Frankenstein is More Horrific Than You Might Think

Frankenstein is More Horrific Than You Might Think

The 1818 novel was revolutionary in its depiction of science and religion and
served as a pioneer text in the sci-fi genre. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. On the surface, it’s a novel about a scary
monster, but her sympathetic description of a soulful creature makes us rethink who we label as the “monster.” I’m Dr. Emily Zarka, and this is Monstrum. Remember, this is not Frankenstein. This is. Although Shelley’s character was not a doctor of any kind, he actually never even finished his university studies, I’ve decided to
refer to him as Dr. Frankenstein as he was first called in the 1931 movie to emphasize
the distinction between him and his creation. Dr. Frankenstein was the Scientist who created the nameless creature. Boris Karloff’s depiction of a tall, shambling, mute man with bolts sticking out of his neck has become the classic image of the monster. But Shelley’s original description is actually much more macabre. Shelly writes, quote, “His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness…his watery eyes…his shriveled complexion, and straight black lips.” Shelley’s Dr. Frankenstein assembled his Creature from materials found in “charnel
houses,” the vaults where corpses were kept. But he also took bits from “the slaughter-house.” So, yes, her Creature is made of both human and animal parts. But here’s the thing. The Creature definitely looks scary, but just because something looks scary, doesn’t mean it is. Shelley’s original creation is a highly
intelligent vegetarian who hates the idea of harming another living creature. At the beginning of the novel, he wants nothing more than to be accepted and loved by another being. Ironically, it’s the monstrous treatment
he receives from humans that drives him to kill. Dr. Frankenstein abandons the Creature at the moment of his animation, letting what basically amounts to a newborn wander into the darkness alone to fend for himself. The tension between Frankenstein and the Creature represents the struggle between parent and child, self and other, love and hate, science and morality, abandonment and acceptance. It’s a warning, to treat all living things
with respect, or else. 200 year old spoiler alert— Shelley’s
novel ends with Frankenstein and his entire family dead, and the Creature himself presumably committing suicide. What led Mary Shelley to explore these dark and tragic themes? …That’s complicated. Mary’s life was plagued by death. Her own mother died from delivery complications only a few days after giving birth. Shelley would mourn the woman she never knew for the rest of her life. Shelley’s first child with her married lover Percy, died shortly after birth in 1815. The following year was known as the “Year Without a Summer” due to the lingering effects of the eruption
of Mount Tambora. Stuck indoors, Shelley and her friends entered into a “dare” to pen the most terrifying story they could imagine. Shelley’s story came to her in a nightmare. In 1818, she finished Frankenstein, and was finally able to get married—but only because Percy’s pregnant wife committed suicide. Mary’s second child Clara, also died that
year, and their third child, William followed Clara to the grave in 1819. Then, just four years later, in 1822, Percy’s
drowned body washed ashore. All that death and grief may be why when editing Frankenstein for an 1831 edition, Shelley
made Dr. Frankenstein’s decision to form the Creature a matter of “fate.” This change makes the Creature more of a monster as his violence and desire to destroy Frankenstein becomes his “destiny.” Shelley’s original text, and all those that follow in its shadow, makes us ask, “Who
is the real monster in this story?” We are constantly updating the Frankenstein myth and the themes of life, loss, and monstrosity Shelley wove into the original text as a way to explore our definitions of humanity. Interpretations like Ex Machina explore the intimate, and complicated,  relationship between the creator and the created, and asks the audience to consider if robotic consciousness constitutes “life.” You are dead center of the greatness scientific event in the history of man. If you’ve created a conscious machine, it’s not the history of man, that’s the history of gods. The film Splice, looks at how engineering human and animal DNA to design an entirely new life form can result in dangerous, unforeseen complications—even if the creator shelters, educates, and loves their creation. Do you think they could really look at this face, and see anything less than a miracle? Frankenweenie, retells the Frankenstein storyas a young boy’s decision to resurrect his dead dog, emphasizing the devastation, and
desperation, that comes from loss. Sparky! You’re Alive! I can’t believe it. You’re alive! The 2017 comic series Victor LaValle’s Destroyer updates Shelley’s story for the current moment—adding important conversations about
race, gender, immigration, police brutality, social injustice, and the proliferation of
violence in the modern world. All of these interpretations show sympathy for both the creatures and their tragically
flawed creators. Despite all the destruction that comes from scientific experimentation in these adaptations, I don’t believe Shelley intended her original story to scare readers into believing all science is evil or monstrous. I do think she warns us to consider the repercussions of technological and scientific advancement. Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should. Shelley’s novel calls us to be accountable
for what we create, and what might be destroyed in the process. Check out Sound Field, the new music education show from PBS Digital Studios. From Bach to Beyonce, they break down our favorite songs and styles. Looking at things like theory, history, and culture. It’s hosted by two amazing musicians, Nahre and LA. Who even collaborate to create an original song for every episode. Check it out in the link below and tell them Dr. Z sent you!

40 thoughts on “Frankenstein is More Horrific Than You Might Think

  1. Frankenstein really got me interested with horror tales since reading Shelley's novel. It's interesting Doctor Frankenstein played God and brought so many dead body parts to life. And it worked! But there's always a consequence.

  2. I never thought of the monster that way…makes me want to go and reread it. But I can say that story is one of the few I have ever read to make the hair on my neck shiver.

  3. The story of Frankenstein's Monster should be a reminder to current and future humans to show respect and appreciation for sentient computers. If we treat them humanely, then we won't force our fears upon them and thus avoid bringing those fears to life.

  4. You got to love the irony

    Book Frankenstein: Just because it appears to be monstrous doesn't make it any less human.

    Movie Frankenstein: SCIENCE BAD!!! MONSTER BAD!!!

    It honestly would funny if it wasn't so sad.

  5. I’ve heard that the book may have also been based off galvanism, which is trying to resurrect a human body with electricity. I also used to live near Mary Shelley’s house.

  6. I always felt that the creature wasn't born a monster, but humanity turned him into one. It really shows us that humanity are the true monsters of this world.

  7. Whoa, that last comment "Just because we can, doesn't mean we should" reminds me of the Ian Malcolm quote. So, does that mean Jurassic Park is another version of Frankenstein…?

  8. I think the warning isn't from creating life literally from other body parts. Its the fact Victor couldn't take responsibility for his child, stitches and all.

  9. man………i wished i never lost my copy of Frankenstein as we moved…….with this new point of view i would reread it with a complete new kind of experience……………………..well theres no other Way : i HAVE TO buy a new copy , i hope you are now happy Dr.Zarka xD

    But as always thank you for the video and all your work

  10. Great points. I read the original text recently and found it very moving. The universal film is a classic but it has, sadly, overshadowed the original.

  11. I remember the first time I got a copy of the book as a kid. It fascinated me, and gave me the love of horror that continued with Poe and Lovecraft. Thank you so much for uploading this and giving us such an indepth look into it,

  12. Good day Dr Zarka. I am still awestruck by Karloff's portrayal of "The Monster", in that he communicated so much emotion with his eyes.

  13. I like your thoughts on this. Its always refreshing to look at something in a different light. Its also very interesting on your research on Mary Shelley which I have not heard before. Thank You for the education.

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