Who is Frankenstein?


In my inbox, I’ve recently received an email flyer for a call for papers. I get these occasionally as I am a career student/academic. This one came to me because I once did a conference presentation in a panel titled “Adaptations,” primarily film adaptations. This particular call for papers has to deal with any and all adaptations involving Frankenstein. I’m intrigued. I love Victorian literature, and I love monsters, so it’s a perfect marriage of interests for me.

Here’s my problem though, Frankenstein is the doctor. Dr. Victor Frankenstein. However, in today’s world of TV killing the literature star, people think that Frankenstein is the monster. If you Google “Frankenstein Halloween,” you will get hundreds of images of the monster. Even this academic call for papers implies that they are looking for monster adaptations: anything to do with the monster – Frankenstein’s monster. See the monster has no name. That is part of his identity crisis. Even Wikipedia has it right when they say “In popular culture, the creature is often erroneously referred to as “Frankenstein”, but in the novel the creature has no name. He does call himself, when speaking to his creator, Victor Frankenstein, the “Adam of your labours” . He is also variously referred to as a “creature”, “fiend”, “the demon”, “wretch”, “devil”, “thing”, “being” and “ogre” in the novel” (Wikipedia “Frankenstein’s Monster”).

This name we give to the monster is indeed erroneous. He is nameless for a purpose. Giving him a name would have undermined some of the monster’s hatred for his creator. It would have undermined our sympathy for him. It would have given him identity and the lack of identity was the core of his hatred and the whole action of the book. But, sadly, our world today does not care about great literature. We watch the movie and dare to announce that we know the story. When your child wishes to be Frankenstein for Halloween, you will immediately comprehend that he/she means the monster, not some boring doctor. Hell, for the longest time, I thought Frankenstein was the monster, till I educated myself. And now that I have that knowledge, I am irritated every time Frankenstein’s monster is called Frankenstein (so much so that I write an entire post on it hoping to get others to care). Granted, it could be argued that Frankenstein was the truer monster, but that is an argument for another time, and not one that people who erroneously call the monster “Frankenstein” are trying to make.

After all that being said, I still must abide by the “Call for Papers” guidelines, and see if I can find something to write about regarding Frankenstein (primarily monster) adaptations. If you wish to leave me your thoughts on what I should write about, please do so in the comments. The Call allows for anything to do with Frankenstein adaptations, no matter how abstract it may seem.

Perhaps after reading this, you will do me and the world a favor, the next time your child, your neighbor, or some random stranger on the street refers to Frankenstein’s monster as Frankenstein, you will take one itty bitty minute to educate them on the erroneous nature of this belief.




4 thoughts on “Who is Frankenstein?

  1. I’m the same way about grammar. It irritates me when improper grammar become “proper” because it’s been misused for so long by so many that everyone now just assumes it’s proper. It’s the pedant in us. You go, girl.

  2. Even though I knew it was the Dr. who was Frankenstein I have been guilty of placing that name on the monster. I really enjoyed your detail on why in the true story he did not have a name.

    “He is nameless for a purpose. Giving him a name would have undermined some of the monster’s hatred for his creator. It would have undermined our sympathy for him.”

    Good luck with your paper.

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