Created in 1816, Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” has been enjoyed countless times by readers worldwide. It is renowned as a story of horror and the unthinkable. However, it has also been a story that transcends beyond the thrilling creation of a monster and opens the pages to various interpretations of its main character, Victor Frankenstein. In Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”, Victor Frankenstein is motivated to solve whether or not life could exist with what he sees as raw material. This raw material is what in the end destroys his life. His obsession with creating life ironically results in his own life crumbling down around him.
In Kenneth Branagh’s film, Victor further establishes his role in the natural sciences by wanting to help a scientifically evolving society with this monumental discovery. This can be seen differently in Mary Shelley’s “Frankentsein” because his intention towards creating this creature came from total selfish and egotistical reasons. Although Victor Frankenstein is obsessed with the power of science and allows this to take full control of his life, his reasons for creating this monster differ between Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” and Kenneth Branagh’s film.
The making of Victor’s creature is presented as an extraordinary feat of scientific discovery which leads Victor to his eventual mental collapse of total isolation. This seclusion from his loved ones had stemmed from Victor’s love for science and natural philosophy. This passion is made obvious when he says that “natural philosophy is the genius that has regulated my fate” (Shelley 20). Victor learns that his interest in alchemy is useless and outdated. Instead, science and natural philosophy are the accepted forms of thought.
In Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”, these accepted forms of thought are constantly encouraged by his chemistry professor M. Waldman. He is the man that led Victor to “new and almost unlimited” powers of modern science (Shelley 27). M. Waldman created a window of opportunity for Victor’s ego. Meaning, he allowed Victor to take this idea of modern science and manifest it into a creation that would boost Victor’s scientific stature. This is nothing but a selfish plan to prove how smart he could be.
With that said, in Kenneth Branagh’s film Victor found himself in a very saddened state of mind. After the death of his mother and favorite professor, he becomes very vulnerable to anything that would make him feel better. Seeing how Victor was already wrapped up in natural philosophy and science, isolating himself to create something the world has never seen before seemed as the perfect remedy for his hurt. The result of his isolation in both novel and film leads to a creature that he regrets creating.
So why create it in the first place? This is what varies from novel to film. Through the creation of this monster, Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” doesn’t criticize science itself, but rather the abuse and mistreatment of it by ignorant or selfish individuals such as Victor Frankenstein. In her novel, the major negative consequences related to the creation of the creature had no significant impact on Victor. It seemed like the idea of pure glory and immortality overpowered Victor’s understanding of what might go wrong.
When Victor sees what he has done he realizes that “he was ugly then, but when those muscles and joints were rendered capable of motion, it became a thing such as even Dante could not have conceived” (Shelley 36). It had come to a point where Victor had been consumed by his quest for greatness. This quest had nothing but selfish thinking behind it and had no consideration for what he would do with the monster after it was created. This inconsiderate thinking led the creature to say “”cursed, cursed creator! Why did I live?
Why, in that instant, did I not extinguish the spark of existence which you had so wantonly bestowed? ” (Shelley 97). This gives the reader a sense of sympathy towards the creature. We can understand the creature’s frustration regarding why he was created in the first place. This continuously adds to the fact that Victor Frankenstein created this creature with the intention of glorification and nothing else. That being said, Kenneth Branagh’s film is supposed to be an accurate interpretation of Mary Shelley’s novel but we find a major difference with the intention of Dr. Frankenstein’s creation. Kenneth Branagh puts a different spin on how the viewer perceives the character of Victor Frankenstein and the incentive behind his creation. Throughout the film’s interpretation of Mary Shelley’s novel, we can’t help but feel sympathy towards Victor. Unlike the novel, Victor had to witness the death of his mother in a much more difficult way than perceived in the book. Even though the novel tries to compensate for Victor’s lack of a mother with constant dream-like reminders, the damage to Victor’s emotions feels much more real in the film.
More so, in the film, Victor had to endure the shocking death of his professor all within the same timeframe. As opposed to the novel, these two different plot developments, presented in the film, expose a very vulnerable protagonist. Vulnerable in the sense that he is so saddened by the death of two beloved people, that he is willing to sacrifice his life in isolation to pursue the goal of creating eternal life for the good of mankind. Mary Shelley’s novel presents a very different reason for the creation of the monster.
She paints a main protagonist that creates the creature because of pure selfish and egotistical reasons. However, the film clearly portrays Victor as a victim of his past trying to overcome the loss of his mother and his dear friend, M. Waldman. We feel no sympathy for the main character in Mary Shelley’s novel as proven by Victor’s statement that “no human being could have passed a happier childhood than myself” (Shelley 19). The premise of a sad and troubled past does not exist as strongly in the novel as Victor’s motivation for using science to create the creature.
Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” delivers a very deliberate scientific theme throughout the story. This allows various interpretations of Victor Frankenstein from novel to film. Due to this flexibility of interpretation, we then must consider asking ourselves, when it comes to experimenting in the realm of science and natural philosophy, whose interests do we have in mind? In a strange way, the film presents Victor’s reason for creating the creature as noble. In his eyes, science was used for the good of mankind.
His scientific discovery was intended for the extension of life. On the other hand, the novel’s version is one that uses science as a vehicle for Victor’s sinister reasons. His intentions were to find a way through science to be in control of life therefore making him the most powerful man in the world. His reasons were far from noble. In the end, good or bad intentions, both depictions of Victor were doomed for failure concluding that the creation of life is a miracle that even science cannot perfect.