Frankenstein (Shelley)

Discussion Questions
1. The horror story is just as popular today as it was in Shelley’s early nineteenth century England. What is the appeal of this genre? Discuss elements from Frankenstein that parallel characteristics of modern horror tales such as Stephen King’s, or contemporary films such as Nightmare on Elm Street. What are the effects of these elements on the audience, and how might that explain our fascination?

2.Dr. Frankenstein finds himself unable to "mother" the being he creates. Why does Shelley characterize Victor in this way? What does this choice say about the role of women during Shelley’s era? Discuss the significance of parent-child relationships and birth references throughout the novel.

3. Dreams and nightmares play a recurrent role throughout Shelley’s novel. Trace the use of dreams throughout the book, with emphasis on how they relate to changes in Victor’s character.

4. Why are there so many references to sickness and fever in Frankenstein? Trace these references throughout the novel. What broader theme might Shelley be expressing?

5. Re-visit some of your pre-reading activities, such as the journal entry on the "Philosopher’s Stone" and the anticipation guide on parenting. Now that you have completed Frankenstein, have your views changed? Why or why not?

6. Ice is a prevalent image and an integral plot device in Shelley’s Frankenstein. How is it appropriate that the novel ends in ice? What is the symbolism of ice for the characters and the story?

7. In his afterword in the Signet Classics edition of Frankenstein, Harold Bloom asserts that "all Romantic horrors are diseases of excessive consciousness, of the self unable to bear the self." Does this Romantic characteristic apply to Victor and his treatment of the creature? Explain. Consider the fact that Victor never gives the creature a name.

8. Place Frankenstein’s creature in modern times. Suppose he had a family that raises him, includes him, and even enrolls him in school. How might today’s society treat Victor’s creature differently? How would it mimic the time period of the novel?

9. Consider the character of Justine Moritz. While her story only takes two chapters of Shelley’s novel, her role as a secondary character is significant. What is Shelley’s purpose in telling Justine’s story? What truths about her time is Shelley revealing?

10. The patriarchal society of Frankenstein is one in which men pursue their goals against hopeless odds. In light of this work ethic, is Robert Walton a failure when he turns his ship around at the end of the novel? How would Victor Frankenstein answer this question? What would Mary Shelley say? What do you think?
(Questions from A Teachers Guide issued by Signet Classics.)

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