English 154: Introduction to Literature (Prof. Boyer)
English 207: Introduction to Literary Analysis (Prof Boyer)
 

Reading Questions for Frankenstein
Keyed to the Bedford edition by Johanna M. Smith (2nd ed.)

The best beginning procedure is always to read the work (or at least a part) all the way through so that you know what's happening. The notes can help if you're stuck, but try to get the big picture of a part before getting bogged down in details. Read through, then go back and clear up details. Then you're ready to think about the questions.

A note on chapter numbers and editions: As the beginning of Smith's introduction informs us, Frankenstein was first published in 1818 in three volumes with separate chapter numbers. It was published in a revised version (the version that Smith prints) in 1831, with continuous chapter numbers. To facilitate a meaningful division of the reading assignment, our reading of the 1831 text is divided into three parts according to the division into volumes of the 1818 text, and so volume numbers are provided for each division of the questions. The 1818 text, now frequently preferred, is printed in volume 2 of The Norton Anthology of English Literature, 7th edition, and in the Norton Critical Edition of Frankenstein, edited by J. Paul Hunter.

1831 Introduction and 1818 Preface
Letters 1-4 and Chapters 1-8 (= 1818 edition, volume 1)
Chapters 9-17 (= 1818 edition, volume 2)
Chapters 18-24 (= 1818 edition, volume 3)
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1831 Introduction and 1818 Preface (pages 19-27)

1.

The Introduction (pp. 19-25) was written for the 1831 edition of Frankenstein and so represents Shelley's thoughts fifteen years after writing the book. How does the 34-year-old Shelley present her 18-year-old self? What influences on her story does she mention? Based on her Introduction, can you identify any other possible influences?

2.

How does Shelley say she first thought of the story of Frankenstein? With what words did she begin? How much effort does she claim to have been required for the actual writing of the story? (See p. 24; her first sentence now appears on p. 50.)

3.

The Preface (pp. 26-27)was written for the 1818 edition of Frankenstein by Shelley's husband, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. This Preface certainly represents itself as being by the author of the book (which was published anonymously. What influences on the story does the Preface mention? Are these the same as in the 1831 Introduction?

4.

How does the Preface describe the origins of the story of Frankenstein? Are these origins consistent with those given in the 1831 Introduction?

5.

The writer of the Preface claims to have "endeavoured to preserve the truth of the elementary principles of human nature" (26). What literary works does the writer list as conforming to this rule?

 

Letters 1-4 and Chapters 1-8 (= 1818 edition, volume 1; pages 28-85)

Letters 1-4

1.

Who is writing Letter 1 (and all the letters)? To whom is he writing? What is their relationship?

2.

Where is Robert Walton when he writes Letter 1? Why is he there? What are his plans?

3.

How much time has elapsed between Letter 1 and Letter 2? Where is Walton now? What has he managed to do (p. 30) and what does he desire (p. 31)? What does he tell us about himself?

4.

How does he describe the lieutenant and the master? What is the master's story? How does Wilton respond to it?

5.

How much time has elapsed between Letter 2 and Letter 3? Where is Walton now? What do you think of Wilton's question "What can stop the determined heart and resolved will of man"?

6.

How much time has elapsed between Letter 3 and Letter 4? What "strange accident" has happened to the sailors?

7.

Why does the man picked up by the ship say he is there? What shape is he in? What sort of person does he seem to be? How does Wilton respond to this man?

8.

How much time has elapsed when Walton begins writing again (p. 37)? What has happened in the meantime? How does the man respond to Wilton's project? How is Wilton responding to the man?

9.

How much time has elapsed when Walton begins writing again (p. 39)? What has happened in the meantime? How does the man respond to Walton's project? Why does the man agree to tell his story?

Ch 1

1.

What is the man's background? (Do we know his name yet?) Where is he from?

2.

What is the story of the man's mother, Caroline Beaufort (pp. 41-42)? How does the man feel toward his parents, and what responsibilities does he feel they had toward him?

3.

Who is Elizabeth Lavenza and what is her story (pp. 43-44). What gift does the man's mother give him? What else do we learn for the first time from her statement on p. 44? Do we know the man's name yet? Do we know his family name?

Ch 2

1.

Who is Henry Clerval and what is his relation to Victor?

2.

How does Victor characterize the interests and characters of Clerval, Elizabeth, and himself (pp. 44-46)? In the 1818 edition the equivalent of the first paragraph on p. 44 is quite different. (Our Chapter 2 remains a part of Chapter 1 in that edition):

Everyone adored Elizabeth. If the servants had any request to make, it was always through her intercession. We were strangers to any species of disunion and dispute; for although there was a great dissimilitude in our characters, there was an harmony in that very dissimilitude. I was more calm and philosophical than my companion; yet my temper was not so yielding. My application was of longer endurance; but it was not so severe whilst it endured. I delighted in investigating the facts relative to the actual world; she busied herself in following the aërial creations of the poets. The world was to me a secret, which I desired to discover; to her it was a vacancy; which she sought to people with imaginations of her own. (Norton Critical Edition, p. 20)

What significant differences do you find between the two versions?

3.

Who is Cornelius Agrippa and how does Victor find out about him (p. 46)? How does Victor's father respond, and how does Victor comment on that response? What sort of science ("Natural Philosophy") is Victor learning from Agrippa, Paracelsus, and Albertus Magnus (pp. 46-48). How would a modern scientist respond to this sort of thinking? (There is a selection from Paracelsus on creation in the Bedford edition, pp. 201-204.)

4.

What happens when Victor sees an oak tree destroyed by lightning (p. 48) and hears an explanation? What does Victor then begin to study? Who or what does he credit for this change in direction (p. 49)? Who or what does he blame for his "utter and terrible destruction" (p. 49)? Which version of "natural philosophy" would be most likely to accept this explanation?

Ch 3

1.

What happens to Elizabeth and to Victor's mother as a result of Elizabeth's scarlet fever (pp. 49-50)? How does this compare with the mother's early history (pp. 41-42)?

2.

Why does Victor's father send him to the university of Ingolstadt (p. 49)? How old is Victor then? (Ingolstadt is in southern Germany, in Bavaria, on the Danube, 43 miles north of Munich. The university founded there in 1472 moved to Landshut in 1802 and to Munich in 1826.) (To see how "Ingolstadt--City of Frankenstein" is doing, check out http://www.Frankenstein-tours.de ; for lots of historical links (in German) go to http://www.bingo-ev.de/~ks451/ingolsta/ .

3.

What does Victor learn from M. Krempe? How does Victor respond to him, and on what grounds? Is this a good basis for making such a decision? (M. here is the abbreviation for Monsieur.)

4.

What does Victor learn from M. Waldman? How does Victor respond to him? How does Victor think of his older science as opposed to modern science (p. 52)? What does M. Waldman say in describing modern chemistry that changes Victor's mind (p. 53)? What does Victor say he will now do (p. 53)? And what name do we hear for the first time on p. 53? (An 1802 introductory lecture on chemistry, similar to the one M. Waldman delivers, appears in the Bedford edition on pp. 211-221.)

Ch 4

1.

How well does Victor progress during the next two years (p. 55)? What does he then become interested in, and what ultimately does he discover (pp. 56-57)? Will he share that knowledge with Walton? Why? (Note the "present" of the telling breaking through the narration here.)

2.

How does he go about creating a human being, and what does he expect as a result of this creation (pp. 57-58)? How long does the task take? What happens to Victor in the process?

Ch 5

1.

Do you recognize the opening words of this chapter? Remember that Shelley gave them as the starting point of her story (p. 24).

2.

Given all the mad doctor and monster movies we've seen, including perhaps versions of Frankenstein, what is unexpected about the description of the actual creation of life here (p. 60)? How much do we learn of the actual procedure?

3.

How does Victor respond to the actual creation of life (p. 60)? What surprises him about the way the creature he has brought to life looks? What does that do to Victor's response (p. 61)?

4.

What does Victor dream (p. 61)? How does the dream grow out of, comment on, even explain what Victor has done and been through?

5.

What does the creature do (p. 61)? How does Victor respond?

6.

Whom does Victor meet arriving in a coach the next morning (p. 62)? How does Victor respond? What does Victor discover when they go to Victor's apartment (p. 63)? How does Victor respond? What happens to him, and for how long (64)? Is there any more news of the creature?

Ch 6

1.

What is waiting for Victor when he finally recovers? Who has nursed him during his illness?

2.

Who is Justine Moritz and what is her story pp. 66-68? What comments does Elizabeth make about her position in Swiss society (pp. 66-67)? What religion is Justine (p. 67)?

3.

Who is William and how old is he? Have we heard of him before?

4.

What does Victor do after his recovery (pp. 68-70)? What is Clerval's "plan of life" (p. 70)?

5.

When does Victor finally plan to return home? What do he and Clerval do while waiting for his father's directions?

Ch 7

1.

What is waiting for Victor when he returns to his apartment (p. 71)? What news does his father have for him? And what is his father's name (p. 73)? How does Victor respond?

2.

How long has Victor been away from home (p. 74)? What happens the night he returns to Geneva (pp. 74-75)? How does he respond?

3.

Whom does Victor see that night (p. 75)? When was the last time they saw each other? How long ago was that (p. 76)?What does Victor now believe happened to William (p. 75)? What does Victor assume about the nature of the creature?

4.

Who has been identified as the murderer, and on what evidence (pp. 77-78)? How does Victor respond to this news? Why doesn't he say anything about the real murderer?

5.

What attitudes toward justice and the justice system are expressed on pp. 78-79, and by whom?

Ch 8

1.

What happens at Justine's trial (pp. 79-82)? How does Victor respond?

2.

The next day, why does Justine say she has confessed to the murder of William (pp. 83-84)? How does Victor respond to Justine's situation and to Elizabeth's anguish?

3.

At this point, the end of the first volume of the 1818 edition, what do you expect will happen after this? How would you characterize Victor thus far?

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CHAPTERS 9-17 (= 1818 edition, volume 2; pages 86-132)

Ch 9

1.

How does Victor respond in the days after Justine's death? How have Elizabeth's views changed (p. 88)?

2.

What journey does Victor undertake, and when (p. 89)? What places does he travel through? Where does he stay? (Throughout the journey chapters, note the romantic descriptions of the scenery. This is a journey Mary Shelley made with P. B. Shelley and Byron. in July 1817. A passage from Goethe's Werther describing feelings similar to Victor's appears on pp. 222-223 of the Bedford edition.)

Ch 10

1.

Were does Victor go the next day? Where does he go the following day? P. B. Shelley mentions the glacier in a letter written an Chamouni (his spelling) on July 25, 1817:

"We have returned from visiting the glacier of Montanvert, or as it is called, the Sea of Ice, a scene of tryly dazzling wonder." (Norton Critical Edition, p. 179)

How does he feel during this part of his journey? (Notice on p. 92 that in 179- he is somehow able to quote a poem written by P. B. Shelley in 1816!)

2.

Whom does he see (p. 92)? How does he respond (pp. 92-93)?

3.

On p. 93 we hear the creature speak for the first time. What does he say? Is this what we expect from the creature?

4.

What does the creature ask of Victor (p. 93)? What does the creature say to Victor (pp. 93-94)? Does his language remind you of another literary work? How good is Victor at performing the role of creator for his creature?

5.

Why has the creature caused the deaths of William and Justine? Is he as inherently evil and bloodthirsty as Victor has assumed? What will cause the creature to change? Keep in mind his statement "I was benevolent and good; misery made me a fiend. Make me happy, and I shall again be virtuous" (p. 94).What sort of psychological understanding is Shelley showing here?

6.

How good of an ironic sense of humor does the creature have? (See the "hand" bit on the bottom of p. 94).

7.

Does Victor agree to listen to the creature's tale? What does Victor begin to feel (p. 95)? Where do they go?

Ch 11

The Creature's Tale Begins (Chapters 11-16, pp. 95-128)

1,

What does the creature remember of his earliest days (pp. 95-97)? How does he seem to be learning things? How well can the creature speak at this point of his existence? (You might want to compare the education of the creature with the selection from Rousseau's Emile, or On Education on pp. 205-211 of the Bedford edition. The passages on pp. 193-200 from Godwin's Caleb Williams and Mary Shelley's Maria are also relevant to the creature's tale.)

2.

How does the creature respond to his discovery of the fire (p. 97)? Why does he move?

3.

What happens during his first encounters with people (p. 98)? Is this more like what you expect from a horror story? But from whose point of view do we see these encounters?

4.

Where does he finally find a place to stay (pp. 97-98)? What does he learn about the people who live in the cottage? How does he feel toward them?

Ch 12

1.

How does the creature continue to learn about the family he is watching? How might a modern anthropologist or sociologist respond to the creature's methods? What is the condition of the family? How does the creature manage to help them?

2.

How does the creature learn language (p. 103)? Why might he have trouble learning words such as "good, dearest, unhappy" (p. 103)? What are the names of the family members (p. 103)? Who are Agatha and Felix?

3.

What things bother the creature when he thinks of discovering himself to the family (p. 104)? How does he respond to his own appearance when he sees it?

4.

The creature is still there when spring comes (p. 104). What has been happening to Victor in the meantime? (See Chapter 5.)

5.

How does the creature hope to win over the family (p. 105)? How does he respond to the coming of spring (pp. 105-106)?

Ch 13

1.

Who arrives at the cottage in the spring? What is Safie's background? How does her language problem help the creature? Which of them learns faster?

2.

How does the creature learn about reading? What book does Felix use to teach Safie (p. 108)?

3.

What does the creature learn from this book? How much of a monster can someone be who can say "but when I heard details of vice and bloodshed, my wonder ceased, and I turned away with disgust and loathing" (p. 109)?

4.

What happens when the creature begins to think about himself (pp. 109-110)? How does he compare with the humans described in the book? What questions does he ask himself? How does his knowledge make him feel? What does he learn about human relationships, and how does this make him feel?

Ch 14

1.

How did the De Lacey family come to be living in the cottage?

2.

How did Safie come to find and join them?

Ch 15

1.

What does the creature find in the woods?

2.

What are the three books that the creature reads, and what does he learn from each?

3.

What else does the creature read and what does he learn from it (p. 117)?

4.

How long has it been since the creature came to life (p. 118)? What is Victor doing at this point? (See chapter 6.)

5.

What does the creature hope will happen when he talks to De Lacey? What actually happens?

Ch 16

1.

What happens to the De Lacey family after the events of chapter 15? How does the creature respond, and what does he do to the cottage?

2.

How does the creature travel? Does this remind you of any other people's travels?

3.

What event during the creature's travels confirms his hatred of humans (p. 125)?

4.

What event happens when the creature is near Geneva (pp. 126-128)? Who is the boy? Who is the woman? What is the date? (For the date, see p. 72.)

5.

When Victor visits the site of William's death in chapter 7, he says "I had turned loose into the world a depraved wretch, whose delight was in carnage and misery" (p. 76). After reading the creature's version of events, do you agree?

6.

What does the creature demand from Victor (p. 128)?

Ch 17

1.

How does Victor at first respond to the creature's demand? What response does he expect from the creature (p. 128)? What approach does the creature say he will take?

2.

How effective is the creature in convincing Victor?

3.

What does the creature say will happen if Victor creates a female for him (p. 129)?

4.

What does Victor decide (p. 131)? What does the creature say he will do while Victor is at work?

5.

How does Victor appear and respond to his family when he returns home?

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CHAPTERS 18-24 (= 1818 edition, volume 3; pages 132-189)

Ch 18

1.

Why does Victor's father think Victor might not want to marry Elizabeth?

2.

Why does Victor want to visit England? What do you make of his talk of slavery (pp. 134-135)?

3.

What is the effect of Victor's return to the present (pp. 137-138).

Ch 19

1.

What are Clerval's plans for his career (p. 139)?

2.

Where does Victor's journey end, and what does he plan to do there? Why is he afraid (pp. 143-144)?

Ch 20

1.

Why does Victor change his mind about creating the female? Who watches him as he destroys the female (p. 145)?

2.

What happens shortly after Victor destroys the female (p. 145)? How is this similar to what happened after Victor created the Creature?

3.

What happens when the Creature visits Victor (pp. 145-146). What does the Creature promise to do? What does Victor understand that promise to mean (p. 147)?

4.

What happens when Victor goes out in a boat to dispose of the female creature's remains? Where does he end up? What happens when he lands?

Ch 21

1.

Who is Mr. Kirwin and how does he treat Victor? What has happened to cause Victor's arrest? What happens to Victor after his arrest?

2.

What happens when Victor wakes up? Who is there?

3.

What happens at Victor's trial?

4.

How does Victor feel as they leave Ireland and go to France (pp. 158-159)?

Ch 22

1.

Why doesn't Victor get home quickly?

2.

What does Elizabeth say in her letter? How does Victor respond to her?

3.

What are the marriage plans? How does Victor prepare for what he fears will happen?

4.

How do Victor and Elizabeth get to Evian and why do they stop there?

Ch 23

1.

Has Victor understood the Creature's promise correctly? What happens on Victor's wedding night?

2.

How does the Creature respond (p. 168)?

3.

What happens when Victor returns to Geneva? What happens to Victor's father? What happens to Victor?

4.

What happens when Victor tries to get the authorities to help him hunt for the Creature?

Ch 24

1.

What happens during Victor's pursuit of the Creature? Where to they go? What does the Creature do?

2.

What sustains Victor during his pursuit?

3.

What does Victor ask Walton to do? What does he warn Walton about the Creature (p. 178)?

Walton's letter continues

4.

Why wouldn't Victor tell Walton the details about the creation (p. 179)?

5.

How has Victor come to understand himself (p. 180)? How does Walton respond to Victor's impending death?

6.

How does Walton avoid the threat of a mutiny (pp. 181-183)?

7.

Why is Walton returning to England (p. 183)? What will Victor do?

8.

Does Victor blame himself (pp. 184-185)? What is Walton's response to Victor's death?

9.

What happens as Walton is writing (p. 185)? What is the effect of shifting to the present tense here?

10.

When Walton sees the Creature in the cabin with Victor's body, what is familiar about the scene? Why has the Creature come to see Victor? How does the Creature explain what he has done? How does Walton respond to the Creature?

11.

What will the Creature do next? How does he feel about it?

12.

Do we see the Creature die?

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