Privileged to Be Different, and Not

Boyle’s “Frankenstein”

Classics are classics because of their timelessness, a description certainly apt for Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Thanks to the Hopkins Center stellar program of events each term, last night and last Friday evening, the Dartmouth community was privy to a broadcast of this Gothic novel’s most recent interpretation on stage at London’s National Theatre. Directed by Danny Boyle, this grippingly fantastic production reflects honestly, and disturbingly so, on the powers of science, the meaning of humanity, and the tragedy that occurs when a brilliant scientist mixes the two, but fails to take responsibility of the resulting outcome.

The subjection of nature for experiment to satisfy human curiosities is obviously not confined to the literary imagination, and Shelley’s rings true till this day. In February, NPR’s This American Life had a segment in their “Parent Trap” episode on the experimental life of Lucy, a chimpanzee raised as a human child since her delivery. She is reared with all the norms you might find in a Good Parenting book, and is given a voice through sign-language lessons. In the process of humanizing her, Lucy even picks up the trait thought unique to humans, lying. Frankenstein’s monster too discovers this interesting knack of people, one I find ambiguous when judging our own morality. Yet although both characters develop solid understanding of what it means to be human, they are not human. They are experiments, both of which were conveniently disposed of by their respective guardians. The ensuing feelings of loss and displacement are hard to fathom as we sit snugly within the defined realms of ‘being human’, but the familiar concepts of cultural displacement and the discomfort of not fitting in with others allow us to empathize.

We are all different, a reality much harsher and harder to overcome for Frankenstein’s monster and Lucy, who both live the rest of their lives outside the margins of society. As people though, this fact simply sets us apart superficially, I have black hair, you may have blonde, he’s more liberal in views, and she’s conservative. At the core of it however, all of us are human, physically, emotionally…spiritually, something that Frankenstein’s monster and Lucy sought, but could not to claim, making it a privilege for us to be connected to each other in such a manner. So as Dimensions approaches (April 14-16) to welcome the 15s, the class whose incredible diversity the admissions office has been advertising not so subtly, hopefully we can remind ourselves of the community we are a part of and exhibit that to prospective freshmen. We are Dartmouth students, regardless of racial profile or meaningless statistics, and we’re human beings, regardless of everything. 

 Christina Chen