From Black Lives Matter to Donald Trump: the Frankenstein Metaphor Lives On

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200 years after the inception of Frankenstein, Mount Holyoke College professor talks on the current relevance of the metaphor in an August 9 interview.

Image of Frankenstein

Detail from Milton Glaser’s cover art for Dick Gregory’s album Frankenstein, 1971

The kinds of systemic violence against black men that has been so dramatically visible in the last few years is fueled by a culture in which white people continue to think of black men as monsters.

Two hundred years ago this summer, the 18-year-old writer Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin and her husband-to-be, poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, stood on the shores of Lake Geneva, Switzerland, with their friends poet Lord Byron and physician John William Polidori and dared one another to invent an original ghost story.

That legendary contest became the basis of Wollstonecraft Godwin’s novel Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, which is as resonant today as it was when it was first published in 1818.

“Today, the Frankenstein metaphor is still tragically relevant,” said Elizabeth Young in a recent interview for the college. Young, the Carl M. and Elsie A. Small Professor of English at Mount Holyoke College, studies American literature and culture.

“The kinds of systemic violence against black men that has been so dramatically visible in the last few years is fueled by a culture in which white people continue to think of black men as monsters.”

Most recently, the Frankenstein metaphor has been applied to Donald Trump. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid invoked the image, along with others. “This is a way of saying that the Republican Party, rather than distancing itself from Trump, needs to acknowledge that it is responsible for creating the conditions in which Trump flourished and ran amok,” said Young.

Read the whole interview here.

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Keely Savoie
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