The gothic genre turned suddenly darker in 1818 with the publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, or as it is otherwise known, The Modern Prometheus. Over the years this novel has often been converted to film, often sadly at the expense of the tale and its deeper connotations, packaging it out as a simple horror story. Instead of haunted houses and monsters the reader will find themselves involved with a tale of responsibility, morals, primeval fear and the voracious appetite of revenge.
The Creature is engendered by Victor Frankenstein, who in his zeal of creation ignored the consequences of his actions and the responsibility that fell on him. Frankenstein created something new and different, a mutated human form, which is intelligent, powerful, hardy and capable of feelings and emotions. The important factor of the novel is that the Creature is ‘born’ innocent and that it is only through his continual rejection from the human race and especially his Maker that he turns into the monster which Hollywood focuses on.
Although the narration is framed by the letters home of Walton, a foolish young man sailing to the Antarctic, both Frankenstein and the Creature contribute to the narration. This provides the reader with a better understanding of the characters allowing the Creature to be more than just a murdering monster. This epistolary technique lends the novel a sense of credibility, as if the events truly occurred, which is supported with the sense of scientific possibility surrounding the Creature’s birth.
Through the inclusion of ideologies from the Bible, especially Genesis and from Milton’s Paradise Lost, Shelley explores the role of a creator upon the created. Women are shown as victims of a male dominated world, Frankenstein’s mother dies and his wife is murdered by the Creature and yet he is capable of creation. Shelley deals with the ethical dilemma this causes which was as appropriate in the nineteenth century in the surge of scientific thinking as it is today in the wake of cloning and the morals and responsibility involved in the process.