Category: Frankenstein and Film (4/9)


The Misunderstood Monster

While reading this novel, I have been having the reoccurring question in my head asking “Who’s truly the monster?” For as long as I have known or heard of Frankenstein (which is forever) I have never once considered if his portrayed character was real or not. Now, after reading some of this novel, I am actually upset with myself for not doing any research on him or his portrayed character. Frankenstein is completely misunderstood in both this novel as well as everyday, real life.

A few misconceptions I personally had of Frankenstein are the basic ones everyone knows. One of the most obvious ones is green skin tone on him. In chapter 5, Victor describes his appearance as follows: “His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful. His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath…”(Shelley 35). In this description, Shelley proves us wrong with this misconception that he’s green. Other misconceptions include his walk and the pace of it. We have always been told that he walks with his arms up and slowly, but in Shelley mentions in the novel that he’s rather fast, like supernaturally fast.

I have always thought Frankenstein was this monster who was evil, a murderer, and was shunned by the rest of the world based solely on his appearance. Frankenstein is a fictional representation of marginalized groups in society such as those that are disabled and etc. I am truly enjoying this novel, and I cannot wait to see what is to come. frankenstein_by_mindsiphon-d5ufi8g

– Rahma Kohin

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By Isaac Gallegos Rodriguez

Mary Shelley’s gothic novel, “Frankenstein”, and it’s overall impact on our society and it’s culture is extraordinary. This is further supported by the that the majority of us are at least acquainted with the Frankenstein myth. The name “Frankenstein” conjures up images of a mad scientist, pseudoscience, and of course the monster itself. However, it is a significantly different experience reading the novel as opposed to solely relying on the myth.

Frank.The reason for this is that the myth of Frankenstein creates an inaccurate representation of the characters and their moral standings. For example, I had the preconceived notion that Victor Frankenstein was our stories protagonist, while the monster was the antagonist. In simpler words, I had believed that Victor Frankenstein was our story’s “good guy”— it was thought that although he could be described as a reckless character, his ingenuity and his good intentions would’ve been his redeeming factors. However, as we read the novel, Victor Frankenstein’s character wasn’t  improved – it was damaged.  For instance, when Victor undertook the task to reanimate dead matter he said “Life and death appeared to me ideal bounds, which I should first break through, and pour a torrent of light into our dark world.” This quote helped illustrate how Victor viewed himself, as a powerful creator, yet he is only a human. As the story progresses, we come to understand that this god complex is Victor’s hamartia. This lapse in moral judgement ultimately created pain and suffering, but at the expense of others— and because of Victor’s god complex and his irresponsible decisions, his image is ultimately damaged.  Consequentially, as we start to depend on the actual novel instead of the Frankenstein myth  and it’s preconceptions, a noticeable change can be seen with the monster’s character. The former myth that we had been prescribed to had dictated that the monster had been the villain of the story; this preconception is greatly challenged as we start to see that the monster is a very complex and relatable character. Throughout the story, the monster becomes less of fiend and more so a victim of prejudice and discrimination. Even the monster recognizes this injustice, saying “I am thy creature; I ought to be thy Adam; but I am rather a fallen angel, whom thou drivest from joy for no misdeed”. The monster has a valid claim to Victor’s affection, however Victor Frankenstein continues to deny him this until the very end.

 

Therefore, after reading Mary Shelley’s novel, “Frankenstein”, our aforementioned preconceptions on the myth of Frankenstein are greatly challenged.  In this case, we see a dramatic shift in character relations and moral standings. The true victim in this tale was the monster, because as Percy Shelley wrote, “his original goodness was gradually turned into the fuel of an inextinguishable misanthropy and revenge”, due to the actions of the tale’s true monster — Victor Frankenstein.

Dumbing it Down

In her essay, Zakharieva observes that in Whale’s adaptation of the book, the Creature is portrayed as a savage, crude being with no real sophistication. She notes that the relationship between Creator and Creature takes on a cultural tone of Coloniser and Slave. Frankenstein is almost able to tame the Creature with food and drink much like a beast. Was this portrayal intentional giving the huge discrepancy in the book? If so, then why did Whale feel it appropriate to portray the Creature in such a way?

Zakharieva in her essay mentions the female creature and the “decision” she has to make between Victor and the Creature. She states, “The bride is not a completely new being, she is a re-creation of the two women to whom Frankenstein is bound through his sense of guilt. The Female Creature is torn between her lover and his evil counterpart – the Monster” (Zakharieva). What is the significance of the bride’s indecision? What does her self destruction mean in terms of the battle between Victor and the Creature?

Zakharieva starts his essay with a really interesting point about how Branagh’s film advertises itself as a production of the original novel, as being a “resurrection of the authentic Frankenstein”(416) and how in trying to mimic “the original artistic codes of the Romantics”, it actually parallels Victor’s attempt to mimic the “codes and mechanisms of Nature” to make the Creature. I could definitely see this attempt to stick to the novel’s storyline and it mostly does, with a few deviances, until we get to the end where it COMPLETELY and with no warning, swerves off track with the making of the female monster. Zakharieva discusses this scene but he doesn’t comment on how out of the blue it is, considering how relatively closely the movie was following the actual narrative. Why does Zakharieva talk of the attempted authenticity of the film but ignore the fact that it later consciously gives up being authentic? Was this deviation for theatricality, or for showing how one cannot truly copy something and that the result will always be an imperfect abomination, or did Helena Bonham Carter just want to try out a new look?

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Frankenstein 1994

Let’s talk a bit more about the creation’s birth scene. Bouriana Zakharieva, in “Frankenstein of the Nineties: The Composite Body,” writes that in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994), “[c]reator and creation embrace in an ambivalent scene of struggle and affection; their hug is an expression of a desire to separate from each other and at the same time to help each other stand erect” (422). The claim is that this moment symbolically represents “human evolution” (422) and their eventual “love-hate relationship” (423).

But for me, I think this was downright one of the most comedic scenes of the film. Victor fails at least six times to get his creation to stand in that slimy mess, and the camera makes no effort to disguise the pitifulness of it all. I didn’t see much animosity so much as a little creator so desperately wanting his creation to stand.

I have way too many questions, but oh well:

Why did Branagh introduce this “standing-up scene,” which Mary Shelley never put in her novel? Does its comedy (if you agree that it’s funny) serve some purpose? How does it, as Zakharieva claims, represent “human evolution”? Finally, why is it only after the creation’s actually chained up that Victor questions, “What have I done?”

The Ending

One major difference between the book and the movie that wasn’t discussed much in the essay was the ending. The book ends with the creature disappearing into “darkness and distance,” while the movie shows the creature lighting Victor’s funeral pile and burning along with him. Is this an attempt to redeem the creature? By burning alongside Victor, the creature could be trying to atone for his killings and trying to prevent any more from happening by destroying himself. In doing this, does the creature upset the dichotomy of “Nature/Woman/Good versus Science/Man/Evil”? What does the more concrete finality of the movie suggest?

What about the sex?

I thought it was unusual that in discussing the “hypercorporality” of Branagh’s film adaptation, Zakharieva did not discuss the film’s portrayal of sexuality, particularly in the relationship between Victor and Elizabeth. I thought it was significant that Branagh deviated from Shelley’s text in choosing to portray the physical aspects of their relationship (ie. to the point that the marriage was consummated before the monster kills Elizabeth). I wonder whether the attention to a very sexual corporality (Branagh even makes Elizabeth’s death more sexual by having the monster rip out her heart, leaving her covered in blood) is reflective of the moral looseness of the late 80’s and early 90’s. Or is Branagh really heightening the sexual crises of the novel (ie. the monster’s sexuality is ambiguous or nonexistent)?

No blog post will be due this Thursday (4/9).  Instead, students will post short questions on Bouriana Zakarieva’s essay, “Frankenstein in the Nineties: The Composite Body” (416-431). The question should focus on anything that you find perplexing, interesting, confusing, or unusual about this essay.  This small assignment will count only as part of your participation grade.  Students should read each other’s questions before class and come prepared with answers.

Students will be answering each others’ questions in class, so please bring your laptop to do some in-class blogging this Thursday.

Please categorize under “Frankenstein and Film” and, if possible, create some relevant tags.