Frankenstein’s monster’s stitches were done so roughly in the original film so people would immediately look at him and know he was a monster. Those stitches have since become a symbol for the monster. You can paint your nails black and green, with stitches tieing the colors together, and people will get the reference. Look at your monster nails!
But the theme we come back to when we talk about Frankenstein, is that the creature wasn’t the monster. Victor, the doctor who created him, was. He created this person, for his own selfish reasons, with no thought to taking care of them. (You could call him an abusive, neglectful, parent.) Different retellings frequently change his exact motivations, but they’re always selfish.
One of the most frequent Frankenstein jokes is:
But not REALLY, right?
Victor Frankenstein is the monster.
If you’d like an example, here’s a passage that pulls at my heart and soul.
“Abhorred monster! fiend that thou art! the tortures of hell are too mild a vengeance for thy crimes. Wretched devil! You reproach me with your creation; come on, then, that I may extinguish the spark which I so negligently bestowed.”
My rage was without bounds; I sprang on him, impelled by all the feelings which can arm one being against the existence of another.
He easily eluded me, and said —
“Be calm! I entreat you to hear me, before you give vent to your hatred on my devoted head. 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 be 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. I was benevolent and good — misery made me a fiend. Make me happy, and I shall again be virtuous.”
“Begone! I will not hear you. There can be no community between you and me; we are enemies. Begone, or let us try our strength in a fight, in which one must fall.”
And yet, there is no one symbol for what he looks like. If you paint Victor Frankenstein nails, nobody’s going to get it. He often wears an apron. That’s all you got. He’s just some guy. (Here’s a google image search for reference.)
And that’s the point, isn’t it? He’s just some guy. He’s anybody. When we reach a certain selfish point in ourselves, anybody can become a monster—and there’s no warning for other people when you’ve gone and done it. Do you have some poor stitched together soul locked up in your basement? How do we know?
Real monsters are invisible. They sneak up on you. They don’t say BOO! They say “How do you do?”
And still, the stitches are the symbol. We put on our stitches makeup and we playfully say, “Look at me! I’m a monster!” Because Frankenstein’s creature did terrible things. Terrible… after terrible things were done to him. After he learned about being human.
“I do know that for the sympathy of one living being, I would make peace with all. I have love in me the likes of which you can scarcely imagine and rage the likes of which you would not believe. If I cannot satisfy the one, I will indulge the other.”
― Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
I’m sure you’re hoping I’m going to end this blog post on a happy note. I’m not. Except to say that this is what I love about horror. That question.