After reading half of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Paul Lawrence Dunbar’s “Theology”, and Countee Cullen’s “Tableau”, I noticed an unusual similarity between these pieces of literature in comparison to the Zen meditation session I attended this week with, once again, Dr. Davis. In particular, the resemblance I noticed these pieces of literature had in association with the meditation I engaged in was that in each of these events, there was this motive for discovery. It is with this sense of discovery that the characters engaged in within the readings, that they were able to take a chance at something to learn from and possibly make a reflection at it. This time of discovery enables the characters, as well as myself during meditation, a chance for something to hope for, as if trying to get something beneficial from the situation.
As for myself, when engaging in meditation, I am always trying to discover something new about myself, particularly by the way I acted that day and the way in which I interacted with the people around me. I consider what are some of the good things I did during the day, and even bring to mind some of the things I did during the day that could use improvement, such as the way I treated someone in particular. Meditation presents the opportunity to give yourself a shot at redemption and to learn from your mistakes. It allows you to target the areas of your life that need improvement, as long as the person is willing to accept their mistakes and puts an effort in to amend those particular flaws and errors.
One of the first moments within Shelley’s Frankenstein where the reader observes this sensation of discovery occurs within the first letter Captain Robert Walton writes to his sister, who is addressed as Mrs. Saville. Walton informs his sister of the search he is on to discover a region of the earth that no other human life form has encountered, by ways of route no one has taken before. It is with this hope of discovery that motivates Walton and keeps him focused and confident as he says, “I feel my heart glow with an enthusiasm which elevates me to heaven; for nothing contributes so much to tranquilize the mind as a steady purpose” (Shelley 2). Here, it is evident that Walton, the man who encounters Victor Frankenstein pursuing the “monster”, is able to target something that catches his utmost attention and interest – the discovery of this pole that is surrounded by the seas of the North Pacific Ocean.
Another moment in Shelley’s novel where discovery leads to this idea of renewed hope occurs when Victor Frankenstein decides to take an expedition up to the summit of a mountain known as Montanvert. The reason Frankenstein embarks on this expedition is to cope with the stress and grief he was dealing with at the time after the death of his brother William and his family friend who is like a sister to him, known as Justine. Frankenstein remarks that the view of this mountain, as well as nature in general, grants him this tremendous amount of happiness and relief that allows him to clear his mind during the times of hardship when life appears unmanageable. Frankenstein states that the view “filled me with a sublime ecstasy, that gave wings to the soul, and allowed it to soar from the obscure world to light and joy… nature had indeed always the effect of solemnising my mind and causing me to forget the passing cares of life” (Shelley 66). It is easily noticeable that nature gives Frankenstein his chance at redemption, where he is able to target his grief and fears and replace these negative emotions with emotions of positivity and “sublime ecstasy”.
In Dunbar’s “Theology”, the speaker presents this idea of the existence of heaven and hell. It appears that the speaker has some hope in the existence of these places, for if they did not exist; he wonders where his neighbors will go after they are dead. The reader gets this sense of discovery from the second line of the poem, which reads: “The upward longing of my soul doth tell me so” (Dunbar 252). This line of the poem reveals the speaker’s desire to achieve a spot in heaven, which is suggested by the phrase, “upward longing”. He questions himself at the end and says he prays that these places exist as a way of assuring himself that people have somewhere to be after they pass away and to avoid the depressing thought that life ends altogether at the moment of death.
And finally, within Cullen’s “Tableau”, the speaker presents two children of different race, both black and white, locked hand in hand, making their way in the presence of people who do not know what to make of the spectacle. The boys walk with this sense of satisfaction and hope, where Dunbar says, “The golden splendor of the day, / The sable pride of night” (Cullen 489). These lines are written to demonstrate the hope the boys have in what they are doing by breaking these racial boundaries through their interaction with one another. Although the boys receive looks of disbelief and even anger, they’ve developed in themselves this feeling of pride where they have seen past these boundaries and old traditions. The boys are engaging in something that they believe is in need of amendment – something they have high hopes for, whether or not people will tolerate it. All that matters to them is what they think and feel about the situation, and they indeed feel comfortable and confident in what they are trying to achieve.