So in the spirit of Halloween, I’ve decided to write a piece on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Not only is it a wonderful tale for this spooky season, but it’s also the 200th year anniversary of the publication of this wonderful novel. There are a lot of myths surrounding Frankenstein, and it’s changed through time with each new generation. It’s one of those stories that we know of, but that we don’t know well. We all know about “the creature”, that he’s this big, evil and scary monster, but the novel itself is more than merely a horror story.
The book differs to the many film and play adaptations that followed its release. It’s more intense, morally ambiguous, and I personally find it more terrifying. The novel gives the creature a narrative and a central role. Whereas in the adaptations, he’s nothing more than a monster who kills people. We see in the novel, that, yes, he is a murderer and does kill people, but, despite this, we also see how human “the creature” actually is. He tells us how rejected he felt by his creator when Frankenstein fled. We’re shown that he has a broad range of emotions and feelings. He is a creation of his environment. (No pun intended.) His actions were a response to his abandonment, and his feelings of anger and anguish grew with how people responded to him. Yet having said this, we do sympathize with Frankenstein. There’s a moment in the novel where The Creature comes to life, and is standing over Frankenstein. The Creature is confused and making noises and bizarre movements [and Frankenstein’s description of this is quite problematic] and Frankenstein is laying there terrified. I am sympathetic to him here, because realistically, if a giant, horrifying, reanimated creature was to enter the room, I would probably get up and run too, as would most of you.
One noticeable thing about the myth of Frankenstein, is the description of the creature. He’s quite different to any of the costumes that can be found in the Halloween stores, or that you’ll find knocking at your door on Halloween night. Unlike this loathsome, green, zombie-like creature we’re all used to, he’s described as having “yellow skin” that “scarcely cover[s] the work of muscles and arteries beneath”. He doesn’t have the slow waddle, but instead is able to run fast, and jump to abnormal heights. He was made to be an improvement of the human race. I honestly think this is one of the most terrifying things about this novel. The creature doesn’t look like a monster, but he’s not quite human either, and thus we can’t figure him out.
In the 1994 movie adaptation, there are a huge number of differences. This version of the story is the one that we’re all more familiar with. One of the biggest differences is the creation of the female creature. In the movie, he brings his cousin Elizabeth back to life, and then the Creature tries to take her as his bride. However in the novel, Frankenstein uses an unknown process to create the creature’s bride. The woman is unknown, and more importantly, is not Elizabeth. Frankenstein destroys this would-be-creation instead of reanimating her. If you want to be very meticulous, Elizabeth doesn’t have her heart ripped out of her chest by the Creature, rather he strangles her instead. It’s also worth noting that at no point in the novel does Frankenstein scream “It’s alive!” at the monster.
The play adaptations that followed Frankenstein’s release weren’t entirely true to the text either. The hunchback assistant Igor [Fritz], actually doesn’t exist in the original novel. He actually first appears in “Presumption; or, The Fate of Frankenstein”, by Richard Brinsley Peake. Not only does Brinsley add in characters, but he doesn’t actually name the Creature. The Creature is referred to as “(—)”, and that’s all.
I would definitely recommend reading Frankenstein this Halloween. It’s spooky and scary, but also gets you to question morality and the character’s actions. It’s also worth seeing how different the novel is to all of these adaptations. Definitely interact with the “Frankenweek” that’s been planned, and celebrate this remarkable novel.