Black Frankenstein

Sorry I haven’t been posting much recently. Got sold to a new master out in DC and I’ve been learning the ropes. This place alone has inspired many posts in my head so stay tuned. Now on to the story.

So Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein: or, the Modern Prometheus” is one of my favorite books. Who doesn’t love the classic movie monster made from parts of dead folks? Who wasn’t afraid of this reanimated giant? Frankenstein’s monster is a part of American culture, but it turns out the book where it was created is a much deeper philosophical exploration of the nature of existence and identity. And while I was reading it for the billionth time this one thought struck me. Frankenstein’s monster was a nigga.


Or rather, Frankenstein’s monster was a nigger. The parallel is so striking that I’m almost certain Mary Shelley used the plight of the Negro consciously or subconsciously as an influence when writing this in 1818. Given the intense global debates about slavery and her place amongst liberal/Romantic British literati, this may not be too far-fetched. Let me break down the story quickly for those of you who haven’t read it or need refreshing:

So it goes like this. A mad scientist (Frankenstein) uses old and arcane techniques to piece together a man from body parts from the dead. However, after Frankenstein succeeds, he is horrified by his creation and shuns him and flees. The “monster” is left afraid and confused and this eventually manifests as anger at the world. His attempts to interact with society are reacted to with violence at his “hideous” form, he is shot, shot at and in his anger he kills and burns down the houses of those who hurt him. The monster educates himself by mimicking the ways of his creators, which only further deepens his insecurity as one without a past or history of his own, and eventually his anger and confusion along with Frankenstein’s fear ends up causing the destruction of both men. That’s it in a nutshell.

It appears I may be writing a serious post. My bad.


 So how does this resemble black folks? A race “created” as an amalgam of different cultures and peoples through slavery. A race of people who can never truly be sure of their real ancestry and history who generally assume a view of their history as one of a pastiche of different stereotypes (of Africans). A group of people who mostly still assume the names of the master (as Frankenstein’s monster is commonly identified simply AS Frankenstein). A race that is defined by confusion and attempts to define itself by mimicking the race which oppressed it. A people that is deeply angered by the circumstances of its inception and incensed at the fear and loathing that the creator’s race feels toward it. A cycle of violence and misunderstanding that threatens the institution of both races. This is DEFINITELY an able metaphor of the plight of black folks in this country, whether it was done on purpose or not. And just individually, the monster’s life just sounds like that of a Nigger. He travels the world and everyone hates him because of how he looks. Everywhere. We can definitely empathize with this guy. Frankenstein’s monster was a nigga.

3 Responses to “Black Frankenstein”
  1. J. Wall says:

    Dope piece…Vann you know my urge for sociological analysis is all over this…

  2. This piece is of particular interest to me because my 12th grade English teacher, Mr. Douglas Wilkins, drew the same conclusions about the symbolisms in Shelley’s writing. The three books that we were required to do critical literary analyses of were Native Son, Invisible Man, and Frankenstein. In the discussions on each work, he used the Socratic method to draw out our interpretations of the text and what they meant to us as Americans, as African-Americans, and as Southerners. In many ways it was the best class I have ever taken. He not only taught us AP English Language and Composition, he taught us etymology, history, literature, rhetoric, and sociology. He was an amazing teacher. Mr. Wilkins recently retired from Hamilton High School in Memphis, TN where he taught for over 40 years.

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