Living Beyond the Times
In the works by Shelly, Dunbar, and Cullen, a common theme occurs in which the authors all reference the point that the characters are trying live beyond their times; they are trying to think about the future of society and themselves. In Shelly’s Frankenstein, the Victor Frankenstein attempts to create life, an act that is far beyond scientific advancements of the time. In Dunbar’s “Theology,” Dunbar, is thinking about the afterlife and which people are going where in the future. In Cullen’s, “Tableau,” Cullen talks about two kids who are defying their times and breaking the barriers of race. All of these works also have the same point as a lecture I attended about the afterlife, looking at what it looks like and how the gospels looks to those times.
Mary Shelly creates Victor Frankenstein, a man who becomes obsessed with the idea of trying to create life out of nothing. This feat was way beyond any scientific advancements of that time; it is thought of as impossible still to create life out of nothing. In the first half of the novel, Frankenstein is constantly trying to push the limits of science to create his own living creature. He says, “when I considered the improvement which everyday takes place in science and mechanics, I was encouraged to hope my present attempts would at least lay the foundations of future success,” (Shelly 56). Victor wants to even be greater than the improvements already taking place in science at his time, and in creating life, and thinking about creating life, Victor is putting himself in a time that is beyond the achievements of his present day.
This same theme occurs in Dunbar’s “Theology.” In this short but witty poem, Dunbar talks about the afterlife, a place that is obviously after this life. Dunbar says, “There is a heaven, for ever, day by day…there is a hell, I’m quite as sure, for pray,” (Dunbar 252). In talking about this subject and thinking about it, Dunbar is, like Victor, paving a way for the future in thought. This is shown in the title, “Theology.” Theology looks at religions, and one major part of theology is the afterlife. Time and time again, theologians have written about the life after we die. In doing this, they, like Dunbar, are attempting to live beyond their times and try to explain to present day people what will be going on many years from now.
In Cullen’s, “Tableau,” Cullen talks about a topic that was an issue during the early half of the 20th century. At the time of the poem, race was an issue that often ended in violence and gruesome acts committed. This poem talks about two kids who are doing something that during that period of time was thought to be unheard of. Cullen says, “Indignant that these two should dare In unison to walk,” (Cullen 489). What is being said is that people are mad that these two are walking together because of the hatred that the two races had for each other. However, these two kids are living beyond the times of hatred and oppression, they are living, at the moment of walking together, in a time of acceptance and friendship, a time only perceived to be in the future.
Each of Shelly, Dunbar, and Cullen’s works portray a character that is attempting to go beyond his times and live or think in the future. This relates to a lecture I went to this week, which was on the concept of hell. The lecturer went through the Gospel of Matthew and talked about how hell would be perceived, and how it would look when it came. Matthew, or the author of the book in his name, was trying to go beyond where they were on Earth to a place in a time farther away from the present. All of these works, and the lecture, show the same similarity in that each are looking to break the boundaries of where they are to think or act in a time more advanced than theirs.