Literary

Comparisons between Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Ridley Scott’s BladeRunner

Shelley’s Purpose:

Shelley had a number of purposes for writing Frankenstein. Overarching, which was influenced by her Romanticist values, was to explore the consequences of disturbing the natural order the status quo. In exploring this critical idea, Shelley examines humanity’s inextricable link with nature, the usurpation of God, the dangers of knowledge and science and social injustices.

Scott’s Purpose:

Scott created Blade Runner to warn of the many issues which he regarded as the outcome of a world that would existed forty years into the future. Similarly to Blade Runner, Scott provides a stark warning against the disruption of the natural order. By the absolute negation of it, Scott explores the importance of nature. Furthermore, he examines the morality behind the usurpation of God, the dangers of knowledge and science and the importance of social justice.

Both texts, although set in different times, explore universal themes concerning the disruption of the natural order to create artificial life. Both composers present a harsh critique of the society in which their text was created. This is particularly explored through the similar issues concerning class division and the social injustices this afforded citizens.

Society, class and injustice: Frankenstein:

Shelly uses her novel and more specifically the monster’s narrative to make a critique on her own society, class division and the injustices this afforded citizens during the foundation of capitalist Europe. When exploring this in context Shelley saw such as a disruption in the natural order, thus Frankenstein forms a harsh warning against capitalism. In this sense, Frankenstein can be viewed through a Marxist lens although Marx’s Manifesto would not be written for some years later.

Influencing Shelley’s critique were three significant periods in European History. The English Revolution in 1642 saw Charles I oppose the parliamentary system where he lost the English Civil Wars and a republic was established, liberating citizens from autocracy. The French Revolution which occurred in the 1790s saw a movement away from the monarchy and aristocracy and towards a republic established on the principles of equality, citizenship and undeniable rights. The Industrial Revolution which dominated the turn of the nineteenth century saw a movement towards capitalism. Shelley, writing her novel under these influences and, with her parents being highly connected with these ideas, ensured such were explored in her cautionary tale.

Shelley’s novel is set during the Industrial Revolution. The idea of monarchies ruling had been removed from society which Shelley and her anarchist father and husband would have respected, but replaced with capitalism where a new ruling class emerged. In this society those with wealth assumed power, becoming the upper class. Everyone else belonged to the working class – the proletariat. This breakdown of ethical considerations at this stage was seen by Shelley as an absolute disruption in the natural order thus, Shelley makes an ardent warning against the effects that this oppression has. The industrial revolution challenged the values of compassion and community where human dignity was being sacrificed in the race for mass production and profits. Within the proletariat a human’s worth was determined only by their labour. Apart from seeing the working class as their way to profit, the upper classes had no compassion towards them.

Victor Frankenstein represents the ruling upper class. He is sympathetic of Charles I who lost the English Civil Wars and was overthrown by liberators. This is shown when Clerval and Victor visit Oxford. Victor proclaims “It was here that Charles I had collected his forces. The city had remained faithful to him, after the whole country had forsaken his cause to join the standards of Parliament and liberation.” Shelley employs a sympathetic tone from Victor towards an “unfortunate king”, rather than excitement towards the liberators. This establishes that Victor values the ideas associated with the ruling classes and oppression afforded by the Industrial Revolution.

The Monster, therefore, represents the working class of society, being physically bigger and stronger while Victor is weak but wealthy and educated. The Monster speaks “of the division of property, of immense wealth and squalid poverty; of rank, descent and noble blood.” Shelley employs the Monster as a symbol of the struggles of the working class against the privileged upper class. The Monster acts as Shelley’s symbol of the working class who is hated, rejected and oppressed. The Monster’s gargantuan stature reflects the tremendous population of the working class which far outnumbered the nobility. This is symbolised through the Monster’s statement to Victor saying “Thou hast made me more powerful than thyself; my height is superior to thine; my joints more supple.” Shelley employs the use of semicolons to emphasise the contrasts between Victor’s physical qualities to the immense superiority of the monster.

Shelley insinuates that the working class will rise above the ruling class “You are my creator, but I am your master; – obey!” The high modality that the Monster speaks with here represents the revolutionary warning that Shelley presents; it is a stark warning – that the ruling classes will create a formidable opponent in the working class (as victor who represents the nobility creates the Monster) who will rebel with destructive fury. Shelley’s critique on industrialised England and the subsequent oppression and exploitation of the working class is unmistakable and a further warning against the unequal distribution of wealth and the class system.

Blade Runner: Reaganism:

Scott, being influenced by the political policies of Reagan saw how the world would turn out in a 2019 Los Angeles setting. In his film he incorporated what he considered the eventual effects of Reagan’s policies undeterred. Amidst the threats of communism during the Cold War Reagan implemented policies to deregulate corporations, giving them more power. The effects are shown in Blade Runner where Los Angeles has become a degraded, dystopic society with little or no social construct apart from the obvious rule and dominance by corporation. There is obvious class division; shown as Bryant asks Deckard to come back and work as a Blade Runner. In response to Deckard’s rejection a close up shot shows Bryant saying “If you’re not a cop, you’re little people”. Bryant’s venomous tone forces Deckard to accept the position as he acknowledges the harsh truth in what Bryant says. This, coupled with the dull lighting exposes the lack of social structure that is caused by unregulated corporation. This is a similar warning projected in Shelley’s Frankenstein against the increased authority of business during the Industrial Revolution. She warned of the social division and injustices this caused.

Thatcherism:

The political policies of then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher also influenced Scott’s depiction of the future. Her almost autocratic style of government is depicted through the centralised government of the 2019 world. This is presented as Deckard flies to the Tyrell Building. The massive pyramid style buildings are depicted as the tallest, overseers of all society and is the only place where natural light can be seen, thus Scott warns that in such a society the ruling class will become more corporate rather than political.

As the elevator rises above the clouds, the cessation of the rain symbolises the division of the lower from the upper class. The owner, Eldon Tyrell is its autocratic leader who represents the upper class in society; he is above all other citizens. There is little differentiation between the upper class (Tyrell Corp.) and the lower classes; the proletariat and the replicants. This links with Scott’s warning against Reaganism where corporate dominated, centralised governments created social division and injustice.

Scott, in both his warnings against Reaganism and Thatcherism, similarly to Shelley presents a critique on capitalism for its disruption in the natural order which affords social injustices upon citizens. From the immediate opening of the film all the responder sees is industry. Here, in this 2019 Los Angeles, commercialisation and commoditisation encompass all facets of society. The inhabitants live constantly overwhelmed by building sized advertisements from massive companies such as Coca Cola, neon lights are omnipresent and dark towers of factories block out the sun. Scott presents a world under extreme capitalism that is completely devoid of nature that even beauty, pleasure and life are commodities with production value. Replicants and animals are not born but manufactured and produced where their value is determined by their labour. In this world, humanity is disturbingly stifled.

Nature:

Fundamental need to sustain the natural world:

Nature is linked to humanity itself for its nature that gives life. The natural world is inextricably linked to the human condition and provides support, both resourcefully and emotionally. Shelley warns that removing nature is like extracting part of the soul. The relationship between nature and human is emphasised due to Shelley’s Romanticist connections and influences where the Romanticist Movement at the time sought to restore the importance and beauty of nature, championing of human emotion, feeling and human connection. The romanticist movement grew from the dissatisfaction of the lack of ethics the industrial revolution began to afford.

Victor removes the natural elements in creating the monster which can be seen as a sin against nature. Because of this he is punished. This is can be seen through the literary allusions to Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner where the mariner sins against nature in shooting the albatross. Hanging it around his neck as a good omen for his sailors, this begins the destruction of his journey and life. Shelley directly alludes to this as Victor considers his marriage to Elizabeth, saying “Could I enter into a festival with this deadly weight hanging around my neck and bowing me to the ground.” Shelley employs the use of metaphor to make the reference to Coleridge’s romantic poem. Shelley’s warning is clear, removing ones link to nature, as Victor did results in the removal of one’s ethical system and thus that person will be punished for doing so.

The need to sustain the natural world is furthermore explored through the way nature temporarily reconciles Victor from his torment.

“My health and spirit had long been restored, and they gained additional strength from the salubrious air I breathed.”

“My spirits were elevated by the enchanting appearance of nature”

Here, as the romanticists believed, nature becomes restorative of his torment. It is critical in maintain his sanity for much of the novel.

Blade Runner:

While Shelley explores the importance of nature and its connection to the human condition by presenting positive aspects of nature, Scott similarly does this, however, through the absolute negation of anything natural. By removing any natural elements from his film, Scott warns against the lack or values and morality this ensures. (Compensations will be made – often leading to violence.)

Late Capitalism:

The promotion of capitalism was enforced through the political policies of United States President Ronald Reagan and British Prime Minister Thatcher during the 1980s. Such policies sought to deregulate corporations amidst the fear of communism. As a result of living during this time, Scott used his film to provide a prediction of what the future would be like if corporations were given increased amounts of authority.

Such warning is presented through unrestricted commercialisation of the Earth where ‘off worlds’ are exploited for economic expansion. Scott employs low angles to show the flying advertising televisions which display commercials for brands including ‘Coca Cola’ and ‘Atari’. This ubiquitous advertising indicates the unrestricted and over commercialisation of the Earth.

Film noir techniques such as lack of lighting present the physical and ethical decay of society that resulted as a consequence of over exploitation by corporations. The film opens with an extreme long shot which affords the responder a view of the dystopian landscape and environmental degradation. The landscape, dotted with flames is symbolic of what hell may look like.

Scott furthermore warns of the potential of corporations, if given sufficient authority will overpower government and establish themselves as corporate forms of government. This is explored through the projection of the Tyrell Corporation as the dominant corporation. Scott uses the camera to zoom over the ziggurat style building, showing it as the highest, thus establishing it as a corporate form of government. Only from the top of the Tyrell building can the sun be seen. Scott uses this image as a warning that corporation, if unrestricted will take what belongs to nature – the ability to give life.

Industrialism:

Romanticists, such as Shelley, hated industrialisation for the unnatural life it afforded those who had to work in the factories. Humanity was being sacrificed in the race for mass production and profit. This challenged the values of compassion and community. In company with Shelley’s romanticist allusions, her warning about the dangers of industrialism is shown through her presentation of Ingolstadt. It is at this industrialised city that Victor creates the “wretch” and is the genesis of all the evil that comes upon him. The city symbolises her rejection of industrialism.

Romanticism and Industrialism may be explored together. It was the Industrial Revolution that began to reform society which saw the Romanticist movement evolve. Romanticist allusions symbolise Shelley’s rejection of industrialisation and her rejection of industrialisation comes as a result of her being a romanticist.

Romanticism:

In reaction to the ‘Age of Enlightenment’ and ‘Industrialism’ which sought to reform society intellectually, Romanticism promoted liberalism and heighten emotion. Shelley’s closest friends were Romanticist writers. This is shown through her various allusions to Romanticist works including Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner. “Because a frightful fiend doth close behind him tread” – This literary allusion foreshadows the trauma Victor will endure, paralleling the mariner killing the albatross which, in disturbing the natural order he is consequently tormented for life.

Romanticism saw a movement back to nature; away from the rapid commercialisation of cities. Natural landscapes are presented in Frankenstein as places where peace is sought. “…bending my steps towards the near Alpine valleys, sought in the magnificence.” – Emotive language, visual imagery.

Scientific Advancement:

Being well educated, Shelley read about Luigi Galvani’s experiments where he electrically shocked frogs into animation. Galvanism as it became known as is what Victor uses to “infuse a spark of being” into the creature – Metaphor describing the influence of galvanism and thus context on her character’s actions.

Thematic Concepts in Frankenstein:

Overreaching: The alternative title for Frankenstein was ‘The Modern Prometheus’ which says that Shelley saw a direct link between Victor and Prometheus. Overreaching is essentially going beyond one’s ordained position in the greater scheme of things. Like Prometheus, Victor begins with noble intentions, but his actions lead to dreadful consequences. Like fire in the Prometheus Myth, the monster is at first something good. However, through the actions of mankind becomes an evil force. The monster becomes Victor’s ‘eagle’ that punishes him for going beyond his ordained position to create life.

 

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Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Rear Window’ and Roald Dahl’s ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’

“It only takes one witness to spoil the perfect crime”. (1999 re-release) Hitchcock’s Rear Window expertly explores this idea through his manipulation of the traditional crime genre. While he adheres to many of the conventions, Hitchcock cleverly employs variations to these in order to construct a more realistic setting. Roald Dahl’s Lamb to the Slaughter challenges the conventions of traditional crime writing while exploring aspects of committing the ‘perfect crime’. Both Rear Window and Lamb to the Slaughter reflect prominent ideas and values of a 1950s American society.

Hitchcock’s setting of the apartment block conforms with the traditional closed circle, ensuring any crime would not go unnoticed. As the film opens the camera pans around the building complex, establishing the setting. These acts as a point of view shots as it also establishes what Jeffries can see of his neighbours. Hitchcock comments on society at this time where apartment living was common. In doing so, the morality of voyeurism is questioned. Although such actions of Jeffries ensures Thorwald’s crime is solved, Stella considers they’d “put out your eyes with a hot poker.” Initially, Jeffries’ voyeurism is perceived as “diseased” and reflects a “race of peeping toms”. However, both Lisa and Stella eventually become interested as the murder is uncovered. The setting in which Thorwald kills his wife would seem irrational to many. However, if Jeffries had not become suspicious the apartment block may have been the perfect setting to commit the crime as the formal detective discredits the idea. This is shown through Doyle’s conversation with Jeffries, saying “it’s too obvious a way to commit murder within view of fifty windows”. Hitchcock employs the use of high angles on Jeffries to enforce his lack of authority compared to Doyle. However, as Jeffries begins to present his evidence, although circumstantial, both Doyle and Jeffries are shot on an equal level, presenting Jeffries’ investigative potential equal to that of the professional. The apartment, while conforming to a realist setting ensures Thorwald’s crime does not go unnoticed. Therefore he could never commit the perfect crime.

Hitchcock’s detective characters form an interesting variation to the traditional crime writing conventions. While Jeffries is not a detective by profession, he plays the role. His personality is presented in the opening scene as the camera pans around his apartment, revealing a broken camera and action photographs. This establishes Jeffries as a brave and courageous man. Conventionally, he fits a realist detective’s characteristics. However, his impotence from being wheelchair bound restricts his physical ability. His conventional want of justice is conveyed through his relentless pursuit of Thorwald. This is achieved through the actor’s portrayal of the character who is always positioned at the window, intriguingly waiting for further developments. Confidence with Jeffries’ ability is instilled within the audience when he declares Thorwald is giving the “look of a man when he’s afraid someone might be looking.” This shows that Jeffries is competent in fulfilling the investigative role. Alternatively, the formal detective, Doyle, reflects police procedure of the time. Without evidence Doyle cannot search Thorwald’s apartment, commenting “a judge must ask for evidence” before issuing a search warrant. If a sole reliance was placed on formal investigation Thorwald may well have gotten away with murder. While Jeffries offers a variation to the traditional detective, his pursuit of justice ensures Thorwald could never commit the perfect crime.

The characters of Lisa and Stella challenge traditional conventions of crime writing, however, Hitchcock uses them to comment on the roles of women in 1950s society. Initially, these characters are presented as stereotypical women. Stella is a nurse who appreciates the ideals of marriage and dedication to her husband, while Lisa is presented as a glamorous femme fatale. As Jeffries convinces them of Thorwald’s guilt, Stella and Lisa become his physical investigators due to his physical impairment. This challenges traditional conventions where only males were detectives. Lisa’s courage is presented when she gets into Thorwald’s apartment. In finding Mrs Thorwald’s wedding ring Lisa plays an integral role in solving the crime. Thorwald’s inability to discard such evidence ensures he never commits the perfect crime.

Hitchcock’s depiction of Thorwald as the murderer fits within the traditional conventions of crime writing. From the outset of the film Thorwald is presented as the villain. This is established as the camera pans across Thorwald’s apartment, following his movement. He is seen fighting with his obviously ill wife. Furthermore, Thorwald’s villainous personality is presented in his backyard when he tells his neighbour to “shut up”. This personality fits the conventions for a traditional murderer. Furthermore, he is clever in attempting to cover up his wife’s murder. He evades Jeffries’ watch while disposing of his wife’s body, kills the snooping dog in the garden and disguises his mistress as his wife. In doing so, Hitchcock builds tension and suspense as the audience begins to question whether Thorwald is guilty after all. Jeffries also considers “for a minute [I thought] I was wrong”. Thorwald’s calculation in covering up the murder and his belief that he could commit the perfect crime conventionally fits with the murderer’s persona of traditional crime writing.

Dahl’s Lamb to the Slaughter offers distinct variations to the traditional crime writing conventions. In the context of a 1950s American society, Mary Maloney conforms to the ‘housewife’ stereotype, “waiting for her husband to come home from work.” However, with her becoming the murderer, the conventions of crime writing are challenged. Traditionally, only males were seen as murderers which is enforced as the police officers discuss it “impossible that she” would murder her husband. Although not explicitly said, Dahl implies through their dialogue that Mary’s husband is leaving her. This ensures the audience is sympathetic towards Mary and accept her motives to kill her husband. Dahl’s portrayal of the murder supports the lack of detail found in conventional crime writing. He writes she “simply walked up behind him and without any pause she swung the big frozen leg of lamb high in the air and brought it down as hard as she could on the back of his head.” Dahl does this to maintain the audience’s support of Mary. She does, however, conventionally fit with a murderer’s attempts to conceal their crime. She creates her alibi by travelling to the grocery store to pick up vegetables for dinner. In doing so Mary is accounted for at the time of her husband’s death, and in establishing this alibi Mary is assured she committed the perfect crime. Dahl challenges the conventions in many ways as the audience generally wants the criminal brought to justice. In Lamb to the Slaughter the responder is satisfied that Mary evades punishment for committing the perfect crime.

Mary, in Lamb to the Slaughter ensures she commits the perfect crime as she convinces the detectives to eat the murder weapon. Dahl uses black humour to depict the detectives as incompetent. He presents this through the use of dialogue between Mary and Noonan when she offers him a drink of whisky, saying “why don’t you have one yourself.” Mary cleverly distracts them from their investigation, highlighting their clumsiness and then urges them to eat the leg of lamb she used to murder her husband. Dahl employs dramatic irony here to heighten the black humour. The story ends as Noonan comments the murder weapon is “probably right under our very noses”, while eating the leg of lamb. This ensures there is no evidence and no way of solving the crime. Mary “begins to giggle” as she knows she will get away with the perfect crime. Dahl offers bold variations to traditional crime writing in satisfying the responder with no resolution to the murder.

In both Rear Window and Lamb to the Slaughter different aspects of crime writing are explored. While composers of both follow conventions specific to their context, they offer variations too. Hitchcock, in Rear Window explores the criminal’s belief in committing the perfect crime while Dahl constructs his story where a perfect crime is committed.

Rear Window, The Real Inspector Hound, Lamb to the Slaughter and The Mentalist

Significant texts in any genre arise from specific social and culture conditions and possess an enduring relevance:

Possibly the greatest driving force within any genre is a text’s contextually. That is, its ability to adapt and reflect specific social and cultural constructs. In any genre, and most certainly crime fiction, a composer’s adherence to, or rejection of conventions ensures a reflection on the society in which it was created. This is masterfully presented in Hitchcock’s Rear Window and Stoppard’s The Real Inspector Hound. A significant text within the crime fiction genre possesses enduring relevance due to its reflection of specific social and cultural conditions. Similarly, context plays an integral part in Dahl’s Lamb to the Slaughter and Heller’s The Mentalist where both composers manipulate generic conventions to express specific social and cultural concerns.

Texts in all genres, including crime fiction present moral concerns specific to the contexts in which they are created:

The ability for moral concerns to transcend contexts gives a text an enduring relevance. Hitchcock, in Rear Window explores the morality of voyeurism in a 1950s American society. This is presented through the construction of the setting which reflects the social conditions of apartment living. The film’s opening sequence masterfully captures this idea. The camera pans around the apartment complex and establishes, through a point of view sense what Jefferies can see of his neighbours. Hitchcock takes the traditional closed setting and adapts it expertly to reflect the changing social fabric of the 1950s. Having established what Jefferies can see of his neighbours, he begins to stereotype them according to appearance only, giving them names such as Miss Lonelyheart and Miss Torso. This is one of the dangers of voyeurism Hitchcock presents – essentially warning not to judge a book by its cover. Stella, Jefferies’ nurse speaks of “a race of peeping toms” and warns that “they’d put your eyes out with a hot poker”. Hitchcock presents different perceptions of the morality of voyeurism, as even Stella, who was the philosophical warning to Jefferies, also becomes tied up in voyeurism. Jefferies’ voyeurism, however, essentially means that he is able to witness what he considers a murder that has occurred in a neighbour’s apartment. The danger now is that Jefferies has to somehow deal with what he has seen and essentially he is in danger for doing so as Thorwald confronts him and attempts to kill him. The final sequences of shots are able to draw feelings of tensions and fear from the responder due to the uncertainty that Jefferies will survive. A reversal of depth of field shows Jefferies before a long shot captures his rescuers in the opposite apartment block. At this stage Hitchcock points out the dangers of voyeurism through creating a point of view sense of danger. Hitchcock, through his manipulation of the traditional closed circle setting, criticises the direction of humanity as a whole and effectively warns of the dangers of intruding upon the personal lives of your neighbours.

Stoppard’s The Real Inspector Hound, constructed during a time of incredible social and cultural revolution in the 1960s is heavily influenced by its context:

As there was a movement away from a clear-cut understanding of the purpose of humanity, Stoppard recognised that the traditional crime fiction conventions were also too simplified, logical and did not truly reflect the social and cultural conditions. Through his absolute absurdist creation of a traditional crime fiction story, Stoppard moves his audience to reject the over-simplification of the genre. He achieves this through a traditional closed circle setting of Muldoon Manor where it is characterised as “a strangely inaccessible house”. The repeated references to the isolated nature of the setting make it clear that Stoppard masterfully and deliberately makes a mockery of the genre obvious. His characters are exaggeratedly simplified, flat, often engage in meaningless dialogue and the choice of character names, such as Moon and Birdboot reflect the unrealistic nature of traditional whodunits. The non-sequential progression and irrationality of the plot is emphasised at the play’s conclusion. There are clues, but the resolution is unconvincing. The audience are left wondering “who killed Simon Gascoyne? And why?” Stoppard does this to highlight that justice cannot simply be found as the detective would in traditional whodunits and effectively presents the idea that classic crime fiction is no longer relevant for his audience. Thus, because of the social conditions of his society, Stoppard masterfully criticises the traditional crime genre in a way which reflects a movement into a more complex society.

A crime story’s conventions will inevitably be challenged to ensure its appropriate reflection on society:

Contextually, Mary seemingly fits the role women were expected to fulfil in the 1950s. Conforming to the stereotype as the housewife, Mary seems content on her domestic duties. Initially, the responder considers Mary the ‘lamb’ as indicated in the story’s title. Seemingly innocent, just as a lamb symbolises innocence, the responder considers Mary the lamb that will be slaughtered. As a convention of crime writing this innocent profile fits rigidly with the stereotypical victim. Therefore, Mary Maloney does not fit the conventional expectations as a murderer. What is strange about Mary, however, is that she makes so easily the transition from innocent housewife to a murderer. The responder is positioned to question her mental state and consider that she possessed traits of a killer all along. This works as a comment on the nature of humanity where even the ordinary, respectable citizen has the potential for cruel or destructive acts. Mary’s actions, however, fit the conventions of a calculated murderer. Her lack of emotion after killing her husband is evocative of a traditional murderer. Her measured actions in creating an alibi parallel the actions of her in the first part of the story where she had everything planned for her husband’s arrival. This explores emerging social conditions where idea that everyone has the ability to kill when provoked. Dahl again urges his audience to ask some confronting questions about themselves and their morality. Unconventionally, the sympathy the responder holds towards Mary the murderer completely overrides any sympathy directed at Patrick. Possibly, the innocent depiction of her at the start, coupled with the fact that she was pregnant and the fact that Patrick, although we’re never told, seemingly is leaving her for another woman, all ensure that sympathy remains with Mary and that the responder is satisfied when she gets away with the crime. Although the thematic convention of good and evil is blurred, the complexities of humanity’s instinctual behaviour explore emerging conditions within Dahl’s society.

Appropriate to context within a modern society, composers of crime fiction have manipulated the genre’s conventions to create endurance in their society:

Appropriate to technological advancement, the murder occurs due to a bomb’s explosion. The sleuth type character, Patrick is seen looking in the van where the victim is. Orchestral music drowns out the diegetic sound and the director’s editing transforms the film into slow motion as the bomb explodes, killing the victim. The graphic imagery of the murder challenges the conventions of traditional crime fiction where the murder is not seen or read about in bloody or gory terms. The crime, as Patrick begins to work out is linked to modern, consumerist flaws within humanity where the victim is a stock broker, responsible for the loss of many people’s money. This reverses much of the sympathy conventional victims were afforded and hence reflects the changing social and cultural conditions of Heller’s modern society. As an unusual play on the traditional crime story, Patrick becomes blinded by the explosion and so uses his other senses as a way of solving the crime. Although Stoppard’s The Real Inspector Hound moved audiences to rejecting the over simplification of the detective’s investigation, Patrick applies realistic and believable methods to solving the crime. He interviews a suspect by feeling his hands, concluding “artistic fingers…soft”. He realises that the murderer would had to of built the explosive device and hence would have tough, working hands and a strong smell of explosive material. Just through these logical observations Patrick can determine that this suspect is not the murderer. Patrick’s ability to solve the investigation and ensure justice is served is adapted to reflect the social and cultural conditions of a modern, consumerist and technologically advanced context.

Shaping a text’s adherence to or rejection of its genre’s conventions is the context in which the text is composed. The social and cultural conditions of the composer’s society are integral in creating a text’s enduring relevance. This is shown is Hitchcock’s Rear Window, Stoppard’s the Real Inspector Hound, Dahl’s Lamb to the Slaughter and Heller’s The Mentalist. These crime fiction stories adhere to and challenge the genre’s conventions so that the text reflects the responder’s society and ensures an enduring relevance.

 

Peter Skrzynecki’s Immigrant Chronicle and The Kite Runner (2007)

‘People experience a sense of belonging in varied and complex ways’

While human instinct, however primitive dictates that finding a sense of belonging is essential for survival, it is through the complexity of relationships that ensure this universal need is achieved. In his Immigrant Chronicle, Peter Skrzynecki employs various language devices to present different aspects of belonging. These ideas are associated with first generation migrants and their struggles to find acceptance in a foreign country. In Feliks Skrzynecki a lack of commonality between the poet and his father inhibits their relationship and ultimately affects their sense of belonging to each other. In Migrant Hostel immigrants create relationships by exploiting common experiences to gain a transitory sense of belonging. Similarly, Marc Forster’s film, The Kite Runner presents the connection between relationships and shared experiences through following the conflict of migrants in forging an identity in an exotic country.

A lack of cultural commonality limits Feliks and his son’s relationship:

Skrzynecki’s Feliks Skrzynecki explores the poet’s filial relationship with Feliks, where a lack of cultural similarity inhibits their sense of belonging to each other. Skrzynecki uses visual imagery of Feliks’ ‘hands darkened from cement’ to shape his father as a hardworking and stoic figure. Although the poet admires his father, this imagery later becomes connected with Feliks’ cultural heritage and the ‘five years of forced labour’ in German concentration camps. This personality being constructed is the basis of the cultural disconnection with his son. Peter has not shared the same experiences as his father in Poland and therefore has not built the same personality. This is further shown through the poet’s description of his father’s ‘Polish friends who always shake hands too violently’. Peter’s unfamiliarity with the behavior of these adults enforces the cultural disconnection between himself and his father’s heritage. As ‘they reminisced’, the use of third person illustrates the exclusion Peter had with his father in conversation. He is excluded because he cannot relate to the men due to their lack of cultural similarity. This affects their relationship and impedes their ability to belong to each other.

Feliks and Peter’s lack of childhood commonality pressures their relationship and consequently reduces their sense of belonging to each other:

Peter’s youth at the time his family immigrated ensured he would be influenced by Australian culture. Being just four years of age Peter was too young to be instilled with Polish practices and therefore could not relate to Feliks’ memories of ‘farms where paddocks flowered’. While he acknowledges he ‘unknowingly inherited’ his father’s Polish language, the negative connotations of ‘unknowingly’ implies it intruded on his established Australian ways. The dominance of Australian culture on Peter is evident when he ‘forgets his first Polish word’. This creates the obvious detachment between Feliks’ polish heritage and the Australian culture that Peter is choosing to embrace. Without cultural commonality between Feliks and Peter’s upbringings, the two struggle to relate to each other. This negatively affects their sense of belonging.

Feliks and Peter have different educations and therefore limited shared experiences:

Skrzynecki’s education in Australia, which differs to the values of Feliks furthers their lack of shared experiences. This consequently inhibits their sense of belonging to each other. It ironically evidenced through Peter’s education where he studies ‘tenses in Caesar’s Gallic War’. His stubbornness to focus on Latin, regarded as a dead language, rather than the enriching lessons of his father reveals the resentment he has for his father’s culture. Skrzynecki’s use of simile to portray his father as a ‘dumb prophet’ and the symbol of Peter ‘pegging his tents further south of Hadrian’s Wall’ reinforces the barrier between their two cultures. This imagery enforces Feliks’ acknowledgment that he has little influence on Peter’s culture. Because of the lack of shared ideas and values between the two, Peter cannot connect with his father and consequently drifts further from his Polish heritage as he attempts to seek an Australian identity. Having been educated in Australia, Peter grows up challenging the values and lessons that his father attempts to instill in him. Without a commonality of ideas and values, Peter and Feliks’ relationship struggles to enrich their sense of belonging to each other.

Feliks’ shared migratory experiences with his Polish friends ensures he has a sense of relationship with them:

Although Feliks and his son struggle to belong in each other’s worlds, Feliks’ shared migratory experiences with his friends ensures he belongs to them. It is obvious Feliks does not belong in the same world as Peter, that is, belonging to Australian society. Because Peter speaks English he acts as an interpreter for his father. The exclusion of Feliks from the community is shown through the ‘department clerk’ asking in ‘dancing bear grunts’ whether Feliks ‘ever attempted to learn English’. This question illustrates the discrimination and racism directed at Feliks and immigrants in general. This arises because the Australian community has no sympathy for immigrants as they have no shared experience of being forced to flee their homeland. Because of this discrimination Feliks must search elsewhere to satisfy the fundamental human need to belong. This fulfillment arises through the company shared with ‘his Polish friends’. By embracing shared experiences with other immigrants and reliving memories of their past they are able to create a substitute world in which they belong. Peter observes this when he notices Feliks ‘happy as he has never been’. By embracing shared migratory experiences, Feliks strengthens the relationship with his Polish friends. In doing so, they enrich their sense of belonging to each other.

Although transitory, the immigrants in Migrant Hostel build upon shared experiences to build a sense of relationship between each other:

Immigrants in Skrzynecki’s Migrant Hostel exploit shared experiences in order to build relationships. Although transitory, they achieve a sense of belonging to each other. On arrival in a foreign country, immigrants find comfort through association with others of similar nationality. Skrzynecki implies that it is a natural thing to seek ‘each other out instinctively’. He reinforces this fundamental human need to belong through the use of simile when comparing the immigrants to ‘homing pigeons’. This describes the instinctual desire to be with those speaking the same language and identifying with similar culture. By congregating in these nationality groups, mutual support can be offered, providing comfort amidst the uncertainty of their individual situations. The motif of birds is further explored when the immigrants are compared to ‘birds of passage’. This implies the constancy of their ever changing condition. They achieve a sense of belonging to each other by embracing similar migratory experiences, however accept its transient nature due to this uncertainty. By exploiting shared experiences and embracing common culture, immigrants form relationships which consequently enrich their sense of belonging.

The Immigrants are rejected by society due to lack of understanding of cultural differences:

Shared experiences in Skrzynecki’s Migrant Hostel are further explored through the rejection immigrants confront from society. Without this acceptance by society, immigrants struggle to gain a sense of belonging within the community. The poet’s use of ‘we’ unifies the immigrants regardless of their origin. Through sharing despair, confusion, isolation and frustration the immigrants gain an understanding of ‘us’ against ‘them’. Australian society has not experienced the same events of fleeing their homeland and consequently have no sympathy towards immigrants. The ‘barrier at the main gate’ symbolises the barrier immigrants face when searching for an identity in Australia. The exclusion of immigrants from society is furthered through the imagery of the ‘finger’ which ‘points in reprimand and shame’. This negative personification of bureaucracy shows the exclusion immigrants face by those of authority. Because of the lack of sympathy shown towards these immigrants, they gain an understanding of ‘us’ against ‘them’. This consequently inhibits their sense of belonging.

In the Kite Runner, Baba and his son Amir struggle to maintain a close relationship since they have very little common interests:

Forster’s The Kite Runner explores a relationship between a father and his son where common interests alter their sense of belonging to each other. The protagonist’s father, Baba, was seemingly brought up with strong morals and values, differing to those of his son, Amir. While Amir enjoys reading and writing stories, Baba fears that his son will struggle to ‘stand up for what’s right’. Amir admires his father, whom he views as a role model. His admiration is evident when he shares stories of his father ‘once wrestling a bear’. However, without common interests and experiences the two cannot relate. A mid shot shows Amir sitting writing stories as he considers ‘he hates me’, referring to his father. The film then cuts to another mid shot, with the camera placement now behind Amir. As he looks out the window into a miserable, rainy setting, a point of view sense is created, allowing the viewer to experience Amir’s sense of dislocation to his father. Although Amir and Baba’s relationship is largely negative due to the lack of commonality, the kite fighting tournament acts as a symbol of how their relationship could flourish with shared experiences. Baba won the kite fighting tournament as a child – a feat Amir achieves. During the tournament Baba watches in excitement as a wide shot captures his delight. When the two meet afterwards Baba hugs his son for the first time in the film, exclaiming ‘good job’. This is the first intimacy shown between the two and arises through the fact that they have something in common and further, they can relate to each other. The filial relationship explored in the Kite Runner is largely influenced by shared experiences. This consequently alters their sense of belonging to each other.

Baba and Amir draw upon a shared migratory experience from Afghanistan to America to build an enduring relationship:

After migrating to America, Baba and Amir’s relationship strengthens due to the shared experience of fleeing Afghanistan. Through sharing despair, isolation and confusion an enriched sense of belonging is achieved. Because Amir is older when he and his father immigrate, he is already instilled with his father’s cultural practices. This is evident through Amir’s traditional wedding which takes place. He respects the values he has been brought up with which results in no cultural barrier inhibiting their sense of belonging. Baba’s change in attitude towards his son is shown after Amir graduates from college. Baba exclaims ‘my son, the college graduate’. He continues to say ‘tonight, I’m very happy’ while close up camera shots of Baba shows his proud emotion. Amir’s degree is in writing fiction, which while in Afghanistan Baba was strongly opposed to. Now, in America and because their shared migratory experience has strengthened their relationship, Baba supports his son’s carreer path. This results in Baba and Amir achieving a greater sense of belonging to each other.

Skrzynecki’s poetry and Forster’s film explore many of the same themes concerning their belonging experiences:

Both Skrzynecki and Forster present ideas of belonging through following migrant struggles to find acceptance in a foreign country. The two poems and the film explore how shared experiences affect relationships and consequently a sense of belonging. Both similarities and differences are evident between the three texts. Feliks Skrzynecki and The Kite Runner explore specific filial relationships while Migrant Hostel presents a more general condition that immigrants face. Feliks and Baba are similar characters while Peter and Amir contrast subtlety. The age at which they immigrate impact greatly on the outcome of their relationship and consequently their sense of belonging. Peter immigrates at a younger age and is therefore greatly influenced by the foreign culture. Amir differs as he was older and already following traditional Afghani customs. Because of this he relates better to his father than Peter. This reflects their differing senses of belonging. Migrant Hostel and The Kite Runner reflect how exploiting shared migratory experiences enhances relationships. By congregating in nationality groups and associating with others exposed to similar hardships, mutual support can be offered. Baba and his son embrace their similar migratory experiences which enhances their sense of belonging. Similarly, this occurs with the Skrzyneckis. Many comparisons can be drawn between the three texts with each exploring the hardships immigrants face in foreign countries.

Belonging is fundamental to human survival. The instinctual desire to belong is enriched through relationships and the shared experiences that occur as a result. Having commonalities ensures people can relate to one another and in doing so, enhances their senses of belonging. Skrzynecki’s poems Feliks Skrzynecki and Migrant Hostel and Forsters’s film The Kite Runner explore the connection between shared experiences and their effect on relationships. These relationships then alter a person’s sense of belonging, whether enhancing it or inhibiting it.

Khaled Hosseini’s Other Books:

The Kite Runner Novel by Khaled Hosseini:
“An astounding and humbling story of corruption, guilt and redemption. Epic in scope and intimate in its emotions, this terrific novel opens a window into a devastated country and takes us deep into the hearts and minds of those pierced by violence.”
—Atlanta Journal-Constitution

And the Mountain Echoed

“A powerful book…no frills, no nonsense, just hard, spare prose…an intimate account of family and friendship, betrayal and salvation that requires no atlas or translation to engage and enlighten us.” -The Washington Post Book World

A Thousand Splendid Suns

This novel is an incredible chronicle of thirty years of Afghan history and a deeply moving story of family, friendship, faith, and the salvation to be found in love… A stunning accomplishment, A Thousand Splendid Suns is a haunting, heartbreaking, compelling story of an unforgiving time, an unlikely friendship, and an indestructible love.” – Barnes and Noble

 

Peter Skrzynecki’s ‘Feliks Skrzynecki’ – Thematic Analysis

Perceptions of belonging / not belonging vary: Both Feliks and Peter have different perceptions of belonging in Australia. Feliks considers he doesn’t need to belong to Australian culture and instead connects with his Polish friends and seeks solace in his garden. Peter on the other hand rejects his Polish heritage and chooses to embrace Australian culture.

Perceptions shaped due to context: Feliks finds a sense of belonging with his Polish friends who share contextual experiences of migration and Polish culture. Peter cannot belong due to the context in which he was raised. He was educated in Australia and thus has no link to Polish culture.

Connections made with people, places, groups, communities and the wider world: Feliks finds a strong sense of belonging through his connections with his Polish friends (people), the garden (place) and his cultural heritage.

Belonging is related to relationships: Peter’s relationship with his father is limited due to their lack of shared experiences and cultural division. Feliks, however, finds a sense of belonging with his relationship to his garden and to his Polish friends.

Acceptance: Peter chooses not to accept his Polish culture, instead accepting Australian culture. Feliks does the opposite. He cannot accept Australian culture and continues to embrace his Polish heritage. Feliks grows to accept his son’s choices, acknowledging he will regret his decisions in maturity.

Identity: Peter and Feliks have differing cultural identities which limits their belonging to each other. Peter chooses to embrace an Australian identity, while Feliks rejects such.

Understanding: Peter attempts to come to an understanding of his father and their relationship. Within the poem, Feliks comes to an understanding of his son’s cultural identity. Peter himself comes to the understanding of regret for his rejection of his father and their shared heritage.

Individuals can enrich or challenge belonging: Feliks chooses to embrace his sense of belonging to his garden, his Polish friends and his Polish heritage, however, rejects the desire to belong to Australian culture. Peter challenges his Polish heritage by attempting to enrich his Australian culture.

Attitudes are modified over time: Peter’s attitude changes as he grows to regret how he rejected his Polish heritage. Feliks grows to accept his son’s choices to embrace his Polish heritage, acknowledging he will regret his decisions in maturity.

There may be choices not to belong: Feliks chooses not to belong to Australian culture while Peter chooses not to belong to his Polish culture.

Thematic Analysis

Feliks Skrzynecki details Peter’s reflections on the father he deeply loves and admires. It describes their relationship and how their immigration experience has changed it. The poem explores the conflict that arises as a result of Peter becoming embedded in Australian culture, choosing to oppose his Polish heritage. The information the responder receives of Feliks comes through Peter’s memories. Peter recognises in his maturity that his father understood the gap that had developed between them and knew that he would one day treasure his heritage after his initial dislocation.

Analysis:

The poem opens with Peter instantly providing positive connotations of his father, writing “My gentle father”. The use of the personal pronoun establishes their filial relationship where Peter continues to describe his father’s connection with his garden. The garden acts as Feliks’ place of solace and refuge in a foreign country. Peter considers his father “Loved his garden like and only child”. Here the use of simile and emotive language presents the strong connection Feliks hold with the place of the garden. Furthermore, Peter’s hyperbolic language describing how “He swept its paths//Ten times around the world” shows his comfort while in its surrounds. This also provides an image of Feliks’ migration journey around the world. Peter also comments here on his father’s desire to exclude himself from the foreign Australian culture for he “Spent years walking its perimeter//From sunrise to sleep”. Peter employs the use of alliteration and hyperbole to explore his desire to be in the garden. The connotations associated with Peter’s discussion of the “perimeter” imply Feliks’ position being on the outside of society. However, Feliks is not deterred with his exclusion from Australian society as his garden fills this void.

Peter continues to provide hardworking attributes of his father. He employs powerful visual imagery and simile to portray his “Hands darkened// Like the sods he broke”. This ensures he is a hardworking and stoic figure who is rewarded through physical activity. The images of the hands of a powerful manual worker reveal the safety and security achieved by physical labour. Peter describes his father’s action in a way which implies he wishes to emulate his father but the unfamiliarity of his actions prevents a connection between the two. This is shown through his use of hyperbolic imagery as he questions “Why his arms didn’t fall off”. There is an obvious dislocation between the two which is explored further in the following stanza.

Peter continues to describe his father’s relationship with “His Polish friends”. Here, positive connotations show that Feliks feels comfortable with these men; however, Peter’s unfamiliarity with them still exists. This is shown through the hyperbolic imagery once more as they “Always shook hands too violently”. This unusual behaviour enforces a cultural disconnection between Peter and his father. Feliks feels comfortable as “they reminisced//About farms where paddocks flowered”. The positive connotations associated with their Polish life before the war shows a sense of them belonging together through the pleasant memories of their past. Peter’s use of third person here enforces his exclusion from the conversation. Because Peter has not experienced life in Poland and does not have such memories he cannot culturally connect with his father or his father’s polish friends. Feliks belongs to his Polish friends because of shared memories and experiences; however, to Peter this is an unknown world which prevents a sense of belonging between them.

Peter describes that a fundamental reason that he and his father cannot connect is because he chooses to embrace Australian culture while his father is limited to his Polish culture only. He describes his father’s attempts to instil Polish heritage within him where it was “inherited unknowingly”. Peter’s inversion of the sentence effectively emphasises the negative connotations associated with “unknowingly”. At this stage in his childhood Peter wished not to belong to his father’s culture, rather he wished to belong to Australian culture while his father was unwillingly to adapt to Australian ways. He is discriminated against for this. This is presented as the “department clerk asked in dancing bear grunts: ‘Did your father ever attempt to learn English?’” Here, Peter employs demeaning visual imagery of the department clerk to criticise society of its discriminating ways. This also helps to understand why Peter wished to belong to Australian culture – so he wouldn’t be racially vilified.

The tone changes towards the final stanzas of the poem as Feliks begins to regret the division between his father and himself. He presents his father as content and “happy as I have never been”. The use of first person creates an emotional sense of regret. His father is happy sitting in the garden he spent so many years moulding. Peter, however, recognises he cannot share this contentment because of the division he created as a child. Although there was a cultural division created due to the lack of shared memories and experiences, Peter completely rejected his father and instead embraced Australian culture.

The final stanza enforces this regret. As a child, Peter focused on “tenses in Caesar’s Gallic War”. This literary allusion to a Latin text shows that Peter was content on studying Latin, regarded as a dead language than the enriching lessons of his father. Although Feliks attempted to instil his son with Polish culture when “I forgot my first Polish word//He repeated it so I never forgot”, Peter in his maturity acknowledges that Feliks could do nothing about the cultural divide. Instead, he watched “like a dumb prophet” as peter pegged his tents “further south of Hadrian’s Wall” Peter’s use of simile and symbolism illustrates the cultural barriers that emerged. Furthermore, he acknowledges that his father always knew that his son would one day regret choosing not to belong to his culture.

Essay Questions:

2011: Explore how perceptions of belonging and not belonging can be influenced by connections to places. In your response, refer to your prescribed text and at least ONE other related text of your choosing.

The need to belong is an innate and fundamental process of human existence which can be influenced through a person’s connections they hold with places. This is masterfully presented in Peter Skrzynecki’s Feliks Skrzynecki where his poem is constructed to explore the way migrants find a sense of belonging to places in a foreign country.

– Feliks belongs to his garden… it is where he finds solace and comfort and a place where his physical work provides safety and security.

“Loved his garden like an only child”, “swept its paths ten times around the world”, “spent years walking its perimeter from sunrise to sleep”, “hands darkened from the sods he broke”

– Feliks belongs to Poland through memories and the shared experiences he has with his polish friends… This is a positive sense of belonging he does not have for Australia. Peter does not belong to Poland and therefore, because of this connection and non-connection to place the two experience a division in their filial relationship.

“His Polish friends always shook hands too violently”, “they reminisced about farms where paddocks flowered”

– Feliks is discriminated against by Australian society and therefore, Feliks does not belong to Australia. The prejudice of bureaucracy ensures he chooses not to belong to Australia.

“Department clerk asked in dancing bear grunts: ‘Did your father ever attempt to learn English?’”

2010: ‘An individual’s interaction with others and the world around them can enrich or limit their experience of belonging.’ Discuss this view with detailed reference to your prescribed text and ONE other related text of your choosing.

The need to belong is an innate and fundamental process of human existence which can be enriched or limited through an individual’s relationships with others. This is masterfully explored in Peter Skrzynecki’s Feliks Skrzynecki where his poem is constructed to explore the ways shared experiences and interactions can enrich or limit a sense of belonging.

– Feliks and Peter’s lack of cultural similarity ensures they do not belong to each other… this arises because of the lack of shared experiences… Feliks belongs to his polish heritage and culture which Peter rejects… thus they cannot interact culturally.

“Department clerk asked in dancing bear grunts: Has your father ever attempted to learn English?’” Australian culture discriminates against Feliks… Peter is a part of Australian society and thus this represents also his opposition to Feliks culture. “a language I inherited unknowingly”

– Feliks’ interaction with his Polish friends ensures he feels a sense of belonging with them… They have shared experiences through memories of Poland and the migration journey. Peter, however, does not share these same experiences and thus cannot belong to them.

“His Polish friends always shook hands too violently”, “they reminisced about paddocks where paddocks flowered”

2009: ‘Understanding nourishes belonging. A lack of understanding prevents it.’ Demonstrate how your prescribed text and ONE other related text of your own choosing represents this interpretation of belonging.

The need to belong is an innate and fundamental process of human existence where its nourishment can be obtained through gaining an understanding of those around you. On the other hand, without understanding a sense of belonging can be lost. This is masterfully presented in Peter Skrzynecki’s Feliks Skrzynecki where aspects of both understanding and not understanding are explored, showing the effects of such on achieving a sense of belonging.

– In writing the poem Peter attempts to come to an understanding of his filial relationship with Feliks. He describes how the lack of similarity between them ensures a lack of understanding. As a consequence Peter and his father cannot belong to each other.

“Why his arms didn’t fall off”, “His Polish friends always shook hands too violently”, “talking they reminisced about farms where paddocks flowered”

– In his maturity, Peter comes to understand his relationship with his father. He understands that he regrets not embracing their similar cultures. Feliks gained an understanding that he couldn’t force his heritage upon his son but acknowledged that his son would one day regret his decisions.

“Happy as I have never been”, “like a dumb prophet watched me pegging my tents further and further south of Hadrian’s Wall”

2009: What do you think are the most powerful influences that impact on an individual’s sense of belonging?

The need to belong is an innate and fundamental process of human existence where the shared experiences between individuals provide a powerful influence on their sense of belonging. This is masterfully presented in Peter Skrzynecki’s Feliks Skrzynecki where his poem is constructed to explore the filial relationship between the poet and his father where their lack of shared experiences inhibits their sense of belonging.

– The lack of cultural similarity due to the lack of shared experiences ensure Peter and Feliks cannot belong in each other’s worlds. Peter admires his father for his hardworking and stoic personality. He wishes to emulate this; however, their cultural dislocation prevents this and consequently their sense of belonging to each other. Peter embraces Australian culture while Feliks rejects such, instead remaining content on his Polish heritage.

“My gentle father”, “hands darkened like the sods he broke”, “stumbling over tenses in Caesar’s Gallic War”

– Feliks’ shared migratory experience and memories of Poland with his Polish friends ensures he finds a sense of belonging to them. Peter, however, does not share the same experiences with these men and therefore he cannot connect with them.

“His Polish friends always shook hand too violently”, “they reminisced about farms where paddocks flowered”