Part of Frankenstein's rejection of his creation is the fact that he does not give it a name, which causes a lack of identity. Instead it is referred to by words such as "monster", "creature", "demon", "devil", "fiend", "wretch", and "it". When Frankenstein converses with the creature in Chapter 10, he addresses it as "vile insect", "abhorred monster", "fiend", "wretched devil", and "abhorred devil". During a telling of Frankenstein, Shelley referred to the creature as "Adam". Shelley was referring to the first man in the Garden of Eden, as in her epigraph:

Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay
To [mold] Me man? Did I solicit thee
From darkness to promote me?
- John Milton, Paradise Lost (X. 743–5)


Although the monster would be described in later works as a composite of whole body parts grafted together from cadavers and reanimated by the use of electricity, this description is not entirely consistent with Shelley's work; both the use of electricity and the cobbled-together image of Frankenstein's monster were more the result of James Whale's popular 1931 film adaptation of the story, and other early motion-picture works based upon the creature. In Shelley's original work, Dr. Frankenstein discovers a previously unknown but elemental principle of life, and that insight allows him to develop a method to imbue vitality into inanimate matter, though the exact nature of the process is left largely ambiguous. After a great deal of hesitation in exercising this power, the doctor spends two years painstakingly constructing the creature's body (one anatomical feature at a time, from raw materials supplied by "the dissecting room and the slaughter-house"), which he then brings to life using his unspecified process.

The monster has often been mistakenly called "Frankenstein". This occurred long before Whale's cinematic Frankenstein, but the public at large began speaking of the creature itself as "Frankenstein" after the release Whale's great film. This also occurs in Frankenstein films, including "Bride of Frankenstein" (1935) and several subsequent films, as well as in film titles such as "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein" (this reviewer's favorite movie of all time).