Friday, September 18, 2009

Poison for Your Brain: Barnacle Man

Barnacle Man, Barnacle Man
Doin' the things a barnacle can:
Barnacle Man
That's a gross oversimplification, to be sure. But... look, I can't really do it justice. You should read it. The Good Doctor is eloquent in his scathing diatribe, and I should be so lucky as to inspire a tenth of the passion in my own readers as he inspired in me.

I will share a couple of choice comments, though. Barnacle Man wrote:
[Curious persons] take no heed of the warnings issued in Marlowe's "Dr. Faustus," Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein," H.G. Wells' "The Island of Dr. Moreau" and Robert Louis Stevenson's "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" (not to mention the myth of Pandora and the Incredible Hulk).
To this, semiprometheus responded with poignant rebuttals:
As a side note, Fish's fictional examples leave something to be desired:
Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein": The true "sin" was Frankenstein rejecting and abandoning his creature.
H.G. Wells' "The Island of Dr. Moreau": Despite what your English teacher told you, this is really a parable about God creating bestial but thinking beings, and oppressing them with a simplistic Law that denies their bestial nature.
Robert Louis Stevenson's "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde": The "serum" is merely a MacGuffin to explore a concept, that man has cruel and bestial urges restrained by reason and social pressure.
Pandora: Like the rest of the Prometheus myth, the real point of this story is that the gods are jerks.
Incredible Hulk: In canon, Bruce Banner's had his accident while trying to save a hapless youth who wandered into the test area. Also, the Hulk's real problem is anger management, not to mention an army of idiots who don't realize hurting him makes him stronger.
(I haven't read "Dr. Faustus", so I've no idea if Marlowe's text supports an interpretation aside from the superficial.)
And, of course, I got to chime in!
I find it tremendously ironic that Barnacle Man cites Marlowe's version of the Goethe play. You see, my last name is Faust, so I take this sort of thing kinda seriously (but I also realize that this is viciously arbitrary on my part). I own three copies of the Goethe play, and my favorite translation (Kaufmann's parallel) opens with:
I have, alas, studied philosophy
Jurisprudence and medicine, too
And worst of all, theology
With keen endeavor, through and through
And here I am, for all my lore
The wretched fool I was before.

I don't want to go on at too much length, but Goethe's play is complex and lends itself to layers and layers of interpretation. By stark contrast, it will suffice to say that Marlowe's play came to be presented as a comedic farce. It was a laughably unworthy abuse of the source material - much as our Barnacle Man poetically abuses the luxuries of his station to denounce the principles responsible for bringing him those luxuries.
This is a microcosm of how things are going over there. If this struck you as interesting in any way, then by all means, just go read it!

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