Victor Frankenstein spent two years in study, experimentation, and finally in creation of his greatest scientific endeavour. It was a culmination of alchemy and natural philosophy. But what Frankenstein created he feared and detested at the very moment he beheld his singular success.
His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun-white sockets in which they were set, his shrivelled complexion and straight black lips. [p58]
Frankenstein fled from his creation, thinking of it as a monster.
But what was it? Zombie, Cyborg, Golem?
Frankenstein’s creation may have been made up of various parts once belonging to human and animal (note he mentions collecting materials from charnel-houses and slaughter-houses), but he did not simply attach limbs like a jigsaw puzzle. Frankenstein talks of the care of construction he invested in creating a “being of a gigantic stature; that is to say, about eight feet in height, and proportionally large.” Everything from skeletal structure, organ placement, musculature, epidermal coverage, to facial construction was of his design–random bits chosen with care, and assembled to create a new being, a new species.
That certainly rules out zombie since a zombie is essentially a corpse reanimated by virus or voodoo. Frankenstein mentions specifically that he was animating lifeless matter. He speculates that he might have progressed to renewing life to the dead, but he does not pursue his work to ever discover that secret.
A cyborg is a being made up of biological and artificial parts. Again, Frankenstein spoke of only gathering parts biological in nature. We can only assume then that no artificial parts of electronic or mechanic nature where included in the design, even if they might have been employed as part of the animation process. Once endued with life, the secret that Frankenstein takes to his grave, the creature’s biologic functions are autonomous.
This then leaves the possibility of the creature being a form of Golem. For those unfamiliar, a Golem is an anthropomorphic being made of inanimate matter, and brought to life through Jewish mysticism. But here again the traditional Golem is formed of clay or mud, acts upon the directions it is given by its creator, and generally lacks the ability to speak. Frankenstein’s creature is formed of flesh and bone, acts upon his own volition once given life, and speaks quite eloquently.
Perhaps Victor Frankenstein succeeded completely in creating something unique. Perhaps the creature is none of these things. Frankenstein at one point calls his creation a daemon–which according to ancient Greek belief was a supernatural being of a nature between gods and humans, which has become synonymous with demon or devil–but from the creature we learn that he did not begin malicious.
I am not sure I know what Frankenstein’s creature is exactly, but as I’ve thought about it there is something in the Jewish folklore of the Golem that hints of a strong connection. Golems were said to be only created by very holy men who in pursuit of becoming closer to God gained the power to create life, but if they did so their creation could never be more than “a shadow of one created by God.” Frankenstein may not have been a holy man by any definition, but in his studies he discovered the secret to creating life. In using that knowledge his creation became no more than a shadow of a man (albeit a large, looming, horrid shadow).
What do you think of Frankenstein’s creature? How would you classify it? And shouldn’t he have a name?