Study Guide

Frankenstein The Monster (Boris Karloff)

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The Monster (Boris Karloff)

Argh. Grrr.

Some monsters are suave. Some monsters are chatty, and full of lengthy monologues. And some monsters end up coining catch phrases.

Sadly, Frankenstein's monster isn't the kind of monster you want to have a lengthy convo with. In fact, it's impossible to have a conversation with he guy—he's a growling, arghing, can't rub two words together kind of monster. He says, "Grrrr" and sometimes, "Rowr," but that's about it.

But what does it mean to have a monster that can't talk to you?

Well, it makes the monster seem not very human. The monster's stitched together from dead body parts, and has a human brain, but it seems more like an animal or pet than like a person. In fact, Dr. Waldman says:

"Kill it, as you would any savage animal."

To Waldman, the monster's like a mad dog or beast. Destroying him isn't "murder" (as Henry calls it) because the monster's not a human being. The monster is an "it."

Grrr? Argh?

Here's the thing, though: none of us started out being able to chat, crack jokes, or sing karaoke. When we were babies, the only thing any of us could do was wail, scowl, and projectile vomit. And Frankenstein's monster is, after all, a newborn. He's just come into the world.

And instead of meeting adults that slap some diapers on his and read him Goodnight Moon about a jillion times, Mr. Monster meets humans that want to kill him.

Boris Karloff never talks in his role as the monster. But he gives the creature a lot of pathos and emotion. This is particularly true in the scene where Frankenstein first brings him into the light. "So far he's been kept in complete darkness," Frankenstein explains. And, when the monster's allowed to see the light, he reaches up his arms, as if he's trying to hold it, or get out of the castle. And then the monster sits down when Frankenstein asks it to. "You see? It understands," the doctor declares with joy.

The moment when the monster most seems like a child is when he encounters Maria, a real child. "Will you play with me?" she asks, and they have a little playdate throwing flowers into the lake—until the monster gets confused and throws Maria in as well.

This murder is an accident; the monster doesn't realize that Maria will sink. But it's also significant because it shows that the monster can learn, much like a human child. He's playing, and as he plays he's picking up the rules of the world. Maria throws something in the water, and then the monster throws something in the water. That's imitation and education.

Maybe, the monster could even learn to talk…if Frankenstein was willing to put in the time.

The monster inability to talk doesn't make him an animal; it just makes him ignorant. He can't speak because no one's shown him how. And if that's the case, then the fault lies not in the innocent creature who doesn't know better, but in his dad, who never bothered to teach him kindness, or language.

"I made him with these hands, and with these hands I will destroy him," Frankenstein declares. But before he destroyed him, did he try to teach him anything? Every time the monster says, Argh! it's a reminder that Frankenstein didn't take the time to teach him to say Hello.

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