Something_other_than_Frankenstein

One of the most glaring stereotypes of the Frankenstein myth is that the moster itself is named Frankenstein, when in fact the monster was created by a man named Victor Frankenstein and in reality has no title other than the occassional reference to it as “the creature” or “the monster”. This stereotype is exhibited both in the images attached to the initial post and in the image provided above in which Dr. Frankenstein’s monstrous creation scowls down from above its misplaced label. The stereotype that the monster is named Frankenstein has been propagated by decades of references to the monster itself as Frankenstein by those who have not read the novel or perhaps by the shortening of “Dr. Frankenstein’s monster” to just “Frankenstein”.

Another stereotype involves the image of the wide-foreheaded green monster depicted in all of the above photos; this image originated in the 1931 film, Frankenstein, directed by James Whale, and has become the figurehead of Halloween lollipops and children’s ghosts stories since then. Obviously, when translating a novel to film, the visual interpretation of the novel can be somewhat skewed based on the preferences of those creating the movie. However, in the novel Dr. Frankenstein describes his monster: “His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness…” (page 60). This description is more accurately linked to an image such as this:

Frontispiece to Mary Shelley, Frankenstein published by Colburn and Bentley, London 1831

Frontispiece to Mary Shelley, Frankenstein published by Colburn and Bentley, London 1831

In this instance the monster is depicted in its true form, of giant human-like stature with its long black hair and incredible muscle which renders it “capable of scaling the overhanging sides of Mont Salève” (page 76). The above picture not only shows a physical rendition of Frankenstein that is much closer to the novel’s interpretation than that of the 1931 film interpretation, but it brings into question yet another stereotype about the monster’s disposition. Modern references to the monster depict it as an evil being, bent upon the violent destruction of mankind, however the monster is in innately benign and benevolent being that sincerely wants to learn about and be accepted into human society. The painting above depicts the monster’s bewildered and confused facial expression upon its introduction into life, rather than a hateful and vengeful expression of one who has a thirst for blood.

Thus, there is a multitude of stereotypes about the novel that can only arise and be propogated by those who do not know the true story of Victor Frankenstein’s “hideous progeny”. Indeed, I did not even know that Frankenstein was a novel until I began to take classes that expanded my literary knowledge; I merely thought that it was just another figure to celebrate on Halloween. It is important to distinguish the differences between the novel and the myth to fully understand the social commentary that underlies the plot, and which we are sure to learn about in the coming months.

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