Gasp! Exclusive Interview with Frankenstein’s Monster

Frankenstein’s creature gets a celebrity interview in an extremely respectable magazine.

Magazine cover in gossip tabloid style. Predominantly grayscale with black or white text, with splashes of yellow and magenta. Distressed text overlaps with dingbats and collage images of bizarre human figures at different scales. Magazine title is "TELL-ALL." From top to bottom, various text headlines read as following: "Marriage Scandal! Secrets Exposed." "Frankenstein, The Modern Prometheus." "Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay To mould me man? Did I solicit thee From darkness to promote me?" "HUMILIATED!" "The Tragic Backstory." "Victor TORE My Lover to Pieces: Exclusive Interview." "Creature Confronts the Old Man." "'Utter and Stupid Despair.'" "Broken Families, Public Scorn, and More Fantastic Content Inside!"

Frankenstein: Or, the Modern Prometheus is a groundbreaking piece of literature. It’s brimming with philosophical questions that never lost their relevance, especially as we rush to construct new life. The scifi/fantasy/horror genres in particular all owe great debts to it. It was the first book I studied at a college level, about ten years ago, and now I’ve come back to it from a new angle: graphic design.

What you see here is a project from an online class I just finished. We were asked to choose a segment from any book in the public domain, then convert this segment into a modern magazine article. So most of the article below is Mary Shelley’s original words, taken from the Project Gutenberg edition. My additions, in the voice of an interviewer, are the bold yellow-highlighter text. About 37% of the writing is mine when you count the advertisement (which is worth reading).

My hope is to slightly reframe this part of the story. In volume 2, Frankenstein’s creature tells his tragic backstory to his creator Victor Frankenstein (remember they were separated just after the creature woke to life). At the end of chapter 7, the creature comes to the great turning point of his story. He knew people were scared of him. By this time he’d been living in hiding next to a cottage, where he learned language, love, and history by watching the family go about their lives there. They never met the creature before now. The creature loves them and hopes they will accept him, starting with the old blind man De Lacey. This scene between the creature and De Lacey is instead where (spoilers) the creature turns murderous. The human world rejects the creature, and so he rebels against the world.

The visual style here is inspired by dadaism (art movement c. 1910s), postmodern “anti-design” (c. 1980s–90s), and the celebrity gossip tabloids you find at checkout stands. These styles often use hacked-up bits of photos and lettering, flouting design rules to make ugly beautiful. So they’re a perfect parallel for the monster.

He’s also cobbled together from different corpse parts. He’s also beautiful yet hideous. He is actually humane, sensitive, and well-spoken, but everyone hates and fears him just because he looks terrifying. I made him a celebrity here because fame distorts people in a similar way. Notice how the interviewer shapes the story. Consider the effects of public shock, fascination, and disgust.

Continuing the visual themes of the magazine cover, this opening spread is black and white with yellow and magenta elements. The left half or "page" includes a large collage image of a monstrous human-like face and suggestion of a torso. Title text is a combination of two high-contrast fonts. The title is as follows: "FIEND! An Exclusive Encounter With Frankenstein's Creature. Interview by Shary M. Welley." Other large pull quotes around the spread include the following: "Hideous Monster! Ugly Wretch! Ogre! Vile Insect!" "Am I not shunned and hated by all mankind?" "I am an unfortunate and deserted creature." "All men hate the wretched." Smaller text on the spread is reproduced in the body text of this webpage.

Your followers are just appalled by your shocking story. You were abandoned at birth. You’ve been screamed at, body-shamed, and attacked. You’re unbearably alone in the world. We are all so inspired by your brave journey through such awful things we can’t even imagine. Now you agreed to a frank and open conversation. Let’s talk beginnings, in particular that vulnerable time when you were looking for that special family to bring into your life. Tell us, what were you thinking before you met them?

The winter advanced, and an entire revolution of the seasons had taken place since I awoke into life. My attention, at this time, was solely directed towards my plan of introducing myself into the cottage of my protectors. I revolved many projects; but that on which I finally fixed was, to enter the dwelling when the blind old man should be alone. I had sagacity enough to discover, that the unnatural hideousness of my person was the chief object of horror with those who had formerly beheld me. My voice, although harsh, had nothing terrible in it; I thought, therefore, that if, in the absence of his children, I could gain the good-will and mediation of the old De Lacy, I might, by his means, be tolerated by my younger protectors.

You were hoping to catch him alone?

One day, when the sun shone on the red leaves that strewed the ground, and diffused cheerfulness, although it denied warmth, Safie, Agatha, and Felix, departed on a long country walk, and the old man, at his own desire, was left alone in the cottage. When his children had departed, he took up his guitar, and played several mournful, but sweet airs, more sweet and mournful than I had ever heard him play before. At first his countenance was illuminated with pleasure, but, as he continued, thoughtfulness and sadness succeeded; at length, laying aside the instrument, he sat absorbed in reflection.

I imagine you were nervous.

My heart beat quick; this was the hour and moment of trial, which would decide my hopes, or realize my fears. The servants were gone to a neighbouring fair. All was silent in and around the cottage: it was an excellent opportunity; yet, when I proceeded to execute my plan, my limbs failed me, and I sunk to the ground. Again I rose; and, exerting all the firmness of which I was master, removed the planks which I had placed before my hovel to conceal my retreat. The fresh air revived me, and, with renewed determination, I approached the door of their cottage.

Okay, we’ve set the mood. You’re standing at the door, all your dreams are hanging on this moment—then what? What’s the first thing he said to you?

I knocked. ‘Who is there?’ said the old man—‘Come in.’

I entered; ‘Pardon this intrusion,’ said I, ‘I am a traveller in want of a little rest; you would greatly oblige me, if you would allow me to remain a few minutes before the fire.’

‘Enter,’ said De Lacy; ‘and I will try in what manner I can relieve your wants; but, unfortunately, my children are from home, and, as I am blind, I am afraid I shall find it difficult to procure food for you.’

They say chivalry is dead! Red flag right there. This guy won’t even pay for one meal—will he turn out to be another deadbeat dad? Heh, dead-beet dad. Get it? Beet sugar. Beat him to a pulp and he’s sugar deady. Strike that, bad joke. So he wouldn’t feed you, now how’d you react?

‘Do not trouble yourself, my kind host, I have food; it is warmth and rest only that I need.’

I sat down, and a silence ensued. I knew that every minute was precious to me, yet I remained irresolute in what manner to commence the interview; when the old man addressed me—

‘By your language, stranger, I suppose you are my countryman;—are you French?’

Urk, that’s awkward. Had you lost all hopes for this guy at this point?

‘No; but I was educated by a French family, and understand that language only. I am now going to claim the protection of some friends, whom I sincerely love, and of whose favour I have some hopes.’

Then he says…?

‘Are these Germans?’

Huh? Is that somehow relevant? Really by now you must have realized this conversation was dying fast.

‘No, they are French. But let us change the subject. I am an unfortunate and deserted creature; I look around, and I have no relation or friend upon earth. These amiable people to whom I go have never seen me, and know little of me. I am full of fears; for if I fail there, I am an outcast in the world for ever.’

What a brave confession. You know, a lot of our readers feel about the same as you have. From all you’ve learned, what is your message to them right now?

‘Do not despair. To be friendless is indeed to be unfortunate; but the hearts of men, when unprejudiced by any obvious self-interest, are full of brotherly love and charity. Rely, therefore, on your hopes; and if these friends are good and amiable, do not despair.’

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Don’t you ever get upset thinking the people you admired were heartless monsters the whole time?

‘They are kind—they are the most excellent creatures in the world; but, unfortunately, they are prejudiced against me. I have good dispositions; my life has been hitherto harmless, and, in some degree, beneficial; but a fatal prejudice clouds their eyes, and where they ought to see a feeling and kind friend, they behold only a detestable monster.’

That is indeed unfortunate; but if you are really blameless, cannot you undeceive them?

‘I am about to undertake that task; and it is on that account that I feel so many overwhelming terrors. I tenderly love these friends; I have, unknown to them, been for many months in the habits of daily kindness towards them; but they believe that I wish to injure them, and it is that prejudice which I wish to overcome.’

That’s really charming. Let’s come back to your date. Did you get any odd questions from the ole man?

‘Where do these friends reside?’

Stalker! That’s when you toss out some vague answer.

‘Near this spot.’

Exactly… I have to know, when did the two of you really begin to hit it off? Walk us through the exchange.

The old man paused, and then continued, ‘If you will unreservedly confide to me the particulars of your tale, I perhaps may be of use in undeceiving them. I am blind, and cannot judge of your countenance, but there is something in your words which persuades me that you are sincere. I am poor, and an exile; but it will afford me true pleasure to be in any way serviceable to a human creature.’

‘Excellent man! I thank you, and accept your generous offer. You raise me from the dust by this kindness; and I trust that, by your aid, I shall not be driven from the society and sympathy of your fellow-creatures.’

‘Heaven forbid! even if you were really criminal; for that can only drive you to desperation, and not instigate you to virtue. I also am unfortunate; I and my family have been condemned, although innocent: judge, therefore, if I do not feel for your misfortunes.’

First he calls you criminal, next he’s complaining about his own “problems.” Then he admits outright he feels nothing for you! What did you have to say to him?

‘How can I thank you, my best and only benefactor? from your lips first have I heard the voice of kindness directed towards me; I shall be for ever grateful; and your present humanity assures me of success with those friends whom I am on the point of meeting.’

Did he catch the sarcasm? Of course not.

‘May I know the names and residence of those friends?’

The residence again! Why’s he care? What’s he plotting? Please tell me you gave up on him before things got ugly.

I paused. This, I thought, was the moment of decision, which was to rob me of, or bestow happiness on me for ever. I struggled vainly for firmness sufficient to answer him, but the effort destroyed all my remaining strength; I sank on the chair, and sobbed aloud. At that moment I heard the steps of my younger protectors. I had not a moment to lose; but, seizing the hand of the old man, I cried, ‘Now is the time!—save and protect me! You and your family are the friends whom I seek. Do not you desert me in the hour of trial!’

‘Great God!’ exclaimed the old man, ‘who are you?’

That’s awful. It couldn’t get worse… No! It gets worse?

At that instant the cottage door was opened, and Felix, Safie, and Agatha entered. Who can describe their horror and consternation on beholding me? Agatha fainted; and Safie, unable to attend to her friend, rushed out of the cottage. Felix darted forward, and with supernatural force tore me from his father, to whose knees I clung: in a transport of fury, he dashed me to the ground, and struck me violently with a stick. I could have torn him limb from limb, as the lion rends the antelope. But my heart sunk within me as with bitter sickness, and I refrained. I saw him on the point of repeating his blow, when, overcome by pain and anguish, I quitted the cottage, and in the general tumult escaped unperceived to my hovel.

Wow, that is just deplorable. Thank you so much for sharing. One last question? Okay. Okay. As I said, we have a lot of aching hearts who read this magazine every week. So I ask because they’re just dying to know: When you face your betrayers, how will you make them feel your pain?

Cursed, cursed creator! Why did I live? Why, in that instant, did I not extinguish the spark of existence which you had so wantonly bestowed? I know not; despair had not yet taken possession of me; my feelings were those of rage and revenge. I could with pleasure have destroyed the cottage and its inhabitants, and have glutted myself with their shrieks and misery.

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