Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

by Mary Shelley
Background Notes
English 2
Frankenstein is…
Romantic Literature
Gothic Literature
A Frame Story
Romantic Literature
Definition: It was a revolt against the
Scientific/Industrial Revolution; the
Romantic Movement sought to
discourage scientific explanations of
nature in art and literature.
Basic Religious/Social Belief: Enjoy
nature as a gift from God, not a scientific
phenomenon to be explained.
Quote: Baudelaire, a French poet and
philosopher of the Romantic period said,
“Romanticism is precisely situated
niether in choice of subject nor
exact truth, but in a way of
Elements of Romantic Lit
1. Suspension of Disbelief The reader knows that events are unlikely,
or even improbable, but accepts the events
(fantasy, fantastic events, etc.)
2. Sentimentalism –
Emotion & imagination are more
important than logic and reasoning
3. Purpose –
Philosophical; it tries to teach a lesson
Gothic Literature
Definition – Literature which uses a
supernatural explanation for horror
Purpose – to frighten, not necessarily to
teach a lesson
Examples/Authors – Edgar Allen Poe,
Nightmare on Elm Street, Stephen King, etc.
Frame Story
Definition –
A story within a story.
The narrator often changes within the novel,
from chapter to chapter or section to section.
Frankenstein – A ship captain, Robert Walton,
meets a stranger who was a medical student,
Victor Frankenstein, who tells him the story
of creating a monster. This former medical
student tells how he later met up with the
monster, who tells the story of his creation
(from his own perspective) to Victor, who tells
the whole thing to Captain Robert Walton.
Frame Story Graphic
A Revolving Door of Narrators
Letters 1-4 Robert Walton
Chapters 1-10 Victor Frankenstein
Chapters 11-16 The Creature
Chapters 17-24 (beginning) Victor
Chapter 24 (end) Robert Walton
Important Allusions in the
(Sidebar – What is an ALLUSION??)
Faust/Dr. Faustus
“The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”
Paradise Lost
Dr. Faustus
by Christopher Marlowe, c. 1588
The play tells the old legend of a doctor
who sold his immortal soul to the Devil
for ultimate knowledge and power. He
ends up regretting his choice, but unable
to die, he is sentenced to an eternal Hell.
Act I focuses on the “vanity of science”
Dr. Faustus
So What?
Science at the time of the novel Frankenstein was
treading on new ground. Advances in the field lead
many scientists to question whether they could,
indeed, have power over life and death.
The character of Victor Frankenstein (a medical
student) will attempt to answer that exact question.
By using this allusion in the novel Frankenstein, Mary
Shelley is drawing a parallel and implying that
perhaps pursuing knowledge without any boundries
is like making a “deal with the Devil”.
Something to consider…
Just because we CAN do
something does not mean
that we SHOULD do it.
A Greek myth that tells of the Titan who created
His name, literally translated, means
Originally an ally of Zeus, he gave man FIRE and
was punished by his fellow gods.
His punishment was that he was chained to a
mountain, where an eagle ate his liver daily for
So What?
The novel Frankenstein is actually subtitled
Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus
Shelley draws a parallel between this well-known
myth and Victor Frankenstein’s actions. He gives
mankind a “gift” by creating life out of dead matter.
*But is this really a gift? Will his punishment be
equally painful and complete? Will it be worth it
to him? the world?
“The Rime of the Ancient
Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge,
The plot:
An ancient mariner (sailor) stops a man going to a
wedding to tell the young man a guilty tale.
When he was young, the mariner was on a ship that
left port and was blown to southern polar regions of
snow and ice.
On board, the crew sees an albatross (good luck; that
means land is somewhat near! Hooray!)
The stupid mariner shoots the albatross with his bow
and is forced by the angry crew to wear the dead bird
around his neck as punishment.
Here’s where things get really weird… Two characters
show up on board: Death and Life-In-Death. They
cast dice for the souls of the doomed crew.
One by one, Death wins, and the crew members fall
down, dead.
Finally, it is the bird-killer’s turn. Life-In-Death is the
winner of his soul.
He is forced to an eternal punishment (alive, but dead
inside; living with his guilt as the cause of the death
of all his shipmates)
Most importantly, he must tell his tale to someone
who must then be taught “love and reverence for all
things God has made and loved” (including, we
assume, birds).
If he can change just one listener’s life, he will be
allowed to die. If not, he will be destined to roam
So What?
They say, “Confession is good for the
Is this true? What is the purpose of
telling others about your mistakes?
Paradise Lost,
by John Milton 1667
An epic poem which tells of the Biblical fall of man.
The plot:
Adam and Eve live in God’s eternal grace &
protection in the perfect Garden of Eden.
They are tempted by Satan (Lucifer) with the
ultimate “knowledge of good and evil”.
They are deceived by Satan and are cast out of
Eden, thus setting all mankind up for death and
the threat of Hell.
So What?
Shelley actually begins her novel with a quote
from this poem. Adam is speaking to God,
trying to justify his sin:
“Did I request thee, Maker, from my
clay to mould me, Man?
Did I solicit thee
From darkness to promote me?”
Who is the creator in Frankenstein? Who is the
created one? So, who is the victim? Who is guilty?
Motifs to Watch For
Unjust persecution of the innocent
Parental responsibility
Knowledge brings misery
The destructive results of undeveloped affection
Isolation leads to evil/Friendship is essential
Importance of Fate
Appearance vs. Reality
Playing God (hubris/pride) leads to destruction
Nature as a healer – the Pastoral Ideal
Persuasion: Your first task
Find and bring 2
current event articles
from a reliable source
(online, magazine,
newspaper, etc.)
which discusses a
single controversial
subject in the field of
For example…
Genetic engineering
Life support
DNA mapping
Genetically modified food
and egg
Human cloning
Stem Cells
After you have chosen your
Cite your sources. Write down where
you got the article (web address or
newspaper title, magazine title, etc),
when it was written, & who wrote it.
Summarize each article in paragraph
form. What are the main points?
What are the objective facts of the
topic? What opinions are expressed
by each of the authors?
After researching the topic and finding out
about the different opinions of people on the
subject, take a stand on the issue.
Write your position in a well-written, single
List the reasons for your position.
Your opinion should be based in fact. Your
arguments should be logical, not anecdotal,
emotional, or irrational.
Narrow your reasons down to 3 good, solid
Find an argument that the opposite side
might use against your position.
Rebuttal: Give a reason why the
opposition’s argument is invalid. Be fair; be
logical; answer their concern or objection with
respect, but leave no doubt on the part of the
reader that your position is the better of the two.
I. Intro Paragraph
A. Hook:
B. Define the topic:
C. General background on the topic:
D. Thesis: (What is your position on the topic?)
II. First Body Paragraph
A. Topic Sentence:

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