“You’re doing that towering over me thing. Huh. I tell you, you’ve really got that down. It helps that you’re twelve feet tall, but this Frankenstein scowl really adds to the whole.” – Jess, Season 2, Episode 16
Frankenstein has taken so many incarnations that one wonders which one Jess was referring to in this quote. Did he mean the friendly dufus from The Adams Family, a less benign version of the monster, or Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, who wasn’t the monster but its creator?
Let us proceed on the premise that Jess meant the young scientist Victor Frankenstein from Shelley’s 1818 novel since the title is on the Gilmore Girls reading list, and I’ve read it, and it’s a great read for October (or any month).
In Shelley's novel, young Frankenstein is so enamored of the natural sciences and so keen on charting new territory that he collects leftover human parts and figures out how to create a living being with them. Once his monster comes to life, Frankenstein is so horrified by it that he rejects and flees from him, leaving the monster to fend for himself. Hideously disfigured and repeatedly spurned by society, the monster turns murderous.
An allegory on multiple levels, the story is told in three parts—in letters from an explorer (who finds and rescues Frankenstein) to his sister, in first-person narrative by Frankenstein, and in first person narrative by the monster. Neither Frankenstein nor the monster is entirely reliable as a narrator since each has reasons to justify and try to mitigate his behavior. It’s up to the reader to decide who is more and less believable and sympathetic.
Though it’s credited with spawning the horror genre (Mary Shelley created a monster, ha), the novel reads even more like an ancient Greek tragedy in the vein of "Antigone." Frankenstein and his monster both feel they have just cause for their acts, but their ends are irreconcilable. And regardless of how right or wrong each is, there is no way for either to win.
Whether Jess is referring to Frankenstein or his creation, both would have good reason to scowl. If you’ve read the novel, tell us in the comments: Who do you find more sympathetic, Frankenstein or the monster. And while we’re at it, you might as well let us know: Jess or Dean?
Bonus content: A new Frankenstein adaptation is coming to theaters next month starring Daniel Radcliffe and James McAvoy. Click here to watch the trailer on YouTube.