Tag Archive: film vs. novel

Oh Whale


Frankenstein directed by James Whale 1931

My preconception of the Frankenstein myth comes from the classic films such as James Whale’s Frankenstein (1931), as well as his other Frankenstein film. In the films he introduces the monster as this large green creature with a squared head who cannot utter a single word, which in itself is very much different when looking at the description of the monster given by Mary Shelley. The monster is created by Victor Frankenstein who many have since confused with the monster over the years and who people continue to confuse to this day, such as myself on the occasion. His interpretation of the monster alone has been used for decades, especially in the form of animations and cartoons like in the Scooby-Doo series or even the Marvel Universe although it doesn’t stop there. With a large cult following, the myth of Frankenstein and his monster have since lived on and has become something you find in pop culture. Its had many other film adaptations apart from James Whale’s 1931 classic such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994) which gave the monster a whole new appearance. The monster appears more human in this adaptation although keeps with its grotesque appearance. He can speak more, and is shown to be more aggressive and cruel when he ripped out Elizabeth’s heart out of her chest. The film would later branch off and connect to another cult classic, Whale’s Bride of Frankenstein, when Elizabeth is brought back to life by Victor. Though there have been other notable works over the years that can be listed, it should be noted that the novel has also made its way in other such works with other intelligent beings being cursed with knowledge just as they had been in the novel.

Reading Shelley’s novel gave me an entirely new perspective of the monster, challenging the way I had once saw him. There was no longer this green square headed monster killing those around him or by accident. Fire was no longer his weakness and he was no longer mute. He had transformed, had become intelligent, for being a monster being brought back to life, and a incredibly lonely creature who only wanted attention from someone he couldn’t get it from, something many people can relate to. The monster became much more than what was shown in films through the years which was one thing I truly enjoyed when reading the novel. He became a more complex creature as I read on, one that wanted to be loved and to love and not exiled by humans or his creator for that matter.

If anything, the one thing I noticed that remained true through the myths that followed the novel was Frankenstein’s disgust for his creation and who truly was the villain in the story.

. Lou Flores

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?”

Frankenstein: The Novel & The Myth

Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”, the story of a scientist and the creation that results in his downfall, has endured in Western culture for nearly two decades and created a lasting impact on stage and screen. There are several aspects of the Frankenstein story that have modified in these adaptations and differ from the tale that Shelley originally created, such as the intelligence and capability of Dr. Frankenstein’s monster, but to me the most interesting change is the representation of the doctor himself.

Before I read the novel, the image I had of Dr. Frankenstein was through the film versions of the novel, and the references made in popular culture to those versions. The modern Frankenstein is portrayed as the quintessential “mad scientist”, a person bent on proving societies misconceptions about his work wrong at any cost. Films such as 1931’s Frankenstein, a picture from which is shown here, enforce this image of madness through the creation of a new character, Igor, the deformed henchman that assists Victor Frankenstein in giving the monster life. No such image is given in the Shelley novel, and the doctor is presented not as an insane, vengeful lunatic, but as a deeply rational and selfless scientist that attempts to conquer death in order to cure disease and pave the way to immortality. The film Frankenstein is also oblivious to the horror he created until killings start to occur by the creature’s hands, while the literary Frankenstein regrets his endeavor almost instantaneously upon animating it.

Perhaps Frankenstein has been transformed into a relatively one-dimensional character in order to give more attention to the creature he creates, a figure that is undoubtedly both enthralling and repulsing. Between the intended and the modern stories of Frankenstein a great degree of change has taken place. Despite being a 19th century tale of fear, one might proclaim that “It’s Alive!”

dr frankenstein