– By Sam Hendrian –
“But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” – 1 John 2:11
Blindness is not limited to the eyes. There are many people who force their hearts to read braille, and even then, they cannot always read it. The 1935 horror classic Bride of Frankenstein speaks powerfully to the existence of blindness in the human heart, a blindness that is either fueled by unconditional love or unconditional hatred.
Bride of Frankenstein is a sequel to the legendary 1931 film Frankenstein, which is based on the 1818 novel by Mary Shelley. The tragic tale of a confused creature brought to life by a mad scientist using cadaver parts, it is, like most great horror films, more of a complex character study than a spook show. Known simply as “The Monster” (let us reiterate that contrary to popular misunderstanding, Frankenstein is the name of the doctor, not his creation), the human-like creature undoubtedly looks frightening and can turn murderous when he is abused, but he ultimately desires what any regular human desires: love and understanding.
Unfortunately, love and understanding are not things most folks are willing to even consider giving such a hideous-looking creature. Everywhere he goes, people scream in fright and try to kill him. The blindness of prejudice obscures practically every heart that would otherwise be able to offer what he needs. Well, every heart except for that of a blind hermit.
The Monster stumbles upon a blind hermit when he is wandering through the woods, trying to avoid being sighted by anyone. “Ave Maria” on violin drifts peacefully from a cabin, attracting The Monster to the front door. When The Monster realizes that the human source of the music cannot see him, he is greatly relieved, knowing that he will not be instantly attacked because of his scary appearance.
The blind hermit promptly gives thanks to God for the arrival of a friend, as he is deeply lonely. He invites The Monster into his home and gives him exactly what he has been craving: love and understanding. It is one of the most touching scenes in all of cinema, primarily because it profoundly illustrates why companionship is such a prominent human desire. These two creatures are drastically different—even more different than the blind hermit realizes—but they cherish each other’s company, and their souls are flooded with warmth.
One of cinema’s most touching scenes is quickly followed by one of its most heartbreaking. A couple of lost hunters approach the cabin for directions. Upon seeing The Monster, they immediately whisk the blind hermit away as he confusedly cries out, “Why do you do this!?” Just when he thought he had finally found a friend, the poor old man is transported back to loneliness, as is The Monster. Let the tears fall.
What does this scene with the blind hermit have to tell us in the real world? Many things, in fact. First of all, we can all learn from the hermit’s impeccable gentleness and compassion towards a stranger. Even if we were blind, many of us would still likely have “Don’t talk to strangers!” imprinted on the tips of our hearts. While this oft-told saying has its roots in caution, caution should always be exercised with prudence so that it does not destroy our compassion. After all, the Bible says, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Hebrews 13:2).
In addition to his spotless hospitality, the hermit goes the extra mile of authentically getting to know his guest. He does not just make dull small talk about the weather and favorite foods. Rather, he sees that The Monster is confused and uneducated, and he immediately strives to help him gain knowledge and a sense of self-respect. This is a gift that not even the best party hosts always possess (parties often have an impersonal, empty nature), and it is something we should all emulate.
Finally, the question must be asked: would the hermit have treated The Monster the same way if he had been able to see his monstrous appearance? We may never know for sure, but judging from the radiant purity and clarity of his interior life, there is a good chance that he would. The hermit possesses the grace of being able to love unconditionally, to love blindly. This grace transcends his eyesight; it is rooted in the very depths of his heart.
All of us are tempted daily to a subtle but destructive blindness: merely believing what we want to believe. When we shut the eyelids of our hearts for the sake of preserving tradition, fostering fear, or enabling apathy/anger, we break the most important commandment ever given to humans: Love one another. Therefore, let us throw the scraps of prejudice to the dogs and strive to see Christ in every person we encounter, even if they appear frightening or seem unconventional. For “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).
About the Author
Sam Hendrian is a student at John Paul the Great Catholic University (Class of 2019) pursuing an emphasis in Directing.
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