Frankenstein - Societal Changes in Film

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A Look at the Story of Frankenstein and the Societal Changes in Film

Frankenstein’s monster, a misunderstood creation fabricated by Victor Frankenstein in Mary Shelley’s classic story, has been terrorizing readers and audiences alike for well over one hundred and fifty years. Since the story was first written in 1818, there have been numerous plays, and over one hundred films, each adaptation trying to portray its own vision of the original story. Mary Shelley came to create “the prototype of a new literary genre – science fiction” (Hardwood 14) while James Whale crafted his beautiful film creation, Frankenstein, to portray conservative values and civil rights while still telling the classic story. Other versions of Frankenstein and modern films such as Blade Runner and The Terminator use the “Frankenstein myth” to show how technology must be contained. Yet the most popular and admired of these variations incorporate changes to the original story that connect not only with the audience’s fears, but societal fears including the Great Depression and evolving technology.

Mary Shelley and Her Monster

While an entire book can be written on Ms. Shelley and her life, I am choosing to focus solely on her social and family contacts and issues surrounding her life that pertain to the writing of Frankenstein. These issues include her parents and lovers, the social crowd in which she entertained with, the contest and dream that lead to the story’s creation, the science that prompted the story to involve an unnatural creation of life, and some theories touching on the social and political agenda of the story.

Mary Shelley was born to William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft, both influential writers and intellectuals of the...

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...e still is only a mother and really serves no other purpose. Both these movies came out in the early 1980’s, a time in which computers and technology was first being researched and discovered. These directors tapped into the their audience’s fear of machines like Mary Shelley tapped into her audiences fear of creating life.

Concluding Thoughts

Mary Shelley came up with an idea for a story while having a nightmare in the middle of the night. That nightmare was then transferred onto paper and then to the silver screen, each new adaptation changing the original story to get the most fear or response from the audience. I feel that we have not seen the last of Frankenstein or the themes he carried with him for the last 187 years, and as Martin Tropp states, “Something about the story is never exhausted, always current, always able to attract a new generation” (2).
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