Letters 1 – 4
To whom does the narrator write? From where does he write? What is the purpose of his voyage?
What are the narrator’s main goals? Based on his first letter, what qualities do you note in the narrator?
What is one thing Walton says he is missing? Who fills this need for him?
In what way does the stranger differ from the various members of the crew Walton has described?
What strange sight does the crew see one day? What question does the stranger they pick up the following day ask? What is the stranger’s goal?
In what way is the stranger upset when he hears what Walton is willing to do to reach his goal?
What ideas did you have about Frankenstein when you began reading? In what way do the letters at the beginning of the story relate to these ideas?
Describe the role of contemporary scientific ideas in the writing of Frankenstein.
Frame Tale, Epistolary Novel, and Theme – A frame tale is a story that itself provides a vehicle for the telling of other stories. An epistolary novel is a work of imaginative prose that tells a story through letters. The letters at the beginning of Frankenstein act as a frame to the story told by the stranger Walton’s crew rescues. A theme is a central idea in a literary work. What themes are introduced in this epistolary frame?
Setting – The setting of a literary work is the time and place in which it occus, together with all the details used to create a sense of a particular time and place. Describe the setting of the story thus far. What effect does this setting have on Walton? on the stranger?
Allusion – An allusion is a rhetorical technique in which reference is made to a person, event, object, or work from history or literature. In Letter 2, Walton alludes to Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” What does this allusion suggest about Walton’s plan?
Chapters 1 – 6
Recalling and Interpreting
What information about his family does Frankenstein present at the beginning of his tale? How do Frankenstein’s parents feel about creating a new life in the form of a child? What responsibilities do they believe they have to this child?
Why do you think Frankenstein begins with this information about his family? What does this information reveal about him as a character?
Describe the circumstances under which Elizabeth came to be part of the Frankenstein family. As what does Victor view her? What characteristics does she display in chapters 1 through 6?
If Elizabeth represents the ideal woman of the period, what are the qualities of this ideal woman?
What field of study interests Frankenstein? What course of study does he devise on his own? What event causes him to change his focus? What reactions to his previous study does he receive from his father and from Professors Krempe and Waldman?
In what way do the reactions of his father and professors affect Frankenstein’s studies? Explain whether Frankenstein takes responsibility for the results of his studies and experiments.
What secret does Frankenstein learn? Describe the creature that he creates. What reaction toward his creation does Frankenstein have? What physical and emotional effects does Frankenstein’s work have on him?
On what is Frankenstein’s reaction to the monster based? What problems might arise from Frankenstein’s method of dealing with the creature? Compare and contrast Frankenstein’s feelings toward the creature he has created to the feelings of Frankenstein’s parents to creating a life in their child, Victor.
In her introduction, Shelley writes, “I bid my hideous progeny go forth and prosper.” Compare Mary Shelley’s reaction to her creation to Victor Frankenstein’s reaction to his creation. Are both works “hideous progeny”? Explain.
As scientific knowledge and technology expand, questions about the dangers of such endeavors as creating and altering life continue to arise. What do you think Frankenstein would think about current issues involving genetic engineering and cloning?
Science Fiction – Science fiction is highly imaginative fiction containing fantastic elements based on scientific principles, discoveries, or laws. Explain why Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is considered an early precursor of modern science fiction.
Narrator – A narrator is one who tells a story. The narrator shifts between the letters that begin the story and the tale that begins in Chapter 1. Identify the narrator in each section. Who is the audience of each narrator? What is the purpose of each narrator?
Simile and Allusion – A simile is a comparison using like or as. An allusion is a rhetorical technique in which reference is made to a person, event, object, or work from history or literature. To what does Frankenstein compare his endeavors? The simile he uses alludes to a story from The Thousand and One Nights. Why do you think he makes this allusion?
Chapters 7 – 11
Recalling and Interpreting
Of whose death is Frankenstein informed upon returning from his trip? Describe the circumstances of this death. Who is accused as the murderer? What evidence links this person to the murder? What happens to the accused person?
Frankenstein blames himself for two deaths because he created the creature who committed the murder. Explain whether you think Frankenstein is responsible for either death. Do you think his creation should be held accountable for the deaths of these two people? Why or why not?
Frankenstein claims to know who the real murderer is, yet he will not reveal the culprit. What reasons does he give for not divulging this information?
Do you think Frankenstein is honest about his reasons for remaining quiet about the murderer’s identity? What other reasons might he have for remaining quiet?
With what intentions does Frankenstein say he began to create this life? How does he now feel upon looking back on his attempt to create life? What caused his ideas to change?
Compare and contrast the changes in disposition or in moral character that occur in Frankenstein and in his creation.
What things does Frankenstein’s creation learn in the beginning of his life as described in chapter 11? Describe the experiences he has with the people he encounters in chapter 11.
In what ways do the creature’s experiences mirror those of any human from birth? In what ways do his experiences differ? What does he learn from the way people treat him?
Remember that Walton is listening to Frankenstein’s tale. What reaction do you think Walton has to the story at this point? Describe the settings in which Frankenstein and the creature choose to tell their stories. Why might both narrators decide to tell their stories in such places?
The concept of the noble savage – the idea that primitive human beings are naturally good and that any evil they develop is a result of the corrupting force of civilization – was extremely popular in Europe from the sixteenth century to the nineteenth century. Explain whether the monster embodies this concept.
Romanticism – Romanticism was a literary and artistic movement of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that placed value on emotion or imagination over reason, the individual over society, nature and wildness over human works, the country over the town, common people over aristocrats, and freedom over control or authority. Explain whether Shelley’s novel reflects or rejects Romantic ideals.
Imagery – The images – words or phrases that name something that can be seen, heard, touched, tasted, or smelled – in a literary work are referred to, collectively, as the work’s imagery. Find two passages that include nature imagery in chapters 7 – 11. Identify the images and explain the purpose of each passage.
Theme and Dramatic Irony – A theme is a central idea in a literary work. Frankenstein explores the combination of good and evil in people and the way we view these forces and the roles of justice and injustice in the world. Elizabeth says, “Before [Justine’s execution], I looked upon the accounts of vice and injustice that I read in books or heard from others as tales of ancient days or imaginary evils . . . but now misery has come home, and men appear to me as monsters thirsting for each other’s blood.” What view of human nature does Elizabeth have? Does she believe people are primarily good or primarily evil? Explain. Irony is a difference between appearance and reality; dramatic irony occurs when something is known by the reader or audience but unknown to the characters. Why is the last part of Elizabeth’s statement ironic?
Chapters 12 – 17
Recalling and Interpreting
What about the cottagers does the creature find most striking? What actions demonstrate this aspect of their characters? What emotion does the creature find puzzling in the cottagers? What kind actions does the creature perform for the cottagers?
In what way do the cottagers differ from the people the creature has met so far? Explain whether the creature’s assessment of the cottagers and his comparison of them to other people is logical. Why is the creature puzzled by the cottagers’ tears? Why does the creature want to help the cottagers?
In what way does the arrival of Safie help the creature? What does he learn from Felix’s lessons? What books does the creature read on his own?
Compare and contrast the subject of the creature’s lessons to his own experience.
Describe the circumstances under which Felix and Safie met. In what way were these events related to the cottagers’ current living conditions?
What does the creature learn about humans from this story?
How does DeLacey react when he hears the monster’s plight? How do his children react when they return and see the monster? What does the monster do when he sees the girl fall in the river? What happens when he is discovered with the girl? What hope does the monster have when he sees the child? Why is this hope dashed?
What role does appearance play in the monster’s plight? What do these incidents suggest about human nature?
The monster in this novel is often mistakenly referred to as Frankenstein. This common error suggests an interesting issue – is Victor Frankenstein in fact a monster? Explain whether you think Frankenstein or his creation is more monstrous.
The monster describes the effect that several literary works had on him and how they related to his own experience. Choose a book that you have read recently and imagine how the monster would react to it. Write a brief description of his reaction and explain why he would be so affected.
Biographical Criticism – Biographical criticism attempts to account for elements of literary works by relating them to events in the lives of their authors. Shelley’s mother died days after Shelley was born. Only one of Shelley’s children grew to adulthood. In what way might these events from Shelley’s life have influenced Frankenstein?
Character – A character is a person who figures in the action of a literary work. A protagonist, or main character, is the central figure in the literary work. An antagonist is a character who is pitted against a protagonist. A one-dimensional character is one who exhibits a single dominant quality, or character trait. A three-dimensional, full, or rounded character is one who exhibits the complexity of traits associated with actual human beings. Who is the protagonist in Frankenstein? Who is the antagonist? Is the monster a one-dimensional or a three-dimensional character? Explain your response.
Chapters 18 – 21
Recalling and Interpreting
What does Frankenstein’s father fear is the cause of his son’s dismal spirits? What is the true cause of these feelings? Why does Frankenstein wish to postpone his marriage to Elizabeth? Why doesn’t Frankenstein want to leave his family?
What do Frankenstein’s feelings toward his family and toward his new creation suggest about his values?
Where does Frankenstein work on the mate for his first creation? When Frankenstein finally begins work on the new creature, how does he feel about his work? What concerns does he begin to have? What action enrages the creature?
In what way have Frankenstein’s feelings about the ability to produce life changed? Why does Frankenstein destroy his creation?
According to the creature, what relationship exists between Frankenstein and him?
Who is more powerful – Frankenstein or his creation? Explain your response.
Of what crime is Frankenstein accused? What evidence is produced against him? What words and actions on his part suggest guilt?
Is Frankenstein responsible for Clerval’s death? Would justice have been served if he had been executed for the murder of his friend?
Who has the power to create life in most creation stories? What role is Frankenstein seeking? How does he now feel about usurping this role?
Examine the passage on page 161 in which Frankenstein reviews his fears about bringing a mate for his creature into the world. Explain how some of these concerns might be applied to contemporary scientific discovery or exploration.
Archetype – An archetype is any element that recurs throughout the literature of the world. One archetype is the human quest for knowledge or power beyond human command, and the ensuing destruction. Explain how Frankenstein embodies this archetype. What other works do you know that include this archetype?
Foreshadowing – Foreshadowing is the act of presenting materials that hint at events to occur later in a story. In chapter 21, the murder of Clerval is disclosed. Find a passage that foreshadows this information.
Metaphor – A metaphor is a figure of speech in which one thing is spoken or written about as if it were another. This figure of speech invites the reader to make a comparison between the two things. The two things are the writer’s actual subject, or the tenor of the metaphor, and the thing to which the subject is likened, or the vehicle of the metaphor. Identify the tenor and the vehicle of the following metaphor from page 156:
“I [Frankenstein] am a blasted tree; the bolt has entered my soul; and I felt then that I should survive to exhibit what I shall soon cease to be – a miserable spectacle of wrecked humanity, pitiable to others, and intolerable to myself.”
Explain the comparison this metaphor implies.
Chapters 22 – 24
Recalling and Interpreting
What concerns does Frankenstein have about martying Elizabeth? What emotions does Elizabeth display on her wedding day? Why does Frankenstein ask Elizabeth to retire to their chamber? What does Frankenstein think the creature plans to do? What does the creature do instead?
Why are Frankenstein’s preparations for the creature’s attack unsuccessful? Explain whether the creature’s act of revenge is a worse punishment than the action that Frankenstein expected.
What loss is added to the loss of Elizabeth? To whom does Frankenstein finally tell his tale? How is his tale received? Does he achieve his end by telling the story? What does Frankenstein vow to do?
Explain how Frankenstein’s losses strengthen him. Does Frankenstein fulfill his vow? Explain.
Why does the creature lure Frankenstein to the far north? What preparations does Frankenstein make to follow the creature? What nautral event causes Frankenstein to lose sight of his prey? Why had he asked where the ship was bound when the sailors attempted to rescue him? What warning does he give Walton?
Is Frankenstein a rational human being? Should he pursue his quest for revenge? Does Walton take Frankenstein’s warning to heart? Explain your responses.
What promise does Frankenstein beg of Walton? What does Walton say when he sees the creature? In what way do the stories of the creature differ from those told by Frankenstein? How do these stories move Walton?
Why does Walton lose his sympathy for the creature? Explain whether he fulfills Frankenstein’s expectations.
In what ways are Walton and Frankenstein similar? How do you think Walton would have reacted if he were in Frankenstein’s position?
In her introduction, Shelley says that she wanted to write a story which would speak to the mysterious fears of our nature and awaken thrilling horror. To what fears of our nature do you think she refers? Do you think she has succeeded in creating this type of story? Why or why not?
1. Allusion, Metaphor, and Simile – an allusion is a rhetorical technique in which reference is made to a person, event, object, or work from history or literature. A metaphor is a figure of speech in which one thing is spoken of or written about as if it were another. A simile is a comparison using like or as. Identify each of the following allusions as a metaphor or a simile and explain the comparison made in each case.
*I . . . dared to whisper paradisiacal dreams of love and joy’; but the apple was already eaten, and the angel’s arm bared to drive me from all hope.
*Like the archangel who aspired to omnipotence, I am chained in an eternal hell.
2. Setting and Mood – The setting of a literary work is the time and place in which it occurs, together with all the details used to create a sense of a particular time and place. Mood, or atmosphere, is the emotion created in the reader by part or all of a literary work. In your own words, describe the setting created at the beginning of chapter 23. What mood is created by the details of this setting?