How has Frankenstein been depicted in artwork and film over the years?


How do these depictions relate to Shelley’s original work?

Frankenstein has been depicted as a horrible monster in artwork and film over the years.  If his name is mentioned, he is often characterized as a freak and assemblage of parts from dead people and animals where he was given life due to a freak and distorted science made by a mad scientist.  In short, Frankenstein is never depicted as a human being but rather a despicable monster invented by science.

The depiction of Frankenstein in whatever medium is cruel and unfair.  Cruel in a sense that he is depicted as something that does not deserve affection even if in Shelley’s novel he longed for it from his creator Victor and the family who took him in when he ran away.  But Frankenstein never got any compassion for his creator immediately despised him the first time he saw him.  The family who took him in also drove him away.  In the end, he killed Victor’s wife out of vengeance as an act of embracing his monstrosity where he initially denied it.  All throughout the novel, Frankenstein felt nothing but pain, desolation, rejection and hate.

The depiction of Frankenstein in artwork and film over the years may have been exaggerated but it is not farfetched to Shelly’s description of him.  If there is something missing, it is the wish and struggle of Frankenstein to feel affection and acceptance that he never got so he succumbed to his monstrosity of which how he is depicted in arts and films today.

The subtitle of Frankenstein is “The Modern Prometheus.” Why? How does this relate to the idea of the “Romantic Hero”?

Prometheus is known as the god who took fire from Mount Olympus for mankind and being such, he is known as creator of humanity in Greek mythology.  Prometheus is created by Zeus but is also punished by Zeus causing him eternal pain and suffering (KONSTANTINOU 37).  The subtitle of Frankenstein as “The Modern Prometheus” is appropriate as Frankenstein suffered almost the same fate as Prometheus.  Just like Prometheus, Frankenstein is also a mere creation of a higher being except that in the case of Prometheus, it was a god who created him while Frankenstein was created by a scientist.  Shelley would describe Frankenstein with morbidity as a creation that he “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”(Shelley 43).  This explains why the adjective “modern” is added to Prometheus in describing and drawing parallelism Frankenstein to Prometheus because unlike Prometheus who is created by the power of a god, Frankenstein is created by the wonder of science.  And science is a modern phenomenon such is described as modern.

Also, just like Prometheus, Frankenstein is made to suffer by his creator Victor as he felt no affection for his creation Frankenstein.  Victor thinks of Frankenstein is just a dismal product of man’s genius where its heart is “a collection of the emotions that he has to be bear throughout his strange life” (Kessler 87).  And the only emotion that Frankenstein had a brush with was with the family who sheltered him when he ran way but also later drove him away because they think of him as a monster with no redemption.  Victor struggled and wanted to become a human being with humanity but he was imprisoned by his outward look that no matter how he tries, he is always seen and treated as a monster until he acted like one.

What is the nature/nurture debate all about? When you use Frankenstein as evidence, what does it suggest about this debate?

The nature and nurture debate is the dilemma presented by the creation of Frankenstein.  Frankenstein is basically an aberration of nature, an assemblage of parts created by man and as a result, the ugly aspect of man manifested in him.  The debate on nurture is about the dilemma whether Frankenstein should be nurtured or treated as a human being since he has the form of a man and breathes life just like any other life form. Obviously, the answer is in the negative for he was immediately despised even by his creator upon seeing how ugly he was.  Even the family who took him was disgusted with how looks that despite the benevolence in their heart, it was not enough to overcome their impression of monstrosity about him.

Such, when Frankenstein is used as evidence or even a reference in literature, movie, and even in regular conversation, it typically meant and connotes that it is artificial, a mere product of science or an aberration of nature hence, it looked ugly.  For example, GMO foods are often described as “Frankenfood” because they are just a product and manipulated by science and therefore, it is not a real, organic and neither it is a healthy food.  Often also, when Frankenstein is used as a way to describe anything, it meant that it is not original but an assembly of sorts to create something that is monstrous and evil.

In a debate, when Frankenstein is used as evidence, it suggests that this debate is farce, fake or monstrous.  It could mean a lot of things that leans towards the negative but never in the positive.  It could be that the reasoning used in the argument was borrowed from other people and is not original.  And being such, such reasoning in the debate is often flawed and a monstrous lie.  Worst, if Frankenstein is used to describe a debate, it meant that the debate can be dismissed as a farce because the debaters are just showing off that they know something when in fact they do not.

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  1. Konstantinou, Ariadne. “Reconsidering the Metamorphosis of Io: On Texts, Images and Dates.” Symbolae Osloenses, vol. 89, no. 1, Oct. 2015, pp. 35-53. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1080/00397679.2015.1069996.
  2. Kessler, Jeremy. “Creating Frankenstein”. New Atlantis: A Journal of Technology & Society,  25(2009):82-89.
  3. Shelley, Mary. “Frankenstein. The Pennsylvania State University Electronic Classic Series. 1818.  [Accessed March 21, 2012)
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