Reading frankenstein How to read the novel

Be sure to begin reading Frankenstein early so that you will have it finished or almost finished when we begin reading it. Your understanding of the novel and our presentations/discussions/essays will be enhanced if you take reading notes and keep them organized and updated as your thinking becomes clearer and more specific. 

Important: Read the novel first. Then read the introduction, which will give you helpful information and context. Also, be sure to read the notes at the back of the book. You might keep an extra bookmark in the notes section so that you can easily access notes as you are reading. Finally, the appendices are worth looking at since they provide additional context for the novel.

Background Reading

For background reading (as time allows), the Norton Anthology offers helpful material. See the Gothic and Mass Readership. Also, see the on writers of Gothic fiction: Horace Walpole, William Beckford, Ann Radcliffe, and Matthew Gregory Lewis. Finally the general introduction to Romanticism (NA )has helpful background info.: The concept of revolution/the novel. (Check the syllabus--we will discuss some of these.)

Frankenstein brings together many key themes (dichotomies) of the Romantic Period: freedom and oppression, science and nature (natural world/human nature), society and the individual, knowledge and power, masculinity and femininity, dreaming and reality, creation and destruction, self-discovery and self-destruction, life and death, God and man.

Questions for reading and discussion

**These questions are taken from the Penguin Books website--study guides**

  1. Is Robert Walton's ambition similar to Frankenstein's, as Frankenstein believes? 
  2. Why is the fifteen-year-old Frankenstein so impressed with the oak tree destroyed by lightning in a thunderstorm?  
  3. Why does Frankenstein become obsessed with creating life?  
  4. Why is Frankenstein filled with disgust, calling the monster "my enemy," as soon as he has created him? (p. 62) 
  5. What does the monster think his creator owes him? 
  6. Why does Frankenstein agree to create a bride for the monster, then procrastinate and finally break his promise?
  7. Why can't Frankenstein tell anyone—even his father or Elizabeth—why he blames himself for the deaths of William, Justine, and Henry Clerval?  
  8. Why doesn't Frankenstein realize that the monster's pledge "I shall be with you on your wedding-night" threatens Elizabeth as well as himself? (p. 173) 
  9. Why does Frankenstein find new purpose in life when he decides to seek revenge on the monster "until he or I shall perish in mortal conflict"? (p. 206) 
  10. Why are Frankenstein and his monster both ultimately miserable, bereft of human companionship, and obsessed with revenge? Are they in the same situation at the end of the novel?  
  11. Why doesn't Walton kill the monster when he has the chance?
For Further Reflection
  1. Was it wrong for Frankenstein to inquire into the origins of life? 
  2. What makes the creature a monster rather than a human being? 
  3. Is the monster, who can be persuasive, always telling the truth?