Is Frankenstein's monster a criminal? No doubt. He does nasty criminal things like breaking into homes and drowning children—bad monster.
But is he doing that like a hardened criminal, knowingly breaking the law? Or is he just like a bad dog that pees on the floor because he doesn't know any better? Does Frankenstein's monster need to be thrown in jail, or does he just need obedience training?
If the monster is confused and ignorant, then Frankenstein's really a jerk for hunting him down and killing him. In fact, maybe it's Frankenstein who's the real criminal; he's does have a creepy penchant for grave robbing. Bad Frankenstein.
The monster is by nature criminal, and so must be punished.
If the monster is just acting out his nature he shouldn't be punished.
Frankenstein's the original mad scientist, laughing maniacally and proclaiming that he's discovered the secrets of the universe. In fact, the film portrays him as mad precisely because he's a scientist; trying to discover those secrets of the universe makes you think you're godlike.
As soon as Frankenstein stops experimenting, he gets all sane and normal. Science; it's dangerous for the sanity, especially if you do your experiments in a scary old castle.
Frankenstein isn't mad; he just sees more clearly than the other characters.
Frankenstein's mad because he sees more clearly than the other characters.
What does marriage and love and happiness have to do with the grim, growling, murdering monster? Well, remember that Frankenstein's creating life. The usual way you create life in a Hollywood film—and ditto life—is you get married and indulging in a lot o' baby-making.
But Frankenstein runs away from his fiancée to make life out of old dead bodies and criminal brains. The whole monster creation business is a kind of alternative to happy marriage; you could almost say that Frankenstein runs away from Elizabeth to marry Fritz and have a baby monster.
The monster takes the place of Elizabeth and Henry's child.
The monster takes the place of Henry as groom.
Science is the bad guy in Frankenstein. The dissected corpses, the electricity, the chance to go where no one has gone before; that all seduces our hero Henry away from God and right.
Though, on the other hand, it's kind of amazing that Frankenstein was able to bring that monster to life. Without the science, Frankenstein would just be a dull little romance, with Henry getting married and never doing anything with his life.
The film is about the dangers of science…but danger is entertaining. It makes things happen. If science can really create miracles, how bad can it be? Frankenstein warns against science, but it surreptitiously also thinks that science is a lot of fun.
Henry is punished for falling short of God.
Henry is punished for being too much like God.