Readers' Guide: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Guide Created By: PatH and Marcie
Discussion Leader(s): PatH & Marcie
Read our discussion of this book
Book Description Mary Shelley's masterpiece about Frankenstein and his creation has a sweeping force of prose; grotesque, surreal imagery, and multilayered doppelganger themes.
Relevant LinksThe full text is available online: literature.org; Read Print and Project Gutenberg The original 1818 Edition also is available.
Information about Prometheus.
Information about the Romantic Period: http://classiclit.about.com/od/britishromantics/a/aa_britromantic.htm; http://www.aug.edu/~cshotwel/4350.Romantictraits.html; http://www.historyguide.org/intellect/lecture16a.html
"Natural Philosophy, Frankenstein's topic of study.
Photos of Geneva: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Saleve_vu_du_ciel.jpg; http://travel.webshots.com/photo/1312148183066719370tBAzuP
Why Shelley picked the setting of Ingolstadt for her book. Scroll down to boxed article.
Photo of the exterior of the restored Theater of Anatomy.
Discussion QuestionsLetters and Chapters 1-6 (1831 version); Vol 1. Letters and Chapters 1-5 (1818 version) Last sentence: "My own spirits were high, and I bounded along with feelings of unbridled joy and hilarity."
Title: The alternative title for the book is "The Modern Prometheus." What does Shelley mean by this?
Letters: What purpose does Walton serve in the story? What were his goals or purpose in going on his expedition? Given the time of the book, is his expedition reasonable or understandable? Why does Frankenstein decide to tell Walton his story?
Chapters 1 & 2: How does Victor Frankenstein describe his family life and upbringing and his interests? Who are his closest companions?
Chapter 2 & 3: What studies does Frankenstein undertake on his own? What are his reactions to his professors when he goes to University? How did one of his first days at the University "decide his future destiny"? What do you think of Frankenstein's course of scientific study?
Chapter 4: How is the planning stage of Frankenstein's experiments with life and death and his plans to create a living person described? What changes take place in Frankenstein during this time and what are his reflections about the changes?
Chapter 5: How does Frankenstein react to what he has done? What does this tell us about him?
Chapter 6: What does Elizabeth convey in her letter to Victor? What studies do Henry and Victor pursue together? How has Victor's mood changed? What are their plans before they return home?
Ch 7-12 (1831 version); Vol I, Ch 6-7, Vol II, Ch 1-4 (1818) Last sentence:"...and the future gilded by bright rays of hope and anticipation of joy."
Chapter 7: Who does Frankenstein think committed the murder he hears about from his father and why? Why doesn't he tell anyone?
Chapter 8: What was the damaging evidence against Justine? Why didn't Frankenstein tell the judges about the actual murderer to save Justine? Was he right?
Chapter 9: How do the deaths impact Frankenstein, his father and Elizabeth? Where does Frankenstein go to find some relief? How is "nature" described in this chapter?
Chapter 10: What are your main impressions of Frankenstein's meeting with his creation?
Chapter 11: How does Frankenstein's creation describe his early development? What gives him pleasure?
Chapter 12: How does Frankenstein's creation describe his impressions of the family in the cottage? What are their actions and way of life? How does he respond to what he sees? What does Frankenstein's creature seem to be like? Does this surprise you? Is the process by which the creature becomes aware and learns about people and language realistic?
Ch 13-19 (1831 version); Vol II, Ch 5-9, Vol III, Ch 1-2 (1818) Last sentence: "..... forebodings of evil that made my heart sicken in my bosom."
Chapter 13: What did Frankenstein's creation learn and what emotions were aroused in him with the arrival of Safie? What does he wonder about himself?
Chapter 14: What are the main points of the history of the De Lacey family recounted by Frankenstein's creation?
Chapter 15: What books does Frankenstein's creation acquire and what does he learn from them? What is his fervent wish and goal? What happens when he tries to achieve it?
Chapter 16: What event causes Frankenstein's creation to say "For the first time the feelings of revenge and hatred filled my bosom and I bent my mind towards injury and death..."? What revenge does he take? What does he want from Frankenstein and why?
Chapter 17: What convinces Frankenstein to do what his creation asks of him?
Chapter 18: What are Frankenstein's plans regarding Elizabeth? What does he resolve to do first and why?
Chapter 19: What route does Frankenstein take on the way to starting his task and how does he go about it? In this chapter, Frankenstein is tormented by what he did in the past and is doing now. He says, "I felt as if I had committed some great crime, the consciousness of which haunted me. I was guiltless, but I had indeed drawn down a horrible curse upon my head, as mortal as that of crime." What do you think of his statement and state of mind?
Ch 20-24, Letters (1831 version); Vol III Ch 3-7, Letters (1818)
Chapter 20: What decision did Frankenstein make about the female creature he was creating and why? What threat did Frankenstein's creation make?
Chapter 21: Of whose murder was Frankenstein accused? What was Frankenstein's reaction?
Chapter 22: What did Elizabeth write to Victor Frankenstein and why? What does Victor fear about marrying Elizabeth?
Chapter 23: What terrible surprise does the creature spring on Frankenstein? What is Frankenstein's response?
Chapter 24: As this chapter starts, what is keeping Victor alive? What is the reaction of Frankenstein's creature to what he finds on Walton's ship? What do you think of the explanations and plans of Frankenstein's creature? What is Walton going to do at the end of the book? Do you see parallels between Walton and Frankenstein? How are they alike and different? What do you think of the ending?