Frankenstein engraved

Illustration from an 1831 edition of Frankenstein.

Frankenstein, originally published as Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus, is a novel by the British author Mary W. Shelley. It was first published in 1818. The two main characters in the novel are the young scientist Victor Frankenstein and the nameless monster that he creates using parts from several different human corpses. Frankenstein is considered a classic of the horror genre and is also considered by some scholars to be the first science fiction story.


The novel opens with letters and a journal written by Robert Walton, a British explorer on a ship sailing to the North Pole. Walton describes seeing a large man passing on a dog sled and then takes another man, who is in distress, on board his ship. The man says that he is Victor frankenstein from Geneva and tells his story.

Frankenstein, pg 7

illustration by an unknown artist from a 1922 American edition of Frankenstein.

As a young student of biology and chemistry at the University of Ingolstadt, Frankenstein becomes fascinated by the secrets of life. He takes parts from various different corpses, puts them together in the shape of a man and uses his scientific knowledge to bring his creation to life. However, after the creature comes to life, Frankenstein finds it repulsive, describing it as a monster, and runs away from it.

Frankenstein becomes seriously ill for four months following the creation of the monster. During that time, the monster tries to make its own way in the world but is always met with fear and rejection because of its ugliness. Eventually, the monster hides near the home of a French family. The monster learns to speak and read from the family's books and hopes to befriend the blind grandfather. When the French family reject it too the monster becomes angry and violent.

CC No 26 Frankenstein 2

Classic Comics issue #28 from December 1946 features an adaptation of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

The monster makes its way to the Frankenstein family home in Geneva and kills Frankenstein's younger brother William. The monster meets up with its creator and demands that Frankenstein make a female monster to be its mate. The monster says that it will leave with its mate to live in the deepest jungles of South America and never bother anybody else again. The monster threatens to come to Frankenstein on his wedding night if he does not create a mate.

Frankenstein begins to create a mate for the monster but destroys it. The monster keeps its promise to be with Frankenstein on his wedding night and kills his wife Elizabeth. Victor Frankenstein pursues the monster, seeking revenge. The two move steadily north, until they reach the Arctic.

After telling his story, Victor Frankenstein dies. The monster comes on board Robert Walton's ship. It appears to be upset by Frankenstein's death and declares its intention to take its own life.


Poster Frankenstein film 1910

Charles Ogle appears as the monster in this advertisement for the 1910 silent movie version of Frankenstein.

Stage adaptations of Frankenstein began to appear within a few years of the novel's publication. In the past century the novel has provided the inspiration for radio dramas, animated cartoons, comic books, television specials, television series and movies.

The first screen adaptation of Frankenstein was produced by Thomas Edison's film company in 1910, starring Charles Ogle as the monster. The short film shows Victor Frankenstein creating the monster from chemicals in a cauldron. The monster is presented as a creation of the negative side of Frankenstein's personality. When Frankenstein falls in love the monster begins to fade away and eventually disappears.

In 1931 Universal Pictures released Frankenstein, directed by James Whale and starring Boris Karloff as the monster. Seven sequels followed; The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), Son of Frankenstein (1939), The Ghost of Frankenstein (1940), Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman (1943) House of Frankenstein (1944), House of Dracula (1945) and the comedy Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948). The movies helped to contribute to the popular misconception that "Frankenstein" is the name of the monster. Few of the movies featured a Victor Frankenstein creator figure but all of them featured the monster, always the same monster even though it was played by different actors.

Hollywood steps out (20)

Image of Frankenstein's monster from the 1941 Warner Bros. cartoon Hollywood Steps Out.

In 1957 Britain's Hammer Film Productions produced The Curse of Frankenstein, directed by Terence Fisher, starring Peter Cushing as Baron Victor Von Frankenstein (as he is called in the film) and Christopher Lee as the creature. Five sequels followed: The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958), The Evil of Frankenstein (1963), Frankenstein Created Woman (1967), Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969) and Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974). Baron Victor Von Frankenstein is the main character in all of those movies, creating a different monster in each one. Hammer Films also produced The Horror of Frankenstein starring Ralph Bates as Baron Frankenstein and David Prowse as the monster, an unsuccessful attempt to restart the franchise with a younger cast.

The last major screen adaptation of the novel was Mary Shelley's Frankenstein from 1994, directed by Kenneth Branagh, who also starred as Victor Frankenstein, and starring Robert De Niro as the monster. As the title suggests, it was intended to be a more faithful adaptation of the novel than any film version produced before.

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