Study Guide

Frankenstein Hero's Journey

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Hero's Journey

Ever notice that every blockbuster movie has the same fundamental pieces? A hero, a journey, some conflicts to muck it all up, a reward, and the hero returning home and everybody applauding his or her swag? Yeah, scholar Joseph Campbell noticed first—in 1949. He wrote The Hero with a Thousand Faces, in which he outlined the 17 stages of a mythological hero's journey.

About half a century later, Christopher Vogler condensed those stages down to 12 in an attempt to show Hollywood how every story ever written should—and, uh, does—follow Campbell's pattern. We're working with those 12 stages, so take a look. (P.S. Want more? We have an entire Online Course devoted to the hero's journey.

Ordinary World

Sometime before the film, Henry Frankenstein was a normal dude, doing normal dude things like getting engaged.

Call to Adventure

By the time the movie starts, though, he's wandering around in graveyards looking for dead bodies.

Refusal of the Call

Uh, no refusal here. He's already embarked on his adventure, brain-robbing and all.

Meeting The Mentor

Henry's mentor Dr. Waldman knocks on his door and asks him what on earth he's doing. Henry says, essentially, "I'm reanimating corpses." The mentor tells him that whoa, that's a bad idea, but Frankenstein ignores him.

Moral: don't ignore the mentor.

Crossing The Threshold

Frankenstein throws the switch and shouts, "It's alive!" Then he's got a monster in his house. There's no going back once you've crossed that threshold.

Tests, Allies, Enemies

Depending on who's side you're on, the enemies and allies look very different. If you're taking Frankenstein's side, the enemy is the monster and his allies are his buddies Waldman and Igor—er, we mean Fritz. If you're taking the monster's side, then pretty much everyone is an enemy.

And the tests are all variations on "how can we torture this poor monster." Show him light and then shut the light off? Check? Menace him with fire? Check.

Approach To The Inmost Cave

After it becomes clear that raising a monster is hard work, Frankenstein dopes his monster and leaves him for Waldman to dissect. While still alive. The monster wakes up, none too happy, and strangles Waldman to death.

And you know what? We didn't shed a single tear.


The monster splits and runs off into the woods. He meets a little girl but accidentally kills her—kiddos don't float when they're thrown in a lake.

Back in Frankensteinland, a wedding is taking place. Unfortunately, the papa of the dead little girl shows up and Frankenstein goes monster hunting. The monster drags his maker up into a windmill, and Mr. Frankenstein takes a tumble from a great height.

Reward (Seizing The Sword)

But the monster is burned to a monster-y crisp in a fire. Goodbye, monster. See you in Bride of Frankenstein.

The Road Back/Resurrection

Poor Mr. Frankenstein has to recover from his nasty spill…and from the psychological wounds of knowing that he created life but killed a few people in the process.

Return With the Elixir

Frankenstein rests up and prepares for a life of married bliss. He doesn't really deserve to get such a happy ending, but that's how hero's journeys end, so there's nothing you can do about it.

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