Tag Archive: Myth vs. Novel


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By: Jade Graham

I first saw the painting above in my AP English Literature and Composition class around this time last year. Painted by Henry Fuseli in 1781, The Nightmare was presented to me as a cautionary tale. Shelley herself was influenced by Fuseli’s work used as a symbol for the monster within everyone. The creepy incubus next to the also creepy horse is known as a demon that craves sex and preys on women as a whole. The idea of having Elizabeth as Victor’s wife (or whatever you would like to refer her as) being portrayed as pure, innocent, wearing white, and a nice formal girl: a perfect target for an incubus. Now, not to say that an incubus does appear in Frankenstein however it does connect to Elizabeth’s death. Her similar pose and the monster killing her does relate to The Nightmare.

As for my previous conceptions about Frankenstein and the myths surrounding it, I only knew that the monster was bad and that a crazy guy created him. Only until I read the book in high school did my whole perspective change. The 1931 movie adaption with this clip:

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was wrong. Victor is horrified in the novel and regret sets it. The reader can feel bad for both Victor and the creature, and for good reasons too. But in the end, Frankenstein is many things including a cautionary tale. The idea of greed, desire, fame, all led to destruction, murder, and chaos. Victor chose to dig up body parts and create something that was never meant to be created. He and Walton are examples of not only men but people who cross the line. Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should always do it.

by: Xóchitl Ortiz

Myth v.s Novel: Frankenstein:


The myth of Frankenstein goes a long way, but since this is based of my prior knowledge, I only know Frankenstein from the Academy Award winning cinematic masterpiece that is the Hotel Transylvania series (well, it should have an academy award by now). I genuinely thought he was the monster, and that he was friendly (which I was right about). In all actuality, I wasn’t aware that everyone else thought he was a scary monster, since my only source is a children’s movie from Sony Animations. Turns out, after all my ignorance and finally reading the novel, I learned Victor Frankenstein made the nameless creature thing and everyone was so mortified by his appearance that their reaction warped the creature’s character.

The novel reminded me of the saying, “beauty is skin-deep” and, after googling it I found that it is a phrase that a pleasing appearance is not a guide to character. Also, I found a song from the Temptations that’s not exactly a lyrical masterpiece, but (in my opinion) is worth listening to.

That short saying (to me) is a nice summary of the novel. The completely insane “Mad Scientist”, Victor Frankenstein, made a beautiful and intellectual creature that was extremely judged by everything it encountered, not by its kindness nor patience towards humans, but by its appearance. When I say the creature was beautiful….I mean it in the most pure, innocent way because the creature, in my perspective, was a kind-hearted soul. Similar to a child, he was inquisitive and fast-adapting. Unfortunately, like all things innocent, the thing was corrupted by the evil in the world. I saw something in the creature, something that was gentle and fragile, but because of his physical manifestation, he was rejected by society.

The novel is written through a series of letters- which gives it a more personal perspective and connection. The tone revealed to me the common theme which questioned, “What is actual beauty?”. Of course, beauty has multiple definitions and layers. You see, 200 years is quite some time. Although the number of the years increased, definitions differed, and time ultimately changed everything, one thing that seemed to not change was the ideology behind “beauty”. Everyone is just as judgmental about what people look like, instead of who they actually are as a human being, today as they were 200 years ago. If I made the rules in life, I would make it so that your physical appearance reflected your innermost self, but I don’t make the rules. Nowadays, exactly how it was back in the “good ol’ days”, beauty gives people benefits and the upper hand in life. This creature lacked the basic European features that was considered beautiful at the time, so people lacked empathy towards it. In my opinion, just because someone is attractive it doesn’t give them the right to be evil. The irony in this is that the creature was a physical representation of what society was: a monster.

The monstrous society made the creature warp his personality to match his appearance, completely warping who it was. In my eyes, the greatest connection is the simple definition of: “beauty is only skin-deep”. It is up the individual to perceive their definitions of what beauty is.

Citations:

https://www.google.com/search?q=beauty+is+only+skin+deep+meaning&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&hl=en-us&client=safari

By: Mark Acuña

            The story behind Frankenstein stems off a long timeline dating back all the way to the early eighteen-hundreds. A young woman named Mary Shelly was an intelligent writer and poet that was born into a sad life as the absence of her mother took a toll on her development as a writer. Although her work on her most renown novel Frankenstein introduces the story of how Victor Frankenstein creates a so called “monster” through the work of alchemy – we are presented with an image of the creature being called Frankenstein itself as well as a portrayed image that left us millennials with the perception that Frankenstein is some sort of green creature that is heavily portrayed during the season and holiday of Halloween.

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            With the very depiction of how Frankenstein is portrayed as through films and plays, it is safe to say that most of society most likely does not know about the truth and meaning of what lies behind the story of Frankenstein. With the beginning pages of the novel we are greeted with a character that seeks the attention of others through “friendships”. Walton is shown to carry some parallel with the actual story of Frankenstein – where in which the novel Frankenstein reflects the very same story of how Mary Shelly loses loved ones throughout her lifetime as well as seeks the attention, care and love from a “woman” or mother in this case. We learn that the “monster” that is portrayed as a monster in the novel is actually hurt, lost, confused and in the end – all alone. The creature that was created as a reflection from Mary Shelly, she is isolated by her works in gothic literature and the curiosity of myth with reality.

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Serena Ya

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Initially, upon hearing the name “Frankenstein,” we often imagine a horrific, grotesque creature sewn together from dead tissue. However, Frankenstein is the creator of the frightening creature that we all know. The unnamed creature, also often referred to as the “monster” is not originally created to be a monster. It is when the monster is abandoned, isolated, and rejected from society that he is shaped into the “monster” that he is. Through this, we see that the creature wanted only to be accepted and loved by society, revealing a sensitive and emotional side of him many do not associate the creature with.

Although the creature is created as a fully, physically developed human, we often believe that he has the mind of a baby – undeveloped, illiterate, and oblivious. However, the creature very quickly catches on and becomes extremely educated and knowledgeable, speaking eloquently with significant comprehension. In some ways, it may seem that the monster is more a human than Frankenstein, and that it is Frankenstein himself, who is the real monster.

By the end of the novel, we begin to feel sympathy for the creature, because from the beginning of his existence, he was deserted by his own creator and therefore questioned the purpose of his life. Mary Shelley’s novel uncovers the truth of the monster, through the help of the different narrative perspectives, so that the audience is able to understand the monster through several separate lenses.

– Written by Daniel Olmos

Before I was exposed to this novel my preconception of the Frankenstein myth was that the certain character was a green creature with little to no education, a selfish perspective, a bad attitude and no sense of humor. 

However, after reading the novel I have come to the conclusion that the Frankenstein myth was made up in order to appeal to many people. If people were to be told Frankenstein is a normal human being just like you and me, everyone would take it as an offense because that would mean the ambitious Victor Frankenstein is the real monster, therefore labeling us as a monster or in other words as an additional Frankenstein. Although the real Frankenstein is not who I would have believed it is at first I still believe the mythical Frankenstein and the human Victor Frankenstein in the novel possess very similar characteristics and beliefs. Victor Frankenstein is the person responsible for creating the “creature” as it is labeled in this novel, therefore you could say that Victor Frankenstein the human being, has characteristics as the mythical Frankenstein because they both share selfish characteristics. 

After I continued my reading of the novel I came to realize and determine that perhaps the reason the real “creature” is Victor Frankenstein is because human beings are the real monsters in Mary Shelly’s point of view. And the reason that other readers and myself are able to sympathize with the actual “creature” in this novel is because we know the creature never asked to be created in the first place. Therefore we can suggest that Victor’s ambitions and selfishness end up affecting his creation that he cherished so much, giving us the feeling of sympathy towards the creature. 

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Tania De Lira-Miranda

Though I had never read the novel of Frankenstein before this class, I thought I knew exactly what the novel was about. After all, Frankenstein is one of the most adapted novels and the monster is the most, if not, one of the most well-known horror creatures. So whenever someone would ask me what the novel was about, I was pretty confident that my summary of the novel was accurate and spot on; a mad scientist creates a manlike monster out of stolen body parts, who he names Frankenstein, in order to go beyond the known boundaries of science, and he succeeds, but the monster escapes from the scientist’s laboratory and torments the nearby village so the inhabitants then set out to kill the monster.

But after actually buying the novel and reading it, I knew that my summary needed some pretty big updates. The biggest being that Frankenstein was not the name of the monster but rather of the scientist, whose full name was Victor Frankenstein. The second preconception that changed was that the creature was not actually a mindless monster like I had originally thought. The creature was not a mindless monster but a sympathetic humanoid who did not want to kill people, at first, and only wanted to make an emotional connection with others. The creature was capable of emotion; he longed, he despaired, and he mourned.

Reading the novel certainly changed my perspective on a lot of subjects but it certainly helped me further understand a quote I once heard about the novel; “knowledge is knowing that Frankenstein is not the monster. Wisdom is knowing that Frankenstein IS the monster.”

Bianca Lopez Munoz

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I’ve never thought much about Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Before reading it, I had a very basic idea of the story. A crazy doctor creates a monster using random body parts, and eventually an angry mob with fire and pitchforks chase or try to kill the monster. I believed the creature was violent, empty-headed, and purposeless. I thought Victor Frankenstein to be a sick individual trying to play God. I believed his scientific endeavor to be not only unnecessary but also cruel to the actual creature he created. This understanding of the novel is probably common among those who have never read the book and are only familiar with the myth through what they have seen in films and cartoons growing up.

When I heard that the English class I would be taking this semester would be all about Frankenstein, I thought, what’s the big deal? The big deal is that Frankenstein is so much more and goes so much deeper than most people’s basic understanding of the novel. The book contains themes and issues that are still incredibly relevant to modern society, like feminism, ethics, and religion. It is the compilation of Mary Shelley’s life experiences and beliefs revolving those still relevant issues. The novel calls into question what it means to be human and spooks readers with the humanity that Frankenstein’s monster expresses that we cannot help but sympathize with. I do think there is some element of truth in the myth though. For example, the creature is violent at some points but it is not mindless violence. It is because it is angry, confused, and fearful. All of which are very human characteristics. I think this goes along with Ernest Hemingway’s ‘iceberg theory’ where deeper themes of a novel aren’t super explicit but are definitely identifiable by the reader.

This novel is so much more than a disturbed scientist creating an unintelligent monster. The story is jam-packed and valuable in that it helps opening the door for discussion, and fascinating arguments that are necessary to have in the modern day.

 

“Life, do you hear me? Give my creation life!”

Gene Wilder’s, well, wild invocation in Mel Brooks’s “Young Frankenstein,” added to the crazed look on his face helped establish the insanity of Frankenstein’s character in the movie. This of course follows the same mythos that the general public knows the story by: insane Dr. Frankenstein becomes an engineer of human life, attempting to create an artificial being. In at least two movie adaptations, he is assisted by a hunchbacked Igor and together they are successful, with the iconic “It’s alive!” being heard in both that I am familiar with. Then the stories diverge, with the common one ending with a final confrontation where the monster is burned to death. The 1994 movie is the closest to being an accurate representation of the book, with only a few plot points diverging.

There are elements of the true story within the commonly known version (though, how else would it still remain a version of the story), but they are incredibly stretched to adapt to the entertainment world. The original story’s main character is a man who is often depressed and/or ill, and a weak main character is rarely a boon for movies or pop stories. It is justifiable, then, to inject Frankenstein with more oomph – in the form of a mad scientist persona that makes him much more interesting than a fearful and almost paranoid man. In addition to this, it wouldn’t be as interesting of a movie if the prime antagonist isn’t evil, simply misunderstood and lonely. Yes, he is spiteful and vengeful, but these alone do not make a good villain for pop films, where morality is generally required to be very black and white.

In many senses, it is unfortunate that people are only familiar with these “inaccurate” versions of the story. But i am content to enjoy Mary Shelley’s version and let others seek the original story if they so desire.

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Before reading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus, I thought of the Frankenstein monster in purely physical terms. In the attached image, we see the modern archetypal image of Frankenstein’s creation that I have known since childhood, a green-skinned and large-browed giant, standing triumphant over an assortment of severed limbs. The features are not present in the text, yet they are so ingrained in our minds that a disproportionate doll caricature is easily identifiable. The appearance of a person can change much thought about him, and the gradual aesthetic transformation of Shelley’s monster to its modern day archetype reflects the gradual simplification of our relationship with the creature. Not many depictions of Frankenstein’s creation retain his distinctive features from the novel, such as smooth black hair and white teeth (pg 60)*. The man was ugly in some features, yet beautiful on others, suggesting a more fluid and interpretive character. Unlike the novel, the modern myth is obviously hideous and inhuman; the outlandish green skin is easily distinguishable unlike the sickly yellow of the text, and a pronounced brow suggests a lack of intelligence. When we look at this monster, instead of being conflicted, we know what to expect.

The pile of body parts reflects how the modern myth of Frankenstein does keep the artificial man’s propensity for violence, but changes the reason along with his appearance. In the novel, the creature has a distinct revenge motive that is eruditely spelled out to his creator (pg 93). Because Frankenstein’s creation has the capacity for complex thought and emotions, he bears responsibility for his own actions, giving his rebellion moral ambiguity. In contrast, the modern myth of the monster is of a dumb creature that is violent by nature, as represented by the random and haphazard collection of limbs he stands over. Jean-Paul Sartre’s metaphor of the paper knife suggests that, unlike a knife that has the built-in purpose for cutting, man has the ability to choose his purpose after existence. When the creature is presented as hideous and inhuman by nature, he loses the agency that allows the audience to relate with his emotions because the creature is unable to make his own decisions

The simplification of the creature’s dilemma and the audience’s empathy for the creature make for a more appealing icon, one that is simple and easy to grasp. Instead of knowing Frankenstein’s heir for the vengeful relationship and loneliness he felt or the murders that he performed, we know him simply for what he was. By just accepting that the artificial person was born with all of its deficiencies and no ability for moral choice, I assumed the role of Frankenstein when he judged his creation a monster on purely physical terms, leaving it alone to become a monster of a man.

* Corresponds to the Bedford/Saint Martin’s 2nd edition of Frankenstein is being used.

The Myth of Frankenstein

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With the many years for the human race to tinker with this iconic story, it’s no wonder that the common interpretation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is radically different from the actual novel. Being slightly familiar with the myth, I never knew the depths of the novel or the deep personal nature and emotional hook of the work. Most adaptations, especially the early (and iconic) film versions, strip away everything but the horror of the creation (including both the Felix-Safie section and the outside frame story). In truth, most of today’s takes on the material follow the 1931 film version of Frankenstein, starring Boris Karloff as the monster. This version invented the most popular image of the monster, with short hair and bolts sticking out of his neck. These features were not described in Shelley’s novel (the monster actually has long, flowing hair by her description), but they have lived throughout the years to be the standard design for “Frankenstein’s monster.”

This version has a lot of influence, but its attempt simplifies the story and takes depth away from the two primary characters: Victor and the monster. In the novel, Victor is a singular figure in the experiments, motivated only by his obsession. In the film and many other adaptations, it’s a collaborative process (usually with a character referred to as “Igor,” who doesn’t even remotely exist in the book). More importantly, Victor experiences instant remorse at his own creation in the novel. The film, and our culture, portrays Victor as a standard mad scientist, screaming “It’s alive” with unbridled enthusiasm when his creation is animated (though, once he sees the strength of the beast, he decides to destroy it). The picture above exemplifies this reduction of his character. In most adaptations, the regret he experiences in the novel is not nearly as apparent. Yes, he regrets the creation once he sees what the monster is capable of, but most versions do not show the degree of his regret and suffering that can be easily shown from the first person perspective.

Another common change from the book to the myth damages the character of the monster. In the film, the monster is mostly silent and uneducated. Both of these decisions betray the depth found in Shelley’s novel. Changing the intelligence of the creature may make him sympathetic as a child or a puppy dog would be, but Shelley’s intelligent monster is a truly tragic character. He reaches out for love from his creator and from any other beings that could give him attention, yet he is only met with scorn. His remorse upon Frankenstein’s dead body shows the pain he has experienced while completing his mission of hatred. However, we the readers experience the horrible treatment of the monster and realize his humanity and the tragedy of his condition. The perspective shift in the middle of the novel gives the work another aspect in its criticism of human nature.

One could write thousands of words about all of the glaring differences between the myth (particularly the popular film versions) and the novel, but I must stop here. Ultimately, the myth of Frankenstein tells a version of the story that somewhat hits thematic bases at the expense of depth in the characters. The worst of these turn a treatise on humanity into a simple horror story.