Study Guide

Frankenstein Setting

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1931? 1800s? America? Germany? England? Help?

You half expect everyone on film in Frankenstein to turn towards the camera as one and shout, "Ack! Where are we?"

The film's setting is a big confused mish mosh. What time period are they in, anyway? Henry's using electricity and the university with the brain specimens seems like it's set in the late 1800s or early 1900s —around the time when the film was actually created.

But then, there's the scene with the gruesome public hanging, which seems like it would have to be set much earlier in time. Similarly, the peasants seem to be living in the middle ages; there are no phones or railways. No one has guns, even. If you were chasing a monster, you'd pick up a gun if you had one, right?

The physical location is uncertain too. All the characters speak English, obviously. But someone has a title of "Burgomaster," which seems like it should put things in Germany, or somewhere else on continental Europe.

Frankenstein is really set nowhere; it's a Gothic fantasy that takes place in a place adjacent to the real world. It's set in a time when technology can create terrifying things, but somehow doesn't provide the tools you'd use to protect yourself from the monster. It's a place with as many dramatic craggy landscapes as you need, but without any solid place names to tell you you're home. Frankenstein seems to take place in an uncomfortable dream.

Like the monster, the setting's sewn together from bits and pieces that don't quite fit, but still rise up and moan.

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