What is scary in Frankenstein?

Powerful Essays
What is scary in Frankenstein?

In her 1831 introduction Mary Shelley relays her task, to “awaken

thrilling horror- none to make the reader dread to look round, to

curdle the blood, and quicken the beatings of the heart.” In the

nineteenth century, horror, fear and disgust were the proper responses

to creations that failed to conform to neoclassical aesthetic ideals

of unified ideals, harmonious composition of parts in simple

regularity and proportion. Victor’s overwhelming feelings of horror

and disgust on seeing his hideously disproportionate creature come to

life display the reaction of society to Frankenstein as a novel (Fred

Botting.) In general, people were far more religious then and would

have balked in horror at someone giving life to a being such as the

monster. However, today, a reader might even deem Shelley’s progeny

boring, or tedious to get through. The culture we live in has been

desensitized to many things that would have filled one with fear

during the 1800’s. Explicit media such as television and film provide

us with graphic images of violence, sex, and gore. But in the time of

Mary Shelly, the suspense and spooky intrigue of books and plays were

the only way to "get carried away with your imagination" and there was

certainly plenty in Frankenstein to scare. However, since the

nineteenth century there have been significant cultural changes, which

has affected what is scary in the original book and the consequent

productions of Frankenstein.

Frankenstein not only plays upon the fears of the reader, but also

confronts the fears of the characters, in particular that of the

protagonist. In creating the monster and usurping the role of woman,

Victor is scared of and rejecting normal human...

... middle of paper ... horror stories can appeal to. The horror of Frankenstein is not

a timeless concept through history; rather it shifts, like a mirror of

human evolution. We are culturally conditioned by society in what we

find scary. In both the 1931 and 1957 films, the directors of both are

aware of the ‘shock factor’ that the images of an explicitly deformed

monster can crudely evoke from the graphic, modern audience. This is

rather than the more complex issues, vaguely hinted at in the book and

which provide a long-lasting unease. In reference to the novel, a

central part of Shelley’s thesis is that the monster’s eventual life

of violence and revenge is the purely a sociological product of his

nurture (or lack of) and without doubt, this is scariest aspect of

Frankenstein; the ability of a ‘noble’ yet prejudiced society to

convert the monster into a being so horrific.
Get Access