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The Value Of Family

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The Value of Family

Marcel Huggins

While my family is not perfect I appreciate what I do have in comparison to the monster in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. With no father, mother, love, or acceptance, the monster is cast out into a world which judges him on his hideous appearance. He has no one to learn from or look to for advice, like I and most other American children do. Times have changed since our parents were children and families today face different challenges than those of a decade or two ago. Over the past few decades the concept of family has been revolutionized. A "traditional" family no longer consists of two parents of the opposite sex in which the father is the "breadwinner," and the mother stays at home to raise the children. Today's family is as diverse as the world it must exist in. The important thing about today's family is that success does not just happen; a strong family takes effort.

The "secret" to attaining a strong family, involves commitment, appreciation, communication, time, spiritual wellness, and coping ability. While this seems like a six-step program, it makes a lot of sense. The family must come first in family, and, commitment. Sexual fidelity, traditions, and sacrifice make a family stronger by creating close ties with the family members. Appreciation involves the children doing the dishes every once in a while, surprising your wife with flowers, or a trip to McDonalds. Communication is key in any type of relationship, especially in a family. No one wants to be alone in this world, and communication helps to build a sense of belonging and solve problems. Spending "quality" time together is important for a family. Too much time together can be stifling, but sitting down to dinner, going to church or going to the store together creates a greater sense of family. The best way to describe "spiritual wellness" seems to be "the Force" from Star Wars. It is something that is a link between people, an unseen power, that "can change lives, can give strength to endure the darkest times, can provide hope and purpose. Sometimes something so bad happens to a family and it seems impossible to go on with everyday life. Having spiritual wellness and the ability to cope with the bad as well as the good can help the family move on. Disease or a death in the family creates the necessity for the family to pull together, take the situation one step at a time, and stop worrying about the things that are not really that important.

In doing a little research about families, their values, and what makes them strong, it seems easy to make a list of the things necessary to make a family "good" and check them off as you go along. But there is no one recipe for a strong family because people face different challenges such as divorce and raising a child by themselves. Divorce began to be popularized in the early sixties and today America has the highest divorce rate. It is easier and quicker to get a divorce here than in any other Western country with the exception of Sweden (Westheimer and Yagoda 50-51). The living arrangements for children today are far from "traditional". Almost 10 percent of American children do not live in a household headed by at least one of their parents. Aunts, uncles, grandparents, and godparents have the responsibility of raising these children. Of those who do live with at least one parent, 70 percent live in two-parent families and 30 percent live in one-parent families. The change in family composition for black families has been drastic. Today, 63 percent of black children live in one-parent families and thirty-seven percent live in two-parent families. This is almost the opposite of figures in 1970 when 64 percent of black children lived in two-parent families and 36 percent lived in one-parent families (Westheimer and Yagoda 31).

While there is not a scale with which to weigh exactly how strong a family is, the family of Victor Frankenstein appears to be rather strong. His father is very kind and generous - which is exemplified in the rescue of his wife from certain poverty after the death of her father. The Frankensteins provide Victor and his siblings with much affection and a beautiful home. The couple "adopts" an orphan, Elizabeth, and she immediately becomes part of the family. Justine is offered a place in the family, although as a servant, when life with her mother becomes intolerable. Until the death of his mother, Victor is completely happy with his upbringing. "No human being could have passed a happier childhood than myself. My parents were possessed by the very spirit of kindness and indulgence...When I mingled with other families I distinctly discerned how peculiarly fortunate my lot was, and gratitude assisted in the development of filial love (Shelley 23)."

The question I ask myself is: If Victor was so happy with his family, why did he not tell them what was happening when he was making the monster? He does not write them, does not speak up at Justine's trial, and does nothing to protect them from the monster. He keeps this important secret from his family and then denies a family to his creation. This big secret of his ultimately leads to the death of his family and friends. Perhaps Victor does not learn the values of his parents he appreciates so well.

Another question I ask is whether or not Frankenstein should take responsibility as parent to his creation. In the traditional sense Victor is neither a father nor a mother, however,



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