Essay About Frankenstein

The novel "Frankenstein" or "The Modern Prometheus" by Mary Shelley, which was first released in 1818, served as the inspiration for James Whale's 1931 horror film Frankenstein.

The movie recounts the tale of a monster that Victor Frankenstein, a young scientist, created. In order to make a man who was animated by electricity, the egotistical scientist and his assistant dug up corpses. Victor's helper unintentionally gave the creature a strange, murderer's brain, though. It consequently evolved into a beast.

Victor desired to resurrect the deceased. He began to avoid his "creation," though, once he recognized that he had created a monster. The creature was also rejected by other people of the society out of fear and the rejection not only hurt the creature, but also made it a "real monster".

From the film (as well as from the novel), it is evident that the creation of Frankenstein was a scientific misadventure. By analyzing the movie, we come to know about both the human and inhuman nature of monsters. The creature not only displayed human features, but also had human characteristics. Its activities show that it developed a personality and acquired basic knowledge about the human society mainly from books. The creature, which also had feelings, exhibited compassion for his "family". Frankenstein's feelings about other peoples' activities and reactions, and his ability to gather information show the human nature of a monster.

The creature tried to interact with other people. However, they rejected and abused it, and prompted it to take revenge. Its desire to be accepted by other members of the society helps us understand the human nature of a monster.


After becoming a monster, Frankenstein showed its inhuman character and punished people for rejecting him by killing them.

Interestingly, there are several differences between the film and the novel. In the novel, we find that Victor developed a secret way of artificially creating life through his own studies and experiments. However, director Whale's Victor discovered the secret to creating life only after examining the research done by deceased Professor Waldman. In her book, Shelley did not mention how Victor created the creature's body parts. In the film, we find that Victor assembled the creature's body by using Professor Waldman's brain and pieces of criminals' corpses.

But, the most significant difference between the film and the novel is that the monster is portrayed as a man in the film, and not as a creature as described in the book. As the film depicts the creature as a man, he is referred to as Frankenstein.

Another important difference is that Victor not only accepted the monster, but also considered it as one of his significant creations in the film. On the contrary, Shelley's Victor rejected the creature.

The third most important difference is that the creature, as explained in the novel, loved to read classical literature. However, the film shows that the monster, which just grunts and growls like an animal, did not know how to deliver meaningful speech.

The fourth difference lies in the creation of the monster. In the novel, scientific principles were applied in creating Frankenstein. But in the movie, Victor used body parts of deceased criminals to create the monster.

The fourth difference helps us understand why "Frankenstein" is a horror film and not a science fiction movie. The science fiction film theory highlights the aspect of fiction films, focusing on


particular themes of features. Although Victor used the scientific theory while creating the monster in the film, the movie focused mainly on the activities of a monster.

The film, Frankenstein, helps us understand real characters of monsters, found in literature, by presenting certain features. These features help portray the monster as a man and that is why the audience empathizes with the monster. In his "Monster Culture (Seven Theses)", Jeffery Jerome Cohen tries to relate characteristics of monsters with societal fears and anxieties. If we analyze Whale's film through Cohen's theory, then we find that the hybrid identity of the monster and its activities not only created fear, but also popularized the creature.

Warren Montag analyzed the movie from a Marxist angle. He tries to explain how Voctor's creature is the epitome of the proletariat. He describes the creature as a representative of the unrepresentability of the proletariat. As the monster uses all his power to take revenge against his creator (as depicted in the film), Montag finds a shadow of proletariat in Frankenstein. Marxists believe that proletariats will destroy the capitalist system or the creator of the exploited class one day just like Frankenstein, which wanted to kill Victor. Many may disagree with Montag's view, as it will not be right to consider a huge section of people of our society as a powerful monster.

In their publication "A Zombie Manifesto", Sarah Juliet Lauro and Karen Embry explain Frankenstein in a different way. They opine that Shelley's Frankenstein lacks the capacity for thought. So, according to Lauro and Embry, the monster is involved in violent activities. They also discover the 'zombie' characters of the monster in the film. According to Lauro and Embry, the creature, as shown in the movie, is an amalgamation of commodification and individuality that cannot be compared with proletariat created by a capitalist system as described by Montag.


No one can deny the fact that director Whale made Shelley's novel much more popular through his film. Even after the publication of her book, Shelley did not imagine that her novel would have enormous social and cultural impacts. Whale deserves the credit for popularizing Frankenstein, despite the fact that his movie was not totally faithful to Shelley's story. The changes he made in the movie were necessary. Otherwise, the director could not turn a gothic melodrama into a horror film.

Both Shelly and Whale encourage us to explore ways to expand our scientific knowledge. They raised a serious question through their works: can we control life and death by expanding our scientific knowledge and act as god? That is why the Henry cries out "Now I know what it is like to be God!" when the creature comes to life (the 1931 film version). This question is far more relevant today compared to Shelley's era mainly because of significant advances in biomedical research. Today, scientists are able to keep people alive with artificial hearts. They can even create new lives through vitro fertilization. But, our society is still socially and politically divided. So, it is very much possible for a 'divided' society to create a modern Frankenstein with the help of outstanding scientific development. The image of Frankenstein warns us over the possibility of science changing the traditionally accepted boundaries of nature. Today, scientists can easily clone animals or help parents choose the sex of their unborn child because they have perfected a technology. But we have to think whether it is morally right to go against the nature with the help of science.

We may make a mistake if we consider Frankenstein just as a product for book and movie lovers. We have to understand the fact that Frankenstein's appeal goes far beyond just a good scare or a monster.

Work Cited

Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome. "Monster Culture (Seven Theses)", Chapter 4-5

Costello, John. Science Fiction Films. New York: Pocket Essentials, 2004. Print.

Frankenstein. USA Network: Marcus Nispel, 2004. DVD.

R.U.R. Czech Republic: James Kerwin, 1921. DVD.

Blade Runner. USA: Ridley Scott, 1982. DVD.

Sarah Juliet Lauro and Karen Embry, "A Zombie Manifesto", 87, 90, 96-7.

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