Analysing Frankenstein

The analysis tasks for our Frankenstein unit.

Now that we have read and explored Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein we need to bring everything together as we journey ‘below the surface’. These analysis activities aim to help you think about the novel in relation to the key areas we are exploring this year.

The Process

  • You must publish the work you do for these activities to your English blog. This will allow your teacher to comment on what you are producing and also keep you accountable. You may choose to use material you have already produced while completing these tasks in either a raw or edited form.
  • It is essential that you use quotations throughout your work to support the observations you are making. On our blog, we have a post called ‘Exploring Frankenstein’ and on this post I have included ‘Notable Quotes’ for each section of the novel. You are encouraged to add to this with other quotes that you have noticed while reading or find when you re-read sections of the novel.
  • This work will form the foundation for the next four weeks of classwork. During this time, we will decide together when to schedule discussions on different aspects of the novel that you wish to converse with your classmates about. A series of workshops will run when we uncover aspects of the novel we have struggled with. It is expected that if you feel that you do not have enough time in class to work on this, you will use some of your study periods and homework time to ensure this work is completed.


  1. The novel moves through three different narrators. Discuss the different perspectives each narrator offers and what this does to the reader’s understanding of the events of the novel.
  2. Reflect on the order of narrators. Why does Shelley expose us to the ‘truth’ by degrees? How is one of the critical themes of the novel developed via the structure of the narration?
  3. Explain the details of three key scenes in the novel. Analyse why these scenes are significant in regards to the development of character and theme.


  1. Describe the three main characters and categorise their role in the novel. For each:
  • Describe their most significant personality traits.
  • Determine their strengths and weaknesses.
  • Comment on what each character helps the reader to understand throughout the novel.

2. The three main characters form a triangle of key relationships. Comment on how significant the relationships between Walton-Frankenstein, Frankenstein- Creature and Creature-Walton are to the development of the texts core themes.

3. Reflect on the characters’ connections to society- what experiences do they have that possibly shape them? How much a part does society play in influencing the characters decisions in the text?


Identify three key settings in the novel that help to establish the tone of isolation that is developed throughout the text. Analyse how language features are used to convey this tone in this setting to the reader and reflect on the purpose behind this.

Research the Enlightenment Period. Consider how a text such as Frankenstein emerged from a period of time when science was being established as a credible way of explaining the ways of the world.

Language Features

Throughout the novel, Shelley often uses metaphor and simile to highlight some of the uncontrollable nature of exploration and knowledge. Reflect on how the following examples develop these ideas:

  • “These are my enticements, and they are sufficient to conquer all fear of danger and or death, and induce me to commence this laborious voyage with the joy a child feels when he embarks in a little boat, with his holiday mates, on an expedition of discovery up his native river.” – Walton, Letter One
  • “…when I would account to myself for the birth of that passion, which afterwards ruled my destiny, I find it arise, like a mountain river, from ignoble and almost forgotten sources; but swelling as it proceeded, it became the torrent which, in its course, has swept away all my hopes and joys.”
  • “No one can conceive the variety of feelings which bore me onwards, like a hurricane, in the first enthusiasm of success.”
  • “Of what a strange nature is knowledge! It clings to the mind, when it has seized on it, like a lichen on the rock.”

The next language feature which Shelley uses throughout the novel is allusion. It is frequently woven throughout the text to ensure deeper meaning is given to the characters or events of the text. Comment on how the following allusions develop ideas about characters or themes:

  • The subtitle of the novel is “The Modern Prometheus”. Research the story of Prometheus and reflect on how he is connected to Victor Frankenstein. Discuss what we are able to understand about Frankenstein’s actions and punishment from unpacking this allusion.
  • The Ancient Mariner is a poem that is referred to throughout the novel. At times, it is even quoted (like in chapter five after Frankenstein’s runs away from the creature). Research this poem and its meaning. Compare the similarities between the poem and the novel. Locate the extract of the poem in chapter five and analyse why it was inserted at this point of the text- what purpose does it have?
  • In Chapter 2 of Volume 2, Shelley refers to a poem called ‘Mutability’, written by her husband. Find a copy of this poem and explore the connection between the meaning of the poem and one of core ideas of the novel.
  • In Chapter 4 of Volume 2, there is a reference to ‘the ass and the lap-dog’ which is from La Fontaine’s ‘L’Ane et le petit chien’. It the text, when the ass sees the lap-dog’s master petting it as a reward for its friendly fawning, it tries the same thing but gets beaten for its pains. Look into this reference. Comment on how this relates to the Creature’s experience in the novel.

There are many moments where biblical allusions are made. Explore the meaning and connection to the text behind the following references:

  • “A new species would bless me as its creator.” – Victor Frankenstein
  • I ought to be thy Adam but I am rather the fallen angel, whom thou drivest from joy for no misdeed.”– The Creature
  • “I had heard them, on these occasions, utter the words ‘good spirit’…but I did not then understand the signification of these terms.”- The Creature in reference to how the De Lacey family spoke of him.
  • Like Adam, I was apparently united by no link to any other being in existence; but his state was far different to mine in every other respect. He had come forth from the hands of God a perfect creature, happy and proposerous, guarded by the especial care of his Creator; he was allowed to converse with and acquire knowledge from beings of a superior nature: but I was wretched, helpless and alone. Many times I considered Satan as the fitter emblem of my condition; for often, like him, when I viewed the bliss of my protectors, the bitter gall of envy rose within me.”– The Creature
  • “…the fallen angel becomes a malignant devil. Yet even that enemy of God and man had friends and associates in his desolation; I am alone.”– The Creature

Background and Purpose

Collect a copy of the preface from Mrs Plunkett and read it. After reading it (and conducting research if you feel the need to), write a summary of the notes on the following points:

  • Mary Shelley’s background.
  • The conditions in which the novel Frankenstein was created.
  • Outline P.B. Shelley’s thoughts on the realistic nature of ‘the event’ which the novel draws upon.

In the preface, Shelley reflects on what she wanted to achieve with this novel. She states: “I busied myself to think of a story,- a story to rival those which had excited us to this task. One which would speak to the mysterious fears of our nature and awaken thrilling horror.” In light of this quote, write a response to the following statements below:

  • Shelley states that she wanted to write a story to ‘rival one which had excited us to this task.’ To what is she referring to? Do you think Frankenstein fulfils this brief? Why/why not?
  • She goes on to say that she wishes to write a story that will ‘speak to the mysterious fears of our nature’. Provide a definition of ‘human nature’ and then discuss what ‘mysterious fear’ Shelley is seeking to tap into with Frankenstein.
  • In what way do you think the novel ‘awaken(s) thrilling horror’? Why would Shelley want to frighten her readers? What do you think they should actually be afraid of if they look back and consider the novel?

The purpose of the novel is to issue a warning to the readers. Consider how the novel provides us with a warning on the following points:

  • Scientific exploration
  • Parental obligations and responsibilities
  • Judgement and prejudice of the majority against the minority

Critical Theory

To fully appreciate the novel, we need to examine it via a lens of critical psychological theory. For each of the theories below (note that the points are in fact links to get you started), summarize the general theory and provide a discussion as to their relevance to Frankenstein.

Posted by Renee Plunkett

Teacher of English at Mount Aspiring College, Wanaka, New Zealand.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: