pursuit of love. In “The Theory of Love in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein”, written by Alison Cooper, Cooper argues that, “Since the moment of his creation, the monster faces isolation, rejection, and condemnation from both his creator and from society… the monster yearns for a feeling and sentiment that is fundamentally and universally human: love” (Cooper). The monster’s attempt at a love that is “human” involves the request for a companion of another sex. The monster, having little knowledge about precisely what it means to be human, has an objective view of love—similar to Victor. Like Victor’s continued attempt to relay his love for his family out of obligation, the monster tries to achieve a standard of love that is present in the ideals of a human society.  The monster does not really know that a wife will make him happy; it is simply a deduction he forms based upon the books he reads, and people he observes. It is important to note here that again, just as Victor mistakes duty with love—regarding the love for his family—the monster believes that to be denied of a wife, provides reason for his thirst for vengeance. Instead, it is the lack of companionship from the monster’s own creator that invokes the monster’s wrath. This may really be an extreme case of a child showing a plea for attention. Cooper uses the quotation from Frankenstein, “Believe me, Frankenstein: I was benevolent; my soul glowed with love and humanity: but am I not alone, miserably alone? You, my creator, abhor me” (107). The monster believes that it is his benevolence that makes his “soul [glow] with love and humanity”, but more than just his capacity for empathy, it is the troubled, indirect father-son relationship that the monster has with Victor, that gives his existence a core that is already human. The monster tries countless times to convince Victor that he is not an evil being; the monster is rejected from being even in the vicinity of the man who creates him. The creation of the monster himself makes Victor, in a sense, a parent to the monster. To be rejected by this figure in one’s life, would be emotionally traumatizing to any “normal” child. It is not hard to realize, as a result that the monster has reason to essentially rebel against a father-like person; one who cannot accept his “own” son.  The monster states, “but am I not alone, miserably alone?”, misattributing his loneliness to the denial of a wife, without realizing that this “wife” would just be a fallback for the love he is truly searching for; Victor’s parental love. In the exact same way as Victor, the monster claims to be in search of a particular ideal or object of love, but in reality these are only stand-ins for a love they cannot obtain.

Both Victor and the monster seek revenge for a love they believe is denied by the other, but do not recognize that it is not: the love for family in Victor’s scenario, or the desire for a wife in the monster’s scenario, that give them the drive to carry out their actions—actions which they both end up regretting. Even though Victor’s creation was ugly on the outside, the monster’s ability to reason and think intelligently should prove that Victor’s experiment is a success. By harbouring a mindset that the creation is a failed passion, Victor destroys his love for science. In the end, Victor believes that he should work towards a love for Elizabeth, but neglects to see that to enforce the idea of science as an evil to himself, means losing the love that defines him. The happiness that comes after marrying Elizabeth, is just a compromise that Victor only considers when he rejects his passion for science. Similarly, the rejection of the request for a wife from the monster would be a straight-forward reason for the monster to seek revenge. Since we think that it is reasonable for the monster to desire a companion to be rid of his loneliness. However, the monster only requests someone akin to a wife because he believes that it is his key to become more human. In almost the exact same way, Victor believes that if he marries Elizabeth then hope would be restored; an ideal set by his family, formed haphazardly from the thought that a marriage with someone you love will help fulfil your life. Victor wants to see his science improve the world, and the monster wants the love of his creator; Elizabeth and the monster’s wife are simply last resorts. As a result, both the monster and Victor resort to vengeance to satisfy passions which hold false significance and they are never truly happy.

The main protagonists, the monster and Victor Frankenstein, sacrifice both their own mental states and people around them in order to advance a misconstrued ideal of love. When one is obsessed with the pursuit of love, even death becomes a consequence that we would prefer over the loss of what we love.

Works Cited

Brannstrom, Carina. “The Other Mary Shelley: Beyond Frankenstein.” Choice Reviews Online 31.07 (1994): n. pag. Lulea University of Technology, 2006. Web. 2 Dec. 2016.

Cooper, Alison. “The Theory of Love in Mary Shelley.” The Theory of Love in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. N.p., 01 Jan. 1970. Web. 02 Dec. 2016.

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. New York: Dover Publication, Inc, 2009. Print.