« Frankenstein » is not only a scary children’s tale

« Frankenstein is a green, scary, and nasty monster.«  

  • That is what People who have not read Shelley’s book think of Frankenstein.

  • They think Frankenstein is the monster whereas in the novel it is the scientist’s name.

  •  They see this story as a children’s scary tale. Images of Frankenstein, the story of the doctor and the monster he created were mostly spread through movies adaptations of Mary Shelley’s book Frankenstein. People’s visions of Frankenstein have been altered by the movies.
  • Focusing Frankenstein movies on the monster and a mad scientist aimed at making the story more popular and at reflecting the current social fears of the time rather than Shelley’s intentions.


a- the author’s life

Influences mws 


Shelley’s life: Mary Shelley’s mother died when giving birth to her.

Book: absence of strong female character in Frankenstein

Victor’s mother dies while he is at university in Ingolstadt.

His step-sister and girlfriend, Elizabeth, is an orphan.

Her mother died on childbirth. Justine, the nursemaid of Victor’s brother, William Frankenstein, is executed.

 Elizabeth herself dies on the threshold of her marriage.

Women disappear from the story little by little. There is no woman in the creature’s life. He is also motherless. A male, Victor, takes the role of mother and father for his creature. The monster asks for a female companionship, reflecting Shelley’s lack of female presence in her life ( A Frankenstein FAQ).

Shelley’s life: her husband, Percy Shelley, was a writer passionate by sciences.

Book: deals with science.

b- Myth: Prometheus

  • Influence of a popular Greek myth: Prometheus. She gave to Frankenstein a secondary title which is The Modern Prometheus. Prometheus is a Titan who stole fire from God and gave it to the mortals. Frankenstein is Promethean as a maker of man, an aspect of the legend that has tended to be obscured in emphasis on the primary Promethean act of stealing fire from heaven. Prometheus was imprisonned because he had not fought with the titans during the war with the Olympians. He was given the task of creating a man. he shaped man out of mud.

Victor, like Prometheus, created a human being of his own hands.



Teaching through science fiction

Teaching through science fiction biology

a- a warning against the dangers of modern science

  • Nanotechnology:

Very small particles that may be engineered to form micromachines.

Many scientists are afraid of teh spread of this technlology. it could create powerful machines that would destruct mankind. The moral of Frankenstein is that mankind is more dangerous than its creations. People still have to be aware of that in the 21st century science: scientists have to think of the consequences of their work. Science is evolving and becoming more powerful every day, which could become dangerous.

  • Cyborgs:

A cyborg is composed of human, mechanical, and electrical systems. This is not far from describing Frankenstein’s creature. However, many scientists wonder about the danger of cyborgs. How far could this science go? What would be the relationship between humans and the living machines they created? They all hope it wouldn’t be the same relationship as the one between Victor and his creature, which was a destructive relationship.

People can still use Frankenstein to raise debates on the danger of biology in the 21st century society, even if biology has evolved since the book was written.

b- limitations to human’s power over nature

How far should humans go in their effort to alter nature? If men are God’s creations, then what is their role towards God? What if humans become co-creators by transforming the natural conditions of life and birth? 

In our 21st century society, reproductive cloning raises men as God since they have the power of creating humans from their own hands. 

In Frankenstein, Victor plays the role of God, of Prometheus, by creating a human being with his own hands

But there are dangers to cloning The reasons are that there could be physical warm to the child (as Frankenstein’s creature appearance reminds us). It is also because children would then only be seen as products, and not as unique persons (Lustig 8). The parent’s role and their relationship with their cloned children can be discussed just as Frankenstein’ s role and his relationship with his creature are discussed in Shelley’s book.

Though, Using science fiction to teach biology has several major benefits. Shelley’s criticism of humans that try to have too much power over nature is still relevant today through sciences such as reproductive cloning.


Dolly, a cloned sheep

How a literary classic became a horror flick?

a-main differences between movies/book

How a literary classic became a horror flick?Frankenstein-Book

  movie                                         book

After Whale’s Frankenstein (1931) had a lot of success, Universal decided to make a series of the films. These are the 6 movies that were then made and that nowadays constitute the most famous adaptations of Shelley’s novel (Ryan, 220).

Bride of Frankenstein (1935)  

Son of Frankenstein (1939)

Ghost of Frankenstein (1942)

Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943)

House of Frankenstein (1944)

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)

These movies, and the other adaptations are seen as « horror films ».The main changes are that the movies focus on « the presentation of a mad scientist and a grotesque monster » (A Frankenstein FAQ).



  • The creature’s physical monstrosity is emphasized on the movies. The creature is « intellectually stupid (although somewhat endearing), mute and physically awkward » (A Frankenstein FAQ). 
  •           The scientist seems crazy



  • Shelley suggests the creature was born without human traits, but she gives him the ability to educate himself, to speak, and to travel quickly in places such as glaciers: in the novel, the creature is sympathetic and far from being stupid. 

  • Victor, the scientist, is an ambitious passionate student. He studies science and dreams of creating a man by his own hands. He is not crazy and justifies his project.The reader sees in him somebody passionate and sympathetic. However, after he achieved his goal and saw the dangerous impact he can have over nature as a creator, he goes mad and becomes unsympathetic.

b- these changes and their effects on the audience

  • The story becomes more popular since the focus on simple themes reaches a more general audience than a focus on themes such as philosophy, science, morals, or literature.
  • The facts that the creature is ridiculous and dies at the end of the story reassure the minds, making people think that men can control science.
  • In the movie, people think that ordinary people could not create such a monstrosity:  we can throw off our cultural anxieties . Indeed, the book presents an intelligible world that frightens the reader because people know the dangers of science.
  •  The story is reinterpreted so because blood and violence fit a monster. The text is rewritten to fit more in a genre, which is horror films. The movies were made to attract a general audience of people liking horror films.

c- Consequences: Loss of meaning

  • The subtitle « The Modern Prometheus » has disappeared from the movies versions. The audience will not relate the story to the popular myth and so, will not understand the depths of the story, that is to say that Victor is compared to Prometheus.
  • The movie seems to be intended for a more general audience. People will not think they have to know something about mythology to understand the story: it is a technique to increase sales (Hajdu 60).





  • Frankenstein is not only a scary children’s tale.
  •  Shelley’s life influenced her writing.
  • She teaches through science fiction.
  • She warns her reader against the dangers of modern science, especially biology
  • She wants to prove that men shouldn’t try to have too much power over nature, men are not made to create human beings.
  • The popular vision of Frankenstein was influenced by the movie adaptations.
  • These movies are different from the book.
  • They focus on the scary aspect of the story, which was not Shelley’s main point.
  • The story was rewritten in the movie to reach a more general audience: children, adults, and old people as well as people who love cinema or simply horror films will all like the movie adaptations…

     Conclusion Mary%2520Shelley                  teaching           ad_nnm_readers_corner




       Shelley                      Teaches              Her Readers!                                         

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