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Frankenstein: The Novel or the Movie? Essay

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Updated: Sep 13th, 2021


Many novels have been converted into successful movies. But there are always adaptations that did not pay their due respect to the novels. Secondly, there are also cases where the intensity that the novel reflected on specific issues where not really highlighted in the movies that were made. There are numerous successful movies that made novels famous. There are also novels that were already famous helped to sell the movies made. In the case of the serial novels like the James Bond or Sherlock Holmes inspired ones, there was always the cinematic twist to the tales adopted. In the case of novels which were socially oriented like the blockbuster Pride and Prejudice or the Lost Horizon, the movies were made to reflect the spirit of the novel adopted. Same can also said about the science fiction stories. The Star Wars or the War of the Worlds did bring to life the characters that were locked in the pages of the novel. But with appropriate adaptation of these to suit the cinematic expression and expectations of the audience. A similar condition happened in the case of the novel written by Mary Shelley, Frankenstein too. The adaptation was however, not very much in line with the nature of character creation done in the movie. As a matter of fact, such changes seem to be happening in many movies and novels adopted. Let us take a closer look at Frankenstein to see how the novel and the movies were different and to what extent the relationship existed between them.

Frankenstein the novel

Frankenstein, though the name today refers to the monster, in the novel really refers to the scientist who created the monster. A novel written by the nineteen year old, Mary Shelley, as a creative frightening novel, was centered around the creativity of the scientist who makes a new creature out of the body parts of dead men and women. A creature thus created comes alive. His body was hideous and shocking; even the creator of the creature, Dr Frankenstein, could not face it without horror. Therefore, he ignores the creature, who escapes into the wild world only to surface later to kill Dr Frankenstein’s brother. It was found by the doctor later, that the creature tried to help a farmer family only to be thrown out later after seeing how bad looking the creature was.

The creature was judged more by its appearance, even though it was not really all that bad. But since, it was being neglected continuously, the creature turns bad. It starts killing people and starts leading a fearsome life. This turns the doctor to find a way to kill the creature. Unable to kill the creature, the doctor dies. But the creature itself sees that its maker is dead; goes off and commits suicide.

In this novel, the author portrays the new creature and the scientist in good light. The creature becomes violent only when it sees that there is no body that he could have company with. At one point, the creature even requests the doctor to make another creature of the same kind, may be a female so that he could have company. This the scientist declines to do after almost completing the female knowing that it could reproduce and start having a new line of creatures. The doctor is also not bad; he does what he thinks is the right for the people and for the creature that he created. He plays God.

Frankenstein the movie

In the movie, the entire storyline has gone for a change. Whereas, here also the doctor creates the creature that would turn violent, here, the creature is made violent. It has the mind of a murderer by accident. Therefore, it understands only violence, murder and such other activities. The movies adoption of the novel is very innate. It is not in line with the novel at all and it is more an adoption of the drama that was done later on based on the novel. Whatever be the reasons for the adoption of this nature, it is found that the story line is as follows:

The creature created continues to live in Europe close to the doctor and starts killing people one by one. Then the doctor along with the local residents and farmers make plans to kill the creature. The creature finally carries its creator to the top of a mill and drops him to the ground, accidentally. Once the doctor is saved from the creature, the people set fire to the mill in which the creature is locked up. The mill and the creature are burnt down together. The film has not adopted the novel as it is. It has taken the idea of the monster from it but let the entire story evolve in a way that would possibly please the audience.

The novel Vs the movies

This methodology of altering the novel to suit the needs of the movies is rampant among the adopted movies. This is the case with every one of the novels that has been adopted so far. In the case of Frankenstein, the alterations done to the story is too obvious and dramatic. As a matter of fact, the entire story line has been altered taking into consideration only the basic concept of creating a human like creature out of dead human parts. This idea of picking only the concept and the underlying thought from the novel has been happening in most of the movies.

To dramatize the sequence, movies like Jaws, Star Wars have all followed similar styles. The exact replica of what was happening in the novels might not find a place in the movie. Of course, there are also others that have been exact replicas of the novel. Lost Horizon is an example of such a change. Now, therefore, it is not possible to generalize and say that the movies ignore the exact storyline and create all by themselves. At the same time, it is also not true that they do adopt the exact storyline always.

New characters have been introduced in some cases. In others, characters in the novel are given a different meaning and color on the screen. This becomes a need because the expectations of the audience and to present the story in the right way could take up different connotations.


Based on the discussions cited above, the following conclusions can be reached.

  1. Movies when they adopt the novels modify them to suit the media’s needs. The approach of the director and his own impression of the novel also matters in the decision that is taken during the making of the movie.
  2. Novels are generally, the perception of the individual, in this case, the author of the book. However, in the case of the movies, there are normally more than one person involved and the team has a whole has some influence or the other on the making of the movie. That is possibly the reason, why there are lots of changes in the way a movies is made when contrasted with the novel.
  3. Adopting the novel to the current situation at the time of filming the novel also is noted.
  4. Character alteration to suit the expectations of the modern society is not uncommon in the movies.


Mary Shelley, 1818. Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus. Mavor and Jones London.

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