Almost everybody is familiar with the classic image of Frankenstein's monster: a tall man with light-green skin, a big square head and metal bolts on his neck, who can't speak more than a few simple words. Perhaps, if you celebrate Halloween, you might have dressed up as him! But not so many people know the original book that he comes from.
In the summer of 1816, a group of young writers were on holiday near Lake Geneva in Switzerland. Unusually for summer in Switzerland, the sky was covered in dark clouds and it was pouring with rain, so the friends had to spend most of the week trapped in their chalet. To entertain themselves, the most famous of the writers, Lord Byron, decided they should have a competition. Each person had to create a creepy ghost story, to read to the other guests, and whoever wrote the scariest one would win. It was during this competition that Mary Shelley, who was only nineteen years old, had the idea of a hideous monster created from human body parts. Two years later, she published her first novel: Frankenstein.
But Frankenstein is quite different from other horror books. In the film, the monster can't really talk much, but in the book he has a voice and can explain his side of the story. Although he is scary, ugly and violent, he also has understandable human emotions, and the book explores the reasons for his actions. The monster is abandoned by the scientist who creates him, and all of the human beings he meets are cruel to him without reason. He suggests that he only becomes cruel and violent because he has been treated cruelly and violently by other people. The book encourages us to think about other people's perspectives and the effects of our actions, as well as our responsibilities to other people.
The novel is also about an imaginary scientific experiment and its effects, and because of this many people call it the first science fiction book, or the beginning of science fiction as a genre. This means that it has probably influenced a lot of science fiction that has been written after it. Perhaps, without Frankenstein, we would not have Edward Scissorhands, Captain America or even Star Wars!
However, the reason I personally love Frankenstein so much is that it is so open to interpretation. The story itself is fantastic and abstract, but the problems and issues it talks about are simple and universal. It can be interpreted as a metaphor for family relationships, or for childbirth, or for racism; as a criticism of science or a criticism of religion. Whatever you think it is about, it is for you to decide.
How far do you think films should change the story of the books they are based on?