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Overview

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. 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 second 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 the monster's actual creation; Doctor Frankenstein himself is not keen on revealing his secrets to whom he is writing. However, the "lifeless matter" which constitutes Frankenstein's Monster 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 afterwards, 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 seemingly 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

The monster is frequently reduced to bit parts in video games - usually a recognizable creature that players are tasked with defeating, such as in the Castlevania games.

Often Frankenstein's monster doesn't play a central or prominent role, instead being part of a menagerie of stock monsters, but there are a few exceptions.

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.

Notable Examples

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, based upon the film starring Robert De Niro as the monster, is a game for 16-bit consoles which has players take on the role of the monster itself. Frankenstein's Monster, by Data Age, pits players against the creature, who must be prevented from being animated.

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.

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