Read: Frankenstein 1818 version (online)
Frankenstein: A Norton Critical Edition pp 1-165
(If you purchased another version than the one listed in the course syllabus, it may be the 1831 version. This later edition renumbered the chapters and volumes, so there may be some discrepancy with the referenced sections below. In my opinion, the 1818 version is the better version because it was not edited by Mary Shelley’s husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley.)
Frankenstein is composed of many narratives one within another.
•Robert Walton’s letters of his exploration
•Victor Frankenstein’s story of his troubles with the creature
•The creature’s story of his search for companionship
•Finally, Felix’s story about bravery, betrayal, and love told by the creature
Robert’s and Victor’s stories act as frame stories, and in a small way the monster’s also does for Felix’s story.
A frame story is a narrative that sets the stage for a telling. Robert’s story sets the stage for the final confrontation between Victor and the creature and allows Victor to tell his story to someone else. Victor’s story does the same for the creature’s story. Victor paints an image of the creature, which is put into question when we hear the creature’s story from Victor.
The interesting question is the purpose of setting the story in this fashion. Mary Shelley never explained her reasoning for the multiple narratives. Ultimately we are receiving each story second (Victor’s), third (the creature’s), and even fourth hand (Felix’s).
1. How does the frame structure distance the story from the author?
2. Does this make the tale more or less reliable? Consider how urban legends and campfire stories start with “they say in this very house” or “I heard that in these woods”.
3. What is Robert Walton’s goal? Why has he hired a boat and a crew?
4. Where does Robert Walton find Victor Frankenstein? What is his condition?
5. How does Elizabeth come to live with Victor’s family?
6. [This question has been removed.]
7. What does Victor’s mom die of? How did she contract it?
Victor as a youth becomes fascinated with the works of Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa which Victor as an adult argues was a significant influence to his current situation. Agrippa was a self purported magician who argued the problems faced by science were due to the influence of magic. That by understanding how magic works, all things are possible.
8. How does this view of the world shape Victor’s studies in natural philosophy?
9. Which professor at school does Victor admire most? Why?
10. What is the process with which Victor creates the creature? Where does he get the materials?
11. Why is the description so vague? Does Victor have motivation to keep it secret?
12. How does Victor describe the creature?
13. Who does Victor dream about after he falls asleep after creating the creature? How is this foreshadowing for events to come?
14. How does Henry Clerval and Victor contrast throughout the story?
15. How does Victor hear about William’s death?
16. What has Justine done that makes Elizabeth trust her even when people believe Justine murdered William?
17. Why is Justine implicated in the murder of William? Why does Justine confess?
18. Victor doesn’t believe Justine is guilty. Who does he believe is guilty? Why does he believe this?
What is in a name? Victor never gives his creation a name, though he refers to it often as daemon or creature or monster.
19. How does this impress an image of his creation on us? What should we call the creation?
The creatures story
The creature is rejected many times when he attempts to bond with humanity.
•By his creator
•By the villagers
•By the blind man and his family
•By the hunter after the creature saves the child from drowning
•By William Frankenstein, Victor’s younger brother
•And finally, by Victor
20. In all situations, what is the primary reason everyone rejects the creature?
21. How does Felix’s story about the arab merchant who is imprisoned parallel the creature’s experience? Why was he imprisoned? How does the betrayal match the actions the creature will take?
As he is watching the family and learning about human life, he finds a satchel containing three books. One of them is Paradise Lost. (for more information)
22. How does he see his fate related to that of Adam’s? Satan?
23. After the creature is rejected by the family, what does he vow to do?
24. Was the death of William an accident by the way the creature tells the story or was it intended?
25. Why did the creature put the locket in Justine’s pocket?
The creature is supernatural horror straight from our nightmares. He is massive, powerful, and extremely intelligent. He can survive harsh weather especially cold, can watch people without them suspecting, and even puts the locket in Justine’s pocket while she is distracted. This is completely different from our modern view of Frankenstein’s creature who is a lumbering, groaning idiot.
26. What does the creature want from Victor?
Very direct foreshadowing within Chapter 1, when Victor reflects on where has Henry’s spirit gone.
27. What does Victor’s father want Victor and Elizabeth to do?
28. What does Victor plan to do before he is married? Who does he take with him?
Victor leaves his companion and isolates himself to complete the monster, but doesn’t finish the job.
29. Why did Victor not complete the companion/second experiment? Should he have kept his promise?
Victor believes he will be killed on his wedding night. We, the reader, never believe he is the one who will be killed. This is a use of dramatic irony, where the character is not aware of something the audience knows.
30. What clues are we given that he will not be the victim? (Remember the foreshadowing in Volume 1 and the creature’s threat.)
31. Victor chases the creature across Russia to the North Pole. Why do you think the creature provides clues and taunts to keep Victor on his trail?
Robert Walton’s letters
Victor is dying but still struggles to finish off the creature. At the same time, Robert’s mission is literally frozen in its tracks, and Robert faces mutiny.
32. What does his crew demand?
Victor gives a passionate speech about the courageous pursuit Robert and his crew are on, but it does not persuade the crew .
33. How does Robert’s acceptance of failure contrast Victor’s drive? Who is the better man?
34. The creature mourns for the death of Victor, his creator. He states that Victor was a good man. Why does he change his mind?
35. Why do you think Robert doesn’t attempt to kill the creature? Should he have?
•Frankenstein: A Norton Critical Edition. 2nd ed. Mary Shelley. edited by J. Paul Hunter. W W Norton. 2012. ISBN-13: 978-0393927931 (also available at Project Gutenberg