A TEACHER’S GUIDE TO THE SIGNET CLASSICS EDITION OFM A RY S H E L L EY ’ SFRANKENSTEINbyLAURA REIS MAYERS E R I E SE D I T O R S :JEANNE M. McGLINN and JAMES E. McGLINNboth atUNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA AT ASHEVILLE
2A Teacher’s Guide to the Signet Classics Edition of Mary Shelley’s FrankensteinTABLE OF CONTENTSIntroduction.3List of Main Characters.3Synopsis of the Novel.4Prereading Activities.6I. Building Background Knowledge in History and Culture.7II. Building Background Knowledge Through Exploration of Genre.10III. Building Background Knowledge in Language.12IV. Building Background Knowledge ThroughInitial Exploration of Themes.13During Reading Activities.16I. Analyzing Through Group Response.17II. Analyzing Through Individual Response.21After Reading Activities.23I. Topics for Discussion and Essays.23II. Group and Individual Projects.24III. Comparisons and Connections.26Extending Reading.28About the Author of this Guide.30About the Editors of this Guide.30Free Teacher’s Guides.31Copyright 2009 by Penguin Group (USA)For additional teacher’s manuals, catalogs, or descriptive brochures,please email [email protected] or write to:PENGUIN GROUP (USA) INC.Academic Marketing Department375 Hudson StreetNew York, NY 10014-3657http://www.penguin.com/academicIn Canada, write to:PENGUIN BOOKS CANADA LTD.Academic Sales90 Eglinton Ave. East, Ste. 700Toronto, OntarioCanada M4P 2Y3Printed in the United States of America
A Teacher’s Guide to the Signet Classics Edition of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein3INTRODUCTIONMarch, 2009: In one of the most significant and controversial reversals of previous policy,newly innaguarated U.S. President Barack Obama signed an executive order to permitfederal funding for human embryonic stem cell research. The ensuing debate continuesto rage in both congress and culture, centering around the following questions: At whatpoint does human life begin? Do human beings have the right to pursue science overideology, no matter the gains or sacrifices?Mary Shelley’s 18th century Romantic novel Frankenstein raises the same questions abouta scientist’s quest to produce a living creature from human parts. When Dr. Frankensteinabandons his creation out of horror and remorse, the monster sets out on a quest of hisown, to connect with the rest of human-kind. The parallel journeys of Dr. Frankensteinand his creature lead both characters and readers to question the nature of humanity, therights of the living, and and the responsibility of science.High school students are in a unique position to appreciate these questions as they arefacing many of the same issues: the roles of technology verses humanity, the search forself-identity, and the responsibility they have to others. Students who remember“Frankenstein” as a Halloween monster will be surprised to find themselves re-visioningtheir view of Dr. Frankenstein’s creature, and will form contemporary connections as theyexplore the role of parent-child relationships in Shelley’s Gothic tale.This guide is designed to be accessible for a variety of learning styles and literacy needs.Pre-reading activities are provided to prepare students for reading a Romantic novel, andto challenge them to think about the dilemmas Dr. Frankenstein and his creature face.During-reading activities ask students to read the text more critically and to engage in themaking of meaning. And Post-reading activities encourage students to process and extendtheir thinking through a variety of written, verbal, and visual responses. The activitiesoffered in this guide can be used selectively by teachers in focusing on their courseobjectives and student needs.LIST OF MAIN CHARACTERSRobert Walton — ship captain, explorer, and confidant of FrankensteinVictor Frankenstein — scientist who designs a living creature from human remainsThe Creature — the un-named human being created by Victor FrankensteinHenry Clerval — Victor’s best friend and fellow studentAlphonse and Caroline Beaufort Frankenstein — Victor’s parentsErnest and William Frankenstein — Victor’s brothersElizabeth Lavenza — Victor’s adopted cousin and wifeJustine Moritz — servant and friend of the Frankenstein familyMr. DeLacey, Felix, Agatha, and Safie — Impoverished cottage family observed by theCreature
4A Teacher’s Guide to the Signet Classics Edition of Mary Shelley’s FrankensteinSYNOPSIS OF THE NOVELWALTON MEETS FRANKENSTEIN: LETTERSIn a letter to his sister Margaret in England, Robert Walton expresses excitement over hisplans to discover a passage from Russia to the North Pole. He yearns for a friend to sharehis dreams, despairs, and successes. What he finds is Victor Frankenstein, stranded andnearly frozen on the ice, yet determined to continue his pursuit northward. Sensing thatWalton is a kindred spirit in his pursuit of knowledge and the unknown, Frankensteinoffers his history as a moral tale.VICTOR’S EARLY LIFE: CHAPTERS 1-2Victor begins his story by detailing his childhood in the Genevese Republic, starting withhis father Alphonse’s marriage to Caroline Beaufort. Victor was their only child for fiveyears, after which they adopted orphaned toddler Elizabeth Lavenza who they present toVictor as “a pretty present.” He vows to protect and cherish Elizabeth as his very ownpossession. The Frankensteins have two more sons, Ernest and William, and settle inGeneva, Victor’s happy childhood home. Unlike his best friend Henry Clerval who wishesto learn about “the virtues of heroes and the actions of men,” Victor desires to learn “thesecrets of heaven and earth.” Victor becomes enamored of natural philosophy and beginsreading esoteric authors, delving into “the search of the philosopher’s stone and the elixirof life.” A violent lightning storm and the ensuing scientific explanation from a familyfriend cause Victor to conclude that he should abandon these outmoded ideas.CREATION OF THE MONSTER: CHAPTERS 3-5At age seventeen, after the death of his mother, Victor leaves home to attend universityat Ingolstadt where he soon regains his fascination with the mysteries of natural science.With the help of two professors, M. Krempe and M. Waldman, Frankenstein learns todistinguish between ancient myths and current fact, resolving to “pioneer a new way tounfold to the world the deepest mysteries of creation.” Victor spends the next two yearsimmersed in the study of chemistry, without returning to visit family and friends. In anobsessive effort to discover the point at which life begins, Victor spends countless daysand nights in charnel houses studying decayed human forms. After two years of workassembling his own creature, Frankenstein succeeds in bringing it to life. However, Victoris disgusted by the creature’s appearance and abandons him upon sight. Escaping intotown, Victor is surprised to see Henry Clerval, who has just arrived at the university.Overcome with the horror of his secret act, Victor becomes violently ill.CONSEQUENCES: CHAPTERS 6-10Clerval delivers a letter from Elizabeth, expressing concern for Victor’s illness and anxietyfor his long absence. She reports that Justine Moritz, cousin and family friend to theFrankensteins, has come back to live in their home. Upon Victor’s recovery, he and Henryturn their studies to the Oriental languages and decide to tour the Inglolstadt countryside.Henry’s romantic appreciation of their surroundings has a restorative effect on Victor’s
A Teacher’s Guide to the Signet Classics Edition of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein5health and psyche. His reprieve is shattered, however, when a letter from AlphonseFrankenstein reports the strangulation death of Victor’s five year old brother, William.As Victor and Henry return to Geneva, Victor catches a glimpse of his creature andrealizes that it is the murderer of young William. Arriving at home to his grief-strickenfamily, he learns that Justine has been accused of the crime because a locket given toWilliam by Elizabeth has been discovered in Justine’s pocket. Although she is innocent,Justine is pressured to give a false admission to the court, and even Elizabeth’s impassioneddefense fails to prevent Justine’s condemnation. Victor is overcome with guilt yet feels noone will accept his fantastic explanation of the creature, and despairs to see William andnow Justine “the first hapless victims to (his) unhallowed arts.” In guilt and self-imposedisolation, Victor is tempted to take his own life. He refrains from doing so only becausehe feels it is his duty to protect his family from the creature, whom he “abhors” andblames with growing intensity. To relieve his agony, Victor travels to the Chamounixvalley where he encounters the creature. Admonishing Frankenstein for abandoning hisown creation, the creature compares himself to a fallen angel. Although Victor curses thecreature, he is compelled to hear his tale.THE CREATURE’S STORY: CHAPTERS 11-16The creature describes his first experiences of the sights and sounds of Inglostadt. Similarto a newborn baby, he learned to distinguish between day and night and to find food anddrink in the forests and streams. Nature became his home and his protector, and hegradually discovered fire for cooking and warmth. Desiring the company of fellow humanbeings, he entered a village but was met with screams and stones. Coming upon theimpoverished DeLacey family, the creature kept himself hidden while observing them forseveral months. It was here he learned the beauty of music, the pleasure of reading, and thepower of the spoken word. Longing to join the cottagers, he secretly cuts their wood andeventually approached the blind patriarch, attempting to befriend him. When his presenceis discovered by DeLacey’s son, the creature is cruelly rejected once again and forced to flee.The creature continues his tale, explaining his suffering as he set out in the cold and snowto find his creator. While on his journey, he rescued a young girl from drowning, andwhen he was rewarded with a bullet, he “vowed eternal hatred and vengeance to allmankind.” After two months, he reached Geneva, where he happened to encounteryoung William in the woods. When William struggled and called him “monster,” thecreature strangled William. Then for revenge the creature plants William’s locket in thesleeping Justine’s pocket. But he now knows what he wants, the creature explains toVictor, a female creature made explicitly for him.AFTERMATH: CHAPTERS 17-24Frankenstein argues that the creature will only double his efforts to destroy mankind ifpresented with a partner, and refuses despite the creature’s threats of revenge. Frankensteinonly relents when the creature promises exile from Europe. Upon his return to Geneva,though, Victor delays the repugnant task. But when he considers marriage to Elizabeth, Victorrealizes he must give the creature his mate if he hopes for any peace. Fearful the monsterwill kill his father, Elizabeth, or Henry, Frankenstein sets out to accomplish the task quickly.
6A Teacher’s Guide to the Signet Classics Edition of Mary Shelley’s FrankensteinVictor settles in a hut on one of the Orkney isles, where he feels the landscape is asmiserable as the “filthy process” in which he is engaged. Near completion of the femalecreature, Frankenstein worries he may be creating “a race of devils,” and when he sees thecreature spying upon him one night, Victor destroys his work. Returning to confront hismaker, the creature vows to Victor, “I shall be with you on your wedding night.” Victorcasts the remains of the female creature into the sea, but is cast adrift by high winds. Aftera fearful struggle, Victor makes it to land, but is ordered to report to Mr. Kirwin, themagistrate. Victor is shocked to find he is accused of killing a young man whose body hasjust been found by local fishermen. Victor is agonized to recognize Henry Clerval andimmediately falls into a fever, and remains deathly ill for two months.When his father comes to take him home, Victor is found innocent. Still melancholy,Victor is determined to protect his loved ones. His wedding to Elizabeth is plannedquickly in hopes of relieving Victor of his continued anguish. Convinced the creature willact on his threat to appear on his wedding night, Victor plans means of protectinghimself. To his great agony, Frankenstein discovers he has misinterpreted the creature’sthreat, for it is Elizabeth, not Victor, that the monster murders. Frankenstein finallyconfides the entire tale to Geneva’s magistrate, who promises to seek justice but doubtsthe possibility of success. Highly agitated, Frankenstein vows to devote himself, “eitherin life or death,” to the creature’s destruction. Fo