RetroPop: Is Adele's “Rolling In The Deep” a Riff on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein?

Adele with Mary Shelley and Frankenstein

Hi and hello and welcome to a special edition of RetroPop, the guest blog in which I mash together female-driven Top 40 radio tunes with the works of great women writers in history. Today, our musical mooshing is by reader request. You demanded it, I’m happy to endlessly play it while writing this piece: Let’s hear it for the lovely Adele!

I, like every other human being with a BEATING HEART, am a huge fan of Adele. I remember downloading (legally!) her album the very day it came out and throwing my arms into the air when the chorus for “Rolling In The Deep” rocked through my headphones.

[Yikes, that video is still so amazing!]

So I was pleased as punch to know that RetroPop readers were hungry for an Adele mashup and looked forward to it with delight. But then I examined the lyrics more closely and thought, “Oh wow, I can’t really think of any amazing historical female-written revenge stories with which to smash it.”

It was a very sad moment. Sure, the literary landscape is peppered with delightful little revenge shrubberies, but all the good ones I could think of were from dude writers: Merchant of Venice, Hamlet, Count of Monte Cristo… Carrie. Of course, I don’t just magically “know” everything there is to know about what’s what in the female canon, so I did some research… actually, really a lot of it, but still came up with very little that interested me.

In the spirit of collaboration, as this entire concept itself was dreamed up by commenter Green, I asked the friend I’m currently Joey from Blossomvisiting if I could pick her brain on the topic. I launched the Adele question. There was a long pause. “What about…. Frankenstein?” she asked. And then, as though I was the Joey character from Blossom, I was all like, “Whoah! Whoaaaah.” She’d come up with such an interesting take on this revenge business.

For those not so much in the Frankenstein loop, here’s a quick video synopsis, and here is an amazing graphic novelish depiction of Mary Shelley’s life.

Okay, so Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein isn’t quite a straight-up revenge story in the same way Hamlet might be. Getting back at a bad guy isn’t the clear motive from the outset of the story, but it does develop into a driving force once the monster achieves self-awareness and realizes that no human will ever accept his hideous mug and that (after Frankenstein destroys the she-monster, with whom the beast could have spent his twilight years) he is never going to experience love reciprocated. From that point onwards, it’s all about the monster seeking revenge on his cruel creator, and the creator (wronged by the monster, who killed those he loved) seeking revenge on the being he made.

Flip this story over to Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” and you get an even more compelling conflict than is apparent on the song’s surface. It sure is great to just whale away on “WE COULD HAVE HAD IT ALL!” but think about all that imagery about having “my heart inside of your hand” and how he/she “played it.” Here, she’s suggesting that the lover/person the song’s addressed to was the one who created this raging revenge monster. Also, Frankenstein totes had the monster’s heart in his hand, and hooh boy, did he Frankenstein giving life to the monsterplay it to whatever Gothic mystical electroshock beat he saw fit.

And, in more pedestrian comparisons: “Rolling in the Deep” takes place in supposedly metaphoric waters(?) and the framing device of Frankenstein takes place on a ship bound for the North Pole! Also, Adele TOTALLY talks about how she has scars from her love, and I think if anyone understands that, it’s Frankenstein’s monster.

Thanks to my buddy Maya for this inspired mashup that encouraged me to re-remember how amazing Mary Shelley was and how fabulous the Frankenstein story still is. Thanks again to Green for giving me an excuse to blast Adele all day long! Now… thoughts? And, any other historical feminist writer revenge favorites that I should catch up on? ‘Cause clearly I haven’t read enough in that area of the library yet.

Previously: RetroPop: Would Jane Eyre Totally Heart Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)”?; RetroPop: Jolting “Wide Awake” with Katy Perry, Maya Angelou, and Sylvia Plath

by Brianna Goldberg
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4 Comments Have Been Posted

Frankenstein is my favorite

Frankenstein is my favorite novel of all time, so this post made me happy. I don't listen to Adele and I wasn't aware that this song was one of revenge, but after reading the lyrics, this analogy is great! Adele seems to be singing the parts of both Victor and the monster; they both wish they had never met each other.

If anyone else is a Frankenstein buff, I just finished reading a follow-up to the novel that I found wildly inventive and really awesome. It's called Frankenstein's Monster by Susan Heyboer O'Keefe. It starts where Frankenstein left off; after Victor's death, with Walton and the monster. I couldn't get enough of Frankenstein, and this book wraps up the story really nicely.

Awesome! Thanks, Miranda!

Awesome! Thanks, Miranda!

Delariviere Manley's "The

Delariviere Manley's "The Wife's Resentment" is an excellently disturbing revenge tale from 1720. She rewrites an older (male-authored) story and makes the heroine's emotions and actions much more comprehensible. I won't spoil the ending, but the heroine's name is "Violenta" for a reason.

This sounds FABULOUS! Thanks

This sounds FABULOUS! Thanks so much for the tip, Elizabeth.

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