Monster and Beast
This paper will compare the themes of the novel Frankenstein, a book written by Mary Shelley which was published anonymously in 1818 with Disneys 1991 animated film, Beauty and the Beast, a musical by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman. The novel and the film both have remarkable similarities and connection in terms of the characters, settings and symbols used.
The novel starts with Victor Frankensteins meddling with the natural set of things including death. In Frankensteins intelligent but obsessive mind, he reanimates a creature only to realize his mistakes and in the end makes him miserable. In the film, the beasts story begins with an old woman begging for shelter from the cold on a castle owned by a heartless prince. And because of his cruelty, he sends the old woman away who turns out to be a powerful fairy. The fairy casts a spell into the castle turning the prince into a terrible beast.
The settings of both the novel and the film have both scenes that depict the forest. In the novel, the forest to the creature is his source of knowledge as he goes his way discovering new ideas on his innocent but keen mind. It is also his source of food and his dwelling when he needs to rest away from the cruelty of humans. Whereas, in the film the forest is the cause of trouble for both Belle (leading lady character) and his father; as they almost get eaten by the hungry wolves. It is in the forest however where they meet the other main character, the beast, whose castle they accidentally discover. The meeting with the beast is bitter at first, but it leads to the change of heart of the beast which breaks the curse as he and Belle fall in love.
Both the creature and the beast are characters portrayed as flawed in appearances. The beast in the film becomes a legendary monster that people in the village are afraid of. Compared to the beast who has been a cruel individual to begin with, the creature in the novel starts as innocent and nave because he is abandoned by his maker after his creation. But he is created with superhuman intelligence and by his unique ability to analyze; he comes to know his surroundings. In the process, he becomes aware of his hideous appearance and comes to realize how humanity disgusts his looks; that even Victor his maker rejected him at the time of his reanimation.
From the mishap he experiences with the townspeople, the creature turns his attention on a family living in a cottage. This is where he feels the longing for company, to be connected with society. He longs for human acceptance but at the same time, he feels alienated because he is different in physical appearance. It is shown in the story that even how much he tries to do good to the cottagers they still react violently to his hideousness. As Midwest Quarterly writer Ashley Lancaster points out, [T]he Monster actually represents a mythical form of dispossessed being society refuses to accept (134). The result of his alienation from humanity develops hatred and the creature becomes a murderous fiend. The beast however is a creature made from magic, a cursed spell that makes him the cause of fear from the villagers. And because of this, he becomes an exile, an individual trapped in his own castle at the same time longing for true companion. Similarly, they are both outcasts of society.
It is an indisputable human trait that society can overlook what is beneath the physical form. Anthony Synott a professor of sociology at Concordia University in Montreal says, [Theres] no reason for us to think that beautiful people are actually good and ugly people evil, yet we do (qtd. in Kershaw). Prejudice towards appearance is a theme that runs significantly on the film and the novel. Another theme is social acceptance. The creature in Frankenstein never has the chance to connect with humanity. The beast however, is given a chance by the character Belle who accepts and loves him. Thus, societal acceptance becomes a powerful factor for both the creature and the beast to their outcome as characters.
The film and the novel also tackle symbolism in their stories. Two of the significant symbols in the film and the novel are the enchanted rose and lightning. The enchanted rose signifies a deadline for the beast to change his ways. The rose that will bloom on his 21st year will cure him of the cursed spell unless he learns to love and be loved in return before the last petal fell. In contrast to the film, lightning in the novel symbolizes more as a beginning, the medium for creation. Lightning gives life to Frankensteins monster. It also symbolizes electricity which at this time is not yet discovered. A writer for the Screen Education periodical observes, Mary Shelly gives the audience a glimpse of the future with the image of electrical animation (131). The author, with influences from different scholars and scientists, may have given her the idea of a future where the world runs significantly on electricity.
The climax of the film is the emergence of the lady character Belle which changes the beasts life. It is here where the beast gets a second chance to renew his personality, to make a significant change to break the spell. This chance is created in the form of romance. In the novel, the peak is where the creature meets his creator Victor Frankenstein in the mountains. In this part, the audience is told of the creatures adventures and misfortunes, giving emphasis on the reason of his vengeance against his creator and making Victor realize the grave mistake he made and its horrible consequences.
The plot may have been different on some angles but both the film and the novel give emphasis on human actions and their consequences. All in all, Shelleys Frankenstein has a subtle but significant association with the film Beauty and the Beast