Mary Shelley’s Unrealised Vision : The Cinematic Evolution of Frankenstein’s Monster

University essay from Stockholms universitet/Engelska institutionen

Author: Simon Linter; [2014]

Keywords: Shelley; monster; form; behaviour; adaptation; film; audience;


Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein has been the direct source for many adaptations on stage, television and film, and an indirect source for innumerable hybrid versions. One of the central premises of Julie Sanders’s Adaptation and Appropriation (2006) is that adaptations go through a movement of proximation that brings them closer to the audience’s cultural and social spheres. This essay looks at how this movement of proximation has impacted the monster’s form and behaviour and concludes that this is the main reason Shelley’s vision of her monster has rarely been accurately reproduced on screen.

It is clearly impossible for an essay of this length to adequately cover the vast number of adaptations spawned by Frankenstein. It is clear that James Whale’s Frankenstein (1931), where the monster has a bolt through its neck and a stitched forehead, created the stereotype that has been the source for many other Frankenstein film adaptations. However, contemporary film adaptations cater to target audiences and specific genres, while also reflecting the current political climate and technological innovations. The conclusion reached here is that while the form and behaviour of Frankenstein’s monster in film has inevitably been revised over the years, precisely as a result of social and cultural factors, it is the stereotype created by Whale that has prevailed over the figure produced by Shelley. This, in turn, supports and confirms Sanders’s theory of movement of proximation.

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