Frankenstein Attempts to Generate A Socially or Politically “Appropriate” Essay (Movie Review)

September 29, 2020 by Essay Writer


Directed by James Whale, Frankenstein, a 1931 film, story line is largely adapted from the Peggy Webling play, which is based on Mary Shelley’s novel by the same title. The film features the story of human struggles to unveil the realities of nature, through deploying science to recreate life.

Frankenstein was done during the pre-code era. With the adoption of codes for regulation of films with moving pictures in 1931, it was apparent that the movie was open to censorship. With this critical acclaim, the paper seeks to scrutinize how Frankenstein (1931), through its textual operations attempts to generate a socially or politically “appropriate” message and whether or not it succeeds in doing this.

Additionally the paper respond to the questions: does the film expel, discipline, or otherwise “manage” the elements of the film that might conflict the sanctioned meaning and whether these elements end up subverting or overwhelming this sanctioned message.

Overview of Frankenstein

Frankenstein opens up by Edward Van Sloan warning on the immense horrors to ensue in the course of filming, before the audience is opened up to eerie and dismal cemetery. As Dirks reveals, “the presentation of a funeral is silent, but conducted in a terrifying atmosphere setting, characterized by mourning sounds with the priests mumbling prayers” (Para.3).

When the mourners leave, the casket is cautiously lowered into the grave and is filled up with soil, which causes chilling sounds as it hits the coffin. Upon the disappearance of the gravediggers, Frankenstein and Fritz emerge to dig up the fresh grave to access the coffin. Unfortunately, the brain is useless.

Elizabeth, the wife to Frankenstein, is disturbed by her husband absence for a number of months and considers looking out for Dr Waldman (her husband’s to be a mentor) to aid her in finding Frankenstein. In his secluded laboratory, Frankenstein does not have a healthy brain to use in his endeavor to recreate life.

Consequently, he sends his assistant, Fritz to invade the laboratory of Dr. Waldman to obtain one. Scared by a powerful and horrific loud crash, he hastily picks the defective brain (criminal brain) and quickly leaves. On one stormy and proverbial dark night, Frankstein permits Elizabeth, Fritz and victor to witness the final parts of his experiment in his watchtower laboratory.

“As the body is raised to the laboratory’s ceiling, all his electrical equipments are engaged, and the body then comes down in a brilliantly pyrotechnic scene” (Dirks Para.2).

When the hand slowly moves, Frankenstein is overwhelmed with joy and proclaims the famous movie’s lines- “Look! It is moving. It is alive. It’s alive…It’s alive, it’s moving, it’s alive, it’s alive, it’s alive, it’s alive, it’s alive!…in the name of God. Now I know what it “feels like to be God” (Dirks Para.2).The defective brain, however, makes the creature to acquit itself with only murder, hate and horror.

Frankenstein (1931) attempts to generate a socially “appropriate” message

The scene where Elizabeth, Dr. Waldman, and victor meet Frankenstein, after his long disappearance, is assertive of the existing gender differences relations stemming from historic inequalities between men and women. Elizabeth insists that she was not leaving Frankenstein that very night.

However, Frankenstein maintains that he could not suspend his experiment, and harshly utters to Elizabeth “you’ve got to leave” (Dirks Para.2). Surprisingly this is the final decision. Elizabeth was not to walk away with him. This reflects male dominance in terms of making decisions.

Another scenario reflecting unbalanced gender relations is the scene where the marriage, between the two, is postponed to pave the way for Frankenstein to pursue his creature intentionally to kill it. While it is largely agreed that the weeding would be postponed by a day, Frankenstein asks, “A day?” and furthers says, “I wonder…there can be no wedding while this horrible creation of mine is still alive” (Dirks Para.3).

These incidences of gender imbalances, in terms of making decision, largely make the film inconsistent with the struggles beginning in 1926 America, to accord equal rights to both genders within the societal mindsets. Rather they reinforce on the ability of men to dominate women.

Since time immemorial, man has endeavored to unveil and resolve miseries of nature. Apparently, Frankenstein miseries of life and death have disturbed the world immensely. Where does life come from? Where does it go while one dies?

Can it be reclaimed and re-installed? In the contexts of imminent religious faith, which was spreading across the globe, in 1930s, the movie Frankenstein was ideally socially relevant in attempting to unveil responses to these queries.

In contrast to religious mindsets and rules of Christianity, the movie is indeed a violation of the production codes of 1931, which were later to be reinforced further by the additions of more codes in 1934. The codes prohibited employment of episodes ridiculing any religious faith.

Unfortunately, the movie depicts Frankenstein assembling body parts, stolen from dead bodies, to form his creature that was later to turn out mysterious to human beings.

Indeed, the defective brain that made the creature dangerous to life of people including Frankenstein and his mentor Dr. Waldman was also stolen from the medical college laboratory belonging to Dr. Waldman. Additionally, in the film Dr. Waldman himself acquired the body parts including brains used in his laboratory by digging up graves to steal the parts.

In this context, the movie seems like justifying stealing in as much as it helped to acquire objects vital to resolution of certain human miseries. In deed, this was largely against the then spreading concepts of Christianity, which held that stealing, was both religiously and morally inappropriate irrespective of justifications raised henceforth.

Even though the film may have managed to show that things acquired through stealing can indeed work by making Frankenstein’s experiments using them a success, the horrors attributed to the Frankenstein experiments later were more than thought of confirmation of man’s inability to create life held by Christianity faith.

Arguably, from a textual approach, Frankenstein attempt to share the life creation task with God was immensely challenged by the aftermaths of his experiment. His famous proclamation – “It’s alive. It’s alive…It’s alive, it’s moving, it’s alive, it’s alive, it’s alive, it’s alive, it’s alive!…in the name of God. Now I know what it feels like to be God” (Dirks Para.2) is blasphemous according to critics.

Precisely, following the enactment of 1931 production codes the phrase: “Oh – in the name of God. Now I know what it “feels like to be God” (Dirks Para.2) has been removed from the film scenes. In this context, it is possible to argue out that, despite the high success of the film, it failed to meet the preconceived anticipations of people’s religiously constructed mindsets. If it had to, the creatures needed to have not acquired life.

From a different dimension, the meaning of the film may be looked as being reflective of the societies’ anticipation of coming into terms with various societal advances evidenced in other films but later to form the realties’ of 1980s to present world technological advancement especially in robotic and their applications in executing tasks often unsuitable for normal people.

In this context, Frankenstein’s struggles to create human being-like creature may have lacked meaning then and hence get contested especially in the realm of religious believes but today, the significance of the creature is real. A possible argument is how this relates to the plot of the film.

As a rebuttal, to attribute this meaning to the film is a question of examination of premises of the film’s narratives. One premise is that the monster is incredibly animated. However, as Spadoni reckons the monster is “not alive on the same way that other characters in the film are and hence the story of his origin, like in his physical appearance, underscores the deeply compromised nature of the monsters living state” (102).

The creature is given life by electricity. This provides a rigid connectivity between the Frankenstein film and Metropolis. In this context, Spadoni writes, “in Whale’s film, the scene in which the monster comes to life – influenced by the scene in Metropolis (Lang 1927) in which a robot is transformed into the likeness of Maria-retains and intensifies the earlier film’s copiously visible presence of electricity” (102).

An attempt to achieve the conception of man’s ability to create creatures, capable of performing tasks, similar to those performed by human beings through the help of electricity, is indeed amplified by incorporation of copiously audible electrical effects.

In this regard, one may argue out that, the implication of the phrase the creature is “alive” textually, is that the creature can perform activities performed by human beings, but the creature is not necessary a human being, as evidenced by differences in its appearance and that of real human characters.

Frankenstein (1931) attempts to generate politically “appropriate” message

Frankenstein presentation of the process of creation of the horrible creature in an attempt to certify man’s fantasies of nature depicts the harsh consequences of conferring powers to few people, often becoming non-human analogous the monster. The creature is created, speaks and then escapes.

Political policies often involve a hefty process of creativity in an attempt to resolve certain social problem that attracts public interest. A part from certain low ranking human figures being raised into super human figures, tantamount to that of the monster in Frankenstein, it makes no sense if such figures do not speak out the powers conferred to them, in the right way.

Arguably then, Frankenstein may be seen as constructing politically significant message in response to George Cannings- a foreign secretary of state’s then, while at the house of commons on the issue of emancipation of West Indians slaves.

He remarked on the capacity of slave debates “To turn him loose in the manhood of his physical strength, in the maturity of his physical passion, but in the infancy of his uninstructed reason, would be to raise a creature resembling the splendid fiction of a recent romance” (O’Flinn 204).

In this context, the film depicts rhetoric’s of the manner in which liberal states people could have deployed its source; Mary Shelley’s novel, to delay reforms and the manner in which the monster issues referred by Canning (slaves), were transformed into brute mindless rhetoric.

What can be learnt from the films in a political context is the ability of monsters to get out of control of its philosophical creators- public. In the film, audience experience situations in which the monster struggle Frankenstein in a mill, having not even spared the person who mentored its creator (Dr. Waldman).

Additionally, people see the monster, though seemingly harmless, as having the capacity to ruin even innocent people like the young girl who was drowned by it. The remorse and guilt experienced by the creator perhaps well explains the damage executed by individualistic politicians, who only comes into terms with consequences of their poor use of power when such consequences cannot be reversed.

However, to correct people’s mistakes in conferring powers to few people, the film may be argued to spread the message that people needs to struggle. In this end, “the novel seems to warn against the recklessness of the radical philosophers who tries to construct a new body politic” (O’Flinn 204).

Indeed, the creators of those powers given to “monsters” risks even to lose their life in getting those in power out of it. Frankenstein was nearly killed by products of his innovation!

Personal opinion

On watching the film Frankenstein, several queries emerge in the minds if viewers. Some of these queries are, does the film expel, discipline, or otherwise “manage” the elements of the film that might conflict the sanctioned meaning?

In addition, do these elements end up subverting or overwhelming this sanctioned message among others? Production codes of 1931, which are followed by further reinforcement by the 1934 production codes, prohibits and sanctions some meaning in films.

In Frankenstein, the audience was opened fully to grasp every detail of situations involving explicit presentation of various methods of crime. For instance, the audience saw the monster getting hold of the little girl and throwing her into the pond thinking that she could float just as flowers did.

In the film, the fact that the monster has defective brain seems to justify this reckless action with possibilities of shifting the sympathy of the audience to the monsters cognitive defects due to human errors rather than the child drowned.

Additionally, a terrifying and a moody scene are filmed featuring Fritz and Frankenstein cutting a hanged man by his gallows to obtain his brain. This also explicitly shows scenes of crimes. In this context, in various ways, the movie depicts elements that might conflict the sanctioned meaning, which end up subverting or overwhelming the sanctioned message.


Directed by James whale, Frankenstein depicts the extents of danger that people’s obsession with unveiling the miseries of nature can pose to the existence of even the miseries resolvers. Dr, Waldman and the young who engaged in a play with the monster was killed while its creator Frankenstein escaped narrowly.

This being the basic interpretation of the film, the paper goes went further to assert that textually the film embraced attempts to generate socially or politically “appropriate” messages.

However, in the light of 1931 and 1934 production codes the paper claims that the film fails to expel, discipline, or otherwise “manage” the elements of the film that might conflict the sanctioned meaning by these codes by explicitly depicting every detail of scenes of execution of crimes.

Works Cited

Dirks, Tim. Frankenstein (1931): Review, 2009. Web. <>

O’Flinn, Patti. “Production and Reproduction: The Case of ‘Frankenstein.’” Literature and History 9.3 (1983):199-205. Print.

Spadoni, Robert. Uncanny Bodies: The Coming of Sound Film and Origins of Horror Genre. New York, NY: University of California Press, 2007. Print.

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