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Critical Analysis of the Article “Maya Lin and The Great Call Of China”

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Corresponding to Victor’s initial situation with his creation, Lin faces an outcome of negative criticism and controversy to her virtuous intent. In 1979, Congress grants the committee of Vietnam War veterans the right to build a memorial in Washington D.C., dedicated to American soldiers killed in the Vietnam conflict. A design is put out by the committee convening a blue-ribbon panel of sculptors, architects, and landscape architects to evaluate more than 1,400 submissions. And when the winner is declared, no one is more surprised than the 20 year-old Yale undergraduate herself, Maya Lin. Her vision consisted of “a journey…a journey that would make you experience death and where you’d have to be an observer, where you could never really fully be with the dead. It wasn’t going to be something that was going to say, ‘It’s all right, it’s all over,’ because it’s not,” stated by the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), an American public broadcaster and television program distributor, which is a nonprofit organization and the most prominent provider of educational television programming to public television stations in the U.S., where the short excerpt on “culture shock” visual arts describes the controversy surrounding her design and her view on it. The monument undoubtedly vocalizes her vision: two long, low, black granite walls buried in the earth, inscribing 57,692 American troops in the order that they fell, the wall emerging from the tips of the earth and meeting in the center at an angle, one pointing toward the Washington Monument and the other toward the Lincoln Memorial (McCombs). Evidently, Lin’s intent is that of mourning and loss, as she does not intend to glorify the act of mourning.

However, the piece received a plethora of criticized attacks, similar to the Creature, stemming from the piece itself, as well as stemming from her – the designer. “Maya Lin and The Great Call Of China” an article by the Washington Post published on January 3rd, 1982, which covers the viewpoint of Lin’s journal and surrounding family, friends, and scholars, as she designs, wins, and continues her architectural career in the 80s, describes Lin’s design as “spare, black, merged with the earth” (Mccombs) and has been “criticized as unheroic.” (Mccombs). Along with the generalized voice, two early prominent supporters of the project, H. Ross Perot and James Webb, withdrew their support once seeing the design. Webb, who has served as a United States Senator from Virginia, Secretary of the Navy, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs, and Counsel for the United States House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs stated, “I never in my wildest dreams imagined such a nihilistic slab of stone.” Secretary of the interior under President Ronald Reagan, James Watt, initially refused to issue a building permit for the memorial due to public outcry about the design. This is mentioned in “The Vietnam Memorial’s History”, an article from the Washingtonian magazine published on November 1, 2007 by Denis Kristen Wills that discusses initial societal divide between Lin’s design. She explains her reasoning to black marble, stating in the Washington Post article that “It’s a mirror, you can see yourself in it…” which “makes [it] two worlds, it doubles the size of the park” (Mccombs) and clarifies her reasoning against the traditional usage of statuary white. “If it were white it would blind you because of the southern exposure. Black subdues that and creates a very comforting area.” (Mccombs). Lin creates something alienated to societal norm. It is only a “slab of stone” (Webb) and of the complete opposite color from traditional white. Victor’s creation is no different, shown chiefly when Victor describes his first encounter with the creature:

“I beheld the wretch – the miserable monster whom I created. He held up the curtain of the bed; and his eyes, if eyes they may be called, were fixed on me. His jaws opened, and he muttered some inarticulate sounds, while a grin wrinkled his cheeks. He might have spoken, but I did not hear; one hand was stretched out, seemingly to detain me, but I escaped, and rushed downstairs.” (Shelley 35)

In the passage, Victor calls the Creature who he assumes would be among “many happy and excellent natures” that “would owe their being to [him]” (Shelley 32), a monster for mankind: without proper humanly eyes and a weird grin, to name a few. Lin practically quotes his intent in Chapter four with an interview with the Washington Post in the article, “Maya Lin and The Great Call of China.” (mentioned above). “It’s incredible how possessive I am about the memorial. It’s like my art is my babies. For the first time I created something beyond myself. Usually creating is such a selfish act.” And like Victor in Chapter four, Lin is fascinated with death too. “Everyone knows I’m morbid,” (Mccomb) she says. But unlike Lin, Victor doesn’t realize his selfish act and also disregards the act of them “ow[ing] their being to [him]” (Shelley 32), as he spares no time to hear the Creature’s calls or outstretched arm which “detain[s]” (Shelley 35) him, and he decides to flee before lingering a listen. In the passage of reality, Lin created the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial to honor 57,692 American troops who died in the conflict of Vietnam with a plain good intent, but the outcome begged to differ, as she breaks past societal norm. It is only a “slab of stone” (Webb) and of something apart from traditional white, among other factors such as her Chinese heritage discussed in “Maya Lin and The Great Call Of China”.

Even though Lin’s architectural piece does parallel with Victor’s creation, it parallels only initially; Lin utilizes continuity, where societal/cultural norm shifts as it embraces forgein thought, and eventually surpasses Victor’s (initial) negative outcome with her positive intent that trumps the “black is depressing” haters! Controversy has since faded. Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund President Jan Scruggs, who conceived the idea of building a memorial in 1979 comments that “in the past 25 years,

it has become something of a shrine.”(Garber). She says this in an “A Milestone for a Memorial That Has Touched Millions”, an article from the U.S. News and World Report, a non-biased American media company that publishes news, consumer advice, rankings, and analysis, which touches on the history and cultural development of the memorial in the article. According to Statistica, the visitor amount approximated to 4.72 million in 2018, which accounts for a 5th of the total visitor amount of Washington D.C. in the same year, and as time goes by, statistics suggests that both visitor amounts increase. Statistica is an online portal for statistics, which calculates data collected by research institutes and data derived from economic sector and official statistics available in English, French, German and Spanish. Using the novel, Frankenstein, with a socio-cultural lens, Lin’s vision of unglorifying war works out. Cultural and societal thought eventually shifts to embrace her vision, and Lin suggests that her positive intent does outweigh the initial negative outcome received.

Expanding on Victor’s negative outcome with the Creature as time progresses throughout the novel, the initial outcome balances through avid use of remorse between Victor and the Creature, creating a hazy line between outcome outweighing intent, or vice versa. Shelley establishes this through blame which cannot be assigned fairly or accurately to one particular side. Victor’s intent holds good. Firstly, he shows the nature of his intent before the creation of the creature, stating “Life and death appeared to me ideal bounds, which I should first break through, and pour a torrent of light into our dark world.” (Shelley 32). He continues to reason that “if [he] could bestow animation upon lifeless matter, [he] might in process of time….renew life where death had apparently devoted the body to corruption.” (Shelley 32). Because of the death of his mother, where he couldn’t “describe the feelings of those whose dearest ties are rent by the most irreparable evil; the void that presents itself to the soul; and by the despair that is exhibited on the countenance.” (Shelley 24), Victor balances valid reasoning with his more selfish desire to “play god” as Leslie Docksey comments in the article Playing God, Creating Hell: The Arrogant Misuse of Science. He also shows his virtuous intent during and after his creation with every tragedy.

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“Nothing is more painful to the human mind than, after the feelings have been worked up by a quick succession of events, the dead calmness of inaction and certainty which follows and deprives the soul both of hope and fear. Justine died; she rested; and I was alive. The blood flowed freely in my veins, but a weight of despair and remorse pressed on my heart, which nothing could remove.” (Shelley 61)

It is evident that Victor does not have intent of evil, as he feels his heart sinking when thoughts of evil arose. Those who were innocent and of love to Victor like William Frankenstein, Justine Moritz, Henry Clerval, and Elizabeth Lavenza all died – simply due to the creation he crafted out of virtuous intent. He believes that it is unjust for him to stay “alive” (Shelley 61) while Justine “die[s]” (Shelley 61), but in “rest” as he carries a remorseful “weight of despair” (Shelley 61).

The tragedies constructed from Victor’s virtuous intent tears down a clarified boundary between if the creature, the outcome, is more to blame than Victor, because not only does he actively feel remorse for his actions throughout each tragedy, but the Creature as well. On page 165, the Creature spills out his remorse to Walton like a raging river.

“It is true that I am a wretch. I have murdered the lovely and the helpless; I have strangled the innocent as they slept, and grasped to death his throat who never injured me or any other living thing. I have devoted my creator, the select specimen of all that is worthy of love and admiration among men, to misery: I have pursued him even to that irremediable ruin. There he lies, white and cold in death…your abhorrence cannot equal that with which I regard myself. (Shelley 165)”

The Creature regards what people have called him, as himself – “a wretch”. He acknowledges to the contributed sufferings: he has “murdered,” “strangled” and “grasped” the innocent, those who are indifferent, as well as his creator, who “lies white and cold in death.”

Like Victor who weeps as he is alive, while Justine and William (and others) are dead, the Creature acknowledges his state of existence – now while his creator lies in his deathbed.

As time progresses throughout the novel, Shelley creates a hazy line between outcome outweighing intent, or vice versa, through the use of remorse and guilt to lack of responsibility between Victor and the Creature.

Ultimately, to evaluate if intent outweighs outcome, Lin concedes with Shelley’s point on the factors shifting due to weight of remorse and responsibility, but Shelley dissociates from Lin as Victor and her outcome – the Creature – dies away unlike an inanimate object (lol). Like Victor, Lin’s intent stays positive and virtuous (clearly), but the negative outcome shifts to positive with societal impact, similar to the Creature who confesses to remorse and responsibility, discussed above.

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Critical Analysis of the Article “Maya Lin and The Great Call Of China”. (2022, December 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 10, 2023, from
“Critical Analysis of the Article “Maya Lin and The Great Call Of China”.” Edubirdie, 27 Dec. 2022,
Critical Analysis of the Article “Maya Lin and The Great Call Of China”. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 10 Jun. 2023].
Critical Analysis of the Article “Maya Lin and The Great Call Of China” [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Dec 27 [cited 2023 Jun 10]. Available from:
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