Type: History
Pages: 5 | Words: 1272
Reading Time: 6 Minutes

There is little doubt that Frankenstein is one of the most well-known and most celebrated stories in history.  Mary Shelley came up with the idea for her masterpiece at a young age, and the book was published in 1818.  Throughout history, filmmakers and play writers have attempted to give visual life to Mary Shelley’s words.  There have been many famous films about Frankenstein and his monstrous creation.  Today, because of these movies, almost everyone, young and old, is familiar with Frankenstein’s story.  One of the most famous and earlier movies is the 1931 production called “Frankenstein.”  Most people believe that when a book is turned into movie production, many of the original elements are sacrificed and the story is often changed.  Mary Shelley’s book is no different as there are numerous differences between the book and the 1931 movie.

First and foremost, because of the movie productions of the celebrated novel, a common misconception has risen throughout the years.  Unfortunately, when the movies are advertised, they are advertised as horror movie posters that depict a picture of the notorious monster with the title of the film “Frankenstein” right above the image.  Because of this, many people falsely believe that Frankenstein is the name of the monster or creation, whereas it is the name of the scientist.  That is the immediate drawback of turning any book into a movie: people forget or get essential details mixed up, which can lead to a complete story change from the original novel.  Every year, Halloween costumes depicting the monster are labeled as “Frankenstein” and not as “Frankenstein’s Monster.” 

Secondly, because novels tend to be greater in length, encompassing minute details and imagery, they lose most of these details when turned into movies.  It is an obvious fact that movie makers do not have the time, budget or resources to depict every word of the books on screen.  Their job is to cater to audiences who want exciting and quick results, while still being able to enjoy the novels they read.  However, many of the details must be sacrificed in order to meet customer requirements.  This concludes with negative effects for those who have not read the books and gain their sole knowledge about the subject or story from the movie productions.  For these viewers, the movie is the complete truth and the book’s details are forgotten over time.

Focusing on the differences between the 1931 movie “Frankenstein” and the original novel, there are three main differences.  Firstly, the characters are depicted differently.  Secondly, there are essential plot changes.  Third and most importantly, the endings are different.  The characters are essential part of any story whether it is read or seen.  In the 1931 movie, some of the original characters from the book are missing.  For example, Henry Frankenstein’s family members are not introduced, except his father.  These include his brothers Ernest and William, along with his mother and the brothers’ nanny.  Even the main character’s name, Victor Frankenstein is changed.  Furthermore, the physical depiction of the characters is entirely different.  Take the monster for instance.  The monster is the main character that the audiences are anticipated to learn more about.  Those who read the book see him as a horrendous, yet a phenomenal species having long hair, ideal teeth, and gloomy, yellowish and transparent skin with eyes of an animal.  As for people solely watching the movie, they are given a monster with a square head, short-trimmed hair and the overall appearance of a very tall, large man.  Also, the main narrator in the book is entirely missing, which leads to changes in plot. 

Moreover, the plot elements considerably change while shifting from the book to the big screen.  The most important and unique element of the book is compromised, which is the way the story is told: through a narrative, letter reading style.  Captain Walton’s frame narrative does not exist in the movie and the viewer does not see the connection with Victor.  Furthermore, the monster is given a more human-like aura in the book, as he learns how to become civilized and is able to feel human love and hatred.  He is even given the desire to have a friend or mate, when he orders Victor to create a female counterpart for him.  Other plot changes include the part where the monster rescues a girl from drowning instead of being the cause of her death (as is seen in the movie), the monster observing the DeLacey family, and Victor’s relationship with his wife.  All these changes highly affected the overall reception of the novel as a film.  The main problem with the film is that by not showing the human side of the monster, which includes portraying its needs and dilemmas, the film lost many of the book’s imperative discussion points and themes.  Mary Shelley’s novel continues to be studied in classrooms and is seen as a turning point in literature and one of the reasons is because of the integral themes.

As is the case with any novel, its themes are the core of learning discussions and these themes are derived from the plot details, no matter how seemingly small or unimportant.  One of the main themes in the novel was that of pursuing knowledge that is not beneficial, something that is dangerous to know.  The movie failed to focus on how Victor Frankenstein ended up at the laboratory in which he created the monster.  The book gave the reader insight on Victor’s desire and obsession to create life, even though he knew it was dangerous.  Also, the movie failed to show the monster’s journey to gaining knowledge about the human world and interaction which turned out to be dangerous to him and his victims, as the monster did not have the mechanisms to understand the knowledge he gained in the same case that Victor failed to handle the creation he received through his knowledge. 

Moving on to the endings, they are considerably different from each other in the movie and the book.  The book ends as it started: with Captain Walton’s narrative.  The main difference is that Victor Frankenstein dies at the end of the novel, whereas Henry Frankenstein lives.  What is more, the monster’s thirst for revenge remains unquenched even after Victor’s death; in fact, he realizes that the knowledge of his existence is a danger to mankind, so he decides to make the ultimate sacrifice: to kill himself which will ensure his redemption and ensure that the dangerous knowledge is unreachable to others.  In contrast, the movie shows the monster as a coward with a criminal’s mind who dies hiding from the angry village mob.  Frankenstein is seen as the hero of the film and receives his happy ending, having been married to his fiancé and learned from his horrid mistake.

 The film caters to the audiences that paid to have a happy ending show.  The book however, remains a classic masterpiece with the monster as the true hero and the victim of humanity’s cruel science experiments.  The book uncovers cruel human consequences which seem more practical than the neatly wrapped up ending of the movie.  There were more losses in the book, including Victor’s mother’s death, his brother’s innocent murder, the nanny’s unjustified killing, Victor’s own demise and the monster’s great sacrifice.  Despite the differences in the movie and the book, the story of Frankenstein and his monster continues to be discussed and turned into further motion pictures because of the great story line and attraction people have to it.  It is critical to compare and contrast any production with the book in order to remember Mary Shelley’s original screenplay as was played in her mind.

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