Frankenstein 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 effects. 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 viciousness. 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 lightning.” 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 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Where is Robert Walton’s voyage headed? What strange sight do Walton and his men see? Why does the stranger hesitate before he agrees to board Walton’s ship? Briefly summarize Victor Frankenstein’s childhood. What is the difference between M. Krempe and M. Waldman, Frankenstein’s professors at the University of Ingolstadt? 1. 2. 3. 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? 4. 5. 6. 7. 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 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 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, William? What does the Creature ask Frankenstein to do? 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 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 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. How do the villagers that the Creature first encounters react to him? Where does the Creature end up making his “home”? How does the Creature learn to speak and read? Briefly summarize Safie’s relation to the De Lacey family. How does the Creature find out about his origins? 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 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 1. 2. 3. 4. 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? 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 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 character? Explain the symbolism of the following elements: the color white or brilliant light, the Alps, water, ice, lightning or electricity. What themes stand out? Structure 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 Epistolary Walton’s letters Victor’s narrative – interspersed with letters from Elizabeth and his father Themes Nature of Good and Evil Quest Man’s Limitations Role of Scientific Enquiry and Effects of Ambition Idealization of the Poor Nature’s Reaction to the Affairs of Humans Responsibility for Actions and Responsibility to Others Revenge Doppelganger Love Allusions Prometheus Paradise Lost “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” Faust Style 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) Romanticism 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, Prometheus) (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 behavior 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” Examples: * 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 disbelief.” 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 *Poetry *Novels (epistolary and doubleframed narrative and three points of view found in Frankenstein) Golden Age of the Novel First novel appeared in the 18th Century *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 Century Shelley The Brontes Dickens George Eliot * Features pathetic fallacy, outcast hero, heroes with alter egos. Gothic Novel Form Settings feature isolation (medieval castles) Mystery and otherness Byronic hero (handsome, solitary, and mysterious) 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.