Deckard and The Toad

Carly Janine

Professor Craig Thompson

English 203

10/18/2017

 

Deckard and The Toad

 

In Philip K. Dick’s dystopian novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? the question is posed on what it means to be human versus what it means to be an android. Where humans have the capacity for empathy, androids do not. It is this primary difference that truly separate the humans from the androids. Rick Deckard is a particularly unempathetic human for most of the novel, referring to his Sidney’s guide regularly on how many androids he needs to retire to get what animal. He is more concerned with having a living animal to care for as a status symbol than he is with the lives of the androids he retires on a regular basis. However, at the end of the novel, and after a very long day, Deckard retreats to the wastelands of Oregon and has a spiritual experience, during which he finds a toad. After his trials and tribulations in retiring the Nexus-6 androids and having an affair with Rachael Rosen, who then decides to kill his new goat in a most grotesque fashion, Deckard begins to see that the lines between the human and android are perhaps blurred, and that these technological creatures have their own emotions and drives and perhaps deserve life, such as it is offered to them. By the time Deckard discovers the toad is electric at the end of the novel, he has developed a sense of empathy toward androids and other electric creatures. This character evolution of Deckard’s is the primary catalyst in his reluctance to continue to retire androids. Deckard begins to accept that perhaps these beings have their own lives and fates, and questions his role in their demise, making him then more human.

The novel begins with the introduction of Rick Deckard and his wife, Iran. They are having a fight and using their mood organs, which are devices that stimulate or suppress the thalamus, offering a variety of moods to choose from in different combinations. Iran says, “My first reaction consisted of being grateful that we could afford a Penfield mood organ. But then I realized how unhealthy it was, sensing the absence of life, not just in this building but everywhere, and not reacting – do you see? I guess you don’t” (Dick, 5). She refers to Deckard’s insensitivity, and the way he can just ignore the impossibilities of life and go to work every day. Iran actually schedules herself for depressive moods, and in general seems far more in tune with the oppressive world than does Deckard. Iran also refers to the lack of population, as most humans have emigrated away from Earth. This crushingly lonely world does not seem to have any effect on Deckard, but the fact that he has an electric sheep instead of a living one really does. At the outset, all that motivates Deckard is money and status.

It would be unfair to say that Deckard had never contemplated his actions, but he considered androids to be lone killers. “Rick liked to think of them that way; it made his job palatable. In retiring – i.e., killing – an andy, he did not violate the rule of life laid down by Mercer. ‘You shall kill only the killers,’ Mercer had told them the year empathy boxes first appeared on Earth” (Dick, 30). By viewing androids as cold killers, it was easier for Deckard to do his job. Wilbur Mercer is the central figure in Mercerism, which is seemingly a theology of sorts, that allows for empathetic connection to other humans. By using a device called an empathy box, only humans can upload their consciousness into this shared experience. Within the experience, the old man, Mercer, toils up a hill while being attacked by mysterious forces. Other interesting things can happen within the realm of the empathy box, bringing the remaining humans closer together and reminding them of their shared humanity.

With a clear conscience, Deckard heads in to work to get down to the business of administering the Voigt-Kampff empathy-measuring test to Rachael Rosen, and continuing his hunt for the Nexus-6 androids on his list. As he attempts to administer the test to the opera singer Luba Luft, she calls an android police officer to come take Deckard in. It is at this mysterious, fake police station (full of androids) that Deckard first encounters another bounty hunter by the name of Phil Resch. It is Resch that actually retires both his superior Garland, and Luba Luft. Resch acts as a foil for Deckard, and is symbolic of the changes he is going through. Resch differs from Deckard in that he is ready to kill with any excuse, without hesitation. There is a lot of speculation as to whether Resch is human or android himself. Eventually he is proven human, and he owns a squirrel named Buffy, however, he lacks a certain amount of empathy. It is easy for Resch to kill, where for Deckard all the criteria must be met in order for him to retire androids. Deckard buys a copy of an art print for Luba Luft shortly before she is retired, and states upon her death that he is getting out of the business, after claiming the bounty, of course. On Phil Resch, Deckard ruminates, “You’re a good bounty hunter, Rick realized. Your attitude proves it. But am I? Suddenly for the first time in his life, he had begun to wonder” (Dick, 133). This self-examination is new, and Deckard is really starting to struggle with his work.

As Deckard began to question his place within the world, he surprises his wife by showing up with a newly-purchased goat. He tells her of his newfound empathy toward androids, and together they give thanks by fusing with Mercer via their empathy boxes. Shortly thereafter, he calls Rachael Rosen to get her help and they immediately have an affair at the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco. Rachael reveals that she knows he will be unable to continue to hunt androids after being with her, as she has seen it in all the other bounty hunters she had been with, aside from Phil Resch. Perhaps to prove her wrong, Deckard goes on to retire the remaining Nexus-6 units that same evening. Perhaps unused to being wrong, or from some sense of jealousy, Rachael retaliates by throwing Deckard’s poor new goat right off of his roof.

Both humans and androids enjoy watching Buster Friendly. He is a TV personality and he acts as a foil for Mercer. Where Mercerism is all about empathy, compassion, and connection, the message of Buster Friendly is one of isolation and despair. Humans feel ultimately good, or at least affected, by fusing with Mercer and enjoying their shared experience. Towards the end of the novel, Buster Friendly is discovered to be an android, and he shockingly reveals that Wilbur Mercer is actually a human named Al Jarry, and that the images seen within the empathy boxes are all filmed and staged. Mercerism is a fake, and so is Buster Friendly, but Mercer is real. He appears to both Isidore and Deckard, offering advice and bringing gifts. This theme of being both real and not-real appears throughout the novel and culminates with the finding of the “real” toad. Deckard is so excited to have found a real animal out in the wastelands, while being permanently fused with Mercer. He toils up a hill, as Mercer does, and is even struck by an errant stone. The toad is sacred to Mercer, and believed to be extinct. Deckard is so excited, he puts the toad in a box and takes it straight home to his wife. Iran is the one that discovers the control panel that shows the toad to be electrical. While disappointed, Deckard says that he would prefer to know. Deckard then says to Iran, “The spider Mercer gave the chickenhead, Isidore; it probably was artificial, too. But it doesn’t matter. The electric things have their lives, too. Paltry as those lives are” (Dick, 222). This shows that he believes the toad to be a gift from Mercer, and also just how far he has shifted from being a cold-hearted android-hunter to a softer, more compassionate and empathetic version of himself. In this world, the androids and humans are both living on borrowed time. If Deckard can evolve so much in one day, perhaps there is hope for humanity, and for them to coexist with androids.

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Eradicate the Incarceration of Persons with Mental Disabilities

Carly Janine

Professor Glenda Snell

English 100

8/14/2017

Eradicate the Incarceration of Persons with Mental Disabilities

“Prisons were never intended as facilities for the mentally ill, yet that is one of their primary roles today.” – Sasha Abramsky

In 2013, I was reported missing. In the midst of a mental breakdown, I had fled town, driving northward until my truck broke down in San Leandro, in Northern California. I had thrown away my cellular phone. I had no way to get ahold of anyone and very little money. At that point in time, I had no idea that I suffered from a mental disorder. All I knew was that I had started hearing voices, became very paranoid, and thought I was some sort of a government conspiracy whistleblower. It was terrifying and confusing, and after a week of roaming the streets, I had deteriorated to the point where everyone I encountered thought I was homeless. I attempted to rent an RV with a fake name, and when the rental place refused, I drove off their lot inside a stolen one anyway. I was trying to get to Half Moon Bay, where a friend’s mother lived, thinking I might be able to track her down somehow without a phone. Of course, I soon had a “parade” of police cars following me, with their sirens blaring and lights flashing. I was arrested and charged with three felonies, though one was immediately dropped (evading a peace officer), I still had two to deal with, but first, I went to jail.

The first night in the San Mateo County jail, they tried to put me in with the general population. I completely freaked out, and eventually they began to realize that I wasn’t on drugs (I was repeatedly asked if I was on meth) but that there was something seriously wrong. I was transferred back to medical, my clothes and bed were taken away.  I was put into this large, Velcro outfit that I couldn’t harm myself with, and I was put on suicide watch. (I realize now that I was so lucky that someone recognized my symptoms and they were able to get a psychiatrist in to interview me in the middle of the night.) I was immediately put on lithium and given a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder Type 1. After a few days in a solitary room on medication, I was transferred into a shared rooming facility in the medical wing. When it seemed likely that I wasn’t going to harm myself or anyone else, I was moved back into general population. I spent two weeks in jail before my mental faculties stabilized to the point where I realized I could bail myself out. The whole experience was supremely confusing, embarrassing, cost me my job and many friends. And I was one of the lucky ones. My family managed to get me a $7,000 lawyer.  I received a plea deal based on a psychiatrist interview shortly after I was released, and plead no contest to a misdemeanor of joyriding. I truly believe that had I simply signed the papers in jail for the public defender that I would have been sentenced and would have spent far longer than two weeks in San Mateo County.

My experience is far from unique. Jamie Fellner, of the Human Rights Watch, wrote that the Treatment Advocacy Center recently estimated there were 356,000 persons with mental illness behind bars. Incarceration makes mental illness worse, and prisons are unprepared to deal with the mentally ill and mental healthcare crisis.  While in jail, every day, I would stand in line for pill call with easily 1/3 of the population.  Solutions are needed in order to properly process and care for the mentally ill within the prison system.

There has been a lack of adequate research in determining which jails and prisons need the most help and how best to go about it. Author Seth J. Prins wanted to provide a broad view of mental illness in prisons after realizing most works cited only two federal reports from 1999 and 2006, so “the author undertook a systematic review of 28 articles published between 1989-2013.” The study concluded that not only are these issues widespread, it is difficult to tell how widespread, as there has been a lot of fluctuation in the numbers of mentally ill reported in prisons. There are wide variations when self-reporting, however, many seriously mentally ill inmates are not competent to consent to self-report. A full mental health screening for every inmate currently incarcerated is called for. We must begin with accurate information in order to see precisely the magnitude of the crisis that we are experiencing in the judicial system.

Perhaps complicating the issue is the fact that for-profit prisons make money off of bodies in cells. If mentally ill inmates are diverted into other programs or facilities, there will be a substantial decline in the number of inmates held in these for-profit prisons. A complete overhaul of the prison system is necessary, and we must start by caring for persons with mental disabilities, not locking them up. We must implement policies and programs and procedures for dealing with the mentally ill in a compassionate way.

Another factor may have to do with poverty.  “Poverty is a common element among many mentally ill inmates, even homelessness.” (Prins) It was certainly true for myself and the people I encountered during my escapade. The way the current system is set up, homeless people can receive encroachment tickets for having their things out in public with them. Once they’ve received enough tickets that they cannot pay, they wind up in jail without the money to bail themselves out. Bail reform is something that Senator Kamala Harris has recently taken up in California. Far too many people linger in jail for longer than necessary due to these bail restrictions.

Another law, I feel is cruel, is the three strikes law. As Tala Al-Rousan wrote in “Inside the Nation’s Largest Mental Health Institution: A Prevalence Study in a State Prison System,” evidence suggests mentally ill persons are more likely to break rules, get in fights, be reprimanded by adding more charges to their time and spend more time in jail than someone who is not mentally ill. Once they’ve reached three strikes, they are now handed lifelong prison sentences.

Not only are mentally ill inmates more likely to be exploited by other inmates, they are more likely to break rules themselves. Abramsky noted in her article that the mentally ill face higher than average disciplinary rates, and lack of behavioral control, “Many refuse to comply with orders like sit down, come out of a cell, stand for count, remove clothes from cell bars, take showers.” A lack of showering is an often-cited symptom of depression.

Do the wealthy pay for mental healthcare to help avoid incarceration for their children? Why wouldn’t they? It is much easier to stay healthy when one has health insurance and have the money to afford premiums, co-pays, medications and expensive healthier foods. Does this system contribute to the criminalization of the poor? If the poor are disproportionally represented in prison and also lack mental healthcare prior to incarceration, then it certainly does. “Poor people with mental illness receive only short-term treatment, are stabilized, sent back out into the community with limited access to treatment.” (Abramsky)

The poor are criminalized for being sick, and that is absolutely disgusting.

The mentally ill face a host of challenges. In Prins’ review, he found these common elements: poverty, unemployment, crime, victimization, family breakdown, homelessness, substance abuse, general health problems and stigma. One of the difficulties of stigma is that the actions of the mentally ill are treated as disciplinary problems rather than as symptoms of their illnesses being observed. The inadequate access to community treatment options prior to incarceration is a terrible burden, and as we have seen, many, many people are diagnosed in jail or prison. In the Iowa study, Al-Rousan found 48% of inmates had mental illness, of whom 29% had serious mental illness, and 99% of the inmates were diagnosed while incarcerated, as I was.

Mental illness often interferes with the ability of the prisoner to cope with life in prison. There is a “prison code” that exists, and mentally ill persons are more likely to break this code, snitch on another inmate, and receive retaliation for it. (Abramsky) This leaves people with mental illness vulnerable, and often frightened. Eyal Press’ article “Madness”, presented by The New Yorker, closely followed life in the Dade Correctional Facility. It was found that people with mental disabilities also face general ostracization and are called nicknames like “dings” and “bugs.” Anyone attempting to help an inmate, such as a psychologist, was known as a “hug-a-thug.” This created a hostile working environment for psychologists and case workers at this particular facility, which allowed for the lethal abuse of an inmate with a mental illness.

The abuse and neglect of the mentally ill in prisons is a horrifying subject. I actually found so many examples of neglect and abuse among various sources that I focused on a few cases, two of neglect presented by Fellner, and one of abuse all resulting in death, presented by Press.

Neglect: Anthony McManus, a prisoner in Michigan, died in 2005. He was age 38, weighing a mere 75lbs. Although bipolar and schizophrenic, he was confined in a prison with no psychiatry department. He was pepper sprayed three days before his death and videotaped asking for food and water, although none was provided and his official cause of death was myocarditis and emaciation. (Fellner)

Neglect: Christopher Lopez, an inmate in Colorado, was 35 years old when he died at San Carlos Correctional Facility in 2013. He was schizophrenic and died from severe hyponatremia, which is too much psychotropic medication leading to low sodium in the blood. It is easily identifiable via blood test and treatable, but the nurse(s!) never took his vitals. He was kept in a room 22-24hours a day. (Fellner) Solitary confinement is cruel and unusual punishment, and it should never be used to discipline persons with mental disabilities.

Abuse: Inmate Darren Rainey was boiled to death in a hot shower in June 2012 in Florida at Dade Correctional Facility, where the incident was then covered up. Guards were seen laughing about “putting him in the shower” to discipline him, but the shower was hot enough to make coffee. (Press)

These cases were extreme, but not unique. Correctional Officers, or COs, use excessive force in many cases, and further compassionate training is required. Even when there the proper equipment is provided, such as restraining chairs or psychiatric beds, they are often misused.

There are many challenges to getting prisoners the mental health care they need. Abramsky noted that understaffing, poor screening and tracking of mentally ill prisoners, lack of timely access to mental health staff (guards are not referring prisoners often enough, and “bizarre behavior” is not enough for a referral, though it certainly should be when viewed as a symptom!), diagnosis of malingering (faking it, or manipulation), using medication as the sole treatment strategy, and a lack of confidentiality between the prisoner and the mental health staff all add barriers to prisoners receiving the help and medical attention they need.

I find some comfort knowing that some places are truly making an effort to integrate solutions to the mental health crisis. Tom Dart is an Illinois sheriff. Angela Bradbery wrote about his program for Public Citizen News. “Dart, who oversees one of the largest jails in the country, has implemented changes that have made his jail a role model for humanely managing seriously mentally ill inmates.” (Bradbery, 1) Dart manages his inmates in a number of ways that compassionately support the mentally ill. All staff receives mental illness training. Their jail provides full treatment, and upon release, transitions them to community resources. Once free, access to a 24-hour care line is available for mentally ill ex-inmates. This example is one to be mimicked around the country. Tom Dart has managed to show that some people do care, and that it can be done with proper planning and implementation.

Politicians and the community have failed the mentally ill. Mentally ill persons wind up in prison when they are left untreated within the community until their symptoms have gotten so bad that they commit a crime. The word “transinstitutionalization” refers to the problem of persons with mental illness being left untreated until they end up institutionalized within correctional settings. (Abramsky) This is certainly what happened to me. My symptoms had been getting worse for months prior to my leaving town, and I worsened to the point of not having the self-awareness necessary to monitor my moods. “Thousands of mentally ill are left untreated and unhelped until they have deteriorated so greatly that they wind up arrested and prosecuted for crimes they may never have committed had they been able to access therapy, medication, and assisted living facilities in the community.” (Abramsky) Reform is needed and public funding and support is needed. Stigma must be decreased and people must speak openly about mental healthcare in order to influence public opinion and garner support. These changes can happen, and should.

Solutions are desperately needed to help with the mental healthcare crisis facing both prisons and communities today, for these problems are intertwined. Early preventative care and mental health screening in the community would greatly curb the number of people with mental disabilities being introduced to the criminal justice system to begin with, as they would have access to medications and therapy.

Therefore, I propose a whole host of solutions to offer compassionate methods of processing persons with mental disabilities. To begin, it would be helpful if police received extensive training in recognizing mental health crises. When I was on the streets, I had several interactions with police officers prior to my incident and arrest. None of them realized I was a missing person, and while they obviously could tell something was wrong, they had nowhere to take me and ultimately just released me back on the streets. Ideally, my symptoms should have been identified, and then the police could have transported me to facilities that do not yet exist. Some cities have PERT (Psychiatric Emergency Response Team) which sends out a psychiatrist along with a police officer. Together they determine where the individual needs to be taken. These PERT teams should be in all cities and be standard procedure.

The United States is in desperate need of more specialized facilities for the mentally ill. These facilities would need to process individuals in mental health crisis that have committed no crimes and are therefore free to go as long as they are not posing a threat to themselves or others and not be turned away for lack of insurance.

For the prisoners, there need to be acute crisis care units and intermediate care units with psychiatric beds for long-term care and rehabilitation in all facilities. Each location should include 24-hour psychiatric care and monitoring.

Bail reform is something that would reduce the criminalization of the poor. This can ruin lives, as the incarcerated can lose their jobs, their income and have no one to care for their children. Innocent until proven guilty should not include a bail system that is not intended to be, but is nonetheless, punitive.

Doing away with encroachment tickets would be a great start to reducing the criminalization of the homeless.

Another helpful solution would be the development of a kind of homeless daycare center. Think of it like a park, maybe with a library, with lots of shade and water fountains and bathrooms and showers and large lockers for their things. There could even be an on-site psychiatrist and psychologist available, and administrative staff to assist people with applying for health insurance, disability, and other forms of government assistance. In my utopia, this place already exists, funded completely by taxpayers.

The development of mental health applications has been a new and novel thing. Some apps help time breath, mood swings, all sorts of things. I don’t see why we haven’t seen applications that allow people to report mental illness they see in others (perhaps a PERT team can respond?) or, perhaps even more important, an app that puts the mentally ill in direct contact with help when they are in mental crisis. I’m not talking about a suicide hotline, I mean an app where I can press some buttons to say, “I’m hearing voices and losing my mind, what do I do?” and get put in immediate touch with a psychiatrist, assistance, a PERT team, anything. This is the next logical and necessary step.

Once a crime has been committed, there are many solutions that will aid in the compassionate processing and interfacing with mentally ill inmates. Firstly, as Abramsky points out, low level drug offenders are often diverted into substance abuse treatment programs. Since large numbers of the mentally ill also have substance abuse issues, making this universal would reduce the numbers of mentally ill in prisons. There should also be a diversion program in place for those who do not have substance abuse issues, but do have a history of mental illness. They should be diverted to intermediate care units for rehabilitation with minimum security.

Moving beyond training COs, there need to be treatment programs in place for inmates. There should be group therapy, solo therapy, medications should be introduced and tapered carefully, with staff in place around the clock. Pre-release care is important, as is a smooth transition to community resources for the recently released. I approve of Tom Dart’s 24-hour care line for mentally ill former inmates and think more places, if not all facilities, should implement such a solution.

We have abandoned the mentally ill to the streets and prison system, to struggle with substance abuse issues and endure a number of hardships. Deinstitutionalization has created a public health crisis in the United States. Careful consideration and decisive action is needed to universalize and standardize the mental healthcare system. The mentally ill do not belong in prisons simply for being mentally ill and need to have access to round-the-clock care in facilities that are designed with their needs in mind. I am so grateful for the care I received while I was incarcerated.  This is not some luxury, it is a constitutional right to medical care, and it is needed now.

 

 

Works Cited

 

Abramsky, Sasha, and Jamie Fellner. “Ill-Equipped U.S. Prisons and Offenders with Mental Illness.” Human Rights Watch, Open Society Institute, 21 Oct. 2003, www.hrw.org/report/2003/10/21/ill-equipped/us-prisons-and-offenders-mental-illness#912713.

Al-Rousan, Tala, et al. “Inside the Nation’s Largest Mental Health Institution: a Prevalence Study in a State Prison System.” BioMed Central, BMC Public Health, 20 Apr. 2017, bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12889-017-4257-0.

 

Bradbery, Angela, and Delaney Goodwin. “National Survey Shows County Jails Unequipped, Overwhelmed With Seriously Mentally Ill Inmates.” Public Citizen News [Washington, DC] 1 Oct. 2016, Vol. 36, No. 5: 1+. Print.

Fellner, Jamie. “Callous and Cruel Use of Force against Inmates with Mental Disabilities in US Jails and Prisons.” Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Watch, 12 May 2015, www.hrw.org/report/2015/05/12/callous-and-cruel/use-force-against-inmates-mental-disabilities-us-jails-and.

Fries, Brant E., et al. “Symptoms and Treatment of Mental Illness among Prisoners: A Study of Michigan State Prisons.” International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, vol. 36, no. 3-4, Jan. 2013, pp. 316–325. Science Direct, doi:https://doi.org.ezproxy.palomar.edu/10.1016/j.ijlp.2013.04.008.

Press, Eyal. “Madness.” The New Yorker, The New Yorker, 2 May 2016, www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/05/02/the-torturing-of-mentally-ill-prisoners.

Prins, Seth J. “Prevalence of Mental Illnesses in U.S. State Prisons: A Systematic Review .” Psychiatry Online, National Institute of Mental Health, 1 July 2014, ps.psychiatryonline.org/doi/full/10.1176/appi.ps.201300166.

 

 

The Sympathetic Monster

Carly Janine

English 203

Professor Craig Thompson

9/19/2017

 

Victor Frankenstein’s monster is an abandoned child, shunned by his father and creator, and left to his own devices to raise himself in the harsh, mountainous landscape. Had the monster been shown love and acceptance, instead of shunned by his creator, all his murderous tendencies could have been avoided. It is through this glass, viewing the monster as childlike, that brings forth sympathy. All of the monster’s rage can be traced back to a lack of love and understanding, and his petty revenges upon Victor as a sign of his love, unrequited, turned to hatred. There are many moments along the monster’s tumultuous journey that show how truly childlike he is. When the monster sees his reflection in the water and realizes he is ugly, he becomes sad, which is such a relatable and uniquely human experience. His only true guidance comes from Mother Nature, and when the landscape is rough and weather cruel, he mirrors those things and becomes filled with rage and destructive tendencies himself. At every turn, when the monster seeks to express his humanity and connect with others, he is thwarted and instead receives pain. This negative reinforcement haunts him throughout the book, until at the end, he unloads all of his pent-up anguish upon the captain and vows to end his own life. In this way, he is yet more honorable than his creator, who unleashed this monster upon the world, uneducated and unloved.

When the monster is first imbued with life, he opens his eyes and Victor immediately recoils, irresponsibly leaving the room. Where once Victor had been obsessed with creating life, when he saw what he had wrought, he was disgusted. “I had desired it with an ardour that far exceeded moderation; but now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart.” (Shelley, 36) Victor recognized that his own obsession is what has led to this disaster. However, instead of dealing with the monster in a direct way, Victor goes home to bed. Later, his monster comes to him through the window, and even attempts to smile at his creator, but Victor once again flees. Rejected, the monster retreats to the mountainside to try and survive.

Frankenstein’s monster is most at home in nature. When the weather is calm and mild, it restores him and he seems to move closer to being at peace. “Spring advanced rapidly; the weather became fine, and the skies cloudless…My senses were gratified and refreshed by a thousand scents of delight, and a thousand sights of beauty.” (Shelley, 80) This appreciation of nature surfaces again and again and often acts as a mood reflection of the monster. As this particular Spring approached, however, the monster found himself drawn to humans once again. As the Winter thawed, he found himself falling in love with a family.

The monster observes and learns from the family of De Lacy, who were living in the cottage in the forest, through a hole in the wall of their home.  He taught himself language and how to read as he became more involved at the cottage, hiding through the following seasons on their property and reading their copy of Paradise Lost. During his research at the cottage on humans, the monster began to develop rudimentary concepts of good and evil, Heaven and Hell, and wondered what is his place in the world. He wanted so badly to make a good impression, and took months to work up the courage to approach the old blind man when he was home alone. De Lacy is the first person to treat the monster as a decent human being, his blindness did not allow him to see the hideousness of the monster, so he was unafraid of him. Suddenly, Felix, Agatha, and Safie return to the cottage. Upon seeing the monster, Agatha fainted and Safie fled the cottage. Meanwhile, “Felix darted forward… dashed me to the ground, and struck me violently with a stick.” (Shelley, 94) The monster, so hurt and angry by his rejection by De Lacy’s family, that although he leaves them unharmed, the next night he burns the cottage to the ground. The monster never sees the family again. Every time Frankenstein’s monster seeks out contact with humans, things go awry. The monster simply cannot control his emotions and lacks the emotional guidance and maturity to tell right from wrong, and the innate fear he is regarded with by humans makes him angry, sad, and confused.

When he is traveling near a river, he stumbles across a girl who had fallen in and is drowning. Although it is difficult, the monster fights the current and rescues her and brings her to shore. As he is attempting to revive the young girl, her companion arrives and forcibly removes her from his arms before departing. As the monster follows, the man shoots him. This is a big turning point for the monster, as it causes him to lose the faith and hope he had left in humanity. The monster says, “This then, was the reward of my benevolence! I had saved a human being from destruction, and, as a recompence, I now writhed under the miserable pain of a wound, which shattered the flesh and bone. The feelings of kindness and gentleness, which I had entertained but a few moments before, gave place to a hellish rage and gnashing of teeth. Inflamed by pain, I vowed eternal hatred and vengeance to all mankind.” (Shelley, 99)

Inherently, the monster’s actions are driven towards wanting love and acceptance. When the monster is overcome with emotion, usually anger, it is pure and uncontrolled. Without the emotional tools necessary to process anger, the monster is left with a blinding rage against those who hurt or rejected him. This erupts into many acts of violence throughout the course of the book, during which the monster does not fully comprehend the consequences of his actions, much like a toddler. All he sees is getting revenge on Victor, not the pain, manipulation, and havoc he himself has caused.  For example, the first person the monster murdered was William, Victor’s little brother. William calls the monster ugly, and upon giving him the name Frankenstein, the monster responds by murdering him due to Victor’s indifference. Having become jaded and crafty, the monster took the locket from William’s neck and hid it on the servant, Justine. She is accused and convicted of William’s murder, and Victor, in his cowardice, says and does nothing to exonerate her.

Facing cold abandonment and rejection on all fronts, the monster becomes obsessed with convincing his creator to make a female companion monster for him. To this end, the monster stalks Victor, following him around the world as he travels, and beseeching him to create this companion. After following Victor for some time, he is at last swayed to create a female monster. Things seemed hopeful for him, but Victor dawdled creating the she-monster. At last, when she was nearing completion, the monster comes to check on Victor and his progress only to find that Victor will not bring her to life. Victor tears up the she-monster in front of the monster, who was so eager for companionship. Now believing he will be alone forever, the monster’s hatred for Victor grows, and he vows to see Victor on his wedding night.

Incensed by the destruction of the she-monster, the monster rebels by murdering the people Victor cares for.  Henry, Victor’s best friend and guiding light, is next to die. Elizabeth is murdered on their wedding night. Her death brings about such a sadness in Victor’s father that he, too, passes away. At last, Victor is as alone as his creation and vows to destroy his monster.  As Victor and the monster become locked into their eternal hunt for revenge, both are reduced to merely surviving. Driven by hatred, they torment each other until Victor becomes ill and dies on that woebegone ship in the Arctic. At this point, the monster engages in a monologue in which he professes his regret for the murders and for driving his creator to his death. He accepts that this hatred that has been turned towards his creator throughout the book is truly self-hatred, and upon that realization, the monster can bear his own pain no longer. He vows to sail off and create a funeral pyre and die. The monster has shown growth and acceptance for his actions, and once faced with the true horror of what he had wrought, along with the anticlimactic destruction of his creator and nemesis, opted to die. By sparing the world his pain, destruction and rage, he shows again that he is more compassionate, responsible, and more honorable than Victor as well. Frankenstein’s monster led a sad, lonely life. Every creature he opened his heart to betrayed him.   Any child raised in such an environment and faced with the same circumstances, would have an equally hard time adjusting. Without guidance, emotional maturity, friends, or even companionship, the monster never stood a chance of maintaining his connection to humanity.

 

 

 

Works Cited

Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft, and J. Paul Hunter. Frankenstein: the 1818 Text, Contexts, Criticism. W.W. Norton & Co., 2012.

 

 

End of Summer Update

This whole going back to school thing has been an interesting ride. I got As in my first two classes back, my Intersession Computer Concepts & Applications class, and English 100 over the regular Summer session. Now, Fall has started and I’m taking Intro to Library Services & English 203. My first library science class! A higher English class! So fun.

It’s hard to stay focused in a literature class that meets from 5:30-9:45pm, but my professor has kept it pretty interesting so far. I’m really looking forward to finishing Frankenstein and moving on to some other books! It’s short, but I am having trouble focusing on it. I think the paper will be pretty interesting, though, once I get through it. We have 15 weeks left of class and in that time we will write five papers.

I apologize for not updating my blog more regularly, but life happens, it seems!

Last week I was in a car accident and my 2001 Honda Accord was totaled. My daughter Molly was in the car with me. We were in San Diego on the 805 South just North of Adams Avenue, where the 8 connector is, just after the bridge over Mission Valley. Anyway, we were stopped in heavy traffic at 4:45pm and a young woman in an SUV didn’t even slow down before plowing into us. Everyone is okay, but it was pretty scary and now I am searching for a car with my insurance check, which isn’t really enough to buy a car outright that is any newer than my Accord was.  *sigh*

I’m looking at a 2015 Kia Soul that may work out, unless I chicken out and opt for a $3500 car instead. I’m just so very tired of buying other people’s problems. Let me create my own problems, damnit! I do worry about staying stable for 6 years to pay off a car loan, and it is a lot of money. But if things go awry, I suppose I could always sell it, like I did with my Mini Cooper. I miss that car, and driving the Kia kind of reminds me of it, the smallness, boxiness, 6-speed manual transmission. I really liked it.

Molly started second grade last week as well, since everything happens at the same time. She has a new teacher, Mrs. Newberry, and she really seems to dig her class so far. I’m a little disappointed that after having no homework last year, she will once again have a weekly packet to turn in. Maybe we can do our homework together. 🙂

I had to go to the campus bookstore the other day and I took Molly with me. She said she thought it was funny that an adult liked school. But I do like school. It was fun showing her the bookstore and where the Humanities building is.

This week we’ve been experiencing a heat wave and I am totally over it. 100+ today and yesterday and everything feels like hot. But I will take this heat wave over the flood waters of Hurricane Harvey that have inundated Houston, affecting many people I know. It has been inspiring seeing so many people coming together to help, but it hurts my heart to see so many of my friends going through such hard times.

One day at a time.

Going Back to School…

A lot is changing in my life, and it feels like it is happening very quickly. I didn’t expect it, as usual, and now I am left reeling with both excitement and fear. It all started with an innocent post on Twitter. It was one of my million-a-day inane posts that most people don’t read, and I don’t blame them. I don’t care if anyone responds, it is my space. My relaxation space. But I digress.

I posted on Twitter that my laptop was dying, as it had started getting flickering lines across the screen and taken to randomly rebooting. Plus, it was still running Windows Vista, which Firefox (and everything else) was dropping. It was a wonderful, albeit slow and cantankerous, little laptop for me for a few years. It was gifted to me from a friend who was getting a new one, so sweet! I didn’t want to let it go, so I had mostly been ignoring the flickering lines and random rebooting, but it was getting pretty bad.

I had zero expectations when I posted, I was just venting. Out of nowhere, a Twitter friend (that I didn’t even know all that well!) offered to buy me a new laptop on the spot. For good karma, he told me. I figured he was kidding, but we chit chatted about it and I gave him my address after some deliberation and a promise that he wouldn’t show up on my doorstep.

He didn’t, but about a week and a half later, a new laptop did. The box was addressed to my Twitter name, which made me chuckle. So now I have a new laptop. Most people I’ve told this story have thought it was quite odd, and I think may worry for my safety. I believe completely that he just wanted to do something nice and saw something he could do, and did it. These random acts of kindness make the world a better place.

I had been daydreaming about going back to college for a bit, but I kept waffling on what precisely I wanted to do, and I refused to go back without a plan. Plus, there’s no way my old laptop would have gotten me through online classes and writing papers and things. But now, now I was to have a new one. Now I *could* go back to school and keep up. It also happens that I follow a few librarians here and there. So I started asking questions, and thinking about things. I’m still not 100% positive, but I  am pretty sure that I’d at least like to TRY working in a library and seeing what is involved.

It just so happens that Palomar College, which is right by where I live, is one of only 8 schools in California that offers an Associate degree in Library Science. What?! They also seem to have a good English department, which is what I initially thought my AA would be. Now I’m not sure. Perhaps I could fulfill the requirements for the library certificate and still get an AA in English, and transfer to CSUSM for a BA in English. If the whole library thing is still appealing, I could get an online Master’s degree in Library Science.

These are the types of daydreams I have been having for weeks. I know myself, and once something gets its hooks in my brain, I have to research it until I’ve exhausted all the options.

But first things first. The other night I finally did it, I stayed up late and applied for college, filled out my FAFSA, and ordered my transcripts to be sent to Palomar. Now I just need to be officially accepted, see a counselor there, and register for a summer class. I believe I will take just one class over the summer to get started. We will see.

I have been writing very little and playing guitar a lot. My guitar class I took through Mira Costa only meets twice more, then my Thursday nights will be my own again for a bit. I will miss the class. My teacher’s intermediate class is already full, which is probably for the best since it seems I will be busy studying this summer.

Things that are very small seem very scary. Setting up an appointment with a counselor. Deciding which math class to take (I placed higher in math than I expected, so I have some options..) I don’t think I will try to tackle math first, though. It gives me huge anxiety and I know I will need a tutor and a lot of time to focus on it. Ugh.

But, I feel hopeful and excited in a way I haven’t felt in a few years. I still enjoy doing massage, but there is always this black cloud looming and it says, “WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU INJURE YOURSELF? DO YOU STILL WANT TO BE DOING THIS IN YOUR 60s? How will you retire?” This voice I usually can ignore, but it has gotten louder over time. The answer is, I really don’t want to still be doing massage in 15 years. I love it, I will always do it a little, but I don’t want to rely on it solely anymore.

It has been so nice and peaceful, having such a low-stress job. Every shift is like a moving meditation. It has allowed me to clear my mind in ways I didn’t think was possible. But now I feel thirsty for something more, something new that I can wrap my brain around. And I want to hone my writing, have some feedback and peer review. I want to be educated. So I am going back to college.

Wish me luck.

 

Surgery and Closure

I had surgery at Sharp Grossmont Hospital to fix my deviated septum. It was the same doc that did my ear surgery last summer, Dr. Jeremiah Moles, and he did a great job on both surgeries. I am not in any pain, but a little uncomfortable from the splints in my nose. They get taken out on Tuesday, so I am looking forward to that.

I’m so grateful that I was able to have this surgery done. It’s been 3.5 years since I was attacked in Hayward and punched by a powerful man in a baseball cap. He broke my nose, and not much has been the same since. When the initial injury occurred, I had fierce black eyes for two weeks. This time, minimal bruising and no black eyes!

Everything seems so uncertain these days. Will I have health insurance much longer? I don’t know. What will happen? I don’t know. These questions lead to fear and catastrophizing, which I don’t want to feed into right now.

My nose seems to be healing up nicely, my surgery was on Thursday morning and now it’s Saturday afternoon. I just have to be good and keep resting, which is difficult for me. Neil has been supportive and it’s been nice being able to rest without having to worry about Molly too much. I go back to work on the 25th, so until then I am just going to try and take it easy.

 

This and That

It’s been a month since I wrote anything significant. I’ve been tinkering a bit with my next major blog post, and my sci-fi story for the second anthology, but not much. I have been so wrapped up in the holidays and my daughter and family and work that I’ve barely had time to do anything at all. But it has been good. I have been living in the moment and taking things as they come, and my therapist and psych both think I am doing well.

I had my med check the other day, and my psych asked me to think about starting to reduce my antidepressant a bit. Having Bipolar I makes using an antidepressant at such a high dosage kind of risky, since I could swing into mania at pretty much any time. But I also take a mood stabilizer, which has been doing its job. She is hesitant to reduce it as well, since that could put me into a tailspin back into my depression. We decided to leave it where it is, and I go back in four months. If everything is still going great, maybe we will reduce my antidepressant some then.

In my downtime, instead of writing I have been practicing guitar. It is going really well. I play with Mr. W once or twice a week, and practice on my own to Youtube videos the rest of the time. I’ve started building up calluses on my fingertips, and it feels great. There is a series of adult guitar lessons starting at a studio by where I work, but unfortunately it is at the same time as my Saturday shift. Ah well. I would like to take some official lessons to make sure I’m not developing bad habits, but I have been having a great time learning from Mr. W in the meantime.

I also got to see all of the first season of Westworld, which is great and makes me want to talk about it with other people who have seen it. I have NOT gotten to see Rogue One yet, but I am hoping to get to see it with Mr. W next week. Over the winter break, my daughter and I saw both Moana and Sing, which were both great movies. We so rarely get to go to the movie theater, it is always a treat.

Anyway, I am tired of seeing my heroes die and mostly can’t wait for 2016 to be over. I will be processing the deaths of many people and institutions for awhile yet. I can only hope that 2017 will be a year of catalyst, and that people will  be inspired to create art and take action. I am still heartbroken over the election results, but am starting to feel stronger again and ready to move forward into the next year.