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Frankenstein's Monster: From Misunderstood Creature To Scientific Breakthrough

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The 19th century reader of the novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley was treated to a tale of fantastic proportions. A story of a monster that was created from parts of corpses and could be brought to life would have been an extremely scary story. They would not know if the creation of a monster in this way was really a scientific possibility. The 21st century audience however, now knows that this is not scientifically possible. The fear that was struck in the hearts of the 19th century reader by this monster is now gone. With this in mind the story of Frankenstein now has to be altered to conjure the same fear in our current society of that which existed in the hearts of the original audience. In Hollywood's remakes of the original novel the monster is not the same monster as was in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Hollywood has used aesthetics, science and dehumanization of the monster to turn the story of Frankenstein into movies that would reflect our current society. This essay will strive to draw connections from the original text, empirical research and Hollywood's modern day film remakes of Frankenstein to demonstrate how the monster has been changed and turned into a monster that our society can understand.

In the original text the monster was feared for mostly aesthetic reasons. When people saw the monster they reacted out of fear and either tried to flee him or fight him. They did not have any conversations with the monster to see if he had truly evil intentions. The people just immediately judged the monster as evil. Since as far back as early Greek philosophers, beauty has been equated with good and ugliness equated with evil. In the first description of the monster, Victor Frankenstein told us that he stands eight feet tall. This would be a person of enormous stature and quite intimidating to anyone. Victor was striving to create the perfect man and in such resolves to make him beautiful.

"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 a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriance 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." (Padley 2003, p. 197)

In this description Victor told us how he wants the creation to look when it is completed. In the essay Frankenstein and (sublime) creation Jonathan Padley(1998) explains "it is always aesthetic rather than scientific terms that take precedence in judgments that are made about the monster"(P. 197). As soon as the monster was created, Victor realized that the work to create a beautiful perfect man he thought he was engaged in was in fact the creation of a hideous monster. Victor decided to shun it and fears what he has unleashed upon society.

The hideousness that leads to social rejection and the creation turning into a monster is due to a lack of love; has been carried on in the Hollywood version, but with many variations. In the original text the monster became a monster because of his hideousness that resulted in rejection by his father, society and his failure to find love. The very first movie version of Frankenstein to come out of Hollywood was James Whales version titled Frankenstein. In this version the way that the monster becomes evil was not a result of how society treats him, but it is a biologically determined condition. He is given a criminal brain that was stolen from a laboratory. This brain is shown in a scene to be the brain of an evil criminal, therefore, he had a genetic predisposition be evil; there would be no effect that society could have on him to change him in to anything else.

The unattractiveness of the monster is still very apparent in James Whale's 1931 version of the Mary Shelley text. The monster does not really look like a patch work of dead corpses. Instead he is an eight foot tall person who has a square head and bolts in his neck. He was very pale in complexion and has gigantic hands and feet. This version of the monster would become a pop icon and the symbol that represents the monster Frankenstein for years to come. An important point to note is that in our modern day adaptations of the novel Frankenstein, the monster has now been given the name Frankenstein. He was never given a name in the original text because he was never accepted by Victor Frankenstein. Giving a name to a child is reflective of parenting and the monster was never parented by Victor

A more recent version of the monster has entered our society. This is the Frankenstein monster that is in the movie Van Helsing. This monster looks similar to the monster in James Whale's Frankenstein. This is a reflection of how the monster in James Whales movie became the symbol of Frankenstein that audiences can relate to in pop culture. This monster goes through many of the same rejections by society but wants to help the character Van Helsing to defeat evil and help save the human race. This is a modern take on how we should view the monster. The fact that this hideous creation of science is accepted by these heroes to help them an ultimately ends up saving humans is an extremely different role for the monster. This monster is reflective of the way that our current society views science. With the advancement of modern medicine and the availability of heart transplants and now the possibility of human cloning, this monster demonstrates to us that our culture is more accepting of science of a way to prolong and create life. Another note worth mentioning is the irony of plastic surgery and how we can now use science and medicine to become beautiful. Some people in our culture have become "Frankenstein" versions of themselves. It is ironic that the original Frankenstein was shun for his hideousness, but was extremely intelligent and maybe could have been kept from killing people, if plastic surgery was available to help him look more aesthetically pleasing.

In the original text, people other than his creator feared him only because of his ugliness. They did not know how he was created and therefore, could make no judgments upon it. Although, the monster in the original text was ugly and was shunned because of this, he was also bestowed with many characteristics that made him human. He was obviously intelligent because he learned to read and speak very quickly by listening and watching the De Lacy family. His intelligence was also demonstrated in the sophisticated texts that he read Paradise Lost, Plutarch's Lives and the Sorrows of Werter. These are by no means easy texts and would be difficult for most humans to read.

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