Countdown to Halloween #19: Dr. Frankenstein and His Monster

You may not have heard of all of the characters in our Halloween countdown this year, and that’s okay.  We hope the articles have been enlightening if that’s the case.  But our next character is certainly one that everyone is well acquainted with, unless for some reason you’ve been living under a rock your entire life.

Halloween simply could not be Halloween with Victor Frankenstein and his monster.  If you’re looking for monsters and gore on Halloween, look no further than one of the grisly interpretations of this story.  Originally appearing in the 1818 novel Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Victor and the monster were born out of an incredibly Halloween-like situation.

At only 18 years of age, Mary was on holiday in Switzerland along with her lover, Percy Bysshe Shelley (not yet her husband), and poet Lord Byron.  Due to an unusually cold summer, the group had to stay indoors until the afternoon, time which they used to read ghost stories to each other and discuss scientific experiments of galvanism.  Byron challenged them all to come up with their own ghost-like stories, and Frankenstein was Mary’s contribution to this exercise.

Victor and the monster’s story has been altered depending on the film or adaptation, but the original story and many of its themes and elements are the same.  Victor is a scientist determined to create life out of dead limbs and body parts.  He succeeds, but is so repulsed by his creation that he flees.  The monster wanders the earth, knowing very well of his hideous nature but longing for acceptance.

He finds Victor and asks for a mate to be made for him, but Victor ends up destroying the mate for fear of enabling a race of the creatures to be bred.  Furious with his creator’s action, the monster murders Victor’s new bride on their wedding night, and Victor chases the monster to the North Pole.  Victor dies, and since the monster is grieved that his death still does not bring him comfort, he decides to kill himself.

Despite the fact that the book, nor most of the movie adaptations ever call the monster anything other than just that, popular culture has equated the word Frankenstein with the monster himself, not Victor.  Just google “Frankenstein costume” and you’ll see what I mean.  So many people are familiar with this usage of the word and use it to refer to the monster that it’s accepted to do so despite the error.  However, it seems a shame that Victor is left out of the picture almost entirely during Halloween.  Fortunately, many of the film versions keep Victor as a central figure.

Some of the film adaptations of the Frankenstein story even took the comedic approach, saying “screw the Gothic-inspired, depressing tale.”  A prime example of this is found in Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein, but I doubt we would expect anything truly serious from Mel Brooks, anyway.  Frankenweenie by Tim Burton was just released last month, and it too has a comedic slant as it tells the story of a young Victor re-animating his beloved dead dog.

Frankenstein and his monster deserve to be on the Halloween countdown list because, let’s face it, they were some of the very first characters ever adopted to represent this holiday in popular culture.  Everything about their original story by Mary Shelley reeks of supernatural horror.  We’re pretty sure that any Halloween list without these two on it (or at least one of them) would be very incomplete.

Keep an eye out, another character on the Countdown will be revealed at every night at 12:01 am for the rest of the month. You’ll also be able to find them HERE.

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