|John Polidori's The Vampyre|
|Mary Shelley's Frankenstein - 1st edition|
In the film versions, the creature is sewn together from various cadavers, but in the novel, Victor Frankenstein's method is a bit nebulous. Alchemy is referenced but as for the use of the deceased the only reference is this: "Now I was led to examine the cause and progress of this decay, and forced to spend days and nights in vaults and charnel-houses,"
The basic story line in the novel is that Victor Frankenstein creates, and upon seeing what he has done, he is repulsed and flees. The monster is left alone and bewildered searching for his creator. The creature's encounters with humanity is somewhat discouraging. After rescuing a girl from drowning he carries her to shore A man sees the creature and assumes he is the nefarious culprit, fires a gun and wounds the monster. Eventually he manages to track down Victor and tells him that he wishes to stay far out of humanity's way but that Frankenstein must create a mate for him…and then he will vanish. Frankenstein agrees.
Victor marries his beloved Elizabeth and expecting an unwelcome visitor, asks her to retire to her room. Frankenstein searches the grounds for his creation with no avail…until he hears the screams of Elizabeth. Through a window Frankenstein sees the monster taunting him over the corpse of Elizabeth. Victor vows to destroy his creation and travels the ends of the earth trying to do so.
In the final scenes, Frankenstein is aboard a ship, ill and exhausted. He has pursued the monster to the North Pole. After convincing the captain to press on despite the weather, Victor dies. Aboard his ship the captain finds the monster. The creature grieves over the death of his maker and has found no comfort in Victor's death. He tells the captain his story his version of events, and that , in his despair, he will destroy himself by flame in his own funeral pyre. The creature drifts away from the ship on an ice raft...into the darkness.
|painting by Georg von Rosen|
When I first read this book, I was in eighth grade. I remember thinking that if they ever made a movie that was true to the novel, they should use Led Zeppelin's Immigrant Song as the theme song. You kwow:
We come from the land of the ice and snow
from the midnight sun where the hot springs blow
In fact when ever I hear this song I think of Frankenstein in deadly pursuit across the vast icy wasteland of the North Pole.
This, of course does not bode well for the monster….who is ultimately by the end of the film is chased by villagers to a windmill which it is burnt to the ground. But fear not…like most horror movies…the monster returns…in Bride of Frankenstein…having fallen into a watery pit beneath the mill.
|Prometheus by Nicolas Sebastien Adam|
So now that you have the basic idea behind Frankenstein…lets do a bit of analysis. Shelley's subtitle "Modern Prometheus" is a bit telling. As the Greek myth goes…Prometheus is a Titan, who is credited for creating mankind out of clay. He then steals fire from the gods to help humanity…for this Zeus punishes him. For eternity he is bound to a rock where an eagle feeds on his liver. Each day the liver is eaten, each night it grows back. This continues until Hercules frees him. Victor Frankenstein is not only similar to Prometheus in that he is a creator, but also in that he stole something that perhaps should not have been tampered with…and thus punished by the gods. Thus is the nature of science…one never knows what happens when a door opens. Consequences can sometimes never be predicted to the fullest effect until it's too late. After Oppenheimer created the atomic bomb he said: "
I had worked hard for nearly two years, for the sole purpose of infusing life into an inanimate body. For this I had deprived myself of rest and health. I had desired it with an ardour that far exceeded moderation; but now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart. "
It has been said that Shelley's Frankenstein tale was said to have been inspired by the Jewish legend of the Golem…a mythical man made of clay to protect the Jewish inhabitants of the Prague ghetto.
Ultimately, like Frankenstein's monster, the Golem becomes uncontrollable. I did a blog post a few years back on this story. Check it out here.
|from the film Der Golem|
Ultimately we are left with a cautionary tale of science (or magic, or religion…depending on your perspective) and the man's limited ability to foresee all the potential consequences of his/her actions. This does not mean however I believe that humanity shouldn't learn and grow…rather I believe that there is a risk of advancement that must be taken…but makers of any kind must take responsibility for what they do when they bring something new to light. Unlike Frankenstein, who merely raised his arms and said: "He's not with me".
Okay on to my creation (which I take full responsibility for):
My Frankenstein monster was made from various bits of flotsam and jetsam. Starting with the body of one of those Visible Man anatomy dudes. Also, I liked the idea of having him part flesh part mechanical…an early Six Million Dollar Man.
Yes it is true…my creature is cyclopian…it's what I do.
I found this awesome bit of ornamentation in New Orleans…seemed Gothic and appropriate.
I liked the idea of having him bound and suspended. A prisoner.