Inuit Diasporas Frankenstein and the Inuit in England.pdf

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					                                          Karen Piper

                         Inuit Diasporas:
               Frankenstein and the Inuit in England

In 1818, when Mary Shelley published the            well as the threat of their arrival in England if
first edition of Frankenstein, the Isabella and      increased communication were to occur. Just as
Alexander set forth from England on a journey       John Sackhouse had once arrived as a stowaway
of exploration to the North Pole, carrying a        on British shores, so Frankenstein’s creature is
Greenlandic Inuit from Disko Island by the          a stranger who must be incorporated in – or
name of John Sackhouse. Sackhouse, who had          rejected from – European culture.4 In the novel,
previously stowed away on a whaler from             the ‘birth’ of the creature in Europe could be
Greenland to Scotland, would serve as the           said to represent cultural fears of the invasion
translator on this voyage, enabling                 of the ‘primitive’ in ‘civilized’ society, or the
communication with the Inuit people along           arrival of the colonized, in search of revenge,
the way.1 While the Isabella and Alexander          on the shores of the colonizer.
were searching for a Northwest Passage across          Since the late sixteenth century, ‘Esquimaux
northern America, the Dorothea and Trent            Indians’ from Greenland to Alaska had been
headed ‘across the north pole’, hoping to meet      captured by British explorers and carried back
the Isabella and Alexander at the Bering            to England, where they were generally
Strait.2 At the time, it was believed that the      presented as novelties to the King or Queen. In
North Pole was ‘free of ice’, making a meeting      1576, Martin Frobisher captured a Greenlandic
like this possible. Mary Shelley, an avid reader    Inuit who was later described in London as
of the Quarterly Review between 1816 and            ‘such a wonder unto the whole city and to the
1820, followed speculations surrounding these       rest of the realm that heard of it’ (Oswalt, 27).
journeys in preparation for writing                 In 1578, Eskimos captured off Baffin Island
Frankenstein.3 Frankenstein, in fact, could be      were given permission by the Queen to hunt
said to capitalize on the suspense and widely       swans on the Thames River. In 1605, an Inuit
popular appeal of these journeys. Perhaps not       performed before the King and Queen of
coincidentally, the release of her novel appeared   Denmark, racing their traditional kayaks
to be timed to coincide with the advent of these    against a Danish boat.5 By the late eighteenth
infamous expeditions to the North. Besides          century, discussions of these ‘Esquimaux
being captivated by the expeditions themselves,     Indians’ peppered the pages of books and
the English public had long been fascinated by      journals ranging from the Quarterly Review to
Greenlandic Inuits and Eskimos. I would argue       John Pinkerton’s famous collection, A General
that, in Frankenstein, the creature himself came    Collection of the Best and Most Interesting
to represent these inhabitants of the North, as     Voyages and Travels in all Parts of the World.
64                                        Romanticism

Central to discussions of these Arctic              Oriental texts upon western minds’ (256).8
inhabitants was the issue of appearance;            One need only look at the list of books read
lengthy anthropological-style essays were           in Frankenstein (The Arabian Nights, Ruins
written by explorers such as James Cook on          of Empire, Lives of the Noble Greeks and
what an ‘Eskimo’ looks like and what                Romans), or the subplot of Safie’s family, to
differentiates an Eskimo from other Indians or      find Orientalism. Anne Mellor has also pointed
indigenous peoples. As contact with indigenous      out that the Godwin and Shelley families were
peoples from around the world increased, a          intimately versed in the language of Empire.
physiognomic hierarchy (connected to an             Mellor uses Shelley’s description of the
ethical hierarchy) began to be established in       creature’s ‘yellow skin’ to suggest that this
England between indigenous peoples from             coincides with current discourse about the
different parts of the world. Mary Shelley, as      Bengalis, but ‘yellow’ skin was also used to
an avid reader of The Quarterly Review, would       describe the Samis of the North. I will argue,
have been quite familiar with the almost            in fact, that the creature’s identity is much
obsessive discourse about inhabitants of the        more clearly linked to discourses surrounding
North.                                              the ‘problem’ of indigeneity and European
   What is missing from Frankenstein, then, is      ‘discovery’, primarily in the Arctic and the
this very discourse about indigenous people in      Americas, than to the discourse of Orientalism.
both the Quarterly Review and Pinkerton’s           And yet, even Shelley sublimates her own
Collection, both of which Mary Shelley read in      engagement in this discourse about the Inuit
preparation for writing Frankenstein. Warren        and Eskimo by presenting us, instead, with a
Montag has commented on the strange                 creature, an ‘Arctic’ sighting that begins this
‘absence of the proletariat’ in Frankenstein,       terrible and ‘unnatural’ tale. For this reason,
suggesting that the creature is an encapsulated     it has been difficult for critics to make this
representation of these missing masses in the       connection between monstrosity and
text.6 I would suggest, instead, that a more        indigeneity, which I will suggest characterizes
glaring omission is that of the indigenous          Frankenstein.
subjects of the Arctic, who were continually           The first description of the creature in
encountered by Arctic explorers. And, just as       Frankenstein comes from Walton, who claims
Mary Shelley overlooked these subjects, so          that he saw something that looked like ‘a
have critics who have written on Frankenstein       savage inhabitant of some undiscovered island’
since its publication. In fact, critics largely     while his ship was trapped in the ice.9 The
overlooked Shelley’s polar readings until           creature was heading north on a sledge, at the
recently, when Jessica Richard published ‘“A        time, demonstrating his superior preparation
Paradise of My Own Creation”: Frankenstein          and ability to navigate through the ice. His
and the Improbable Romance of Polar                 physical appearance is described in detail later
Exploration’. Surprisingly, even Richard            in the novel: ‘His yellow skin scarcely covered
completely overlooks the indigenous people          the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his
that are in these readings, in a sense recreating   hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his
Shelley’s erasure.7 Other critics have focused on   teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these
Orientalist discourse in the novel, particularly    luxuriances only formed a more horrid
about the Middle East and India. Joseph Lew         contrast with his watery eyes … his shriveled
writes that Frankenstein is ‘highly conscious       complexion and straight black lips’ (Shelley,
of the Orient and Orientalist discourse’ and        58). This description is hauntingly similar to
is particularly ‘obsessed with the impact of        the way that explorers described the
                                            Inuit Diasporas                                            65

inhabitants of Greenland in Pinkerton’s               Isaac Pontanus claimed that a Laplander
Collection. In 1697, Thomas Allison saw Inuit         ‘walked so quickly that it was perfectly
men running away from him on two occasions;           astonishing’ and ‘the sailors imagined there was
the second time, the men ‘ran for it upon the         a little witchcraft in the business’ (Pinkerton, i.
snow’ and Allison recounted that ‘two of which        126). Like the Laplanders, Shelley’s creature
our men could in no wise overtake, but the            also appears to have a superhuman strength, as
other they caught’.10 These men were described        well as the ability to endure ‘incalculable
as ‘broad and square built’ with ‘the head large      fatigue, and cold, and hunger’ (Shelley, 162).
in proportion to the body, a flat face, black and      For instance, he is described as better adapted to
tolerably open eyes’ and ‘a large mouth, and          life in the Arctic. The creature leads Victor to
thin lips’. ‘Their hair’,’ Allison continued,         the Arctic, stating, ‘Follow me; I seek the
‘which is as black as jet, but extremely hard and     everlasting ices of the north, where you will
strong, hangs from their shoulders and is very        feel the misery of cold and frost, to which I am
sleek: their complexion is of a yellow brown’         impassive’ (171). He also provides survival
(Pinkerton, i. 527). Danish missionary Knud           lessons to Victor along the way, at one point
Leems wrote that the Laplanders (now Sami)            leaving a ‘dead hare’ for Victor and thus
had a ‘dark and swarthy complexion’, ‘hollow          keeping him alive for his journey. Victor finally
cheeks’, and ‘waterish eyes’, noting that the         arrives at the Arctic Ocean and stops to thank
problem of teary eyes was probably due to both        ‘my guiding spirit for conducting me in safety
the constant smoke inside their tents and the         to the place where I hoped, notwithstanding my
blowing snow outside (Pinkerton, i. 302). The         adversary’s gibe, to meet and grapple with him’
Laplander, above all else, was constantly noted       (171). Ironically, his ‘guiding spirit’ in this case
for his or her ‘ugliness’. M. Regnard wrote,          had also been the creature. The true act of
‘Generally speaking, it is certain, that all the      heroism, therefore, is to overcome the creature
Laplanders, male and female, are horribly ugly;       in alien territory, despite the creature’s help
and very much resemble monkeys’ (Pinkerton,           and superior adaptation to that place. This is
i. 193). M. Maupertius similarly wrote, ‘It is        also a common ‘first contact’ colonial narrative.
impossible to exaggerate on their ugliness’           A further difficulty, for the colonizer, becomes
(Pinkerton, i. 257). Similarly, the chief attribute   erasing sympathy for the colonized when
of the Shelley’s creature is his uglinessæ‘a          he/she has been feeding or housing the invader.
mummy endued with animation could not be              This is also Victor’s struggle, as he is kept alive
so hideous as that wretch’.                           by the creature only in order to chase him
    If the Laplanders are described as ugly,          down and kill him. Throughout the book, he
however, they are also purported to have              vacillates between revulsion and sympathy –
‘amazing strength’ and dexterity. Leems               not only because the creature is dependent on
described them as ‘a hardy race, capable of           him, perhaps, but also because he becomes
fatigue and cold, beyond the belief of any man’       dependent on the creature.
(Pinkerton, i. 302). Besides endurance, the              Farley Mowat, in The Polar Passion, claims
Laplanders were constantly noted for their            that the ‘the Eskimo story is integral to the
speed. Regnard wrote, ‘the Laplanders run with        other accounts since, without the physical
such remarkable swiftness, that no animal, even       assistance of the Eskimos, and without the
the fleetest, can escape them’ (Pinkerton, i.          object lessons in adaptation provided by them,
158). Leems wrote, ‘They travel over the very         European accomplishments in the Arctic would
highest mountains by the swiftest speed, and          probably have been minuscule’.11 Yet, for
faster than thought’ (Pinkerton, i. 380). John        Europeans to admit to their dependence on
66                                        Romanticism

Arctic people’s knowledge (or even presence)        would be a ‘fundamental’ foe of ‘our race’?
would preclude their heroic discourse of            Given that Walton is engaging in a competitive
‘discovery’ – therefore, explorer narratives        struggle to uncover a potentially lucrative
about indigenous people were typically              passage for trade with the Orient, these
ambivalent, exaggerating the danger or              ‘elemental foes’ may be either colonial
difference of the Arctic inhabitant. In I May       competitors or even the indigenous or
Be Some Time: Ice in the English Imagination,       colonized peoples of the British Empire. Also,
the Arctic historian Francis Spufford wrote:        ‘race’ takes on a double meaning here. Is it the
‘The European perception of polar travel as         human ‘race’ he is referring to, or the Anglo-
an activity wholly separateæin mood and             Saxon race? In a time of colonial expansion,
technique, aims and expertiseæfrom the              these ‘elemental foes’ may be precisely the
Inuit experience of inhabiting the Arctic, also     indigenous Other over which ‘dominion’ must
indicates that the spectacle of the Inuit, living   be asserted. Is it the creature, whom Victor also
their domestic lives in a place Europeans           calls ‘my foe’, who is the true ‘elemental foe’ of
considered heroic for reaching, aroused a degree    this tale (173)? I would suggest that it is both –
of tension’.12 If the Inuit is necessary for        nature and the creature – for one becomes
survival in Arctic, he/she must also be erased      inseparable from the other by the end of the
from the narrative in order for it to remain        narrative. The creature, in this sense,
‘heroic’æit is precisely the domesticity of the     incorporates the elements, representing the
indigenous inhabitant that must be eliminated       conflation of body and place, and the acts of
in order to preserve that polarization between      heroism in the tale all become wrapped up in
the domestic ‘tranquility’ of the European          ‘grappling’ with this foe.
home and the dangerous realm heroically                Still, the elements must be ‘overcome’, or in
confronted by the Arctic explorer. In a similar     the case of the creature, eliminated. As Victor
fashion, Shelley may be said to represent this      chases the creature to the North, this because
quintessential ambivalence by suppressing the       his only goal as he pushes Walton forward. On
indigenous peoples of the Arctic in telling         5 September, Walton becomes ‘immured in ice’
Walton’s tale, until they emerge ‘unnaturally’      (177). Victor, in an artfully deceptive speech,
in monstrous proportions.                           tries to convince the men to keep going – even
   There is a kind of conflation that occurs,        though he had previously condemned the
throughout Frankenstein, between the creature       voyage altogether. He says to the sailors: ‘You
and the dangerous ‘elements’ of the Arctic, as if   were hereafter to be hailed as the benefactors of
equating the creature with nature also a way to     your species; your names adored, as belonging
sublimate his significance. For instance, at one     to brave men who encountered death for
point Walton explains that his goal is gaining      honour, and the benefit of mankind. … Return
dominion over the ‘elemental foes of our race’      as heroes who have fought and conquered, and
– but what ‘foes’ signifies is ambiguous. Walton     who know not what it is to turn their backs on
says to Victor, ‘One man’s life or death were       the foe’ (178). Although Victor is partly lying
but a small price to pay for the acquirement        to get the crew to keep going, he also appears to
of the knowledge which I sought; for the            be moved by his own speech as he gains ‘an eye
dominion I should acquire and transmit over         so full of lofty design and heroism’ (179).
the elemental foes of our race’ (35). ‘Elemental’   Could it be that Victor is recollecting,
may be read in the sense of the natural world       nostalgically, his own desire for fame? Victor
(e.g. ice floes or oceans) or it may mean            also makes an association between his own
‘fundamental’ or ‘basic’. Who, in this case,        scientific pursuits and Walton’s quest for
                                          Inuit Diasporas                                         67

knowledge, claiming, ‘I have myself been            that Shelley was reading at the time, ranging
blasted in these hopes, yet another may             from Cook’s expeditions to Leem’s missionary
succeed’ (181). Victor’s experiment had created     narratives to Daniel Defoe’s portrayal of
another living, speaking ‘race’, which              ‘cannibals’ in Robinson Crusoe. Shelley’s
interrupted his heroic narrative of scientific       readings on the West Indies, including tales
discovery and caused him instead to become          of the native Caribs and Arawaks, were
caught up in the problem of the creature. But       particularly extensive.13 Just as Shelley’s
Walton, with his chance to destroy the creature,    reading transitorily jumped from place to place,
still has the chance to overcome Victor’s failure   so the creature appears quite homeless in the
by making a discovery in the North that is          novel – seemingly equally comfortable in
untainted by the problem of indigeneity. He         South America or the Arctic. (He is ‘born’ in
still has a chance to ‘not turn his back on the     Europe, wants to live in South America, but
foe’ and thus destroy the creature. Walton, in      travels to the Arctic.) The creature’s
essence, inherits the possibility of discursively   adaptability to different countries and
‘killing’ the creature, or eliminating the          languages may represent what was often
indigenous subject from the European narrative      described as the nomadic nature of indigenous
of fame and accomplishment.                         subjects. Sir Hugh Willoughby, in 1556,
   Yet Walton is not able to produce this           described the inhabitants of Northern Russia in
noble sacrifice and ensure the creature’s death.     this fashion: ‘They live in a manner a wild and
He laments, ‘I had rather die than return           savage life, roving still from one place of the
shamefully,æand my purpose unfulfilled. Yet I        country to another, without any property or
fear such will be my fate; the men, unsupported     house or land more to one than to another’
by ideas of glory and honour, can never             (Pinkerton, i. 65). But the creature’s lack of a
willingly continue’ (179). Walton, while            homeland could also suggest that he is a
engaged in a quest for a passage across the pole,   composite of various global discourses about
also inherits Victor’s responsibility to destroy    indigeneity. For instance, though the creature is
the creatureæand he fails. By allowing              first seen in Arctic, Walton first describes him
indigeneity to survive at the end of her tale,      as ‘a savage inhabitant of some undiscovered
Shelley exposes a foil to the enterprise of         island’, suggesting a South Pacific origin (33).
Empire, from which she may have also felt           What is most significant about the creature,
excluded as a woman. The creature, in this          however, is that, wherever he is, he does not
sense, is her barb to men’s vanity. Like John       belong there. The very fact that he has been
Sackhouse, who jumped on a boat to Scotland,        sighted by a European reveals, in this text,
there remains the threat, at the end of the         that he needs to be further away – or dead.
novel, that the creature will return to England        And so the creature is always chased into
… and that the North can never be conquered.        the woods or the wilderness, perpetually on the
And if, indeed, the creature is ‘monstrous’ and     fringes of European civilization, whether in the
not benign, then the ‘problem’ of indigeneity       Arctic or Europe. He survives on ‘berries, nuts,
may again enter England, poaching swans along       and roots’, and the very superiority of his
the Thames, or killing women in their beds.         ability to survive makes him appear dangerous
   The descriptions of the creature, in             and suspect. By pursuing Victor in his travels,
Frankenstein, vacillate between the colonial        ‘hiding’ and ‘loitering’ and ‘following’, the
discourses of the noble savage, the ‘civilized’     creature plays into the European fears that
savage, and the cannibal. This vacillation          these ‘savage’ inhabitants may someday be
demonstrates the extent of explorer narratives      found peering into the very windows of the
68                                          Romanticism

warm, English household. Victor’s response to         repressed desire for the natural freedom and
the creature’s presence ultimately reveals the        ease of indigenous cultures. He explains further
fear that the indigenous people of the world are      that some of the more common tropes or
lurking everywhere, in every dark cave and            desires are ‘a free and natural sexuality …
forest and desert heath. They are to be found in      a society living in ease and abundance, and
the wilderness, wherever that may beæand if           in complete harmony with its natural
they are capable of watching from the woods,          surroundings’ (127). Similarly, discourses about
they are also capable of desiring and invading        the Sami published in John Pinkerton’s
British life. Indeed, if England’s colonial           volumes argued that the Sami were peaceful
attitude involved a sense of inherent                 and harmless. In ‘A New Account of
superiority, it would only seem natural that the      Samoiedia’, the author argues that the Sami
colonized would one day desire this superior          ‘vegetate in tranquillity, amusing themselves
lifestyle and would resort to violence to get it.     after their manner, stretched on reindeer skins
Throughout Frankenstein, therefore, the reader        spread around the fire’. ‘The sweets of idleness
is given the feeling that there must be no            supply the place of the passions’, the author
contact – or even exchanges of looks – between        concludes: ‘This love of idleness is one of the
the creature and the ‘civilized’ world. Because       principal features by which the uninformed
looking, in this text, is often lusting.              man, left to nature alone, is recognized’
   The fact that the creature’s dream is a mate       (Pinkerton, i. 528). At another point, he argues,
brings this threat of ‘lust’ to the forefront of      ‘From all that has been said, it will be seen that
the novel. Regarding this issue, Victor’s             they know no other wants than those of simple
narrative about the creature alternates between       nature; namely food, the enjoyment of woman,
what David Spurr, in The Rhetoric of Empire,          and rest’ (Pinkerton, i. 533). The creature’s
has called ‘debasement’ and the ‘idealization’,       speech seems to provide a justification for why
which was typical of explorer narratives of the       the ‘savages’ of the new world should be
time. When the creature asks Victor to create a       allowed to liveæthey are peaceful, will keep to
mate for him, he offers to move to the ‘vast          themselves, and enjoy and free and innocent
wilds of South America’, where he will survive        kind of sexuality.
on ‘acorns and berries’ (125–6). The image the           This sentiment was often accompanied by an
creature gives is of a sort of noble savage of the    almost paternal attitude towards the colonized,
new world. ‘We shall make our bed of dried            which is a feeling shared by Victor in the novel.
leaves’, the creature claims, ‘the sun will shine     In the British Parliament, it was often claimed
on us as on man, and will ripen our food. The         that England had been given the ‘trusteeship of
picture I present to you is peaceful and human,       the weaker races’, which is what Victor initially
and you must feel that you could deny it only         feels about the creature. Spurr claims that sense
in the wantonness of power and cruelty’ (126).        of trusteeship stems from the British beliefs in
This description reads much like Heman                ‘a natural aristocracy’ and ‘the racial
Melville’s later idealization of the natives of the   superiority of the Anglo-Saxons’ (114). But the
Marquesas Islands in Typee (1846), who lived          British sense of moral responsibility towards
life ‘in an atmosphere of perpetual summer, and       those who were considered less civilized was
nurtured by the simple fruits of the earth,           always trumped by a responsibility to the
enjoying a perfect freedom from care and              civilized. And so Victor similarly decides, when
anxiety’.14                                           contemplating the creature’s presence in
   Spurr claims that this recurrent idealization      England among his friends and family, that the
of the native in colonial literature is based in a    ‘duties towards the beings of my own species
                                            Inuit Diasporas                                             69

had greater claims to my attention’ (180).            southward. … They agree too in representing
Even if the natives are friendly, they are still      them to be, what most savages are, cunning,
considered inferior. The Quarterly Review was         treacherous and cruel’ (‘A Voyage’, 300).
taking up this argument in 1814, as Von Buch          Although indigenous people were seen as
suggested, ‘A free and happy man in a civilized       stronger than Europeans, they were also
state is a much more respectable and                  treacherous. But, on top of this, they were
distinguished being than a free and happy             repeatedly said to live miserable lives, rather
Samoyede’.15 If, indeed, the indigenous subjects      than idyllic ones. According to Spurr ‘misery
of America were seen as harmless, even                and abnegation’ are often signs of moral
childlike, in their ‘simple’ desires for sunlight     degeneracy in colonial discourse, so that ‘the
and food, this image evoked a sense of Europe’s       physical suffering of indigenous peoples can
responsibility to ‘protect’ them as an inferior       be associated with their moral and intellectual
race. However, the moral of Frankenstein              degradation’ (78). Maupertuis described the
appears to be that this image is merely a ruse,       Sami thus: ‘a race of men who live like beasts in
or disguise, of ‘savages’ who are ultimately not      the forests. … The rigour of the climate, and
to be trusted and must be killed. If the              the barrenness of the land, have destined it for
colonized subject has the potential to be the         the retreat of a few miserable wretches who
‘innocent’ or ‘edenic’ ideal of British society,      know no other’ (Pinkerton, i. 255). Indigenous
he or she also has the potential to have the          people of the North were described as living in
qualities of the ‘savageædishonesty, suspicion,       a kind of misery that creates moral degeneracy
superstition, lack of self-discipline’ (Spurr, 76).   – thus justifying their slaughter. Similarly, in
Spurr ties this production of the ‘savage’ to an      Frankenstein, while the vision of South
ancient Hebrew discourse of the ‘accursed             American pleasures causes Victor to want to
races’, such as the offspring of Cain, Ham, and       supply a mate for the creature, the physical
Ishmael, who could be characterized by having         image of the creature’s suffering face
these marks: ‘the homeless life of the hunter,        ultimately causes Victor to destroy this very
linguistic confusion, and physical aberration in      mate. Could it be, then, that the dilemma in
both color and size’ (77). Aside from ‘linguistic     Frankenstein is less about whether or not to
confusion’ (the creature masters language with        create creatures than whether or not to destroy
ease) this fits the representation of the creature     them?
in Frankenstein.                                         The beatific image of a ‘new race’ in the new
   The British populace was caught up in this         world is counterposed continually with its
debate over the ‘savagery’ versus ‘innocence’ of      opposite: a ‘race’ of killers. Victor asks, ‘Shall I,
the colonized at the time, as evidenced by the        in cool blood, set loose upon the earth a demon,
Quarterly Review. In 1814, an article suggested       whose delight is in death and wretchedness?’
that public opinion was swinging toward the           (142). And ultimately he makes the decision
notion of ‘savagery’ as a dangerous threat:           to destroy the creature because of the superior
‘the virtues and comforts of the savage state         claims of his own race. What is interesting
have now ceased to be the theme of modern             about Victor’s decision to destroy the creature’s
philosophers’.16 Summarizing the reports of           mate is that the face of the creature himself
travelers about the indigenous people of              ultimately provokes this action, as if Victor
Northern coasts, the Quarterly Review wrote,          can read the true intentions in the very
‘They are an active, intelligent, and courageous      physiognomy of the creature, whose words
race of men; their size, shape, and physical          may be conciliatory but whose face speaks of
powers far exceeding those to the northward or        crime. Weighing the arguments for and against
70                                           Romanticism

the life of the creature in his mind, Victor          conversely, it may be contested that Victor
happens to look out the window and sees the           actually chases the creature out of Europe. The
creature. Shelley describes this scene:               creature remains incredible in Europe, so much
                                                      so that Victor refuses again and again to reveal
     I trembled, and my heart failed within me;
                                                      his secret for fear that the ‘astounding horror’
     when, on looking up, I saw by the light of
                                                      of his tale would be looked on as ‘madness’
     the moon, the demon at the casement. A
                                                      (74). While Victor is in Europe, the creature
     ghastly grin wrinkled his lips as he gazed on
                                                      may reside only in his own mind, as a form of
     me, where I sat fulfilling the task which he
                                                      insubstantial madness – the Eskimo does not
     had allotted to me. Yes, he had followed me
                                                      belong in England. In fact, there is what Spurr
     in my travels; he had loitered in forests, hid
                                                      calls a kind of ‘interiorization of savagery’ (77)
     himself in caves, or taken refuge in wide and
                                                      that takes place for Victor and the creature in
     desert heaths; and he now came to mark my
                                                      Europe. Victor and the creature become one,
     progress. (141)
                                                      and the creature threatens to destroy Victor’s
It is both a fear of the creature’s mobility and of   sanity. Spurr writes, ‘The interiorization of
the sinister grin on his face that leads Victor to    savagery does not simply replace a concept of
destroy his mate. If looking is equated with          the savage as out there, but rather takes place
lusting, in this novel, then the creature’s look      simultaneously with a process of symbolic
is enough to warrant his death and that of his        elaboration that objectified savagery, wildness,
mate. Victor determines to destroy the                and animality in other human beings’ (77). But
creature’s mate, as well as the creature, for fear    as they reach the North, the creature becomes a
that a ‘race of devils would be propagated upon       substantial adversary that Victor can grapple
the earth’ (140). Victor, even in the end, defends    with – he is credible in his ‘native’ element.
his decision to destroy the creature. ‘I feel         Victor explains this transformation to Walton:
myself justified in desiring the death of my           ‘Were we among the tamer scenes of nature, I
adversary’, he says to Walton (180). Victor’s         might fear to encounter your unbelief, perhaps
decision is ultimately based upon racial              your ridicule; but many things will appear
politicsæbecause of the believed superiority of       possible in these wild and mysterious regions,
his ‘own species’, it is not worth even taking        which would provoke laughter of those
the chance that the childlike savages may be          unacquainted with the ever-varied powers of
friendly. The creature proves, in this moment,        nature’ (37). Only in the wilderness can these
that he will always be hovering and watching          dreams emerge as the objectified image of the
outside, lusting for more. It is the creature’s       ‘savage’. In Europe, the creature has no
look that ultimately leads Victor to conclude:        meaning, except as the dark unconscious
‘During these last days I have been occupied in       (the ‘madness’) of Victor.
examining my past conduct; nor do I find it               The creature continually vacillates, in
blameable’ (180).                                     Frankenstein, between being out there and
   The moment of “first contact” in the novel          in there: in England, in the house, and
was when the creature first opened his eyes.           evenæstrangelyæin Victor’s mind. With his
Now, in seeing the monster’s gaze, Victor may         superior adaptability and homelessness, he can
be reminded of that moment, which he does not         be anywhere, including the imagination. He
want to recreate with the mate. So, instead, he       threatens to take over Victor’s sanity and
begins the journey to destroy the creature. On        destroy even that. Spurr claims the discovery
the one hand, the creature may be said to             and colonization of indigenous cultures led to a
successfully lead Victor out of Europe; but           concurrent and ‘progressive despatialization of
                                            Inuit Diasporas                                         71

the concept of wildness’ (77) – taking over the       Arcticæbut for Shelley, writing from England
European’s imagination. ‘Wildness’ and                as a woman, it becomes doubly hard to tell the
‘savagery’, which were once seen as belonging         tale. Shelley explains that the question ‘so
to uncivilized cultures, became descriptors for a     frequently asked’ of her is, ‘“How I, then a
kind of ‘primitivism’ that could take over even       young girl, came to think of, and to dilate upon,
the colonizer’s mind. Primitive impulses were         so very hideous an idea?” It is true that I am
suddenly always lurking within, even as               very averse to bringing myself forward in
primitives were being eliminated abroad. In           print’ (19). The question, here, is not only
Frankenstein, the creature represents this            whether her thoughts are dangerous, but
despatialization of savagery, even to the point       whether it is appropriate for a woman to
of becoming read as Victor’s double. In this          expose these thoughts to the public. But what
sense, once he has created (or encountered) the       is even more baffling is that, unlike Victor,
monster, Victor can never really kill him …           Shelley appears to nurture this wild
but only push him out to the far reaches of           fantasyæher own monsteræin the writing of
the world in an attempt to erase or undo that         her tale. She concludes her introduction to the
moment of first contact that had proven so             book, ‘And now … I bid my hideous progeny to
deadly for everyone.                                  go forth and prosper’ (23). Unlike Victor, who
   Frankenstein’s creature reveals the conflicted      has decided to destroy the creature so that he
desires to destroy, rely upon, idealize, and          cannot propagate and ‘prosper’, Shelley
‘grapple with’ the indigenous subject. He             suggests that she would have the creature
inspires Walton/Victor to push forward to map         thrive, as her own hybrid child.
the ‘terra incognita’ of the North precisely             Shelley makes a link between exploration
because he is comfortable there, and thus goads       and imagination in the 1831 Preface, which
them on with what Victor calls an ‘adversary’s        states, ‘In all matters of discovery and
gibe’. And yet, ultimately, the creature must be      invention, even of those that appertain to the
eliminated for the map of the world to grow.          imagination, we are continually reminded of
For if, on the one hand, Frankenstein is about        the story of Columbus and his egg’ (22). This
the destruction of the creature, on the other         motif of the creature/savage, I propose,
hand, it is about the expansion – and tragic          permeates the novelæso that even Mary
consequences – of rationality, science, and the       Shelley gets caught up in the dangerous drive
masculine gaze into previously unmapped               of exploration. The moral offered by Percy
places. If creatures reside there, then the glory     (disguised as Mary) parallels Victor’s oft-
is potentially greater in overcoming them; but        repeated moral. Shelley had previously written,
they must die to prove the victory of discovery.      in the 1818 Preface, ‘My chief concern … has
Walton’s journey to the Northern Passage is           been limited to avoiding the enervating effects
not in search of indigenous peoples, but in           of novels of the present day, and to the
search of an Eden without them. He writes,            exhibition of the amiableness of domestic
hopeful of his prospects, ‘What might not be          affection’ (25). This statement seems to parallel
expected in a country of eternal light?’ (26).        Victor’s advice: ‘Learn from me, if not by my
This seems precisely the oft-repeated dilemma         precepts, at least by my example, how
in Frankenstein, that while searching for the         dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge,
‘light’ of intellectual illumination, creatures are   and how much happier that man is who
found instead.                                        believes his native town to be the world, than
   Victor cannot bring his story forward until        he who aspires to become greater than his
he has reached the ‘wild’ regions of the              nature will allow’ (55). Victor later reiterates
72                                          Romanticism

this lesson to Walton: ‘Seek happiness in             blindness’ – though he later learns to adapt to
tranquillity and avoid ambition, even if it           life in a University (45). It could be argued that
be only the apparently innocent one of                his early teachings led to his fantastic pursuits.
distinguishing yourself in science and                   Victor’s attraction to books is related to his
discoveries’ (181). Victor’s perpetual betrayal of    desire for divination: ‘The world to me was a
his own moral stance is evident from even his         secret which I desired to divine’ (42). He
next statement: ‘Yet why do I say this? I have        explains the connection and attraction to
myself been blasted in these hopes, yet another       knowledge with his statement, ‘But here were
may succeed’ (181). Yet if the moral in both          books, and here were men who had penetrated
cases appears to be the veneration of ‘domestic       deeper and knew more’ (45). Reading is what
affections’, we have already seen how Victor          takes Victor out of his limited and provincial
again and again betrays his own advice in             experience, just as writing performs this act for
pursuing and attempting to destroy the                Mary Shelley. ‘Chanceæor rather the evil
creature with a morality that supersedes that of      influence’, Victor says, ‘asserted omnipotent
‘domestic affection’. He even calls his actions       sway over me from the moment I turned my
‘blameless’ after thinking on them for awhile,        reluctant steps from my father’s door’ (49).
and encourages the ship to sail North with all        And yet, as he leaves home, this ‘evil influence’
the rhetorical vigor of the truly ‘heroic’ colonial   becomes pleasurable for him, though he is at
adventure.                                            first reluctant: ‘But as I proceeded, my spirits
   Walton and Victor had both arrived at their        and hopes rose. I ardently desired the
heroic ambition in solitude, by reading books.        acquisition of knowledge. I had often, when at
Walton had ‘read with ardour’ the history of          home, thought it hard to remain during my
voyages to the ‘North Pacific Ocean through            youth cooped up in one place, and had longed
the seas which surround the pole’ (29). This          to enter the world …’ (49).
reading, however, is unguided, and results in            Mary Shelley, in writing Frankenstein,
his lack of a balanced education. He states, ‘It is   ambivalently enters the intertextual realm of
a still greater evil to me that I am self-educated:   exploration. In this realm, explorers (directly
for the first fourteen years of my life I ran wild     charged by royalty) could create a name for
on a common, and read nothing but our uncle           themselves simply by defining and
Thomas’s book of voyages’ (29). Similarly,            encountering the Other. Like the character of
Victor’s desire to create the creature began with     Walton, the captains of the 1818 expeditions
picking up a book outside his home, this time in      were charged with finding a passage across the
an inn in Switzerland, where he happened upon         northern seas and witnessing the ‘intensity of
Cornelius Agrippa. Walton’s book-learning had         force of the magnetic needle’.17 Frankenstein
been resisted by his father, who, on his dying        could be said to be Mary Shelley’s contribution
bed, demanded that Walton not be allowed to           to the quest, albeit in a fabulous form, and the
enter a ‘seafaring life’ (27). The resistance of      Quarterly Review, along with other journals,
Victor’s father is also pronounced and, like          did not ignore her input. Facetiously discussing
Walton, seems to lead him precisely into this         Walton’s voyage as if it were real, a critic wrote
area of forbidden knowledge. Victor’s father          in British Critic: ‘This gentleman, it seems, has
says of Agrippa, ‘Do not waste your time on           had his imagination fired by an anticipation of
this; it is sad trash’ (44) … after which Victor      the last number of the Quarterly Review, and
remarks, ‘I continued to read with the greatest       is gone out to the North Pole, in quest of lost
avidity’ (44). Like Walton, Victor is initially       Greenland, magnetism, and the parliamentary
‘self-taught’ and ‘left to struggle with a child’s    reward’.18 Parliament, at the time, had offered a
                                             Inuit Diasporas                                            73

reward of ‘20,000l’. for the discovery of a            becomes directly involved in the discourse of
Northwest Passage. Walton, in Frankenstein,            exploration, even gaining a voice – though as a
tells his sister: ‘You cannot contest the              presumed ‘gentleman’ – within the Quarterly
inestimable benefit which I shall confer on all         Review. Vicariously, through her character
mankind to the last generation, by discovering         Walton, Shelley can enter into ‘scientific’ and
a passage near the pole … or by ascertaining           anthropological discussions surrounding the
the secret of the magnet’ (26). The Quarterly          North Pole and its inhabitants. The novel, in
Review also discussed the theoretical success of       this sense, is entirely wrapped up in,
Walton’s journey, as a test of its own theories        intertextually, with both literary and
about the Pole: ‘As our Review had not yet             nonliterary discourses surrouding imperialism,
enlightened mankind upon the real state of the         including the prolific discourses on indigenous
North Pole, he [Walton] directs his course             peoples by the Arctic explorers. If Percy and
thither as a sure place of solitude and security;      Byron lost ‘all memory of their ghostly visions’
but Frankenstein, who probably has read Mr.            in the ‘magnificent scenes’ of the Alps, Mary
Daines Barrington … on the subject, was not            Shelley may remember not only the
discouraged, and follows him with redoubled            ‘magnificent scenes’ of the ‘glorious’
vigour, the creature flying on a sledge drawn by        expeditions to the North, but what to her may
dogs’.19 Daines Barrington, a British naturalist       have seemed frightening or horrific images of
and scholar, had recently collected records of         the people who already lived there and
northern explorers who claimed to ‘find the sea         threatened to kill the men that went forth
to the northward quite open’, suggesting, ‘the         to find glory. Ironically, she may have even
northerly winds bring clearer and warmer               ambivalently wished this death, as her pen
weather than any other’.20 Walton similarly            nurtured the eloquent destroyeræat once an
claims at the beginning of the novel that the          eclectic hybrid of colonial discourse and a
north ‘ever presents itself to my imagination as       ‘friend’. But if indigenous people reappear
the region of beauty and delight. There … the          in Shelley’s tale, it is only in monstrous
sun is forever visible, its broad disc just skirting   proportions, forever remaining the first to reach
the horizon and diffusing a perpetual splendor.        the North Pole as a foil to the masculine
… There frost and snow are banished’ (53).             enterprise of Empire. The ‘Eskimos’ in England
Walton suggests, ‘I will put some trust in             – including Sami and Inuit – were once a
preceding navigators’ in believing that this           ‘wonder unto the whole city’ when the Queen
zone exists. He plans to traverse the North            allowed them to hunt swans on the Thames.
Pole, enter the Bering Strait in the Pacific, and       Mary Shelley, with Frankenstein, could be said
then travel around America, like the Dorothea          to continue this history of wondering, even as
and Trent. By directly engaging in this                she contemplates the horrific possibility of
discourse of ‘preceding navigators’, Walton sets       Eskimos wanting to kill more than swans in her
himself up as a test case for contemporary             comfortable English home.
theories of the Pole, as well as the existence of a                                 Department of English
Northeast passage across Russia.21                                     University of Missouri-Columbia
   If Shelley, as a woman, is excluded from the
realm of empire, she can at least stay home and
                                                       Notes ——————
fantasize about it, even after the weather
                                                        1. Wendell H. Oswalt, Eskimos and Explorers
‘suddenly became serene’ and Lord Byron and            (Lincoln, 1999), 65–6.
Percy dropped their own respective ‘ghosts’ to          2. See ‘Narrative of a Voyage to Hudson’s Bay,
leave ‘on a journey among the Alps’ (25). She          containing some Account of the Northeastern Coast of
74                                              Romanticism

America, and of the Tribes inhabiting that Remote          ‘plenty of incidental imperialist sentiment’, ultimately
Region’, The Quarterly Review, 18 (October 1817),          ‘does not deploy the axiomatics of imperialism’. See
220.                                                       Gayatri Spivak in ‘Three Women’s Texts and a
  3. Jeanne Moskal documents Mary Shelley’s reading        Critique of Imperialism’, in ‘Race’, Writing, and
of travel writing while writing Frankenstein. See          Difference, ed. Henry Louis Gates, Jr (Chicago, 1986),
Travel Writing, vol. 8 of The Novels and Selected          273.
Works of Mary Shelley, gen. eds Nora Crook and              9. Mary Shelley, Frankenstein: Complete,
Pamela Clemit (8 vols, London, 1996). Mary Shelley         Authoritative Text with Biographical and Historical
notes the specific days that she reads the Quarterly        Contexts, 33.
Review in her own journals, as well as other readings      10. John Pinkerton, A General Collection of the Best
of ‘old voyages’. See The Journals of Mary Shelley,        and Most Interesting Voyages and Travels in All Parts
1814–1844, ed. Paula R. Feldman and Diana Scott-           of the World (17 vols, London, 1808–14), i. 515.
Kilvert (2 vols, Oxford, 1987). For a complete             11. Farley Mowat, The Polar Passion; the Quest for
breakdown of Mary Shelley’s readings, by date or           the North Pole, with Selections from Arctic Journals
author, see the online edition of Frankenstein by          (Boston, 1968), 13.
Stuart Curran, University of Pennsylvania, at              12. Francis Spufford, I May Be Some Time: Ice and
<              the English Imagination (New York, 1997), 189.
MShelley/bydates.html>                                     13. Besides Robinson Crusoe, which depicts the Carib
  4. The term ‘Eskimo’ – from the colonial                 character of Friday, Shelley read J. Nieuhoff’s travel
‘Esquimaux’ – is still used to self-identify in parts of   narrative about Brazil (in Pinkerton, v. 14), George
Alaska and Siberia because ‘Inuit’ refers only to the      Anson’s A Voyage Around the World, in the Years
Inupiat of northern Alaska, the Inuit of Canada, and       MDCCXL, I, II, III, IV (London, 1748), William
the Kalaallit of Greenland. ‘Inuit’ is not a word in the   Robertson’s The History of America (London, 1777),
Yupik languages of Alaska and Siberia. I use this term,    and vols 1 and 2 of Bryan Edwards’ A History, Civil
therefore, only to refer to Arctic indigenous peoples      and Commercial, of the British Colonies in the West
from the Canadian Arctic, Greenland, the Bering            Indies (London 1794). Again, see Feldman and Scott-
Strait, and the coastal regions of Chukotka in Russia.     Kilvert for a complete list of her readings.
This is not to say the term ‘Eskimo’, like most colonial   14. Quoted in David Spurr, The Rhetoric of Empire:
designations, is without problems.                         Colonial Discourse in Journalism, Travel Writing, and
  5. See Oswalt, 32, 42.                                   Imperial Administration (Durham, N.C., 1993), 104.
  6. Warren Montag, ‘“The Workshop of Filthy               15. A.F. Skioldebrand, ‘A Picturesque Journey to the
Creation”: A Marxist Reading of Frankenstein’, in          North Cape’, The Quarterly Review, 11 (April, 1814),
Frankenstein: Complete, Authoritative Text with            110.
Biographical and Historical Contexts, Critical History,    16. ‘A Voyage round the World in the Years 1803, 4, 5,
and Essays from Five Contemporary Critical                 and 6, performed by order of his Imperial Majesty,
Perspectives, ed. Johanna Smith (Boston, 1992).            Alexander the First, Emperor of Russia, in the Ship
  7. Jessica Richard, ‘“A Paradise of My own               Neva’, The Quarterly Review, 11 (July, 1814), 110.
Creation”: Frankenstein and the Improbable Romance         17. ‘Narrative of a Voyage to Hudson’s Bay,
of Polar Exploration’, Nineteenth-Century Contexts,        containing some Account of the Northeastern Coast
25.4 (December, 2003).                                     of America, and of the Tribes inhabiting that Remote
  8. Joseph Lew, ‘The Deceptive Other: Mary Shelley’s      Region’, The Quarterly Review, 18 (October, 1817),
Critique of Orientalism in Frankenstein’, Studies in       222.
Romanticism, 30 (1991), 255–83. See also, Elizabeth A.     18. ‘Review of Frankenstein; or the Modern
Bohls’ Women Travel Writers and the Language of            Prometheus’, The British Critic, 9 (April, 1818), 432.
Aesthetics, 1716–1818 (London, 1995), 230–45, as well      19. ‘Review of Frankenstein; or the Modern
as Anne Mellor, Mary Shelley: Her Life, Her Fiction,       Prometheus’, The Quarterly Review, 18 (January,
Her Monsters (New York, 1989). Mellor points out the       1818), 380.
Godwin family’s connection in India. Bohls provides a      20. ‘A Memoir on the Geography of the North-
list of Shelley’s Orientalist readings prior to writing    Eastern part of Asia, and on the Question whether
Frankenstein. In contrast to these authors, Gayatri        Asia and America are contiguous, or are separated by
Spivak suggests that Frankenstein, while having            the Sea’, The Quarterly Review, 18 (May, 1818), 454.
                                                Inuit Diasporas   75

21. In 1980, A.D. Harvey pointed out that Walton was
trying to reach ‘the Pacific via the North Pole’, not the
North Pole itself. See A.D. Harvey, ‘Frankenstein and
Caleb Williams’, Keats-Shelley Journal, 29 (1980), 27.

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