Don't All Sons Inherit The Name of Their Fathers?
With Guillermo del Toro’s upcoming Frankenstein film creeping ever closer to creation, shall we finally put this lengthy and increasingly heated debate about the creature’s name to rest?
While Mary Shelley intentionally did not give the creature a name, she gave him a fully fleshed-out personality, complete with an existential crisis and a search for his own identity. Quite the human experience for an alleged abomination, isn’t it? And like all humans, he had creators. One obviously is Shelley herself, a distant mother figure birthing the idea of him into existence. And the other is none other than Dr. Frankenstein, a man who should have been barred from holding such a title even in the days of yore.
Dr. Frankenstein did more than create an offspring, albeit not of his own flesh and blood. He harvested pieces of the deceased and assembled them together, harnessing the power of the gods to electrocute his creation into the world of the living. He put more effort into creating another person than most people lacking a functional uterus do. Modern fertility clinics even put significantly less effort into creating a life for others than Dr. Frankenstein did – and they stick to the Hippocratic oath to boot.
Many cultures believed so strongly that lightning was a sign of powerful deities across centuries to the point that many believe that being struck by lightning was a sign a god had singled a person out for their unholy behavior and wouldn’t even allow the deceased a proper burial, perhaps to prevent further angering the gods.
Dr. Frankenstein wanted this creature to exist so badly he broke the laws of the land and nature to make it happen, spending months making his perfect specimen. Harnessing the power of lightning, centuries thought to be a power reserved for the gods alone, is another type of creator role Dr. Frankenstein stole without question. As with most children, this was to be his legacy and his proudest achieving moment. Sound familiar, parents old and new?
And like most new parents (and perhaps the gods, who are currently unavailable for comment), Dr. Frankenstein was not entirely prepared for what he brought into the world. The idea of being a parent and the reality of becoming a parent is quite the lifestyle change that understandably takes time to adjust to. Did he feel pride at his new bundle of body parts taking his first breath? Did he feel any sense of protection for the new life he spawned? Or did he take one glimpse of his newborn, fully grown puzzle piece of a man, and instantly feel nothing but horror and regret?
Spoiler alert for those who’ve yet to read the novel: He took one look at a life he created and bolted like an absentee father going out for a pack of smokes, never to return. He couldn’t face the responsibility of caring for a creature he strived so hard to bring into the world (grave robbing is strenuous!). Dr. Frankenstein banished his creature from his life and consequently from society as a whole, a standard practice for orphans of the era, and a bastardized one at that.
This is the equivalent of ditching a baby in a dumpster. This creation, a marvel to behold no matter how his physique betrayed him, awoke to a world he didn’t understand and was unable to recall the previous brain owner’s memories. He was brand spanking new. He was suddenly jolted into existence and just as rapidly abandoned by his father-proxy, the one who made him.
The Frankenstein most often portrayed in cinema, television series, and Halloween parties around the nation barely remembered through a drunken haze, is not the original creature created by Mother Shelley. He questioned his existence and his place in the world, trying to find a sense of acceptance and meaning in his life while also dealing with heavy abandonment issues and being a social pariah. His mind was a deep philosophical nightmare of his maker’s creation and he had not a soul to confide in, no compassion for the raw hand he was dealt (or sewn onto). He was smart, analytical, and had more depth to his consciousness and sense of self than most people on Tik Tok combined.
So what does this have to do with his name? His author-mother didn’t care to give him one (as a literary point), only creating his life from a detached position. Even so, Dr. Frankenstein was in every sense of the term his father. And don’t all sons inherit the names of their fathers?
Frankenstein was his father’s surname, so as is customary, he would have inherited the same name, sans being a DIY sewing project with several volts of lightning to seal the deal. Even adopted children assume the last name of their biologically unrelated parents – who tend to stick around to raise them as their own, guiding them through life…. Ergo, Frankenstein is a perfectly reasonable surname for this unfortunate soul to claim. He obviously didn’t inherit anything else from the cowardly Dr. Frankenstein.
Frankenstein (1931) Official Trailer