Frankenstein Forgotten: A Creation that has Outlived its Creator

Hey. This was for the Frankenstein's Monster concept page, but I found out there was a page just labeled Frankenstein as a character, and it's regarding the same guy... 

I guess you could argue both ways as far as Frankenstein's Monster being a concept or a character, but where does it start, where does it end?

The article below isn't much, but it contains a point I've wanted to make about Frankenstein's Monster ever since I first read Mary Shelley's novel I dunno how many years ago about the monster's origins.  It's not that it's necessarily known, and there are certainly some strong implications pushing in one direction, but there are actually a bunch of different ways you could take it, and the theological allusions are rather inescapable.  Before the movie Frankenstein, there was the early movie Golem, and the former seemed to borrow more than a bit from the latter.

It was fun to write, and I feel honored that it jumped up to near the top of my top scoring submissions list.

-AHF

Origin


In Mary Shelley's modern horror classic Frankenstein, the eponymous doctor sets about creating a living creature, in a manner suggesting the myth of the golem that grew from the pogroms of Prague in what is now the Czech Republic, and Adam in the creation story in the Christian and Hebrew bibles.  This creature, called simply the monster, then had to deal with this sudden consciousness it was given, as well as a society that wasn't ready to understand or accept it.  As to Shelley's own inspiration for the story, she was said to have come up with the story during a late-night story competition among peers.


Popular perceptions and misconceptions


It's assumed that the monster is assembled from the body parts of the dead, perhaps influenced by the first film based on the story, starring Boris Karloff as the monster.  However, the original story spends very little time talking about the material components that go into monster's actual creation, as Doctor Frankenstein himself is not keen on revealing to the person to whom he is writing the secrets of  "bestowing animation upon lifeless matter," which is described, literally or metaphorically, as clay.  This can be taken as a direct biblical reference, as if Frankenstein had stumbled upon the same processes that the biblical Adam had been born of in its creation story, as well as suggesting the afore mentioned golem, also created by animating clay with life. As to whether or not that material Doctor Frankenstein used was actually once alive is left up to the reader, though his famous use of electricity, as seen in the movie and most depictions afterward, is in the original text.

Another perception that seems influenced by the famous film version is that the monster is slow, slurred of speech, and perhaps simple-minded, though still capable of compassion.  The creature of the book cultivated its mind quickly, becoming erudite in a strangely short period of time, unlike the lumbering filmic version that is so commonly repeated in cultural references.

The monster itself is often erroneously named Frankenstein, possibly because the fame of the monster outweighed the fame of its creator.  One only need imagine a movie poster with the face of the monster with the word "FRANKENSTEIN" in bold, jagged letters over the creature's face to realize why people might make this mistake.


Game depictions


As to what role Frankenstein's monster plays in games, it is of course up to the creators as to how to employ the creature, but often the monster is reduced to bit parts, playing a recognizable creature that players are tasked with defeating, such as in the Castlevania games which feature such monsters.  The stereotype is one of bolts in the neck (used as electrical leads, presumably), a prominent forehead with knife-like bangs, pale skin and stitches (suggesting that it's a corpse pieced together), great strength, and a lumbering walk, all of which are taken from the 1931 film.  Often Frankenstein's monster doesn't play a central or prominent role, instead being part of a menagerie of creatures out of horror films, but there are a few exceptions.

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, based upon the film starring Robert De Niro as the monster, was a game for 16-bit consoles which had players take on the role of the monster itself.  Frankenstein's Monster, by Data Age, pits you against the creature, which you must prevent from being animated.  There are others, but none are considered classics, and many are noted for poor gameplay.  While the monster has been animated multiple times in other media, it seems video games have yet to bring life to the monster in any lasting way.


Further reading


Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" or "The Modern Prometheus" is available for free, because its copyright is long expired, at sites such as Project Gutenberg. Copyright laws vary from country to country though, so be sure to check your own country's laws before trying.
4 Comments
5 Comments
Posted by ahoodedfigure
Hey. This was for the Frankenstein's Monster concept page, but I found out there was a page just labeled Frankenstein as a character, and it's regarding the same guy... 

I guess you could argue both ways as far as Frankenstein's Monster being a concept or a character, but where does it start, where does it end?

The article below isn't much, but it contains a point I've wanted to make about Frankenstein's Monster ever since I first read Mary Shelley's novel I dunno how many years ago about the monster's origins.  It's not that it's necessarily known, and there are certainly some strong implications pushing in one direction, but there are actually a bunch of different ways you could take it, and the theological allusions are rather inescapable.  Before the movie Frankenstein, there was the early movie Golem, and the former seemed to borrow more than a bit from the latter.

It was fun to write, and I feel honored that it jumped up to near the top of my top scoring submissions list.

-AHF

Origin


In Mary Shelley's modern horror classic Frankenstein, the eponymous doctor sets about creating a living creature, in a manner suggesting the myth of the golem that grew from the pogroms of Prague in what is now the Czech Republic, and Adam in the creation story in the Christian and Hebrew bibles.  This creature, called simply the monster, then had to deal with this sudden consciousness it was given, as well as a society that wasn't ready to understand or accept it.  As to Shelley's own inspiration for the story, she was said to have come up with the story during a late-night story competition among peers.


Popular perceptions and misconceptions


It's assumed that the monster is assembled from the body parts of the dead, perhaps influenced by the first film based on the story, starring Boris Karloff as the monster.  However, the original story spends very little time talking about the material components that go into monster's actual creation, as Doctor Frankenstein himself is not keen on revealing to the person to whom he is writing the secrets of  "bestowing animation upon lifeless matter," which is described, literally or metaphorically, as clay.  This can be taken as a direct biblical reference, as if Frankenstein had stumbled upon the same processes that the biblical Adam had been born of in its creation story, as well as suggesting the afore mentioned golem, also created by animating clay with life. As to whether or not that material Doctor Frankenstein used was actually once alive is left up to the reader, though his famous use of electricity, as seen in the movie and most depictions afterward, is in the original text.

Another perception that seems influenced by the famous film version is that the monster is slow, slurred of speech, and perhaps simple-minded, though still capable of compassion.  The creature of the book cultivated its mind quickly, becoming erudite in a strangely short period of time, unlike the lumbering filmic version that is so commonly repeated in cultural references.

The monster itself is often erroneously named Frankenstein, possibly because the fame of the monster outweighed the fame of its creator.  One only need imagine a movie poster with the face of the monster with the word "FRANKENSTEIN" in bold, jagged letters over the creature's face to realize why people might make this mistake.


Game depictions


As to what role Frankenstein's monster plays in games, it is of course up to the creators as to how to employ the creature, but often the monster is reduced to bit parts, playing a recognizable creature that players are tasked with defeating, such as in the Castlevania games which feature such monsters.  The stereotype is one of bolts in the neck (used as electrical leads, presumably), a prominent forehead with knife-like bangs, pale skin and stitches (suggesting that it's a corpse pieced together), great strength, and a lumbering walk, all of which are taken from the 1931 film.  Often Frankenstein's monster doesn't play a central or prominent role, instead being part of a menagerie of creatures out of horror films, but there are a few exceptions.

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, based upon the film starring Robert De Niro as the monster, was a game for 16-bit consoles which had players take on the role of the monster itself.  Frankenstein's Monster, by Data Age, pits you against the creature, which you must prevent from being animated.  There are others, but none are considered classics, and many are noted for poor gameplay.  While the monster has been animated multiple times in other media, it seems video games have yet to bring life to the monster in any lasting way.


Further reading


Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" or "The Modern Prometheus" is available for free, because its copyright is long expired, at sites such as Project Gutenberg. Copyright laws vary from country to country though, so be sure to check your own country's laws before trying.
Posted by Pepsiman

As someone who was never particularly fascinated with the Frankenstein lore, I found this article thoroughly enjoyable. Maybe it's the trivia buff in me talking, but I enjoyed learning about the allusions and characterizations related to the monster which aren't typically brought up in its pop culture appearances. In short, I'm glad somebody got around to tackling this subject. I'm pretty certain it would have otherwise been neglected for quite some time.

Posted by Captain_Insano

Frankenstein. Mad concept. Poorly written. Shelley's writing style is so dry and cumbersome. Dracula by Bam Stoker though is fantastically written, fast paced and draws you in.

However Frankenstein's Monster and the themes of the book itself are still quite awesome. Sort of like how Heart of Darkness has mad ideas and themes yet why why why would you ever want to read it? People of the world. DONT READ HEART OF DARKNESS

Edited by ahoodedfigure

@Pepsiman : Thanks.  I guess a place like this is sort of made for the random little quirks in all of us.  I had a few very specific bones to pick with regard to the assumptions made about a book that is, like Captain Insano says, a chore to read.  I never put it all together in one place before the article, but there are a lot of interesting references in the original work, a lot of which I think is missing from the pop culture depiction of Frankenstein's Monster.  I think this is why the monster is never really that popular, people just sort of add him to the list of monsters without wondering why he might be there, just out of respect for old stuff.

@Captain_Insano : The actual themes in the book, like you say, are why this story still resonates.  The story itself is trouble to work through, but the themes are exciting and frightening at the same time: that we might get ahead of ourselves and learn the secrets of life, and what strange and horrifying consequences this might have, not just for humanity, but for our creations.  The modern implications aren't too hard to imagine, although I wouldn't go so far to say that humanity is incapable of handling its own power, just that we should be ready to expand our view of what "human" can mean, and how we're willing to show fellowship to something we don't understand.

Dude, Heart of Darkness?  Yes, it's another one of those hard-to-read lit teacher favorites, but man, I think it's great.  You know what, though, that Joseph Conrad sure fell in love with the English language... and like a new lover, he tends to gush a bit too much about his love.  Still, if I have to wade through prose like Shelley's and Conrad's to get at cool themes, I'll deal with it.  Sometimes journeys are more interesting if you get a few cuts and bruises along the way.

Posted by Captain_Insano

Heart of Darkness is great thematically and has some great lines and is well written but it is dry to read as you mentioned. For myself, even though I am a fan of literature, a book still needs to flow well and be fun to read. That is the problem I have with a lot of Dickens and other English literature. They are well written, and every sentence can be analysed and you can see the effort that went into the construction of each sentence but this can also lead to a painfully slow pacing and a real slog to get through. You do feel more accomplished after finishing a hard slog of a read and sometimes it is worth the effort. They require a lot of dedication and time though. They are the Bethesda games of the literary world, hard to just pick up and get into for short stints but great once you put in the effort.