Self Assessment and Discussion
West Student Sample Essay – 2006 AP Literature
and Composition Free-Response Exam Essay
Question: Many writers use a natural setting to
establish values within a work of literature.
For example, the country may be a place of
virtue and peace or one of primitivism and
ignorance. Choose a novel or play in which
such a setting plays a significant role. Then
write an essay in which you analyze how the
country setting functions in the work as a
whole. Do not merely summarize the plot.
The country and forests of Mary Shelley’s
Frankenstein are introduced in contrast to the town and
city setting of the piece. They are portrayed as places of
good nature and solitude, whereas the cities are where
Victor Frankenstein and his creation suffer most. This is
the prevailing view of Mary Shelley and the Romantics,
that as mankind becomes more industrially focused, it is
losing the purity that nature brings.
The most happy scenes in Frankenstein occur when
a character is in the country. This can be seen very
visibly in the case of Victor. After creating the monster,
Victor flees and succumbs to an immense feeling of
shock, where he is rendered unfit to care for himself,
Henry Clerval, Victor’s best friend, must do this and bring
Victor back to his previous good health.
His return to sanity can be most strongly evidenced
when he takes a walk, touring Ingostaldt’s country, and
observes nature in all of its beauty. The reader perceives
a calming effect that the country and good weather have
on Victor, for he himself comments upon its healing
Another character that finds his benevolence while
in the country is Victor’s creation, the monster. Before
the monster even intervenes in any human matters, he
describes himself being the most pleasured while
situated in nature. He enjoys the singing of the birds and
the food that nature provides for him. Later, when the
creature stumbles upon the cottage of the De Laceys,
one would most likely agree that it is during this period of
time that the monster is at his pinnacle of piety. The
Monster watches the cottagers and notices that when he
steals from the family's food, they go unnourished and
become saddened. Though he could certainly eat better
at their expense, the monster instead decides to quit this
habit and instead find his own sustenance, leaving the
family to profit by his good-will. The monster also notes
that Felix, the melancholy son of DeLacey Sr., spends
most of his time chopping wood, and thus resolves that
he, the monster, shall relive Felix of this task by
replenishing the wood stores by night. Not only does the
monster help in this environment but also learns the
most while residing in the country. Felix inadvertently
teaches the monster to speak and to read.
Thus it is so that the monster is the most joyful and
helpful while in the realm of nature. This is a stark
contrast to when both of them enter into the cities. Both
are treated with hate and scorn. For example, Victor is
treated as a insane murderer when he arrives in Ireland,
and the monster is obviously chased or beaten when he
encounters a sizeable group of people. How does this
contribute to the tone and theme of the piece as a
whole? It shows the view that nature is pristine and
innocent, and that where people congregate, such as
town, this innocence has been spoiled by man’s
knowledge and ideas which has created prejudice and
The Romantics idealized nature for its unbroken
peacefulness and innocence. Mary Shelley shows this
by setting her characters in the country and having them
act according to her views. Victor heals and becomes
peaceful, and the monster is born free from bias in the
purity of nature, so to speak.****
West Student Sample Essay – 2006 AP Literature
and Composition Free-Response Exam Essay
According to critic Northrop Frye, “Tragic heroes are so much the
highest points in their human landscape that they seem the
inevitable conductors of the power about them, great trees more
likely to be struck by lightning than a clump of grass. Conductors
may of course be instruments as well as victims of the divine
Select a novel or play in which a tragic figure functions as an
instrument of the suffering of others. Then write an essay in which
you explain how the suffering brought upon others by that figure
contributes to the tragic vision of the work as a whole.
Avoid mere plot summary.
The novel Frankenstein explores the
depths of human psychology by revealing
extreme passion of a seemingly mad
scientist. Victor Frankenstein is thrown into
an emotional roller coaster due to his choice
of decisions. Mary Shelley makes her
audience question whether there should be a
limit set to regulate human discovery. Victor
Frankenstein brings despair upon others by
giving life to the dead, which exemplifies the
truly Gothic and tragic vision of the novel that
Shelley wished to portray.
In creating a monster by giving the elixir of
life to a corpse, Victor brings harm and terror
upon the monster itself. Victor gave the
monster ugly features, and when he initially
gave the monster the elixir of life, Victor ran
in terror from the creation. Shelley shows
how torn the monster truly is when he gives
his monologue to Victor about the struggles
he had had to encounter due to his
abandonment. The monster, at length, at the
middle and end of the novel, talks about his
suffering. His speeches add tones of terror
and anger to the novel.
They display Shelley's theme of loss of
human innocence and illustrate how truly evil
society can be. The loneliness of the monster
represents the loneliness that Shelley implies
exists in all of us. The moods of unhappiness
and loneliness in the novel contribute to
Shelley's tragic vision of how evilly society
can treat those who are different.
When Victor decides to create the monster, he
not only brings suffering upon himself. In the portion
of the novel when Victor is consumed by his
appetite for research and knowledge, he falls very ill
and weak. The more Victor seems to learn, the
further ill he seems to fall. This continuous pattern
shows the tragic vision of how too much knowledge
can destroy man. Victor Frankenstein becomes the
character of the mad scientist that rages within
himself. He must struggle with the passions and
desires of that mad scientist. This displays Mary
Shelley's vision of how humans are
"doppelgangers," that is, there is an evil side and a
good side to man. This tragic vision is exemplified
by showing how the mad scientist Victor destroys
the human being Victor.
In close relation to Victor are two static
characters of the novel, Elizabeth and Henry. Both
characters are torn when Victor falls ill. They want to
know what bothers Victor, but he refuses to tell them
the secret of his creation. Hiding this secret from
Victor's two closest relations causes his
relationships with both of them to suffer. Shelley
shows through this how human relations suffer when
one is in a conquest for knowledge or fame. This is
a tragic fate that Victor has to suffer. In his desire for
fame and knowledge, he delays his marriage with
Elizabeth for seven years and comes distanced from
his best friend Henry. [Horrifically, both these and
other innocent characters die at the hands of
Victor's raging creature.]
Frankenstein's creation of the monster
brings nothing but suffering to the novel, and
shows that human knowledge, while
attainable, can be very evil. The [treatment
and isolation of the] creation displays the evil
society can bring upon those that are
different. Finally, it displays how relationships
suffer in the quest for knowledge. Shelley's
plot of the creation of the monster shows how
literally the downfall of Victor occurs, and how
the downfall of society could occur if given
such power.
Letters I-IV and Chapters I-IV
Where is Robert Walton’s voyage headed?
What strange sight do Walton and his men
Why does the stranger hesitate before he
agrees to board Walton’s ship?
Briefly summarize Victor Frankenstein’s
What is the difference between M. Krempe and
M. Waldman, Frankenstein’s professors at the
University of Ingolstadt?
What was your initial response toward the
character of Victor Frankenstein? How did this
feeling change by the end of Chapter IV?
Robert Walton can be described as Victor
Frankenstein’s counterpart or double. List some of
the similar characteristics that the two men share.
How are the two men different?
At the end of Chapter IV, Frankenstein pauses to
moralize. What does he say about passion and
how a person should deal with it? How might
Victor’s life have been different if he had realized
this important lesson earlier?
Among several antitheses, or opposites, in the
novel, are emotion and reason. Sometimes two
conflicting responses are at war within a character.
Point out some examples of this kind of reaction in
the novel.
At several points, Frankenstein refers to fate as
having been instrumental in shaping his life. What
causes this interpretation?
Is Victor Frankenstein is more concerned about
helping the human race transcend death or about
achieving fame and glory for himself? Reference
lines as proof.
Discuss the roles of fate and free will in Victor
Frankenstein’s life.
Mary Shelley has been criticized for her
portrayal of the secondary or minor
characters in the novel. Are characters such
as Robert Walton, Elizabeth Lavenze, and
Henry Clerval one-dimensional and simplistic,
or had Shelley given enough details to make
them fully rounded? Support your response
with examples from the text.
Chapters V-X
Why does Frankenstein run away from the
Creature after he has brought him to life?
Why does Henry Clerval come to Ingolstadt?
What news does Victor’s father send him?
Who is tried for the murder of Victor’s brother,
What does the Creature ask Frankenstein to
With whom do you sympathize more – Victor or his
creation? Why?
Victor had been totally engrossed in the project
until he actually brought the Creature to life. Why
do Victor’s feelings change?
What is the significance of Victor’s dream about
Elizabeth? What might the dream foreshadow?
Victor’s personality is contrasted with Henry’s.
What are some of the differences?
Nature is an important part of the novel’s setting.
At times it soothes Victor’s troubled mind; at other
times, it mirrors his agitation. Review scenes of
these variations.
Victor travels into the mountains to gain relief from
his troubled thoughts. Critics have considered the
Alps symbolic. Explain possible interpretations.
Chapters XI-XVI
How do the villagers that the Creature first
encounters react to him?
Where does the Creature end up making his
How does the Creature learn to speak and
Briefly summarize Safie’s relation to the De
Lacey family.
How does the Creature find out about his
After hearing the Creature’s story, do you sympathize with
him? Why or why not?
Shelley gives readers information about the De Laceys through
indirect characterization. Why did Shelley use this method?
The Creature’s education teaches him that society values a
person’s lineage and wealth over accomplishments or
behavior. What effect does this realization have on him?
The Creature is puzzled by the De Lacey family’s pathos. What
is their story? What parallel exists between the De Lacey
family’s history and the Creature’s own plight?
Compare and contrast Victor and the Creature.
Compare and contrast the Creature’s interior and exterior.
What irony exists?
The Creature argues that his evil behavior is not entirely his
fault – other people have treated him badly, he could have
been virtuous in other circumstances. Nature versus Nurture
argument. Where do you reside?
Chapters XVII-XXIV
Why does Victor travel to England?
Who accompanies Victor on his travels
to England and Scotland?
What happens on Victor and Elizabeth’s
wedding night?
What events bring Victor to Robert
Walton’s ship?
Walton thinks the Creature is a hypocritical fiend
concerning Victor’s death. Do you agree? Why or
why not?
Contrast Victor and Henry’s characters.
Victor recalls his childhood experience of seeing a
tree blasted by a bolt of lightening. How is this a
metaphor for his character?
Victor believes according to his dialogue with
Walton, that he has examined his past conduct
and finds nothing for which to blame himself. What
does this say about his character?
How do the Creature and Victor now compare in
Explain the symbolism of the following elements:
the color white or brilliant light, the Alps, water, ice,
lightning or electricity.
What themes stand out?
Frame device
Layered Format
Walton’s letters to his sister
Victor’s story told to Walton
Creature’s narrative to Victor
Safie and Felix’s story
Walton’s letters
Victor’s narrative – interspersed with letters
from Elizabeth and his father
Nature of Good and Evil
Man’s Limitations
Role of Scientific Enquiry and Effects of
Idealization of the Poor
Nature’s Reaction to the Affairs of Humans
Responsibility for Actions and Responsibility to
 Paradise Lost
 “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”
 Faust
Serious tone without humor or irony
Modern due to simplicity of sentences and
plainer vocabulary
Melodramatic exaggeration ABSENT – direct
Percy’s editing negates her own simplicity
* changed simple construction to ornate
* added French and Italian phrases
Uses scenery descriptions to note foreboding
and pathos
Little physical description of the characters
Abundant use of allusions and quotations
Epistolary framework
Dialogue to create dramatic situations
Psychological Realism
(delves into psyches of characters to
explain motivations and drives)
Period 1789-1832
Dominated by six Poets
(Wordsworth, Coleridge, Blake,
Shelley, Keats, Byron)
Romantic writers did not use term
Romantic ideas are a dichotomy
Basic Tenants
Focus on the Self
*Wordsworth’s The Prelude
*First Person Point of View
*Byronic Hero
(Frankenstein allusion – Satan, Cain,
(Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage)
(Gothic Novel – central figure)
Byronic Hero
Name derived from Lord Byron
“A man proud, moody, cynical, with defiance on
his brow, and misery in his heart, a scorner of
his kind, implacable in revenge, yet capable of
deep and strong affection” Thomas Macaulay.
 Passionate yet flawed
 Intellectually searching
 Incapable of compromise
 Forever brooding over some mysterious sin
 Painfully yet defiantly alone
 Question accepted social institutions and
Opposite of Neoclassical Age
(Age of Reason)
Neoclassical predominately satire
Neoclassical didactic
Doctrine of the Basic Goodness of Man
Rousseau’s concept of the “noble savage”
* Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales
* Shelley’s Frankenstein references to
Native Americans, idealization of the De
Lacey family, William as first victim.
*Nature vs. Nurture argument – the
Creature’s initial seeking others in kindness
and generous ways.
Emphasis on Emotion
Feeling is good but knowledge may
be bad.
*Wordsworth’s The Prelude
*Frankenstein’s repeated rescues
of the orphans (Victor’s mother
Caroline, Elizabeth, and Justine) and
Walton’s digression on the Russian
seaman’s generosity.
Interest in Nature
* Nature’s moral influences as noted in
poetry – not setting alone.
* Frankenstein’s Creature’s early
experiences, climatic scenes on the
Mont Blanc glacier, the barren Orkney
Islands, the frozen Arctic waters.
* Pathetic fallacy and personification
* Noted backgrounds in painting
* Travel due to Napoleonic Wars
Preference for Melancholy
*Romantics were NOT cheerful
*Create a sense of solitude and dejection
Interest in the Exotic and Supernatural
*Asian travel
*Nightmares and Dreams
*Tales that require a “willing suspension of
Human Perfectibility
*Man is on a spiral forward –
progressing intellectually and morally
*Man should reach beyond current
limits despite repercussions
Political Ideology
*Conservative and nostalgic
(Sir Walter Scott and Wordsworth)
*Progressive spirit of Independence
(Byron and Shelley)
Variety of Form
*Novels (epistolary and doubleframed narrative and three points of
view found in Frankenstein)
Golden Age of the Novel
First novel appeared in the 18th
*Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe
* Samuel Richardson’s Pamela and
Clarissa Harlowe
- epistolary formats
- satire (depict foibles of society)
*Jane Austen
- wit, good sense, irony
Dominate literary form of the 19th
The Brontes
George Eliot
* Features pathetic fallacy, outcast hero,
heroes with alter egos.
Gothic Novel Form
Settings feature isolation (medieval
Mystery and otherness
Byronic hero (handsome, solitary, and
Purpose initially to terrify not enlighten
(Walpole, Radcliffe, Lewis)
Gothic Novels Parallel Romanticism
Move away from classic other
Emphasis on imagination and feeling
Frankenstein beyond the Gothic
Themes universal and serious
Evokes horror over terror
Questions human potential
Frankenstein – First Sci Fi?
“Science Fiction” term appears 1851
Scientific Discovery – heart of the
novel’s plot
Discourse includes repercussions and
“what if” themes and contexts.
Requires “suspended belief” yet
appears plausible.

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