Frankenstein – Mary Shelley

Frankenstein – Mary Shelley
Themes, Motifs, Related Terms
Alienation and loneliness
Nature vs. nurture
Appearance vs. reality
Justice vs. injustice
Man (science and technology) vs. nature
Forbidden knowledge/danger from knowledge
Ambition vs. social responsibility
Light and dark
Fire and ice
Passive women
Literary Devices
Frame Story: a story is told within a narrative setting or frame thereby creating a story within a story.
Epistolary Form: the format in which a novel is written as a series of documents. The usual form is
letters, although diary entries, newspaper clippings, and other documents are sometimes used. The
epistolary form can contribute to realism in a story, because it mimics the workings of real life. It is thus
able to demonstrate differing points of view without recourse to the device of an omniscient narrator.
Spiral Narrative: a story told through a series of secret manuscripts or multiple tales, each revealing a
deeper secret; the story gradually spirals inward toward the hidden truth. The narrator is often a firstperson narrator compelled to tell the story to a fascinated or captive listener (representing the captivating
power of forbidden knowledge). By revealing to us their own souls’ secrets, these narrators reveal the
secrets of humankind’s sou.
Doppelganger: a ghostly double of another character, especially if it haunts its counterpart;
doppelganger, in German, means "double walker" - it's like a carbon copy (not physically) of a character
with a different soul. Frankenstein and his monster are considered to be doppelgangers.
Foreshadowing: hints or clues that suggest what events will occur later in the story.
Romanticism: a movement in literature (approximately 1798-1832) which moved away from the previous
rational line of thought, toward an expansive way of pondering that valued imagination and emotion rather
than logic. Emphasis was placed on desires, hopes, and dreams, as authors celebrated intense passion and
vision. Often literature included the culture’s shift toward spontaneity, experimentation, exaltation of nature,
and an almost nostalgic reflection on the past.
Gothic Literature: literature that is characterized by mystery, horror, and supernatural; often this literature
involves a brooding atmosphere and a wild and remote setting
Frankenstein – Mary Shelley
Questions: Letters 1-4
Answer the following questions as you read Letters 1-4 of Frankenstein. Provide textual
support for your answers, when applicable.
1. What does Robert Walton hope to accomplish on his voyage?
2. What is Walton’s attitude toward his quest? What does his attitude suggest about his character?
3. Why is the poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” important to Walton?
4. Why do you think Walton feels lonely even though he is onboard a ship with a full crew?
5. Why do you think Walton is so intrigued by and drawn toward the stranger?
6. How does the stranger respond to Walton’s quest?
Frankenstein – Mary Shelley
Novel Questions
Consider the following questions as you read Frankenstein. Be sure to keep these questions in mind as you
read the novel in its entirety. Provide textual support from the novel to substantiate your answers.
1. Trace the similarities between Victor and the creature. Consider their respective relationships with nature,
desires for family, and other existing parallels. Do Victor and the creature become more similar as the novel
progresses? How does the relationship between the two develop?
2. Victor attributes his tragic fate to his relentless search for knowledge. Do you believe this is the true cause of his
3. The presence of fire in the text echoes the sentiments of Shelley’s full title for this novel: Frankenstein,
or, The Modern Prometheus. Who is Shelley dubbing as “The Modern Prometheus” and why?
4. How are literary devices used to establish mood in Shelley’s Frankenstein?
5. Is Victor Frankenstein a tragic hero? Consider the characteristics of a tragic hero when formulating your
6. How is light contrasted with darkness throughout Frankenstein? Search for words such as day, light,
sunlight, radiant, bright, etc. and notice their positioning and relevance/purpose in relation to terms related to
darkness, i.e. dark, darkness, night, black, darkened, gloom, etc.
7. In classical and neo-classical doctrine, one of the greatest battles was the struggle for reason to control passion.
In the nineteenth century, passion began to rise in esteem against reason; emotions became more important.
What indications of that on-going battle exist in the novel? Specifically consider Victor and the creature.
8. Is Frankenstein a true Gothic novel? Which elements of the Gothic does Frankenstein contain?
9. Do the geographical movement and contributing forces of nature within the novel have metaphorically
thematic or symbolic applications? Consider the meaning of ice, winter, wind, darkness, location, etc.
10. In the battle of nature vs. nurture, which position does Shelley seem to support, as indicated throughout the
novel Frankenstein?
11. Shelley employs an elaborate framing device provided by letters at the beginning and the end of the novel.
What purpose(s) does this strategy serve? Does it provide any advantage to the author’s story-telling?