Pop Culture Frankenstein vs. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein ----Wild differences

in books •  2 years ago 

Before I got the book, I expected an easy kids read with simple terms describing a block headed, stone-faced, baleful-eyed, green fella created by some fanatical and evil scientist. I was dead wrong. The book is beautifully written, and the Frankenstein we've seen in pop-culture evolved over time and is quite different than the one conjured by the author.

First, the Frankenstein monster as depicted by Mary Shelley: "By the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open", "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 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(pg 42)

So does this guy fit Mary Shelly's description?

Frankenstein as we know him.jpeg

I guess that's yellowish-green skin, so that could pass, but Shelley seems like she was trying to highlight the difference between the monster's elegant/beautiful features and sinister, lifeless eyes and mouth. There really isn't anything beautiful about the features of the pop-culture Frankenstein: Square head, short, greasy hair, big nose, large, low hanging ears, and the lips aren't even black.

Here's the representation I found for one of the original illustrations from 1831:

Is that our Frankenstein monster with sexy sculpted abs and flowing hair? Tell me which way the beach is, you absolute hound you!


So clearly, directors and make-up artists in the moving-picture industry created quite a few alterations to Frankenstein. Plus this "IT'S ALIVE, IT'S ALIVE!" thing you've probably heard over and over is not from the book.

In the book, Victor Frankenstein is immediately full of guilt and sadness and fear the moment he animates the monster: "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 ardor 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 bedchamber, unable to compose my mind to sleep. I slept, indeed, but I was disturbed by the wildest dreams"(pg 42)

Here are a couple other short phrases I've enjoyed so far to give you a feel for Mary Shelly's writing style:

At the start of the book, when the arctic sailor Robert Walton who meets Dr. Frankenstein is writing letters to his sister:
"I feel my heart glow with an enthusiasm which elevates me to heaven, for nothing contributes to tranquilize the mind as a steady purpose--a point on which a soul may fix its intellectual eye" (page 2)

When Victor Frankenstein and his sister Elizabeth are consoling their cousin Justine, who is essentially on death row for the alleged murder of their brother William (who Victor knows was actually killed be the monster): "Elizabeth also wept and was unhappy, but hers was the misery of innocence, which, like a cloud that passes over the fair moon, for a while hides but cannot tarnish its brightness" (pg 72).

I'd urge anyone to read the book for themselves and notice the difference from what you may have expected!

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