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Welcome to This Awful/Awesome Life! My name is Frances Joyce. I am the publisher and editor of this magazine. We'll be exploring different topics each month to inform, entertain and inspire you. Meet new authors, sharpen your brain and pick up a few tips on life, love, entertaining and business. Enjoy and please share!

Frankenstein by Wayne Wise

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I think it is fair to say that Frankenstein’s monster is the most recognizable monster of the modern era, specifically the version popularized by Boris Karloff in the Universal Studios films of the 1930s. This image has slipped into pop culture iconography as the version of the character. Though the original novel, written by Mary Shelley and published in 1818, is considered by many to be the first science fiction novel it has in many ways been supplanted by the film version of the story. Much like the creature itself, the story has taken on a life of its own and has wandered away from the intentions of its creator.

There are still those who refer to the monster as Frankenstein though he is never named in the book or the various adaptations that follow. The name Frankenstein refers to his creator, Victor. I believe the conflation of the two, creator and created, speaks to a larger truth. I believe it is Victor who is the true monster.

Dr. Frankenstein has become the archetype of the mad scientist who attempts to play God by creating life. In our modern interpretation this speaks to a fear of science and a very specific Judeo-Christian relationship with the Divine. Mary Shelley’s subtitle, A Modern Prometheus, points us to a very specific non-Christian deity and interpretation. In Greek myth Prometheus, in direct defiance of the creator god, steals fire from the heavens and gives it to humanity. This is seen as the light of consciousness. Before this humans were essentially mindless beings. Prometheus, with full knowledge of the punishment that awaited him, as an act of compassion sacrificed himself to bring enlightenment to the world. It is obviously a story that echoes the central themes of Christianity.

If we assume that Dr. Frankenstein is the new Modern Prometheus of the title then his acts must be viewed through that myth. If we do so we see that he failed his creation miserably. Rather than feeling compassion for his creation Victor feels only horror and revulsion, leading him to abandon the child he has brought into the world. The tragedy and horror that follow in the story can be traced directly to this rejection.

It is simplistic to say that lack of compassion is what creates all monsters, but I think it is a component. Nietzsche famously said “Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster...” Revulsion, horror, and rejection when confronted by something we don’t understand only pushes that thing further away from our understanding. It makes it ‟Other” and we are far too good at thinking of the ‟Other” as monstrous, all the while not recognizing the monstrous behavior we justify for ourselves.

Halloween is a time when we can safely look at the darkness in the world and exorcise our fears in a fun and playful way. It allows us to shine a light into the darker corners of our psyche. When we dress as monsters it is allowing us to identify with them, which is a way of feeling compassion for them. Embrace your inner monster, and maybe perhaps we can start to see others as less monstrous and more like ourselves. Look under the mask and see the humanity.

Happy Halloween!

Wayne Wise is a freelance writer and novelist living in Lawrenceville. He would like to acknowledge and thank the academic work of Dr. Michael Chemers and his book The Monster in Theatre History: This Thing of Darkness as an inspiration for this article.


The Hilarity of Halloween by Orlando Bartro

Still Dancing in the Rain by Fran Joyce with contributions from Lisa Sayers and Susan Veitch