Monday, March 14, 2011

Body and Soul

The second half of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Walt Whitman’s, “I Sing the Body Electric” and his poem, “One’s-Self I Sing” all speak towards the relationship that our soul has with our body, and the interactions of those souls with other people. The monster in Frankenstein exemplifies the connection that our bodies have with our soul, and how their union affects his contact with humans. Both of Whitman’s poems celebrate the human existence, body, and ability. Whitman speaks of the connectedness that we have with one another and with our bodies.

Victor Frankenstein’s monster shows how human interaction and the health of the soul is essential for the vitality and beauty of life. Even with the physical necessities of food, water, and shelter that the monster finds with the cottage in the woods, he is grief stricken and turns toward violence against his horrified acquaintances. The monster was created with the best and most able body parts, yet, without the love from his creator. Without this love, his soul is soon damaged, corrupted, and the beauty of his life is instead seen as a monstrosity.

In Walt Whitman’s poem, “I Sing the Body Electric”, Walt Whitman celebrates every aspect of the human body, quite literally, from head to toe, and its connection with the soul. The speaker is effective using free verse to show that the body is limitless and free, touching on physiology, anatomy, emotions, affection, and the beauty of life. He does not limit his poem to the physical body. By incorporating emotion and love, Whitman shows how the human soul is just as connected with life as the physical aspects of the human experience.

In Whitman’s second poem, “One’s-Self I Sing”, the speaker describes many aspects of the modern human, showing how life is multifaceted and multidimensional. Keeping with some of the same themes from the first poem in this week’s readings, the speaker builds upon the fact that the body is connected with the soul and emotion, saying, “Life immense in passion, pulse, and power,” (Whitman, 7). To the speaker, the body is not disconnected from life; all aspects are necessary for beauty and to be worthy to be called God’s creation (mentioning “the Muse” and “laws divine” to show a omnipresent power).

Both Frankenstein and these poems provide an excellent example of the complexities of human life. They show how one cannot disconnect the body and soul without repercussions. After reading these poems and Frankenstein (which takes place in Germany), I was reminded of an Eastern European orphanage where dozens of children died due to lack of love. Provided with a bed, food, clean linens, and a shelter, dozens of infants lived in an orphanage but quickly fell ill and died mysteriously. Upon inspection, these children were to be seen to have died due to lack of attention, love, and affection, showing that both physical and emotional needs are necessities to life. Life is more than just the physical, more than just the emotional, or the spiritual, it is a combination of everything, and the unions of these aspects come together beautifully to form both man and woman.

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