Frankenstein [book review]

Mary Shelley
Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor & Jones, 1818

Story: The classic story of a man of science (Dr. Frankenstein) and his quest for the origin of life. He stumbles upon the knowledge to make his own creature and conducts his experiment to the point of exhaustion and illness. Dr. Frankenstein discovers that electricity can animate a cadaver and so he pieces together a man and gives him life. The story follows the Dr. and the creature as they try to understand the world around them. The Dr. is horrified at his creation and his life is ruined by the existence of his hideous monster. The creature teaches himself about the world around him when his creator abandons him. He reaches out for human contact only to find that people are terrified of his gruesome form. The story is written in a series of letters and finds both men, creator and creation at the end of their tale, trying to accept the other.

Main Character: Dr. Victor Frankenstein and his creature (who is NOT called Frankenstein in the story! That is a pet peeve of mine J) The story takes place within a framework so there are a lot of main characters at different points in the story: Captain Walton (captain of an ice-bound ship) the family and friends of Dr. Frankenstein, the family that the creature learns from.

Audience: I would recommend this book for high school students (or middle school students who show interest in this genre and like a challenging read.) This story has a lot to say about the nature of humanity and the taboo of “playing God.” This book is very interesting when discussed with issues such as cloning.

Comments: I read this as a freshman in college and loved it; I wish I would have read it sooner!

Discussion Questions:
#1 Dr. Frankenstein refuses to make his creation a wife and gives several reasons. His creature is an outcast who only wants companionship from someone who will treat him with dignity and respect. Do you agree with Frankenstein’s decision to abandon his experiment to create a bride for his creature?

#2 There are many versions of this book on film, show one or two of these versions to your students (include any media that features Frankenstein’s monster- cartoons, comics, t.v. shows, even Frankenberry!) How do these versions follow the original story? What elements of the story never change?

#3 Do the monster’s eloquence and persuasiveness make it easier for the reader to sympathize with him? Why do you think most film versions of the story present the monster as mute or inarticulate?

#4 The creature kills Victor’s younger brother William and frames the maid Justine for the crime. He later tells Victor that he acted out of revenge. Do you condemn the creature for his act even if he didn’t fully understand his action? Do you sympathize with the creature because of his lack of guidance and companionship?

#5 The novel can be difficult to understand due to the way in which it was written. Have students trace and discuss the role of letters and written communication throughout the novel.

#6 Discuss the novel’s shifts in narrative perspective. What is the effect of presenting different characters’ viewpoints, especially those of Victor and the monster?


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