Another way to tackle your assignment on Frankenstein

Start off with an introduction telling us briefly what the story is about

Where was Mary Shelley when she had the idea of the story? (Switzerland, in the mountains, rotten summer weather)

Who was she with and why did she come up with the idea? (friends, competition to tell ghost stories, nightmare)

What had happened to her in her past that she wanted to include in the story? (mother died/ her own baby died / she had witnessed professor Galvani’s experiment to animate a frog / and become obsessed with the ideas of preventing death herself.)

Section one:

How did she write the story? (letters from Walton to his sister / story within a story within a story / a mix of romantic and gothic writing / this style was influenced by people she knew who were writers like Percy, her lover who was a Romantic poet, Coleridge had written the Rime of the Ancient Mariner which had horrified her but which introduced her to Gothic writing)

What other works of literature had affected and influenced her in her writing and how did she use them? (the Rime of the Ancient Mariner / Paradise Lost / Faust / myths of the Fall of Man and Prometheus)

When did she first publish the story and why anonymously? When was it revised and how was it changed and why?

Section two:

Remember this is the title – horrifying today as it ever was.

Start with the beginning – where does the book start? Who is there? Why? How does she write this section in the Romantic style? (think how she describes the place (you could even here discuss how Branagh films this opening section to his film) / what kind of man Walton is and how he fits the classic Romantic hero character type.) How do Shelly and Branagh make this opening section shocking? (think unexpected visitors / dogs / howling / unseen threat)

Now go on to the beginning of the bit where Victor animates the creature (see quotation, it’s a mix of Romantic and Gothic styles – why is it shocking for both Victor and the reader? What kind of expectations were set up and how and why were they upset?)

Section three:

What themes are included in her story? e.g. birth, death, parenthood, responsibility towards children, the need for love and companionship, nature vs nurture and what makes us who and what we become (here talk about Rousseau and his ideas about what makes men evil / Mary read this book while on this holiday, how does she incorporate it into her book? The creature, the way he is treated by everybody he comes across including his creator and the fact that he never gets a name), science playing God (here can you give some examples from the 20th century like gm foods, cloning, the atom bomb etc,) the power of religion (Think of Justine and people’s attitudes towards what was appropriate for science to investigate and what was not), prejudice (appearances), ambition (Walton’s / Victor’s / the creature’s – which are right or acceptable and which are not?), the differences between men and women (this could include how women are portrayed in the book and both films / but could also relate it to Mary’s feminist mother and how Mary and she would have felt about bringing up children / marriage…)

Section four:

Now bring it up to date – refer to the ways in which Mary Shelley’s original idea has been used in films, other books, TV and above all what for? (to frighten / to warn of the dangers of…)

What did you think of the films? Which did you prefer if either? Why / why not?

Do you think it is a good story? What were the difficulties in reading the original story? (language / style / length / old-fashioned? / strange ideas? Was it realistic enough?)

Section five:

What do you think were Mary’s overall messages? Do you think they are still important today?

 


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