|Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus character|
|Created by||Mary Shelley|
|Portrayed by||Charles Stanton Ogle
Robert De Niro
Johnny Lee Miller
|Nickname(s)||"Frankenstein", "The Monster", "The Creature", "The Wretch", "Adam Frankenstein" and others|
|Family||Victor Frankenstein (creator)|
Frankenstein's monster (also called Adam, Monster, Frankenstein's creature or just Frankenstein) is a fictional character that first appeared in Mary Shelley's 1818 novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. In popular culture, the creature is often referred to as "Frankenstein" after his creator Victor Frankenstein, but in the novel the creature has no name. He does call himself, when speaking to Victor, the "Adam of your labours". He is also variously referred to as a "creature", "fiend", "spectre", "the demon", "wretch", "devil", "thing", "being" and "ogre" in the novel.
As in Mary Shelley's story, the monster's namelessness became a central part of the stage adaptations in London and Paris during the decades after the novel's first appearance. Shelley herself attended a performance of Presumption, the first successful stage adaptation of her novel. "The play bill amused me extremely, for in the list of dramatis personae came _________, by Mr T. Cooke,” she wrote to her friend Leigh Hunt. "This nameless mode of naming the unnameable is rather good."
Within a decade of publication, the name of the creator—Frankenstein—was used to refer to the monster, but it became firmly established after the Universal film series starring Boris Karloff popularized the story in the 1930s. The film was largely based on an adaptation for the stage in 1927 by Peggy Webling. Webling's Frankenstein actually does give his creature his name. The Universal film treated the Monster's identity in a similar way as Shelley's novel: the name of the actor, not the character, is hidden by a question mark. Nevertheless, the creature soon enough became best known in the popular imagination as "Frankenstein". This usage is sometimes considered erroneous, but usage commentators regard the monster sense of "Frankenstein" as well-established and not an error.
In Shelley's novel
Victor Frankenstein builds the creature in his laboratory through an ambiguously described scientific method consisting of chemistry (from his time as a student at University of Ingolstadt) and alchemy (largely based on the writings of Paracelsus, Albertus Magnus, and Cornelius Agrippa). The creature horrifies Frankenstein, and the scientist immediately disavows the experiment. Abandoned, frightened, and completely unaware of his own identity, the monster wanders through the wilderness searching for kindness and acceptance.
He finds brief solace in a woodshed beside a remote cottage inhabited by a family of peasants, the DeLaceys. Eavesdropping on the family's conversation, the creature familiarizes himself with their lives and comes to regard them as his own family, referring to them as his 'protectors'. He learns to speak by listening to the family teach French, their native language, to an Arabian daughter-in-law, and the creature becomes eloquent, educated, and well-mannered in a short time.
After much deliberation about revealing himself to the family, the creature introduces himself to the patriarch, the blind father, who accepts him into his home and treats him with kindness. The blind man cannot see the creature's "accursed ugliness" and considers him a friend. When the rest of the family returns, they are terrified of the creature and drive him away. Still hopeful but bewildered, the creature rescues a peasant girl from a river, but is shot in the shoulder by a man who claims her. Heartbroken and enraged, the creature renounces all humankind, swearing revenge on his Frankenstein, for abandoning his grotesque creation to a cruel and intolerant world.
Meanwhile, Frankenstein exiles himself to the mountains to reconcile his grief and despair. The monster approaches him at the summit and insists Frankenstein hear his plight. The creature tells Frankenstein his story, while also pleading with his creator to manufacture a female equivalent to mitigate the loneliness of his existence. Frankenstein agrees, but, aghast at the possibility of creating a race of monsters, abandons the agreement preceding the female creature's completion and enraging the monster. Before fleeing into the night, the creature threatens Frankenstein saying, "I will be with you on your wedding night!"
Later, the creature kills Frankenstein's best friend, Henry Clerval, and his bride, Elizabeth Lavenza. Due to the incident, Frankenstein's father dies of grief. Frankenstein then dedicates his life to hunting and destroying the product of his experiments. Searching for the creature in the Arctic Circle, the scientist loses control of his dogsled and falls into the freezing water, contracting severe pneumonia. A ship exploring the region rescues Victor. Before succumbing to his illness and dying, he relates his entire story about the creature and his experiment to the captain, Robert Walton. Later, the creature boards the ship, intent on taking his final revenge, but, upon finding his creator dead, is overcome with grief. The monster pledges to travel to "the Northernmost extremity of the globe" where he intends to take his own life by fire; he then leaps from the boat and disappears.
Shelley described Frankenstein's monster as an 8-foot-tall (2.4 m), hideously ugly creation, with translucent yellowish skin pulled so taut over the body that it "barely disguised the workings of the arteries and muscles underneath"; watery, glowing eyes, flowing black hair, black lips, and prominent white teeth. The monster attempts to integrate himself into human social patterns, but is shunned by all who see him. This feeling of abandonment compels him to seek revenge against his creator. A picture of the creature appeared in the 1831 edition. By the time the 1831 edition came out, however, several stage renditions of the story had popularized the monster. Early stage portrayals dressed him in a toga, shaded, along with the monster's skin, a pale blue. Throughout the 19th century, the monster's image remained variable according to the artist.
The most well-known image of Frankenstein's monster in popular culture derives from Boris Karloff's portrayal in the 1931 movie Frankenstein, with makeup created by Jack Pierce and possibly suggested by director James Whale. Karloff played the monster in two more Universal films, Bride of Frankenstein and Son of Frankenstein. Lon Chaney, Jr. took over the part from Karloff in The Ghost of Frankenstein, Bela Lugosi portrayed the role in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, and Glenn Strange played the monster in the last three Universal Studios films to feature the character (House of Frankenstein, House of Dracula, and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein); but their makeup replicated the iconic look first worn by Karloff. To this day, the image of Karloff's face is owned by his daughter's company, Karloff Enterprises, which is the reason Universal replaced Karloff's features with Glenn Strange's in most of their marketing.
Since Karloff's portrayal, the creature almost always appears as a towering, gruesome figure, often with a flat square-shaped head and bolts to serve as electrical connectors or grotesque electrodes on his neck. He wears a dark suit having shortened coat sleeves and thick, heavy boots, causing him to walk with an awkward, stiff-legged gait (as opposed to the novel, in which he is described as much more flexible than a human). This image has influenced the creation of other fictional characters, such as The Hulk.
In the 1973 TV mini-series Frankenstein: The True Story, a different approach was taken in depicting the monster. Michael Sarrazin appears as a strikingly handsome man who later degenerates into a grotesque monster due to a flaw in the creation process.
In the 1994 film Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, the creature is played by Robert De Niro in a nearer approach to the original source, except this version makes the creature bald and covered in bloody stitches as opposed to having "flowing black hair" and skin that shows the workings of the body underneath. He is, as in the novel, portrayed as a tragic character motivated by pain and loneliness in his murderous journey.
In the 2004 film Van Helsing, the monster is shown in a somewhat modernized version of the Karloff design. He is 8 to 9 feet (240–270 cm) tall, has square bald head, gruesome scars, and pale green skin. The electricity is emphasized with one electrified dome in the back of his head and another over his heart. Although not as eloquent as in the novel, this version of the creature is intelligent and relatively nonviolent, referring to his creator as his father.
In 2004 a TV mini-series adaptation of Frankenstein was made by Hallmark. Luke Goss plays The Creature. This adaptation more closely resembles the creature as described in the novel. The creature is intelligent and articulate and has flowing, dark hair and watery eyes. Being among the more accurate depictions to the novel, he does not have the 1931 design of neck electrodes or flat head. Instead he is well spoken (once he teaches himself how to speak and read) and he has a full head of thick, long, black hair, much like what is described in the novel.
The 2014 TV series Penny Dreadful also rejects the Karloff design in favor of adhering closer to Shelley's description. This version of the creature has the flowing dark hair described by Shelley, although he departs from her description by having pale grey (opaque) skin and obvious scars along the right side of his face. Otherwise, the well-spoken creature can easily pass for a human, being only slightly taller than average. In the series, Frankenstein makes a second creature, this one indistinguishable from a normal person apart from a few scars.
As depicted by Shelley, the monster is a sensitive, emotional creature whose only aim is to share his life with another sentient being like himself. The novel and film versions portrayed him as intelligent and literate, having read Paradise Lost, Plutarch's Lives, and The Sorrows of Young Werther. He is driven by despair and loneliness to acts of cruelty and murder.
From the beginning the monster is rejected by everyone he meets. He realizes from the moment of his "birth" that even his own creator cannot stand being around him; this is obvious when Frankenstein says "…one hand was stretched out, seemingly to detain me, but I escaped…":Ch.5 Upon seeing his own reflection, he realizes that he too cannot stand to see himself. His greatest desire is to find love and acceptance, but when that desire is denied, he swears revenge on all mankind, especially his creator.
Contrary to many film versions, the creature in the novel is very articulate and eloquent in his way of speaking. He can speak quickly and he can enunciate well. Almost immediately after his creation, he figures out how to dress himself. Within eleven months, he can speak and read in both German and French. By the end of the novel, the creature appears to also be able to speak English fluently as well. He is highly literate and in fact often quotes Paradise Lost by John Milton.
He is surprisingly spiritual and it was implied in the book that he was a vegetarian, preferring things like berries and nuts to meat.
In the 1931 film adaptation, the creature is depicted as mute and bestial, yet friendly, almost infantile, unlike Shelly's original character. In the subsequent sequel, Bride of Frankenstein, the creature learns to speak and discover his feelings, although his intelligence and capacity of speech remains limited. In the second sequel, Son of Frankenstein, the creature is again rendered inarticulate. Following a brain transplant in the third sequel, The Ghost of Frankenstein, the Monster speaks with the voice and personality of the brain donor. This was continued after a fashion in the scripting for the fourth sequel, Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man, but the dialogue was excised before release. The monster was effectively mute in later sequels, though he is heard to refer to Count Dracula as his 'Master' in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.
The creature is often seen to be pyrophobic (afraid of fire). Also the brain used to create Frankenstein's monster is either from the mind of a criminal or is abnormal and deformed, though Dr. Frankenstein originally intended to use a developed, intelligent brain.
The creature's names
Mary Shelley's original novel never ascribed an actual name to the monster; although he does call himself, when speaking to his creator, Victor Frankenstein, the "Adam of your labours". It has become common vernacular to refer to the creature by the actual name "Frankenstein", though this never actually happens in the book. In addition to this, calling the monster "Frankenstein" sometimes results in confusion with his creator, Victor Frankenstein.
In the second episode of Showtime's Penny Dreadful, Victor Frankenstein briefly considers naming the monster he's created "Adam", before deciding instead to let the monster "pick his own name." Thumbing through a book of the works of Shakespeare, the monster brings his finger down on "Proteus" from The Two Gentlemen of Verona. It is later revealed that Proteus is actually the second monster Frankenstein has created, with the first, abandoned creation having been named "Caliban", from The Tempest.
- Allotransplantation, the transplantation of body parts from one person to another
- Zombie, a name that is sometimes given to fictional undead creatures
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (January 2010)|
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- Haggerty, George E. (1989). Gothic Fiction/Gothic Form. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press. p. 37. ISBN 9780271006451. ISBN 0271006455.
- Hitchcock, Susan Tyler (2007). Frankenstein: a cultural history. New York: W. W. Norton. ISBN 9780393061444. ISBN 0393061442.
- Evans, Bergen (1962). Comfortable Words. Random House: New York.
- Garner, Bryan A. (1998). A dictionary of modern American usage. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195078534. ISBN 0195078535.
- Weinstein, Simcha (2006). Up, Up, and Oy Vey!: how Jewish history, culture, and values shaped the comic book superhero. Baltimore, Maryland: Leviathan Press. pp. 82–97. ISBN 978-1-881927-32-7.
- Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. "Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus". Project Gutenberg. Retrieved 3 November 2012.
- A Nightmare On Lime Street - Royal Court Theatre Liverpool
- Frankensteinfilms.com - Comprehensive site on Frankenstein movies, comic books, theatre plays and the original novel
- 13 Ways of Looking at Frankenstein - slideshow by Life magazine
- Literary discussion of the argument of Frankenstein
- 2014 Irish Examiner article