15 October 2009

Mechanoid Daze - A Guide to Artificial Entities

Reflect on the current vogue in zombie material and you find ample demonstration of the extent to which film and television favour a certain number of recurrent elements or motifs. Vampires are another prominent example, which makes two before we even leave the shambling hordes of the un-dead. Broaden those horizons to the world of the living and one cannot but acknowledge the important contributions made by the ever-dependable mob organisation, international terrorist cell, or simple garden-variety psychopath. Entire genres have been built up around archetypes such as these, while for others it must be said that only specific genres afford the conditions necessary for them to function successfully. Zombies, for instance, are unlikely to ever transcend their origins as fodder in B-grade horror fare. Indeed, it is significant that those films which have managed to lead the zombie astray successfully – such as Shaun of the Dead – have been able to do so only through spoofing their typical treatment, rather than truly departing from it. In other words, it's unusual that we find a movie or television show which makes use of zombies as a bit-part. There are no sitcoms – that I'm familiar with, at least – which feature a bunch of hip twenty-somethings and their quirky zombie neighbour. When something features zombies, it's generally going to be en masse, and very much the central concern.

Such is not the case with all of film and television's favourite recurrent staples. Aliens, for instance, have managed to ingratiate themselves into virtually every genre, and with great success. Otherworldly life-forms can be found in anything from horror and action/thriller, sitcoms and drama, all the way through to comedy and children's programs. Those not convinced need only look to the box-office records for the month of June 1982, which saw the feel-good alien capers of Steven Spielberg's E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial rubbing intergalactic  shoulders with the tentacled horror of John Carpenter's The Thing. Very few staples of the industry show such versatility. As fate would have it, that same month in 1982 saw one of the few exceptions represented in the form of Blade Runner, a pivotal moment in the cinematic exploration of robots. Like aliens, robots have transcended their original role as a staple of the science-fiction genre to become a popular element in film and television at large. There is no doubt, in either case, that the key to this success lies in their versatility. Just as aliens can look and behave in almost any way conceivable, there is virtually no limit to the possible forms or functions that might dictate the role played by some mechanical creation, not merely in a practical sense, but in terms of tone and narrative role as well. Compare Fritz Lang's Metropolis with the likes of The Jetsons, or again with Transformers and already you see the wide range of potential uses.

Where these two phenomena differ, however, is in the proliferation of sub-types and techno-jargon. For unlike an alien organism, which is a fairly simple and all-encompassing concept, the technical nature of robotics has come to be reflected in a highly nuanced field of nomenclature. How does an android differ to a cyborg? Does a powered exoskeleton qualify as a robot? Where do the boundaries occur between something engineered mechanically and an organic equivalent? This article hopes to shed some light on these issues, offering a compromise between pragmatic definitions and practical ones.

. : Mechanoid : .
[from “mechanical” – bearing the qualities of a machine, and “-id” – of or pertaining to] 

An umbrella term, under which any of the following may be categorised in some capacity. The only qualifying element is that a mechanoid must resemble a machine in either function or design. This permits the inclusion of borderline examples such as puppets, clockwork pieces, and others which bear a semblance of mechanical automation without functioning as an autonomous unit, or that do so with the aid of mystical, spiritual, or other non-scientific forces. Beyond these examples, the vague definition of something being machine-like without, in fact, being a machine renders the term too broad for the interests of discerning one type from another. A classification of last resort.
. : Exempla
Pinocchio – Pinocchio
Daleks – Doctor Who
Talos – Argonautica

. : Mech / Mecha : .
[an abbreviated form of “mechanoid”] 

While there is no reason to differentiate the term from 'mechanoid' on an etymological basis, this abbreviated form has come to denote a specific class of robotic entity which falls outside the definition of a robot proper. In brief, the defining characteristic of a mech is the presence of a pilot or operator, without whom the unit loses much, if not all, of its functionality. As a staple of the Japanese anime culture, mecha are usually portrayed as an extension of modern military vehicles, such as tanks and aircraft, or construction equipment, such as loaders and excavators. Due to the necessity of physically enclosing the pilot, mecha have a reputation for being extremely large, and often resemble a greatly exaggerated anthropomorphic form. Neither of these characteristics have a defining role, however, as the operator is not necessarily human, nor is it requisite that the mech must resemble the operator's actual physiology.
. : Exempla
Tripods – War of the Worlds
Rosenburg – Men in Black
Gladiators – Robot Jox
. : Exosuit : .
[from “exo-” – outer or external, and “suit” – something worn, conforming to the wearer]

 While it is a point of some contention, the exosuit is perhaps best understood as a sub-class of mech, all of whose defining characteristics it shares, in addition to some more stringent ones. As with mecha, an exosuit is primarily defined by the need for an independent operator. What distinguishes one from the other is the nature of the interface between operator and unit. A mech may be controlled in a variety of ways, ranging from the traditional mode of piloting, through to virtual or direct neural connection, or even remote control. An exosuit, on the other hand, is controlled via a system of direct physical interaction, as the unit both mimics and enhances the operator's natural motion. For this reason exosuits are necessarily closer in shape, scale, and proportion to their operators, giving the sense that they are 'worn' rather than piloted. As with mecha, the application of this technology tends to be directed toward military use, as powered armour, or manual labour and construction.
. : Exempla
APUs – The Matrix: Revolutions
Marauder – Starship Troopers
Powerloader – Aliens

. : Robot : .
[from the Czech “robota” – compulsory labour, or “robotnik” – indentured labourer]
More restricted in the scope of application than 'mechanoid', the term 'robot' is nevertheless the most widely disseminated of any on this list, and thus the most difficult to accurately define. Indeed, the all-encompassing nature of the term has contributed much to the dilemma, largely by popularising a tradition of misapplication. Foremost among these is the practise of labelling things 'robots' when they are in fact merely robotic, meaning robot-like. The key to resolving this hinges on the issue of autonomy, of which there are two crucial factors. First of all, in order to qualify as 'a robot', the unit in question must be able to perform its designated function in isolation. This is not to say that it must be either physically disconnected and/or mobile, simply that it comprises a single complete unit, capable of fulfilling its intended function without external assistance. The welding arm on a production line is thus robotic, rather than a robot, because it is merely part of a much larger functioning machine. On the other hand, an automatic gun-turret mounted on a ship may be considered a robot if it is able to fulfil the demands of target acquisition, calibration, firing and reloading entirely on its own, for in so doing in completes an entire function. This brings us to the second factor, which is autonomy not in a mere physical sense, but in terms of self-maintenance. To put it simply, a robot must be able to perform to its maximum capacity without constant external direction. This may range from the most basic on-board programming all the way through to possessing a fully artificial intelligence: from simple self-propulsion through to sentience and actual self-determination. For this reason a mech is deemed to be robotic rather than a true robot. Beyond these characteristics there is no effective limit on how a robot may be manifested, either in size, shape, materials, or configuration.
. : Exempla
The Iron Giant – The Iron Giant
Johnny Five – Short Circuit
R2-D2 – Star Wars

. : Android : .
[from the Ancient Greek “andros” – man, and “-id” – of or pertaining to]

A sub-class of robot, defined by their emulation of the human form. While the Ancient Greek word from which it derives is masculine, the term 'android' is used to encompass humankind as a whole, irrespective of gender. The roles and functions of androids are many and varied, although the added trouble of making the unit resemble the human form is generally attributed to the necessity of being emotionally engaging to the humans around them. As such, they tend not to be designed for manual labour or other functions where brute force may be better served by another, abstract form. It is also important to remember that the imprecise nature of the term – designating something man-like – is open to some degree of interpretation. Any semblance of the human form is quite often little more than a matter of the proportion and arrangement of limbs and sensory inputs, while other features, such as materials, external finish, and facial details are either stylised or ignored completely. There is also a grey area concerning the point at which an anthropomorphically proportioned robot is no longer considered an android simply on the matter of scale.
. : Exempla
C-3PO – Star Wars
Astro – Astro Boy
Data – Star Trek

. : Synthetic : .
[from the Ancient Greek “sunthetos” – combined, or “sunthetikos” – one who combines]

A sub-class of android, defined by their emulation of not only the human form, but also the organic and mechanical operations of human biology. Essentially, synthetics represent analogues of the human body constructed of non-biological materials. While this necessarily results in them bearing a far closer resemblance to human beings than some of the general android class, it is important to bear in mind that synthetics are not typically designed to masquerade as humans, although they can sometimes be put to this use. Instead, their resemblance to biological organisms seems to be based on the design philosophy that the human body is itself one of the most functional of all machines, and is therefore a proven template from which to copy. For this reason, synthetics possess the artificial equivalent of internal organs, circulatory and metabolic systems, and tissues of a similar texture to those of humans as necessary parts of their inherent operation. Other rudimentary details, such as the colour of circulatory fluid, generally exhibit no attempt to pass the units off as human.
. : Exempla
Proto – Ghost in the Shell: SAC
SID 6.7 – Virtuosity
Ash – Alien

. : Replicant : .
[from "replica" – a copy or reproduction, "-ant"– in the capacity of]

A sub-class of android, defined by their emulation not only of the human form, but of molecular human biology, rendering them effectively indistinguishable from natural human beings. While the term 'replicant' itself is rarely used outside of its original context in the film Blade Runner, there are sufficient examples shown in other material to warrant their place as a parallel class to that of synthetics. Rather than being an artificial analogue of human biology, replicants are consciously intended to mimic human beings all the way down to a microscopic level. What physical engineering their creation entails is performed on a genetic level, with the subsequent manufacturing process being virtually identical to organic growth. As such, replicants occupy a grey area that verges onto other technology, most notably cloning. The crucial distinction between the two typically hinges on a combination of psychological inadequacy – with replicants lacking some basic elements of the human empathic response – and an inability to procreate. Like some clones, however, replicants often show greatly enhanced physical abilities, and are often unaware of their own artificial status.
. : Exempla
The Thirteen – Battlestar Galactica
Roy Batty – Blade Runner
Bioroids – Appleseed

. : Gynoid : .
[from the Ancient Greek “gyne” – woman, and “-id” – of or pertaining to]
  Strictly speaking, nothing more than the female equivalent of an android. As the term 'android' has moved away from its gender-specific notion, however, and shifted toward a definition of 'man' as in 'mankind', the term 'gynoid' has accrued its own alternative meaning, namely as a byword for an android whose primary function is to operate as a sexual surrogate. Given the disproportionate representation of female robots intended for this function, as opposed to male ones, it is easy to understand how this etymological shift could have occurred. While this casts a dubious light over the attitudes toward gender which allowed such a shift to occur, the designation is nevertheless useful in itself, so long as we match the inclusive nature of the word android and include male sexual surrogates within the sub-class of gynoids too. It is significant, however, that I cannot think of a single example of a male android whose sole or primary function was to be a sexual surrogate, let alone for use by a female.
. : Exempla
Prototypes – Ghost in the Shell: Innocence
Buffybot – Buffy: The Vampire Slayer
Zhora – Blade Runner

. : Cyborg : .
[contraction of “cybernetic” – possessing systematic control, and “organism” – a life-form]

Generally accepted as something which displays aspects of both organic and artificial systems. The vague nature of this definition, however, lends itself to three distinct interpretations, each of which can be placed within the categories of mechanoid, robot, and android respectively:

. : Type I - An organism bearing some degree of artificial augmentation. This is the most common definition, and is generally based on the projection of prosthetic technology to a point where it is equal or superior to natural human abilities. The proportion of cybernetic to organic material can range from something as simple as a replacement arm all the way through to an entire body housing an organic brain. Indeed, the only qualification is that the defining characteristic of the individual must be maintained, the core of which is the elusive component commonly known as the psyche.
. : Exempla
Alex Murphy – RoboCop.

. : Type II - A robotic species that bears all the hallmarks of organic life. This variation is perhaps the least common, and derives from a liberal interpretation of the term 'organism'. This requires that the unit in question not only present mechanical analogues for the organic processes of consuming matter or energy in order to maintain their autonomy, but also be able to perpetuate their own kind through some form of inherent procreation. This does not include the ability to simply produce a copy by making use of a typical production line. As such, this variety of cyborg occupies a grey area between robots and an alien species which just happens to be composed of what we recognise as machinery.
. : Exempla
Autobots/Decepticons – Transformers

. : Type III - An android whose physical construction incorporates some percentage of organic componentry. This is not an entirely satisfactory definition in most cases, but is worth addressing for the number of sources where it is openly avouched. The most prominent example is encountered in The Terminator, where Kyle Reese refers to the T-800 unit as a cyborg, based on the fact that its metallic endoskeleton is housed within organic tissues in order to aid infiltration. The problem with this interpretation is that, while the flesh is undeniably alive in a molecular sense, the same cannot be said for the unit as a whole. Unlike Type I cyborgs there is no continuity from an original organic state, and unlike Type II it fits none of the necessary criteria to be considered a living organism. The issue is effectively sealed later in the film when we see the T-800 able to function perfectly well, albeit without the ability to infiltrate, once all the organic material has been burnt off. As such, it is actually nothing more than a robot encased in a living sheath, the properties of which are advantageous to, but not essential to its functionality.
. : Exempla
T-800 – The Terminator

So there you have it, a hierarchical guide to the complex and fascinating world of artificial entities. And while I have touched on a number of particularly illustrative examples, there are many more popular and imaginative examples out there. So what are some of your favourites, and how would you categorise them according to this hierarchy? Have your say in the comment section below.

1 October 2009

Exposé - Frankenstein

After much ado involving my attempts to secure a copy, we come at last to the final member of the classic monster film triumvirate in the form of Frankenstein, a 2004 television miniseries starring Alec Newman and Luke Goss in the titular roles. I say roles both because it may be deduced from a close reading of the original text, for reasons which shall be examined in due course, and because it offers a concise reflection of just how confused the popular image of this enduring story has become, to a point where protagonist and antagonist have become, appropriately, conjoined. Like the towering figure at the heart of the story, the legacy of Mary Shelley's seminal novel has been cobbled together from the scraps and pieces of countless adaptations and reinventions, gradually coalescing in the form of a corpus so bloated and misshapen that none of its myriad contributors would claim the finished product. It is a legacy full of burning windmills and atavistic criminal brains, galvanic batteries and maniacal doctors, a fable concerning the advance of science or an argument against genetic engineering and a thousand other things that have little or no basis in the novel published two centuries ago. As such, any production attempting to breath life into this body of material is forced to navigate a path between the blessing of immediate audience recognition and the threat of being lost among of a veritable ice-field of rival interpretations. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it is a challenge which this particular adaptation attempts to forgo whenever possible, opting instead to remain on a course of strict fidelity, some might argue to a fault.

Victor Frankenstein face-to-face with his creation
If one element from the original novel can be said to have suffered the most in film adaptations, it must be the sophisticated narrative structure it presents. Perhaps it is a testament to the power of the story itself, but the subtle ways in which it shifts perspective and repeatedly turns back upon itself are easily forgotten even after multiple readings, leaving a predominantly linear reconstruction in its wake. To its credit, Frankenstein abandons some of these conventions in favour of ones more suited to the live medium, and does so without any substantial alteration or subtraction in terms of content. The first appreciable instance of this is the restoration of a frame narrative concerning an Arctic exploration team, lead by the ambitious Captain Walton, who retrieve the aged Victor Frankenstein as they wait for a break in the pack ice that traps their ship. Whilst perhaps seeming incidental to the primary storyline, this sub-plot provides an important counterpoint in the moral implications of the work as a whole; will the cautionary tale embodied by the desperate and ruined Frankenstein be enough to curb the determination of another man fuelled by the same reckless determination, or does our innate human inquisitiveness mean that we are destined to repeat his fatal mistakes? It is only unfortunate that the casting of Donald Sutherland in the role of Walton substantially lessens its impact, simply by being four decades too old for a character explicitly stated as being twenty eight in the novel. The resulting inversion of the age difference between the two characters completely negates the implication that Frankenstein sees an opportunity to intervene in the life of a younger version of himself at a critical moment, and thereby renders Walton's eventual decision to relent largely unconvincing.

Captain Walton, of the Prometheus
It is fitting, for a story that explores so many of the fundamental issues involving human nature, that we should follow the protagonist through most of the traditional 'ages of man', ranging from childhood to adolescence, adulthood, and as far into old age as his untimely death will permit. Bringing that transition to the screen is no mean feat, but Alec Newman manages this considerable challenge with dependable aplomb. Striking an appropriate balance between innocence and uncharacteristic seriousness as a child, this is the Victor Frankenstein of the novel in every respect: a man of innate self-contradictions, whose fierce passion is held in check by equally intense rationality. Whether he teeters on the brink of obsession during a theoretical tirade at the family table, or exhibits inhuman serenity in the middle of a charnel house, this is a man whose reactions strike us as mad not in their magnitude, but for being always out of place. While this makes it difficult for an audience to fully empathise with the protagonist, the fact that he never progresses into abject insanity precludes any temptation to summarily write off his actions, no matter how misguided they may seem. As in the novel, this Frankenstein is a complex and nuanced character, which has ramifications not only for the emotional dimension of the story, but the moral implications as well. Most important of all, the time and effort invested in recounting his studies belies the common assumption that Frankenstein is a tale that cautions against the pursuit of scientific advancement.

Frankenstein about his grisly work
As a stoical William Hurt expounds in his first scene as Professor Waldman, the ancient philosophers promised much but delivered nothing, where the modern scientist promises little and delivers great miracles. For the headstrong Frankenstein, this revelation is a devastating one, having devoted much of his adolescent studies to medieval alchemists and debunked metaphysicians. Driven as much by shame as enthusiasm, he throws himself into the meticulous study of chemistry, biology, and all the cutting-edge fields of natural philosophy, stunning fellow students and teachers alike with his ability to devour and retain such vast amounts of knowledge. As time goes on, however, he begins to chafe under the prosaic methodology of gradual advances and aimless experimentation, until the ambitions he held as a youth return with a vengeance. Forming a doctrine as mismatched and bastardised as the creation it ultimately leads to, Frankenstein grafts the promise of the former onto the methodology of the latter. The enduring message of caution is thus aimed at those who would recklessly bend the paths of rational thought toward irrational ends, so intent upon a distant point of gratification that the ethical dimensions of each step in between are passed too swiftly for any real consideration. As both perpetrator and accomplice, it is the innocent dreams of a young Victor who wished to undo the loss of a beloved family pet and his dear mother that press the prodigal Frankenstein of science into their service. Science, when practised according to impartial scientific principles, is no more culpable than any tool subject to misuse. Significantly, the only scene to present a material divergence from this idea – consisting of an eleventh-hour encounter with Professor Waldman – is one that does not occur in the novel.

The staid Professor Waldman
While the circumstances surrounding his creation may be considered monstrous, the creature itself is anything but. Once again placing faith in its source material, Frankenstein depicts the antagonist in the closest possible manner to the way Shelley describes him: tall and lean, with a mane of black hair and physical abilities far exceeding those of ordinary men. This necessarily reduces the degree of visceral aversion many are doubtless accustomed to from other film incarnations, but the human semblance is imperfect enough to maintain an unnerving aura about the character. The sequences in which Frankenstein labours over his creation depict suitably exaggerated proportions – given that he is forced to use normal bodies to build another that is abnormally large – and prove the validity of the 'uncanny valley' approach. Credit is also due to Luke Goss, who augments the design aspects with a thoroughly engrossed performance, conveying an appropriate level of sympathy to offset the latent sense of menace. Far from the lumbering half-idiot of popular imagination, this is a creature whose gaunt skin seems barely able to contain the seething mass of emotion that it harbours within, and which it vents whenever possible in eloquent and persuasive speech. The result is a palpable sense of inversion between creator and creation during their various confrontations, with the former using a veil of reasoned indifference to suppress any claim upon his emotions, and the latter thrown at the mercy of a passion whose fervour exceeds his ability to offer reasonable justification. Each is thus portrayed as an excess of one quality or the other: rational thought or irrational emotion.

A noble creature, spurned
One of the more important, and certainly one of the most interesting areas in which Frankenstein can be seen to either benefit or suffer from its degree of fidelity is its underlying tone. As always, whether you happen to react one way or the other depends greatly on individual expectation. For although we often find Mary Shelley and her literary creation placed together with the likes of Bram Stoker and Robert Louis Stevenson, we are to some extent remiss in doing so. All three represent pinnacles in the Gothic genre, to be sure, but the latter belong to a Victorian revival characterised by gaslight, dark alleyways, and a murky world of black-cloaked horrors. Frankenstein belongs to an earlier phase in the genre, with ties to the Romantic poets in whose company the tale was literally formed. Like the poems of Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Byron, this story takes place in a picturesque natural landscapes, from the Bavarian town of Ingolstadt, to the vast amphitheatre of the Alps, and the bright expanse of the Arctic waste. It is a horror of implication, not of visceral slaughter; like a troubling dream rather than a bloody nightmare. In this respect, Frankenstein perhaps even manages to surpass its source material, for on film the discrepancy between brief moments in which all is dark and surreal, and long stretches in which all is light and familiar is particularly jarring. It is almost possible to join the protagonist in his wishful belief that the menace surrounding him is no more than a haunting fantasy, whereas in the novel the threat remains all-pervading. Our separation from the innermost thoughts of the protagonist also throws a light on the central drama that no reading of the novel would be likely to yield, being how mundane the underlying conflict actually is. Exclude the supernatural elements of death and resurrection and all we are left with is the common scenario of a young man who leaves home to pursue his studies and commits in an act of indiscretion, only to find himself confronted with the task of admitting that error to his family in the form of an illegitimate child. In the end, it is shame alone that Victor cannot reconcile himself with, to the ruin of all those around him; all his bastard progeny seeks is acknowledgement of his right to the name Frankenstein.

A drama a human failings before the spectacle of nature

Screen -
Julien Benoiton

The last in a three-part series, this documentary relates the real-life experiments that would inform much of the story in Frankenstein. Through a combination of dramatic recreation and commentary from experts and historians, the story of Professor Giovanni Aldini and his quest to understand the powers which imbue animal life are recreated with lavish flair. Culminating with the attempted revivification of an executed man, these historical events may have played as much a part in inspiring some of the divergent film adaptations of Frankenstein as the original work itself, and are certainly a tale worth exploring in their own right. The truth, as they say, is sometimes stranger than the fiction.

Ridley Scott

Ostensibly based on the novella Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, Blade Runner might also be described as a Frankenstein for the twentieth century, dealing with many of the same fundamental issues. In a near-future world of vast urban sprawl, corporations exert a level of influence far exceeding that of national governments, exploiting advanced technologies in order to maintain their position. Specialising in genetic engineering, the Tyrell Corporation manufactures advanced humanoid creations called Replicants, who are virtually indistinguishable from ordinary human beings. When five of these units escape their assigned duties and return to earth, seeking answers from their creator, retired officer Rick Deckard is assigned the task of hunting down and eliminating them. Taking the same existential questions posed by the creature in Frankenstein, the film projects them to a point where they implicate society as a whole.

Script -
Mary Shelley

First published in 1818, when Mary Shelley was a mere nineteen years old, this seminal tale of Gothic revivification has exerted considerable influence in popular culture over the two centuries since. The mythology surrounding its invention is almost as widely disseminated as the novel itself, involving a challenge to construct the most chilling ghost story, and the likes of Percy Shelley, John Polidori, and the infamous Lord Byron himself. Unlike its competitors, only one of which even saw completion and publication, Frankenstein diverged greatly from the predictable ghost story formula, to the extent that it is often held up as one of the earliest examples of the science fiction genre. This is despite the fact that Shelley maintains a strict aversion to revealing the actual science involved, for reasons of both character motivation and simple narrative convenience. With such an enduring legacy and an indelible place in the canon of world literature, it is no surprise that any of the myriad genres in spans should wish to lay claim to it.


As its subtitle The Modern Prometheus attests, Mary Shelley consciously drew upon Ancient Greek Mythology as a leitmotif in Frankenstein. The most detailed treatment of the story of Prometheus to have survived through to modern times is this, the only extant instalment in a trilogy first performed in the 5th Century BC. Beginning with the eponymous Titan being chained and impaled upon a mountain peak, Prometheus Bound relates the cruel treatment meted out by Zeus when it is found that Prometheus stole fire from the gods in order to raise humankind out of primitive savagery. The parable seems to have held special poignancy for poets in the Romantic movement, many of whom Mary Shelley was personally familiar with. Indeed, Percy Bysshe Shelley would go on to publish a poem entitled Prometheus Unbound, having initially been presumed as the author of Frankenstein when it was first published anonymously. No doubt the combination of a benevolent, suffering god coupled with the symbolic power of fire as a representation of intelligence, passion, and hope lay at the heart of this appeal.

John Milton

Though quoted in this version of Frankenstein, it is not explicitly stated that one of the books used by the creature to improve his grasp on language is a copy of the English epic poem, Paradise Lost. This unlikely twist of fate sees it leave a mark not only in terms of his eloquent expression, but on the very fundamental way in which he views the world and his own circumstances. In a bewildering carousel of alternating roles, Frankenstein too identifies with various characters in the poem, casting himself both as God, insofar as he is the progenitor of a new species, and Adam, in light of the fact that he is still a man, despite his ambitions. In either case, his identification of the creature as Satan remains unflinching, while the creature itself alternates his sympathy between Satan and humanity after the fall. One interpretation that neither ultimately entertains is the possibility that Adam, in the form of Frankenstein, has actually given rise to a new God, represented by his superhuman creation.