Student Notes – Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Frankenstein, written by Mary Shelley and published in 1818, is a seminal work of Gothic literature that explores themes of ambition, creation, and the consequences of playing god. The novel tells the story of Victor Frankenstein, a young scientist who creates a sentient being through the reanimation of dead body parts, only to be horrified by the creature he brings to life. This set of student notes provides a comprehensive overview of the key elements, themes, and characters in Frankenstein, along with analysis and discussion points for further exploration and understanding.
- Europe (primarily Switzerland and Scotland): The novel is primarily set in various European locations, with a significant portion taking place in Geneva, Ingolstadt, and the remote regions of Scotland.
- Victor Frankenstein: The ambitious and tormented protagonist who creates the creature and grapples with the consequences of his actions.
- The Creature: The nameless being brought to life by Victor, who is initially misunderstood and seeks acceptance but turns to violence and revenge due to his rejection by society.
- Robert Walton: The explorer who serves as the framing device for the novel, encountering Victor and hearing his tragic tale.
- Elizabeth Lavenza: Victor’s adoptive sister and love interest, who becomes a target of the creature’s vengeance.
- Henry Clerval: Victor’s childhood friend, who provides emotional support and serves as a contrast to Victor’s obsessive pursuit of knowledge.
- The novel follows Victor Frankenstein’s pursuit of scientific knowledge and his subsequent creation of the creature, which leads to a series of tragic events and moral dilemmas.
- Themes: Ambition and Hubris, Nature and Nurture, Alienation and Isolation, Responsibility and Accountability, Appearance vs. Reality.
Key Themes and Symbolism:
- Ambition and Hubris: The novel explores the dangers of unchecked ambition and the consequences of playing god through Victor’s reckless pursuit of scientific knowledge.
- Nature and Nurture: Shelley examines the role of environment and upbringing in shaping individuals’ character and behavior, questioning the notion of innate evil.
- Alienation and Isolation: Both Victor and the creature experience profound isolation and are rejected by society, leading to their descent into despair and violence.
- Responsibility and Accountability: The novel raises questions about the ethical implications of creation and the responsibility of creators for their creations.
- Appearance vs. Reality: The discrepancy between the creature’s physical appearance and his inner nature challenges the idea of judging others based solely on their outward appearance.
Analysis and Discussion Points:
- Analyze Victor Frankenstein’s character, discussing his motivations, moral dilemmas, and the consequences of his actions. Consider the parallels between Victor and the creature.
- Discuss the theme of nature versus nurture, exploring how the creature’s development is shaped by his interactions with society and the rejection he faces.
- Examine the role of science and technology in the novel, reflecting on the ethical implications of scientific advancements and the responsibility of scientists.
- Reflect on the theme of alienation and isolation, considering how it affects both Victor and the creature and the commentary it offers on human nature and society.
- Explore the significance of the novel’s framing narrative, with Robert Walton’s letters and Victor’s story, and how it enhances the themes and messages of the novel.
Frankenstein is a haunting and thought-provoking novel that delves into the depths of human ambition, responsibility, and the moral implications of scientific exploration. Mary Shelley’s exploration of the human condition, societal rejection, and the consequences of unchecked ambition continues to captivate readers. By engaging with the student notes provided, readers can gain a deeper understanding of the novel’s themes, characters, and the enduring relevance of its cautionary tale.