Gigantic in stature, yet uncouth and distorted in its proportions; his face was concealed by long locks of hair, but one cast hand was extended, in colour and apparent texture like that of a mummy. There was never a vision so horrible in his face, of such loathsome yet appalling hideousness.
~ Frankenstein, 1818
I have a confession to make.
In high school, I read Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”. But until recently, I had never read “Frankenstein”.
I know. How is it possible that the girl who loves all things horror and devotes the entire month of October to writing blog posts about her favourite movie monsters — Frankenstein included — has never read what must be considered the literal mother of the horror genre?
In 2018, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s classic horror novel “Frankenstein”, or “The Modern Prometheus”, celebrates its 200th anniversary. And last fall, I decided it was time that I finally read the novel which is credited with legitimizing horror in literature.
Published in January 1818, “Frankenstein” was, if you’ll pardon the pun, an entirely different breed of monster. Not only was this the kind of tale that had never been mainstream before, it was also written by a woman.
At age 19 in 1816, Mary legally wed famous poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, and after his death in 1822, she devoted herself to publishing and sharing her husband’s works. But it was Mary herself and her dark, Gothic tale of science fiction horror which would be immortalized in history forever.
Mary published Frankenstein anonymously, and many believed her husband to be the author. She penned a number of novels in her relatively short and tragic 53 years, but it was her definitive man-playing-God tale — the result of a rainy afternoon ghost story session with friends (1816) during which it was suggested that all try their hand at writing a horror narrative of their own — that she is remembered for.
Now, there are a lot of friendly preferential debates out there, including some which will be familiar to my regular readers: Pepsi or Coke? Addams Family or Munsters? Sam or Dean? But even more common is the age-old question — book or movie?
As an avid lover of anything literary, 99% of the time, I say read the book, skip the film. Books allow you to exercise your own imagination, and a good author doesn’t over-describe their characters and settings. If it’s not pertinent to the plot, then I don’t need a 3-page description of all the knick-knacks on a fireplace mantel. Just tell me the basics and the details I need to know, and then leave a little something to my imagination. My brain will fill in all the blanks very nicely, thank you.
I find that the two biggest pitfalls with book-to-movie adaptations are:
1) Losing the feeling and depth of the story when you condense it into the obligatory 90-120 minutes of Filmland
2) A change in content, or departure from how the story played out in the book.
Perfect examples of these two types of pitfalls are “Twilight” (2008) and “The Shining” (1980).
Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series gets an unnecessarily bad rap. Here’s a quick newsflash for all the would-be haters still lurking around out there in cyberspace: Young Adult does NOT mean “dumbed down”, okay? Meyer’s four-book romantic supernatural drama is a combined 2,444 pages of adventure, suspense, anticipation and all-around quality writing. The books are written in a very engaging, easy to read manner. And by easy to read, I do not mean “so basic a child could read it.” I mean that her writing style is clean, uncluttered and smooth.
Never once did I find myself getting to the end of a page and then suddenly thinking, “Wait … what did I just read? I can’t remember…” Which is something that happens to me frequently when reading one of my favourite authors, Stephen King. Notice I just said “one of my favourite authors”, so no one crab at me for knocking his writing. But in my opinion, Stephen King’s strength is in his complex imagination, not in his writing ability.
The pages of a Stephen King novel are often riddled with unnecessary details, gratuitous self-bolstering, and a myriad of self-indulgent bursts of internal dialogue that honestly do nothing more than reinforce the idea that the author’s mind is perhaps a little too psychologically twisted.
Stephenie Meyer, on the other hand, writes in a style that’s effortless to read, and I greatly admired that about her books. Far from making her something less as an author, I think it means she’s something even better.
I adored each and every one of the Twilight books. (Well, I was a little less enthusiastic about Eclipse, which ironically made the best movie). But when I heard they were turning the series into films… I knew enough to be skeptical. And rightfully so. 2,444 pages is a LOT of content. And the biggest problem that the Twilight movie had was the condensing of the time line.
In a book, you can much more easily convey the passage of time. Not so in a film. What takes 4 hours to read in the book can take only 5 minutes to watch on the big screen. In the book, the reader was allowed to watch Bella and Edward’s relationship blossom organically and develop over an acceptable period of time. But Bella and Edward on-screen appeared like nothing more than a ridiculous ‘wham, bam, thank you ma’am’, ‘this guy is a creepy stalker and this girl clearly has some issues’ angsty teen drama.
And that was really too bad. The films are a far cry from the books. In the books, their relationship makes sense, and the reader has plenty of time to develop a vested interest in the characters’ future together. But the characters in the film are strangers to the audience throughout, and we have no reason to care about them or what they’re doing.
Now let’s talk about Stanley Kubrick’s film The Shining. We actually do get a pretty decent movie — it’s just not Stephen King’s “The Shining”.
Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall are beautifully cast as Jack and Wendy Torrance. But anyone who has read the book (“The Shining” has long been my favourite work of fiction, btw) knows that Jack does not meet his end by freezing to death in the garden labyrinth. In fact, in the movie we don’t even get the scary animal topiaries that are an important (and very cool) element of the book.
And the film is pretty lengthy, clocking in at nearly two and a half hours long. They had time to play out the ending the way it’s written in the book. And with this film in particular, changing the ending completely changes the character of Jack and how we feel about him in the end.
In the book, the boiler in the basement of the hotel where Jack and his family are staying overheats and blows up. Jack, who in a progressively terrifying fit of madness has been trying to kill his wife and son, gets caught in the explosion and dies… but only AFTER telling Wendy and their son, Danny, to get out.
So in the book, the character of Jack Torrance is redeemed. Despite his state of horrifying insanity, he finds a moment of lucidity and manages to save the lives of his family. And because of that final act of bravery and love, the reader is allowed to remember Jack not as a crazy, violent, would-be killer, but as a man who loved his wife and son so much that he overcame whatever horror was possessing him in order to save their lives.
And this brings us to the subject at hand: Frankenstein. As someone who has seen Universal’s 1931 masterpiece of horror countless times, I thought I knew the story pretty well. I don’t think there are too many people who can watch the inimitable Boris Karloff’s poor, dejected, child-like monster and not feel some sympathy for him. Perhaps even a lot of sympathy. The monster is 100% the victim of his circumstances. And even when he takes a life (throwing the little girl in the lake), it’s not done out of spite or anger. It’s a tragic mistake. One made out of ignorance and innocence.
Personally I’ve never felt that there’s an actual “villain” in the Frankenstein film. The Monster is clearly the victim, but it’s not fair to say that his creator, Doctor Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive), is a clear-cut villain. He’s an egocentric scientist who tries to play God by taking the power of life and death into his own hands. But he does try to reason with and care for his creation at first. And in the end when Frankenstein is gravely injured and the Monster (seemingly) meets his end engulfed in the flames of a burning windmill, it’s hard not to feel sympathy for both creation and creator. Both men are victims.
Now let’s contrast this with Mary Shelley’s original 200+ page novel.
When I picked up the book for the first time, I was expecting some minor differences in the details, like the doctor’s name change: It’s Victor Frankenstein in the novel, but Henry Frankenstein in the film. As I mentioned previously, it’s all but impossible to find a perfect true-to-the-book adaptation. (Though the 1997 television mini-series version of “The Shining” starring Steven Weber and Rebecca De Mornay was incredible. Book-accurate and very faithfully adapted. Highly recommended for fans of the book. ★★★★★)
But I thought the basic theme and character development of Frankenstein would stay consistent and play out pretty much the same way it did in the film.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
If you’ve seen the film but have never read the novel, do NOT assume you know Frankenstein. You don’t. They are unbelievably different; in content, context, tone; and character nature, disposition, temperament and personality.
The most important difference between book and movie is the Monster. And these significant differences completely change how we think of and what we feel for him.
Mary Shelley’s novel is actually a rather tedious read. It’s over-inflated with fluff details, and loaded with annoyingly pretentious and overly-dramatic language. The first half of the book (as told through Victor’s narration) indeed sounds as if it was written by a 19-year-old girl who is trying very hard to pretend that she’s anything but.
The actual deed of Frankenstein bringing his Monster to life was surprisingly short. Almost a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it kind of thing.
“It was on a dreary night of November that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils. With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony, I collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet. It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes, and my candle was nearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs.
How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate the wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavoured to form? His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful! Great God! His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun-white sockets in which they were set, his shriveled complexion and straight black lips.
The different accidents of life are not so changeable as the feelings of human nature. I had worked hard for nearly two years, for the sole purpose of infusing life into an inanimate body. For this I had deprived myself of rest and health. I had desired it with an ardour that far exceeded moderation; but now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart. Unable to endure the aspect of the being I had created, I rushed out of the room and continued a long time traversing my bed-chamber, unable to compose my mind to sleep…
… I beheld the wretch—the miserable monster whom I had created. He held up the curtain of the bed; and his eyes, if eyes they may be called, were fixed on me. His jaws opened, and he muttered some inarticulate sounds, while a grin wrinkled his cheeks. He might have spoken, but I did not hear; one hand was stretched out, seemingly to detain me, but I escaped and rushed downstairs. I took refuge in the courtyard belonging to the house which I inhabited, where I remained during the rest of the night, walking up and down in the greatest agitation, listening attentively, catching and fearing each sound as if it were to announce the approach of the demoniacal corpse to which I had so miserably given life.
Oh! No mortal could support the horror of that countenance. A mummy again endued with animation could not be so hideous as that wretch. I had gazed on him while unfinished; he was ugly then, but when those muscles and joints were rendered capable of motion, it became a thing such as even Dante could not have conceived.”
~ Frankenstein, Chapter 5
And that’s it. No, “It’s ALIVE!!!” moment, or excitement at Frankenstein’s arduous accomplishment. Just fear, loathing and horror at the thing he has created. After this, the monster seemingly just disappears, and while Victor is continuously haunted by an apparition of the abomination in his mind’s eye, we don’t see or hear from the actual Creature again until chapter 7, nearly two whole years later, when upon learning of the murder of his young brother, William, Victor spies the Creature lurking in the shadows during a storm.
“I perceived in the gloom a figure which stole from behind a clump of trees near me; I stood fixed, gazing intently: I could not be mistaken. A flash of lightning illuminated the object, and discovered its shape plainly to me; its gigantic stature, and the deformity of its aspect more hideous than belongs to humanity, instantly informed me that it was the wretch, the filthy dæmon, to whom I had given life. What did he there? Could he be (I shuddered at the conception) the murderer of my brother? No sooner did that idea cross my imagination, than I became convinced of its truth; my teeth chattered, and I was forced to lean against a tree for support. The figure passed me quickly, and I lost it in the gloom. Nothing in human shape could have destroyed the fair child. He was the murderer! I could not doubt it. The mere presence of the idea was an irresistible proof of the fact. “
Apart from these two scenes, the novel so far was a very dry read. But just when I was ready to throw the book at the wall… Frankenstein’s creation finally finds him and the narrative shifts to that of the Creature’s voice in chapter 11.
The air was cold, and the rain again began to descend: we entered the hut, the fiend with an air of exultation, I with a heavy heart and depressed spirits. But I consented to listen; and, seating myself by the fire which my odious companion had lighted, he thus began his tale.
This next section is by far the most interesting part of the book, and is written in a much more smooth and engaging style. It was a welcome relief from tedium when I got this far. And now in the Creature’s own voice, Victor and the reader learn what truly sets this Monster apart from the poor, wretched, pathetic, almost lovable creature of the feature film.
The movie monster is nothing more than a child. He’s all emotion and no logic. His comprehension skills and abilities are very limited. Whereas Mary Shelley’s Monster is anything but. He grows and learns, reads books and teaches himself language. He observes his surroundings and the people in them, and in short, he becomes nothing short of a highly intellectual scholar. It’s extremely impressive what he manages to accomplish on his own.
And herein lies what a lot of people don’t seem to grasp about the original Frankenstein Monster. He has choice.
Frankenstein’s Monster in the book is not just a victim of his circumstances. He begins as a sympathetic character — very much so. Rejected by his creator, left to fend for himself in a world that he knows nothing about, shunned by everyone because of his disfigured appearance — it’s hard not to feel badly for him, and rightfully so. Reading his first-person account of what it was like being out on his own is truly heart-wrenching.
“…but I had hardly placed my foot within the door before the children shrieked, and one of the women fainted. The whole village was roused; some fled, some attacked me, until, grievously bruised by stones and many other kinds of missile weapons, I escaped to the open country and fearfully took refuge in a low hovel, quite bare, and making a wretched appearance after the palaces I had beheld in the village.”
The Creature recounts his experiences watching a family that he quickly grows to love very much. He observes them and learns a great deal. However, when he finally decides to reveal himself to them, he is once again rejected, and this, understandably, crushes him.
“Cursed, cursed creator! Why did I live? Why, in that instant, did I not extinguish the spark of existence which you had so wantonly bestowed? I know not; despair had not yet taken possession of me; my feelings were those of rage and revenge. I could with pleasure have destroyed the cottage and its inhabitants and have glutted myself with their shrieks and misery….
For the first time the feelings of revenge and hatred filled my bosom, and I did not strive to control them, but allowing myself to be borne away by the stream, I bent my mind towards injury and death. When I thought of my friends, of the mild voice of De Lacey, the gentle eyes of Agatha, and the exquisite beauty of the Arabian, these thoughts vanished and a gush of tears somewhat soothed me. But again when I reflected that they had spurned and deserted me, anger returned, a rage of anger, and unable to injure anything human, I turned my fury towards inanimate objects. As night advanced, I placed a variety of combustibles around the cottage, and after having destroyed every vestige of cultivation in the garden, I waited with forced impatience until the moon had sunk to commence my operations.
And so the Creature sets out in search of his creator. It is here that we learn Victor’s assumptions about the death of his brother were correct — it was indeed his own creation who killed him. Initially, he didn’t intend to harm the boy, but upon learning of the child’s relationship to his accursed creator, the Creature finally transforms into the Monster.
“At this time a slight sleep relieved me from the pain of reflection, which was disturbed by the approach of a beautiful child, who came running into the recess I had chosen, with all the sportiveness of infancy. Suddenly, as I gazed on him, an idea seized me that this little creature was unprejudiced and had lived too short a time to have imbibed a horror of deformity. If, therefore, I could seize him and educate him as my companion and friend, I should not be so desolate in this peopled earth.
“Urged by this impulse, I seized on the boy as he passed and drew him towards me. As soon as he beheld my form, he placed his hands before his eyes and uttered a shrill scream; I drew his hand forcibly from his face and said, ‘Child, what is the meaning of this? I do not intend to hurt you; listen to me.’
“He struggled violently. ‘Let me go,’ he cried; ‘monster! Ugly wretch! You wish to eat me and tear me to pieces. You are an ogre. Let me go, or I will tell my papa.’
“‘Boy, you will never see your father again; you must come with me.’
“‘Hideous monster! Let me go. My papa is a syndic—he is M. Frankenstein—he will punish you. You dare not keep me.’
“‘Frankenstein! you belong then to my enemy—to him towards whom I have sworn eternal revenge; you shall be my first victim.’
“The child still struggled and loaded me with epithets which carried despair to my heart; I grasped his throat to silence him, and in a moment he lay dead at my feet.
“I gazed on my victim, and my heart swelled with exultation and hellish triumph; clapping my hands, I exclaimed, ‘I too can create desolation; my enemy is not invulnerable; this death will carry despair to him, and a thousand other miseries shall torment and destroy him.’
The Monster made a conscious and informed CHOICE to extinguish the boy’s life. And he did it purely out of spite and malice. And then instead of feeling remorse — he actually feels good about it. He’s proud of himself.
I’d now like to share with you an article which I saw on Twitter last month. It was something that prompted the particular direction I chose to take this post in: “Snowflake students claim Frankenstein’s monster was ‘misunderstood’ — and is in fact a VICTIM”
And please keep in mind that I was seeing this before I had finished reading the book for myself. Here is the tweet that I initially saw which linked to the article:
If you have a few minutes, please click through to that above tweet and read some of the replies it garnered. As you can see from the stat counter, it received quite a bit of attention.
The guy who’s sharing the article (and all of the people who replied to him) are angry at the Sun article and are criticizing its writers for their criticism of some university students and their professor. He even replies to his own tweet with this: “I can’t even cope with the layers of ironic stupidity involved in trying to whip up a pitchfork mob about a basic reading of Frankenstein.”
Welllll… there IS definitely some irony here (though I won’t be rude and call it ‘stupid’). One of the tweet replies actually reads: “The Sun journalists clearly have not read the book – just seen the film perhaps? ;D ;D ;D” To which *I* would reply, ‘Excuse me, sir or madam, but I believe it is YOU who have clearly not read the book and have just seen the film.’
Having now read Frankenstein for myself, I can unequivocally say that in my opinion, the Sun article is absolutely correct — the Monster is a mass-murderer; and the idea that students today studying the book are “increasingly ‘sentimental’ towards the murdering monster” tells me that whoever is teaching these students is not understanding the book — and neither are they. Let me explain why.
After the Monster finishes his narrative, he confronts his maker with the demand for a mate. As incentive, the Monster threatens to destroy Victor’s life.
“You must create a female for me with whom I can live in the interchange of those sympathies necessary for my being. This you alone can do, and I demand it of you as a right which you must not refuse to concede.
I will revenge my injuries; if I cannot inspire love, I will cause fear, and chiefly towards you my arch-enemy, because my creator, do I swear inextinguishable hatred. Have a care; I will work at your destruction, nor finish until I desolate your heart, so that you shall curse the hour of your birth.”
At first, Frankenstein refuses, but is eventually swayed by a combination of compassion and a realization that as the Monster’s creator, he is indeed the cause of his misery and must take some responsibility for him. When the Monster swears abstinence from violence and harm to others, and to take his mate and never be seen again, Victor consents.
Eventually, of course, the doctor realizes that no man can make such an oath for another living being, and one evening, overcome with emotion, fear, and a sense of responsibility to protect all mankind, Victor destroys the female creature he has been making.
Witnessing this, the Creature confronts him.
“Slave, I before reasoned with you, but you have proved yourself unworthy of my condescension. Remember that I have power; you believe yourself miserable, but I can make you so wretched that the light of day will be hateful to you. You are my creator, but I am your master; obey!”
“The hour of my irresolution is past, and the period of your power is arrived. Your threats cannot move me to do an act of wickedness; but they confirm me in a determination of not creating you a companion in vice. Shall I, in cool blood, set loose upon the earth a dæmon whose delight is in death and wretchedness? Begone! I am firm, and your words will only exasperate my rage.”
The monster saw my determination in my face and gnashed his teeth in the impotence of anger. “Shall each man,” cried he, “find a wife for his bosom, and each beast have his mate, and I be alone? I had feelings of affection, and they were requited by detestation and scorn. Man! You may hate, but beware! Your hours will pass in dread and misery, and soon the bolt will fall which must ravish from you your happiness for ever. Are you to be happy while I grovel in the intensity of my wretchedness? You can blast my other passions, but revenge remains—revenge, henceforth dearer than light or food! I may die, but first you, my tyrant and tormentor, shall curse the sun that gazes on your misery. Beware, for I am fearless and therefore powerful. I will watch with the wiliness of a snake, that I may sting with its venom. Man, you shall repent of the injuries you inflict.”
“I go; but remember, I shall be with you on your wedding-night.”
And so begins the Monster’s reign of terror. Ultimately, he murders Victor’s best friend, Clerval, and kills his wife, Elizabeth, on their wedding night. Both murders are deliberate and committed in cold blood. It’s also pertinent to mention that neither Clerval nor Elizabeth had any knowledge of Frankenstein’s Creature, or even the doctor’s initial ambition to undertake such a grisly experiment with human life. They, as well as little William, were complete innocents — mere pawns for the Monster to torment his maker. These people were nothing more than a means to an end for him. Something even worse than collateral damage. He used them.
So the question must be asked: Are we to have sympathy for such a creature? A thing who didn’t ask to be born; didn’t ask to be disfigured; wanted nothing more than acceptance, companionship and love? Does such a wretch deserve forgiveness and ultimately redemption?
The man who wrote that tweet, the people who replied to it, and the professor and student body referenced in the Sun article would all argue that the Creature’s misfortunes justify his actions. He’s just “misunderstood”.
Karloff’s Monster was misunderstood.
Mary Shelley’s Monster CHOSE to become the very thing he hated most.
Is there room for sympathy in regards to the book’s Monster? Does a bad upbringing excuse the bad choices a person goes on to make in life? If you’re treated poorly by others, does that give you an excuse to perpetuate the bad behaviour by treating others in the same detestable manner which you’ve been treated? To sacrifice the innocent as you wage an unrelenting war of vengeance against your tormentors?
The Monster IS a mass-murderer, murdering for the sole purpose of causing great pain and distress to another.
Now, I don’t think many people would admit this, but I believe it’s often difficult to be truly objective about a fictional made-up character. So let’s pull this into the real world. We’ll look at a few examples of this same type of person who actually exists. The Sun article mentions a professor who has suggested that the “lab-created murderer” could be protected by human rights laws. Well, let’s see if that’s true.
Edmund Kemper, Aileen Wuornos, Albert DeSalvo, John Wayne Gacy… four real-life serial killers who all have one important thing in common — they were all victimized themselves.
Gacy took the lives of 33 men and teenage boys. His father was an alcoholic who beat Gacy and his siblings. DeSalvo (the Boston Strangler) also had an abusive, alcoholic father. As a child, he tortured animals as a way of ‘dealing’ with his terrible situation. As an adult, he murdered 13 women.
Kemper grew up hating his abusive mother. He too started out abusing animals before graduating to killing human beings — including his own grandparents at the age of 15. He was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and after a few years of treatment, he was released. After a string of bad luck, he developed a penchant for murdering female hitchhikers.
And Aileen Wuornos had a horrendous childhood. Abandoned by her mother and sexually abused by her grandfather, she turned to prostitution, and when she grew tired of being mistreated and assaulted by her ‘clients’, she started killing them.
All of these people had terrible upbringings.
None of them asked for or deserved the abuse they suffered.
All of these people went to jail.
None of them were protected by human rights laws. In fact, two of the four were executed.
So does the Monster of Mary Shelley’s book deserve sympathy? Yes. But only in the way that one might feel sympathy for any of the real people mentioned above. None of these people chose the hardships that befell them. But all of them DID have a choice when it came to how they would deal with those hardships. They all chose to do the wrong thing. And no amount of pity for how difficult and undeserved their lives began can justify, excuse, rationalize or absolve what they did to other people. Once Frankenstein’s Monster chooses the path of hatred and revenge, he is no longer deserving of our sympathy.
There are literally millions of people in this world who have had a rough life but didn’t turn into hate-filled, murdering monsters. Maybe they were abused. Maybe they were neglected, abandoned, left to fend for themselves. Maybe they were bullied and shunned. Maybe everyone they loved died, or maybe the ones they loved were taken away by other people — maybe by the very sort of people I mentioned above. No one’s life is perfect. We might not be able to choose our situation and circumstance, but it is we who choose what we’re going to do, and how we face them.
I believe the true underlying message of Mary Shelley’s novel is not who is the victim and who is the villain, but rather the realization that both Victor and the Monster are a little bit of BOTH. And the question we should be asking is, “Where is that line between man and monster, and how do we avoid crossing it?”
In the end, Victor dies, sick and pathetic, in pursuit of his Monster. Hell-bent on retribution, he even enlisted the help of other innocents in his futile quest, sacrificing THEM the way the Monster sacrificed William, Clerval and Elizabeth. And once Frankenstein is dead, the Monster has no reason to continue living either.
Remember that Frankenstein is supposed to be a work of horror. If we’re paying close attention, the true horror is finally revealed when we see that in the end, the all-consuming evil desire to destroy others leads to nothing but death. Cold, miserable, piteous death. A life spent alone and wasted. A life without meaning. Both Frankenstein and his Creature, in the end, are nothing more than two tragic characters, neither of whom have any hope of redemption or salvation from their shared misery.
I think Mary Shelley wrote something much more than a scary story. Alfred Hitchcock said, “A glimpse into the world proves that horror is nothing other than reality.” And I’ve come to believe that Frankenstein is meant to be the ultimate illustration of that.
In the end, we all answer for ourselves. We make our own choices in life, and we decide the paths we’ll take. There is nothing that justifies evil. Nothing. The ends do not justify the means, and the means do not justify the ends. We have the ability to be so much more than the sum of our parts. Our situations and circumstances only define us if we let them. And you know what? It’s not always easy to make the right choice and do the right thing. Often times it means giving up something that we want, or allowing ourselves to be hurt, or sacrificing our own happiness for the sake of someone else. But it’s OUR choice to make. No one else can make it for us. For some, the circumstances are much worse, making the choice much more difficult. But it’s still within every person to rise above adversity and choose life, not death.
Here’s an old Indian proverb that I think is pertinent to this discussion.
“A fight is going on inside me,” an old Cherokee chief said to his grandson.
“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves.
“One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, self-doubt, and ego.
“The other is good — he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.
“This same fight is going on inside you — and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather,
“Which wolf will win?”
The old chief simply replied,
“The one you feed.”
With this post, I set out to say that I preferred Frankenstein the movie to Frankenstein the book. But I think I’ll amend that. The fact that the book depicts a much more realistic type of monster in no way diminishes its quality or its worth. In fact, I now have more respect for this 200-year-old novel and its 19-going-on-20-year-old author than I ever thought possible.
In this case, it’s just not fair to try and compare the book and movie because they are two entirely different creations. And I think that’s okay this time. Because at its heart, whether in movie or book form, Frankenstein’s message still somehow remains the same: In life, there isn’t always a clear-cut villain and victim. Through the choices we make, sometimes we become the very thing that maligns us. And this is a pitfall we all have to be conscious of lest we become monsters ourselves.
The ability to follow Good or Evil, God or the Devil, lies within each of us. The ability to choose to Love or to Hate is a capability afforded by God to all men. The desire to be loved, the capacity to forgive, and the thirst for understanding are inherent in all mankind. And a measure of faith is given to each and every one of us.
How we choose to conduct ourselves, how we choose to react to situation and circumstance, how we treat other people in spite of how they treat us… these, our choices, are what set apart the men from the monsters.
Note: “Frankenstein” illustrations are by Bernie Wrightson.