Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein, written in gothic genre, has seen many film adaptations throughout the twentieth century. While all of them have tried to stick to the basic storyline, hardly any has managed to be absolutely faithful to Shelley’s plot. One of the widely discussed adaptations of the novel was released by Universal Pictures in 1931. If to compare the book and the film version of Frankenstein, one can find just as many differences as there are similarities.
Firstly, there are obvious similarities between the works in two different artistic genres. Both revolve around the story of monster creation, when a scientist uses the parts of a human corpse. In both works, Dr. Frankenstein has a girlfriend (who is also a fiancée), who is worried a lot about things that happen to him. Next, Dr. Waldman appears in both texts as a mentor to Dr. Frankenstein; in the film, he also acts as a consultant during the process of creation. Further, in both works, Dr. Frankenstein decides to abandon the monster only to get haunted by him afterwards. In addition, the book and the film both have the monster willing to murder his creator. Another similarity is the attempts to show Frankenstein as having human features: Shelley managed to do this by elaborating on the monster’s feelings towards a blind man’s family in the forest and his love of violin music; James Whales managed to do this by showing the monster’s fascination with a girl, whom he later drowns.
At the same time, there are obvious differences between the two works. In the movie, the monster lacks speech and only growls and grunts whereas in the book the monster is able to produce eloquent speech and teaches himself both to read and write. The names of the scientist differ: in the movie, he is Henry Frankenstein but in the novel he is Victor Frankenstein. Next, the appearances of the monsters also differ. If in the movie, the monster has a flat head, with bolts at both sides of his head, as well as has short blackish hair, Shelley’s Frankenstein has long black hair, white teeth, and is tall and muscular. Also, in the film, the horrible behavior of the monster is ascribed to his having a criminal’s brain while in the book it is a result of the monster’s resentment of being abandoned by his creator.
In this way, all the major parts of the plot have been preserved in the film, but conceptually the film differs from the book. In the film, the monster is simplified, and is designed to evoke sympathy with the audience.