The fears that pervade Frankensteinare more than fears of a monster, fears of "the other." What strikes me most powerfully are the fears of abandonment and death--that Shelly shows the emotional horrors of separation while analyzing them in moral terms. Even though it is a man that "gives birth" to this creature, I feel that only a woman-- a daughter--could create this story. In The Vindication of the Rights of Women, Mary Shelly's mother, Mary Wollstoncraft, says: "A great proportion of the misery that wanders, in hideous forms, around the world, is allowed to rise from the negligence of parents." I'm not sure if Shelly read her mother's writing, but certainly the connection is striking. How did the myth of Frankenstein get so separated from the emotional content of Shelly's story?
I think #1 makes a powerful point about the way that Frankenstein 'births' the monster. There are various indications of sexual imagery, such as when Frankenstein says that he wants to 'penetrate the secrets of nature.' This is an element that, as #2 points out, is probably overshadowed by the horror element of the monster.
Yes, I meekly admit I have seen the Kenneth Braunaugh version, and as with most of his films, he does his best to be center stage, making the movie about HIM rather than the character he is supposed to be. One scene has him walking around his lab right before he brings life to the creature. His shirt is open, his chest is glossy, and he swaggers intently. The ensuing "birth scene" is powerful, however: visually powerful if also funny. Robert de Niro is the creature, and he is inside this womb-like container that is filled with water. When Kenneth/Frankenstein ignites it with a spark via eels (the symbolism is rather clear), the container bursts open, the water floods the room, and the creature falls on the floor, as damp and dizzy as a newborn.
In a word, Hollywood, at least I would guess so. The gothic so lends itself to film. A brief check of IMDB.com shows a NINETY-TWO versions cinematic versions of the novel to date!
The 1930s seems to be the first incarnation of the novel's adaptation to the screen. I would think that during the height of the Depression, the novel's theme of the dangers of industrialization (remember, the subtitle of the novel is "The Modern Prometheus") would be very appealing. The fifties also saw quite a few versions and I think this is where the original intents of the novel seem to have gone off the boards.
I wonder if anyone has seen the Kenneth Branaugh version? Knowing Branaugh's other work, I assume he tried to restore dignity to Shelley's original creation.
As to the mother/daughter connection, I think that's a brilliant link and I can't imagine that the two didn't have serious discussions and read one another's work. Does anyone know for sure?
P.S. Just as a side note: I love the story of Shelley's outdoing her husband (the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley) and Lord Byron competing to create the "scariest" tale.
Mary Shelley's mother died when she was ten months old so no, they could not have had dicussions about each others works.