Boris Karloff Frankenstein (1931)

The myth of Frankenstein has long been a vague and hazy concept to me. Recollections from my first introductions to the monster produce a green, ghoulish figure; slow of speech and mind. Never bothering to actually read the classic novel, I accepted the general view of an evil zombie. If you had actually asked for a summary of the novel, I would have presented a simplistic tale comprising of a dark night, some lightning and a brain-dead zombie. However, upon completing the novel I was bewildered. Literally everything that I had believed about the “Frankenstein” had been turned on its head. How modern art had mangled this depiction so thoroughly was beyond me.

Firstly, the monster was not even called Frankenstein, a rather surprising misnomer. Rather, its creator  Victor Frankenstein, was the original bearer of the name. Throughout the novel, the creature was named in terms such as ‘fiend’, ‘daemon’ and other similar titles. He never actually adopts a name, adding to the foreign mystique of the creature. Secondly, the actual representation I had held of the creature was also negated by the novel. I had pictured a lumbering, stiff moron complete with droopy eyes and a speech impediment. This was the exact opposite, with Shelley portraying a lithe, supple creature of gigantic proportions. He possessed a striking physique, with all the limitations of a normal human having been removed. His devilish speed and agility gave him almost an invincible air, as he flitted in and out of scenes, tormenting Frankenstein.His mental aspect was also another twist in my readings. The creature was the polar opposite of the dull-witted monster so popular with the public today. He entered the living world bereft of knowledge and language yet masters both with incredible speed. Indeed, the monster compares his learning to another character, a Turkish woman by the name of Safie, who has little knowledge of French. He easily outstrips her learning and by the time he returns to his creator, he is not only fluent in French but has become a sophisticated and eloquent speaker. His ability to express his emotions (which seem more complex and deeper than any other character in the book), is astounding and gives credit to his godlike makeup.

The stereotype of “Frankenstein” could not be further from the true depiction. The fact that the popular image has strayed so far from the novel’s portrayal is both perplexing and amazing. Furthermore, the acceptance of the public s popular stereotype continues due to the ignorance that surrounds this classic novel. I for one would have remained blissfully unaware of this inaccurate and in my opinion butchered stereotype, had I not been prompted to read the novel.

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