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Comparing and Contrasting the Book and Play Version of Shelley's Frankenstein

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Do not judge a book by its cover. Those are the words of a famous American proverb that says a person’s character cannot be judged based on their appearance. This proverb is very fitting in regards to the monster from Frankenstein. On the outside, he has a terrible appearance, and as a result is victimized and made to suffer by those who cannot see past his looks. Yet he has a kind soul and is simply looking for happiness and a little compassion from others. Both the book and the play present him as a sufferer in a cruel world but ultimately the book does a better job portraying his pain and eliciting empathy from the reader. The monster in the book details his suffering in greater detail, is more eloquent and persuasive and also experiences a more tragic ending, and as a result the reader feels more sympathy towards him than an audience member would feel towards the monster in the play.
The greater detail provided by the book about the monster’s experiences allows the reader to sympathize with the monster more so than an audience member. When the Frankenstein monster is retelling the story of the hardships he has endured, he mentions events that were overlooked in the play. One example of this is when the monster saved a girl’s life. Such an act would normally be considered very heroic and receive much praise under any circumstances, but instead the monster is rewarded by being shot, receiving only “the miserable pain of a wound which shattered the flesh and bone.” (Shelley 135) The book also examines the months of hard work the creature put into learning about human nature and language in order to be fully accepted when he chose to reveal himself. The monster hid by the cottage for around a year, listening and learning during t...


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...derstand, but he did everything within his power to fit in. He tried his best to help others, wanting nothing but acceptance in return. Yet he was cursed with a monstrous appearance. This was the one characteristic he had no control over, but it was the one that negated all his good intentions in the eyes of society, causing him a tremendous amount misery and eventually leading him to do some terrible things. If his monstrous appearance is just one example of any characteristic looked down upon by society, then his story is a powerful lesson for any reader. It brings to light the misery and pain inflicted – possibly unknowingly – by society onto those that do not fit in. Taking that into consideration, there remains a simple question: who really was the monster in the novel?

Work Cited

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. Ed. Susan J. Wolfson. New York: Longman, 2003.


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