The Name is Frankenstein

It seems like a favorite pastime of snarky hipsters and smart alecks to correct people when they call the monster “Frankensein,” all too eager to embarass the speaker by pointing out that Frankenstein is Victor’s surname, not the monster’s.  The only thing more annoying than being informed this is having your grammer corrected during conversation.  I have a theory though that should hopefully silence those quibblers.

Okay, try and follow me here.  Frankenstein is the title of the novel, just as it is the lead character’s last name.  Victor Frankenstein is the monster’s creator.  The monster isn’t referred to by name in the novel, except to be called a demon.  Everyone knows all of this.  Now here’s my theory.  In English society of the time, it was considered proper to call the first born sons by their surname, rather than by their christian name.  The second born and so on were called by their first names, but the firstborn, since he presumably will be the first to inherit power after the patriarch’s death, is known by the family’s name.  Victor Frankenstein creates the monster, and he’s the closest thing to a father that the monster has.  Since his monster (spoiler) kills his wife, Victor is not able to produce a son of his own, making his monster the closest thing to a son that he has.  Therefore, the title is actually a dark irony: it can refer to Victor or to the monster.  Thus, the monster IS Frankenstein by name.

This permutation serves to enhance the tragedy of the book; it makes you aware of the tortured father-son relationship between Victor and Frankenstein.  Furthermore, had Mary Shelley wished for the title to refer specifically to Victor, wouldn’t she have titled it Victor Frankenstein?  So many titles of that time and afterwards utilized first and last names: Adam Bede, Tristram Shandy, Tom Jones, et cetera.  It could have been called Mr. Frankenstein, Lord Frankenstein, Sir Frankenstein or whatever, but it was left Frankenstein, which creates ambiguity, and creates a space for tragedy.

Long story short, if you hear someone calling the monster Frankenstein, don’t correct them–commend them.


Read my book.


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