In fictional literary history, a few decades over 200 years ago, one of my favourite creations jolted into to life: Frankenstein’s Monster or as he called himself, Adam of thy labours.
late 1700s, November, brilliant young medical student Victor Frankenstein drives himself close to death to bring the sewn body parts of various corpses back to life through the process of galvanism.
Victor awakes to find his creation gone and after almost a year of recuperation travels back to his family. At this stage his previous labours are all but a bad dream.
Meanwhile the Monster has escaped into the forests of Europe, his fiendish visage repels anyone he meets. Soon he learns to travel by night and sleep by day. When he catches his own reflection he understands why people are fleeing from him.
While hiding from the world he spies on a poor family who live in a remote forest and becomes their guardian angel. He performs menial tasks like chopping wood at night so it ‘miraculously’ appears for then in the morning.
He mimics the sound of their voices and so learns to speak and subsequently, through lessons they give to one another, he learns to read. Through these efforts he becomes self aware.
Unfortunately one of the first books he manages to get his hands on is “Paradise Lost” by John Milton, understanding that he was not made by God, he sees more of himself in the depiction of Satan, the outcast. The Monster plucks up the courage to reveal himself to the family but unfortunately his grotesque and gigantic exterior only spurs them to attack. He escapes bitterly and emotionally scarred.
So he sets about finding his maker.
This is only about the first half of the book and already it is quite different from many of the film adaptations.
Science Fiction fans have a lot to thank Mary Shelley.
Her creation has been plodding through the history of literature and film ever since. Check out the wiki page for his appearance in film, television and music.
In many cases the Monster has been portrayed as a zombie-like evil character . This has been a misrepresentation as the Creature was inquisitive, full of emotion and only when society pushed him to the edge did he become the Monster that was represented on screen.
He is the the ultimate teenager asking the question, “I didn’t ask to be made but now you have to deal with me “. Many of the interpretations do not do him justice.
I blame, in part, Sir Walter Scott who wrote a critique of the “Frankenstein” story suggesting that the creature should not have found a voice because it took away from the mystery of the creation.
Even though the films let the audience have a certain amount of sympathy for him you know that he is ultimately doomed. It was only when I read the novel and realised that the Monster had a voice and real emotion did I feel more for him than for Victor.
The rounded version of Shelley’s original character makes the meeting with Victor Frankenstein more profound and I see shades of this in the confrontation between the replicant Roy Batty and Tyrell in Blade Runner.
If you do not want to read the book do watch Kenneth Branagh’s Frankenstein (1994). It is an amalgamation of the novel and the original two movies, “Frankenstein” and “Bride of Frankenstein”. It is the At least it is the first time the Monster is given an on screen voice.
Even the portrayal of the Monster in the recent Van Helsing shows that if he had been treated well he may have chosen a better path.
Though I still get a tingle when the heavily made up Boris Karloff begins to rise from the operating slab and Colin Clive cries “It’s Alive” in the 1931 version.
Happy Birthday Month Creature (Every November).