Author Mary Shelley
Publisher Everyman’s Library
1. Features of the text
Love, family, loyalty, science and knowledge, religion, travel, horror, crime, society, ambition, death, life, diversity, solitude.
Descriptive, poetic and tragic.
There are three internal narrators: Robert Walton, Victor Frankenstein, the monster.
Characters and their interaction
- Robert Walton is an ambitious English man who’s sailing towards the Pole for scientific purposes. He’s brave, loyal, very kind, curious and in search of a true friend.
- Victor Frankenstein is the scientist who creates the monster. He’s a very theatrical character, but he’s not very different from Robert Walton: he’s brave and kind, he’s even more curious, he’s reflective and deep in his thoughts. He feels guilty of all the crimes the creature commits, and spends his life in total despair.
- Henry Clerval is a friend of the Frankenstein family. He’s passionate and similar to Victor, but he’s interested in literature and idioms.
- Elizabeth Lavenza is Victor’s cousin. They fall in love at the end of the novel, but their love is stopped by the violence of the creature. She’s beautiful, kind, lovely and smart.
- Other important characters are Justine, Frankenstein’s parents, De Lacey, Felix and Agatha.
Setting (time and place)
XVIII century’s England, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Ireland and France.
Low, middle and upper classes are presented in the novel.
The novel could deal with the scientific ambition of Enlightenment fighting against the rising feelings of Romanticism that portray the end of the 18th century. Victor Frankenstein’s passionate desire to go further and further with his scientific discoveries have to face the human point of view. In fact, the consequences of Victor’s curiosity and research cause him to live a life of despair and repentance.
Robert Walton is sailing towards the North Pole in order to circumnavigate the globe and deepen his scientific discoveries and writes letters to his sister Margaret Saville, acquainting her about all the interesting events happening on his vessel. In one of these letters, Walton tells her to have found a stranger on a sledge and to have taken him on the vessel in order to take care of his ill body and mind. This stranger is Victor Frankenstein, a scientist and explorer who tells him a long and terrifying story about a creature he himself created after a period of different fields of study. This creature was very lonely because of his abhorrent appearance which turned him away from the human beings, so he asked Victor to create a female who would look like him, in order to give him company and affection. Refusing to create another being capable of murdering people, as the creature had done with Victor’s brother, William, Victor gains the most violent hatred from the creature, who promises to reduce his life to a hell. The creature murders the people Victor loves the most, such as his friend Henry Clerval and his beloved Elizabeth, and leads the scientist to a complete desolation. Victor promises to follow the creature and murder him as a revenge, but when he’s about to reach the monster, he ends on Walton’s vessel. Being very ill and tired, Victor dies on the vessel and the creature reaches him. He expresses his repentance and declares to be willing to kill himself. The creature leaves the vessel and Walton writes again to his sister, telling her the whole story until this point.
2. Personal Response
Consistency of the title
The title is perfect because the novel is focused on Frankenstein’s story. The modern Prometheus, could refer to the titan who stole the fire from Olympus to save humanity in a Greek myth, representing the rebellion against fate, or to Ovidio’s legend in which Prometheus creates the human being from some clay.
Suggested alternative title
a. Find an effective paragraph
pages 218 - 219 (Victor’s promise)
b. Quote a remarkable thought, image or other in it
«The deep grief which this scene had at first excited quickly gave way to rage and despair. They were dead, and I lived; their murderer also lived, and to destroy him I must drag out my weary existence. I knelt on the grass and kissed the earth and with quivering lips exclaimed, "By the sacred earth on which I kneel, by the shades that wander near me, by the deep and eternal grief that I feel, I swear; and by thee, O Night, and the spirits that preside over thee, to pursue the daemon who caused this misery, until he or I shall perish in mortal conflict. For this purpose I will preserve my life; to execute this dear revenge will I again behold the sun and tread the green herbage of earth, which otherwise should vanish from my eyes forever. And I call on you, spirits of the dead, and on you, wandering ministers of vengeance, to aid and conduct me in my work. Let the cursed and hellish monster drink deep of agony; let him feel the despair that now torments me.”»
Extract (identify and give a suitable title to a meaningful, self-contained extract):
title The condition of man
«"These wonderful narrations inspired me with strange feelings. Was man, indeed, at once so powerful, so virtuous and magnificent, yet so vicious and base? He appeared at one time a mere scion of the evil principle, and at another as all that can be conceived of noble and godlike. To be a great and virtuous man appeared the highest honour that can befall a sensitive being; to be base and vicious, as many on record have been, appeared the lowest degradation, a condition more abject than that of the blind mole or harmless worm. For a long time I could not conceive how one man could go forth to murder his fellow, or even why there were laws and governments; but when I heard details of vice and bloodshed, my wonder ceased, and I turned away with disgust and loathing.»
How do you consider the text?
I consider the text interesting and thrilling.
Substantiate your opinion on the text
It’s interesting because it deals with many different themes, but also thrilling because the facts are presented in a well-constructed sequence, full of surprises and suspense, which make the reader want to go on with the novel.
Did the text induce you to change your mind on the main theme?
Even if the monster is presented as a murderer, an evil and dangerous creature, I think that Mary Shelley wanted to present him as the victim of the novel, because the preconceptions towards his appearance deny him any kind of social activity. In this way, the author allows the reader to reflect about preconception in our current society, which can be a serious problem for many people.
Evaluate the text awarding marks on a scale between 1 and 10
I give it an 8, because I liked the story very much, but I didn’t love the style.