Early reviewers scolded the then-unknown author, complaining that the slim volume had "neither principle, object, nor moral" and fretting that "it cannot mend, and will not even amuse its readers, unless their taste have been deplorably vitiated."Yet almost from the moment of its publication, Shelley's narrative has been pressed into service as a modern morality play—a warning against freewheeling scientific experimentation.
"Mary Shelley's is one of the most adaptable and adapted novels of all time, spurring countless renditions in film, television, comic books, cartoons, and other products of popular culture." About 50,000 copies of the book are still sold each year in the United States.
According to the Open Syllabus Project, it is the most commonly taught literary text in college courses.
Frankenstein's arduous study of physiology and anatomy are eventually rewarded by a "brilliant and wondrous" insight: He has "succeeded in discovering the cause of generation and life" and is "capable of bestowing animation upon lifeless matter."Working alone and in secret, Frankenstein sets about creating a human being using materials gathered from dissecting rooms and slaughterhouses.
Because it is easier to work at a larger scale, he decides to make his creature 8 feet tall.
Scientists were heroes in only 11 percent of the movies.
In 2003, German sociologist Peter Weingart and his colleagues looked at 222 movies and found scientists frequently portrayed as "maniacs" and "unethical geniuses." Scientific discoveries or inventions are depicted as dangerous in more than 60 percent of the storylines.
There's just one problem with the common reading of as a cautionary tale: It flows from a profound misunderstanding of the original text.
In the anonymously published 1818 edition of the book, an adolescent Victor Frankenstein dreams of discovering the elixir of life, imagining "what glory would attend the discovery, if I could banish disease from the human frame, and render man invulnerable to any but a violent death!
Stephen Jones, in Yet everywhere that Frankenstein's creature goes, he and his creator are misunderstood.
Almost without exception, his cinematic doubles are embedded in narratives that depict science and scientists as dangerously bent on an unethical pursuit of forbidden knowledge. It is an idea that has quietly seeped into popular culture in the last 200 years, shaping even those movies and books not explicitly based on Shelley's work.