Although it seemed like Frankenstein in Baghdad was not the class favorite, I did enjoy the novel very much. I found the plot-line of a monster seeking to avenge the innocent people who died to make up his body very intriguing. I viewed whatshisname more as a heroic admirable figure until the later half of the text, as his morals changed to make him out as more of a villain. For example, he has few qualms in murdering anyone, good or bad who got in his way. However, as much as I enjoyed the plot and whathisname’s development, I didn’t agree on the ending as I felt Hadi deserved better as Ahmed Saadavawi wholly mistreated Hadi. In this adaptation of the original Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein Hadi is drawn from the original character of Victor Frankenstein. However, unlike Victor Frankenstein who deserved a cruel ending, actions did not necessarily warrant his suffering in the end. Though Hadi was not the most pleasant person in the novel and he repeatedly demonstrated many selfish intentions like when he tried to trick an poor senile lady into selling her house, Hadi was never purely cruel like Victor Frankenstein. I do not necessarily believe that Hadi deserved a wholly happy and fulfilling ending, yet the mutilation of his face as well as the false accusation that Hadi is Whatshisname all seemed overly cruel. The primary reason I believe Hadi deserved a better ending than Victor Frankenstein is that he did not intend to build Whatsitsname so it would come to life and wreak havoc in Bagdad. Victor on the hand thought that he could play a god-like role and create a new being. Furthermore, Victor could have prevented his creation numerous times from becoming a monster had he been more accepting and nurturing. This was not a possibility for Hadi as whatshisnames morals were already set when coming alive therefore making Victor and Hadi objectives differ.
Dear Mary Shelley,
You grew up in a household of writers. Even though you never knew your mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, her legacy inspired you growing up. She was famous across Europe for her feminist works, especially her push for women’s education. You were known for idolizing her works, and yet you chose a completely different form of writing. Even your father was a philosopher who was known for his radical ideas about extreme individualism. What was it like to grow up in a household where writing was a central theme of life? Did you ever feel pressured to continue the writing legacy of your mother?
Even once you became older, you still found yourself in company with writers. You fell in love with Percy Shelley, who himself was a writer. Additionally, you were close friends with Lord Byron, who supposedly inspired you to write Frankenstein. The community of writers that you surrounded yourself with encouraged writing. I wonder how your peers treatment of you varied from how they treated each other. Did they believe that you could write as well (or better) than they could, or did they look down on you because you were female?
Once you began writing, what aspects of your life inspired you to write Frankenstein, one of your most famous works? The detail is so intricate, and the characters are so fascinating, that it leads me to wonder who inspired the characters. I am aware that you had a lot of tragedy in your life, and that is reflected in your writing. Was Victor based on the men you knew in your life? He is egotistical, vain, and incredibly intelligent, and I wonder if you wanted to honor the person you based him on or point out his flaws. Was Victor’s mother based on your own, or at least what you imagined her to be? Did your father find a representation in Victor’s father? When William died, did that remind you of other losses in your life?
What was the publishing process like for you? Nothing that I have read has discussed what the publishing process was like specifically for Frankenstein. Even though you were around many writers, was the process as easy for you as it was for your male counterparts? Did you have to hide your works like Jane Austen? Or disguise your name like the Bronte sisters? Even though there were many women writers during this period of time, many of them did not write in the Gothic style with a combination of horror and science fiction. In fact, there were not many science fiction writers at all, and your work is regarded as one of the first early science fiction novels. Were you aware of the trail you were blazing? Or was writing more of an outlet for you, meant to channel the sadness in your life, not to change the world?
Kuiper, Kathleen. “Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 26 Aug. 2018, www.britannica.com/biography/Mary-Wollstonecraft-Shelley.
Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “William Godwin.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 31 Mar. 2018, www.britannica.com/biography/William-Godwin.
Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Mary Wollstonecraft.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 6 Sept. 2018, www.britannica.com/biography/Mary-Wollstonecraft.
“Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley.” Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation, www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/mary-wollstonecraft-shelley.
I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to the Ackland Museum of Art and was able to see how mediums, besides novels, can be examples of adaptations and intertextuality. Some of the works that stood out to me in this context, were the depictions of Adam and Eve in The Garden of Eden. Looking at the different aspects of the paintings such as colors, settings, objects and the size of objects, we can gather what the message of the creator was. In the first depiction, there were trees, animals, a woman, a man, and a snake. They were barely clothed and it was easy to recognize the story that the creator was trying to recreate. These items were copied in the second depiction but there were certain nuances that helped to change the story in a drastic way. The main difference was that there was not a man in the second painting. This may change the meaning of the story but the important part is that the story itself is still recognizable. Why the painter did not include a man in the second painting is up to interpretation; some say that it highlights the fall of the woman by only including her in a story that is about the fall of mankind. This is an example of why I believe that artwork, namely paintings in this circumstance, are harder to interpret than novels. The volume of information, in my opinion, is just greater for written works. One explanation as to why I hold this opinion could be a simple fact that I am not trained to evaluate art. I do not have that much experience when it comes to art and therefore I am probably missing key details such as brush strokes, the type of paint used, the timing of the paint, etc.
Since this course is about adaptation, I feel as if I must address the ambiguities that come along with the term. An adaptation is a composition that reframes or modifies another work. The reason that I believe the definition of an adaptation is ambiguous is because it is extremely difficult to create something completely original. In fact, everything has an origin and takes themes from someplace else, even if the author unknowingly did it. Frankenstein in Baghdad would be considered an easy adaptation to identify, but if the title was different, there would be an argument to be made that it’s an original work. The theme of somebody putting body parts together and causing it to come to life is broad enough to not warrant an intellectual patent.
Dear Mary Shelley,
Upon completing the novel Frankenstein, I had a question concerning how the story would have been changed if Victor hadn’t cast away the creature initially. One of the main focuses of the story is the debate between the role of nature vs. nurture in the creature’s development and eventual inclination towards evil. Once he has been brought to life, Victor looks on him in disgust and immediately runs away, abandoning his creation, leading to a string of murders enacting revenge on Victor. Many pose the question as to how the turn of events would have been different if Frankenstein had instead loved and taught the creature. However, even if he had had Frankenstein as a companion and a sort of “family,” I believe the outcome still would have been similar and that the reason is not inherently due to nature vs. nurture in the hands of Victor. The rest of society still would ostracize him for his unusual appearance and there’s no way to say that he wouldn’t become so angry as to lash out and kill those who’d looked down on him out of fear and disgust, taking his revenge on society instead. This could have even more serious ramifications on a grander scale. I would like to know how you, as the author, would interpret a version of the creature that was loved only by a few and remained hated and cast out of society.
In the novel Frankenstein in Baghdad, Hadi the junk-dealer sews together a corpse that becomes animated by the soul of a hotel guard killed in an explosion. The Whatsitsname roams the streets of Baghdad, taking revenge on those responsible for the deaths of the various sources of his hodge-podge of body parts. However, as he fulfills his revenge and the parts keep falling off of him, he finds himself resorting to killing not just criminals, but “innocents” as well to replace his limbs. The Whatsitsname attempts to justify those actions, the novel reading, “There are no innocents who are completely innocent, and no criminals who are completely criminal … every criminal he had killed was also a victim.” (PAGEEEE) At one point, he also states that the supposed innocents may have committed criminal deeds in the past or will do so in the future, therefore making it alright. In this case, his rampage of death would never end. One then has to question, did any of his victims deserve death simply so the Whatsitsname could obtain a new eye or a new hand? I agree with the idea that no one is completely innocent or criminal; criminals could repent and anyone has the potential to commit crimes. However, it makes even less sense to rationalize the creature’s killings under these guidelines rather than looking at the simple concrete categories of either innocent or criminal. The Whatsitsname starts out solely killing murderers responsible for the parts on him – clearly criminal in nature- but once he deviated from his revenge killings it’s hard to know where to draw the line. No one in the world is truly innocent of all crime or sins and at that point, considering the moral dilemma over his victims, the Whatsitsname should have ended his mission. In the end, he became just as cold-blooded of a murder as his previous victims, over a misplaced sense of preventing future crimes.
Frankenstein in Baghdad was a fascinating read for me for multiple reasons. One of the biggest factors that stuck out to me was the way in which an adaptation of a classic story was used in a different sense to convey a political meaning.
The original Frankenstein, as legend holds, was written by Mary Shelley as part of a competition to write the scariest story on a stormy night indoors. It was originally intended as a horror story intended to frighten and entertain. Ahmed Saadawi flips this original purpose on its head, subtly infusing his adaptation of the Frankenstein story, Frankenstein in Baghdad, with political meaning and implications.
This new version of Frankenstein involves a narrative intended to make a statement on the state of affairs, violence, and corruption in the city of Baghdad, Iraq. As opposed to creating the monster out of scientific curiosities and a desire to have a power over life, Baghdad’s Frankenstein has roots in a desire to create a full body to be buried. It creates a powerful statement on the level of terrorism in the country at the time. It paints in our heads the idea that mass amounts of people were being killed in gruesome ways that a full body for burial was rare at that point in time. In addition, instead of seeking revenge on his master for neglecting him, as in Mary Shelley’s version of Frankenstein, this monster seeks to exact revenge on the ‘criminals’ who killed the victims that were now a part of his body. This implies that government and foreign entities were unable to stop the violence and that their efforts were ineffective. This is further reinforced by the man who allows the Baghdad Frankenstein to kill him in order to ‘give him some new parts’ and in that way contribute to the cause. This creates for us the sense that the people in Iraq were desperate at the time, as they watched countless people murdered in terrorist-related acts, and the futility of the powers-at-large to arrest the violence. There are countless other examples in Frankenstein in Baghdad that contain political or societal undertones.
This experience has really taught me how to read and look at adaptations. This is the first back-to-back textual adaptation we’ve read this semester, and it has really opened my eyes in terms of how to analyze intertextual relationships. It has opened my mind to now seek the answer to the question, “Why would the author choose to rewrite a pre-existing story in a new context?” It has been planted in my head now that when adaptations are created, there is usually a motive or underpinning idea behind the creation of an adaptation. I found it fascinating that Ahmed Saadawi was able to craft an adaptation of Frankenstein in such a way as to create a political statement about his city and country. I enjoyed seeking these pieces of the new author’s view inside a familiar narrative. Perhaps that’s why adaptations are so effective. When a common-knowledge narrative is changed into a new context, the author’s own point of view shines through brightly. It seems to be a fantastic medium to have an intertextual conversation, as well as promote a message.
Recently visiting the Ackland Art Museum with Grant individually, it had me pondering about how amazing the artwork is in the permanent and seasonal collection of our art museum. Celebrating 60 years at the nation’s first public state university, it’s interesting how Duke’s leftover was left over to us. But while this visit is like one of many, it most reminds me of what’s done behind the piece. I think about the guilt that drove Kevin Carter to his own demise after capturing the photo “The Vulture and the Little Girl,” which won a Pulitzer Prize. I try to rationalize how hip-hop and R&B artist I enjoy listening to come to untimely ends due to drugs and alcohol overdose with the potential for so much more music. Then I struggle to accept how my favorite actors were discovered to be dark sadistic beings amidst the #MeToo Movement. When Victor created Frankenstein, his vision of a handsome rectified figure from the dead didn’t turn out the way he wanted. Realizing what a monstrous creation he’d just finished, Victor forsaken Frankenstein in the way that a deadbeat dad would do away with their bastard child. However throughout the tale it was difficult to differentiate the art from the artists. Eventually it led to the creator’s demise. Comparing Bill Cosby to Victor, I’ll explain how it’s important that you do so when separating great works with not so great makers. Dr. Heathcliff “Cliff” Huxtable was the “Uncle Phil” before the Fresh Prince ever hit the TV screen. He gave us laughs with his in-house introductions and tears from his lessons to his children. However, in the wake of Bill Cosby (who Huxtable is portrayed by)’s guilty verdict, it’s difficult to separate the art from the artist. In this age of social media, there are still “Cosby kids.” From watching Little Bill before school began to being excited about the live-action adaptation of “Fat Albert” starring SNL’s Kenan Thompson, he’s touched consecutive generations both young and old. Cosby even has ties to Carolina, as he graced the cover of UNC Black Ink Magazine in the 1990’s ahead of his visit with the Black Student Movement. In the early 2000s, he gave the guest speaker commencement address to a crowded Kenan Stadium. Following that, he received an honorary doctorate degree from UNC-Chapel Hill. But now all that and more is gone as he faces 3-10 years in solitary confinement for decades of sexual assault. Admittedly, I had trouble accepting this. Not Bill Cosby? He’s over 80 years, he couldn’t have hurt a fly now. But that’s the thing about it: now, after years of torment behind the television which he’s done to women. And when over a dozen came out with the claim that he’d sexually assaulted them, it just didn’t pass the smell test. Cosby was guilty. Little Bill, The Cosby Show and Fat Albert were the “Frankenstein” creations from Bill. However, it was the latter who was the true monster in his attempt to portray a happy image onscreen while being adulterous off camera.
In 1818 Mary Shelly wrote the story of Victor Frankenstein as he created his monster out of dead body parts. More recently, Ahmed Saadawi created an adaptation of the story based in a war-torn Iraq as a junk dealer pieces together dead body parts to create a monster inhabited by a dead soul. Ahmed Saadawi takes a very similar style to Mary Shelly with a more noticeable patchwork style and also telling the story of the story’s monster from multiple perspectives rather than just one. Frankenstein in Baghdad was an appropriation of Frankenstein with changes made to the story and style only keeping the heart of the story of Frankenstein’s monster. The major shifts in the story make the connection obvious only in the title and the pieced together monster changing major plot points, themes, and other pieces of the story. Significant variations between the two author’s style and their monster’s motivation push the stories and make the separation.
Both Mary Shelly and Ahmed Saadawi tell the story of their monster using a patchwork style of writing piecing together different pieces of the stories such as letters, different perspectives, and time jumps. This style of writing is very unique and differs significantly between the two authors with Mary Shelly’s writing appearing to be more coherent while Ahmed Saadawi’s writing is much more broken and disjointed. In Frankenstein in Baghdad the broken style allows the story to be told from many different peoples’ perspectives giving multiple takes on the different events. In the original Frankenstein the patchwork style is much more fitting for the time period’s style of writing and consists of only two different perspectives and multiple letters. It is a much less noticeable style because of how the pieces are broken in which a part can be read without the reader realizing they are still reading that part until it shifts. Ahmed Saadawi uses a variation of this style to tell a story surrounding one main character, the monster, without using one main perspective to drive the story. The patchwork style of both authors fits together the different pieces of the stories like a puzzle which can be linked as a reference to how the monster was put together and also the chaos represented in both novels by the people and settings. Frankenstein in Baghdad is set in Iraq, a war torn and chaotic country, while Frankenstein has the characters constantly moving and the events moving very rapidly giving the reader chaos only to be heightened by the patchwork style.
Throughout both stories the monster has very clear intentions of what it is doing such as Mary Shelly’s monster wants a partner or mate because it is lonely or Ahmed Saadawi’s monster wants to get revenge for every part of its body. While both are very obvious they are strikingly different when compared with one another. Mary Shelly’s monster’s intentions made it to be more childlike and relatable to the reader as it seemed to connect with the human feeling of loneliness drawing compassion rather than hatred. For example, the monster says, “I am malicious because I am miserable; am I not shunned and hated by all mankind? You, my creator, would tear me to pieces… I demand a creature of another sex, but as hideous as myself…” (Shelly 102). Ahmed Saadawi’s monster becomes more of an anti-hero character killing other people in order to get revenge on those who wrong them when the body parts were alive. The monster’s entire goal is to kill and avenge the different pieces of his body, mainly his main soul, which makes it the focus of the story for the majority of the characters. Both monsters’ motivations help to drive the story but are very different because of the setting in which the book is written. The motivation for Victor Frankenstein’s monster is used to create dilemmas for Victor and plot points which match pieces of Mary Shelly’s life such as the death of her children goes with the death of the death of Victor’s nephew. The motivation for “Whatsitsname” fits more to the idea of justice in a war-torn Iraq where the ethics of revenge and violence is commonly explored to further several different characters helping create common themes throughout several of the characters for example Mahmoud.
Both authors created novels that were very similar in some respects but wildly different in others giving the reader a story of science, humanity, ethical problems, adventure, and violence. Frankenstein is nearly 200 years old but Frankenstein in Baghdad still draws some of its key aspects as it attempts to adapt the story.
Dear Hayao Miyazaki
I believe I have found your next upcoming film that will surpass all your previous iconic films. Titled in Japanese as 復活 (Resurrection), this film will be an adaptation of the novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelly. However, this Frankenstein will stray away from the original storyline. When people think of Frankenstein, there minds envision a lab, a mad scientist, and sparks buzzing through bolts of a monster’s head. Forget all of this, this new Frankenstein film will be about a dead man’s journey for vengeance during a time where the world is filled with chaos from the Second World War. Resurrection will be animated by your studio, Studio Ghibli.
Taking place in Hiroshima and Seoul during the final stages of World War 2, Resurrection will be a two-part film. The first part will take place in Hiroshima before the Americans drop the atomic bomb, where the main character Matsumoto Yoshihito (Victor Frankenstein) is introduced. Matsumoto Yoshihito is a brilliant Japanese designer, that designed the infamous Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter plane which was the number one plane used by the Imperial Japanese Air Force during the Second World War. Engaged to his childhood sweetheart, a Korean girl Pak Ji-woo (Elizabeth Lavenza), Matsumoto lives a reasonably comfortable life with a silver-spooned childhood. Park Ji-woo, on the other hand, suffered during her early childhood for her whole family has been killed by Japanese soldiers during the colonization of Korea. Just as how Victor’s family adopted Elizabeth, Park Ji-woo is adopted by Matsumoto’s family after being found wandering the streets of Seoul alone. Thankful for Matsumoto’s family’s kindness and all the support they have given her, Pak Ji-woo forgives the Japanese people for the hideous crimes they had committed towards her family. Despite the war going on, and the Matsumoto family being forced to make certain sacrifices such as giving up half their food rations to the local hospitals to help the Japanese Empire, Matsumoto still puts a smile on his face for two reasons. The first reason is be because his wedding is about to take place on August 6, 1945. The second reason is that he is on the verge of making a new type of jet plane which will turn the tides of the war. However, Matsumoto’s life turns upside down the night before his wedding as a mysterious man with a white lotus symbol tattoo to his forehead that symbolized he was part of the righteous army, a Korean freedom fighter group invades the Matsumoto house hold. During the house invasion, the mysterious man shoots Matsumoto in his chest five times, kidnaps Park Ji-woo, and takes Matsumoto’s design for his new airplane. After being found by his best friend Yamauchi Nobuharu (Henry Clerval), Yamauchi does his best to nurse Matsumoto back to health, but sadly Matsumoto dies the next morning August 6th on his wedding day. This is also the day American B29 drop the first Atomic bomb on Hiroshima. This will be the end of Part I.
In Part II, after the bombs have exploded in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Hiroshima looks like a wasteland as Matsumoto finds himself resurrected from the radiation of the nuclear bomb with new abilities like super speed and super strength. Seeing his village being burned by crimson flames Matsumoto’s eyes are filled with tears as he is filled with emotions of anger and hatred. Matsumoto a once happy boy filled with light is now a man filled with only Darkness as he is a man on a mission to find his wife and murder all that gets in his way. During his search for Pak Ji-woo, he realizes that his body is deteriorating and doesn’t have much time to live. He journeys to Seoul after finding out his wife is still alive and is held up in the main righteous army hideout. As he arrives, he goes on an all-out killing spree wearing out his body killing every righteous army soldier. He finally finds Pak Ji-woo and collapses in her hand as he smiles once again like he did when he first met her taking his last breath before drying.
I believe that the Monster (who will be referred to as Frank) was an example of the “Tabula rasa” branch of philosophical thinking. Tabula rasa is a centuries old idea, originating from the works of Aristotle. Aristotle’s original idea states that the mind is similar to a wax seal, and that an impression must be made to create the personality and intelligence of a person. This theory is also the basis for the nurture train of thought, which states many of the same things. I believe this applies to Frank in three different ways; His childlike innocence, interactions with humans, and lack of control over his own faculties placed Frank into an unwinnable position.
Frank’s innocence is portrayed throughout the first volume in “When I looked around I saw and heard of none like me. Was I, a monster, a blot upon the earth from which all men fled and whom all men disowned?”. This quote describes Franks difficulty coming to terms with who he was, and what others were in relation to him. Frank struggles to see why he is ostracized from other “Humans”, as this is because he hasn’t come to the realization that others don’t consider him human. This leads directly into Franks second dilemma.
Frank is constantly trying to compare himself to humans before he fully realizes that others do not consider him to be so. His first experience with a human is quite literally his father being disgusted with him, and everything afterwards was downhill. The french family in the woods may have pushed him over the edge because they were very likely his last chance at being normal and accepted. These experiences culminate when Frank speaks to Victor saying, “All men hate the wretched; how then, must I be hated, who am miserable beyond all living things! Yet you, my creator, detest and spurn me, thy creature, to whom thou art bound by ties only dissoluble by the annihilation of one of us.” which shows that Frank has been fully stripped of his innocence and become a fit for the descriptions that are being given to him by others.
“Was there no injustice in this? Am I to be thought the only criminal, when all human kind sinned against me?” shows that Frank understands what others think of him, and fully understands what he had done in terms of the murders and sins he committed against Victor and his family. Frank doesn’t show remorse, only sorrow that no one had taken the time to understand why he was doing what he did. His upbringing was out of his control, and the few things Frank could control were stripped away from him (getting a wife, meeting others) by others, and this sent him far over the edge.
Frankenstein fully comes to term with who he is when he says “The fallen angel becomes the malignant devil. Yet even the enemy of God and man had friends and associates in his desolation; I am alone.”. I believe that Frank’s circumstances molded him into the monster he eventually became, and that the Tabula rasa theory applied specifically to him because of his extraordinary birth circumstances. Tabula rasa explains exactly where Victor went wrong with Frank, and that if any of those three overarching themes had been positive, the story of Frank would be drastically different.
(all quotes from our book)