Written for Summer Of Zombie 2015
Was Frankenstein’s Monster a zombie?
Not really. No. Well, sort of. Depends upon who you ask. Victor? Yes. Igor? Maybe. The townspeople? Oh hell no.
Pardon me if I wax a bit pedantic here.
I am always (and never) shocked when I get asked this question. And I actually have a vested interest in the question from both sides, as I am an established author of zombie fiction who has planned a version of the Frankenstein myth.
Back to the question.
Was Frankenstein’s Monster a zombie? Before we actually come to a conclusion, we have to first examine the sources – the book by Mary Shelley and the original Universal film. The vast majority of people have only one frame of reference – the film. If you’ve read the book (especially the unabridged version), you know the film and the book are two very different beasts – so much so, that you have to wonder where Universal came up with film.
The classic Universal film (one that I adore) portrays the monster as a fairly mindless menace of a giant. Yes, he does display a level of innocence that is quickly derailed by a very unforgiving society, but there’s very little in the way of complex thought creeping behind the eyes. The creature is driven by holdover instincts from a dysfunctional brain (eventually made hilarious by Marty Feldman and “Abbie Something”) and even irrationally terrified by flame.
To the untrained eye, it would be fairly simple to draw the conclusion that Victor Frankenstein’s creation could fall into the category of zombie.
However, we must not ignore the source.
As I said, if you’ve read the book, you fully understand the fundamental and profound difference between the book and movie. Let me give you a prime example. In Mary Shelley’s novel, the creature confronts Victor with the follow monologue:
I expected this reception. All men hate the wretched. How, then, must I be hated, who am miserable beyond all living things! Yet you, my creator, detest and spurn me, thy creature, to whom thou art bound by ties only dissoluble by the annihilation of one of us. You purpose to kill me. How dare you sport thus with life? Do your duty toward me, and I will do mine toward you and the rest of mankind. If you will comply with my conditions, I will leave them and you at peace, but if you refuse I will glut the maw of death, until it be satiated with the blood of your remaining friends. Have I not suffered enough that you seek to increase my misery? Life, although it may only be an accumulation of anguish, is dear to me, and I will defend it. Remember, thou hast made me more powerful than thyself. My height is superior to thine, my joints more supple. But I will not be tempted to set myself in opposition to thee. I am thy creature and I will be even mild and docile to my natural lord and king, if thou wilt also perform thy part, the which thou owest me. Oh, Frankenstein, be not equitable to every other and trample upon me alone, to whom thy justice, and even thy clemency and affection, is most due. Remember that I am thy creature, I ought to by thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel whom thou drivest from joy for no misdeed. Everywhere I see bliss from which I alone am irrevocably excluded. The desert mountains and dreary glaciers are my refuge. I have wandered here many days. The caves of ice, which I only do not fear, are a dwelling to me, and the only one which man does not grudge. These bleak skies I hail, for they are kinder to me than your fellow beings. If the multitude of mankind knew of my existence, they would do as you do and arm themselves for my destruction. Shall I not then hate them who abhor me? I will keep no terms with my enemies. I am miserable and they shall share my wretchedness. Yet it is in your power to recompense me, and deliver them from an evil which it only remains for you to make so great that not only you and your family, but thousands of others, shall be swallowed up in the whirlwinds of its rage. Let your compassion be moved and do not disdain me. I was benevolent and good. Misery made me a fiend. Make me happy and I shall again be virtuous. I have wandered through these mountains, I have ranged through their immense recesses, consumed by a burning passion which you alone can gratify. We may not part until you have promised to comply with my request. I am alone and miserable. Man will not associate with me, but one as deformed and horrible as myself would not deny herself to me. My companion must be of the same species and have the same defects. A female. This being you must create.
That, my dear friends, is not the ramblings of the undead. No. Mary Shelley’s original creature was a beast deeply in touch with his emotional need for companionship. He wanted a mate so badly, he was willing to threaten the life of Victor should he not follow through with his promise.
Not something you would ever associate with a zombie (moaner, screamer, etc.).
By very definition (according to), a zombie is:
noun: the body of a dead person given the semblance of life, but mute and will-less, by a supernatural force, usually for some evil purpose
Although I would argue that not all zombies are created for some evil purpose, even by this definition the creature (from both sources) could not be categorized a zombie. Why? First and foremost, Victor Frankenstein did not create the creature for an evil purpose. In fact, his creation was done in order to prove his scientific theories correct (and to advance the science of medicine). Second, the creature was not will-less (though in the film it would seem he is near that state). In both the film and the book, the creature had motive for his actions (though the film his motives were quite rudimentary).
With this being said, I think the question that Frankenstein’s Monster was not a zombie can finally be put to rest.
Where do you stand on this life-changing issue?