Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is one of the most timeless horror stories ever told. Though the novel is a product of the Gothic and Romantic movements, it is often considered the first true science fiction novel, as it represents the dangerous outcome that can result when a scientific experiment goes terribly wrong. Students will be captivated by the shocking events of the plot, but it is important to move beyond the superficial elements of the story and ask them to discuss the larger issues at play within the novel.

Frankenstein asks students to consider ethical dilemmas, especially pertaining to science. Students should contemplate the morality and consequences of Dr. Frankenstein's decision to create life and find religious and mythological connections to this story.

While reading Frankenstein, students may find themselves torn between blaming the monster for its crimes and feeling empathetic towards the abundance of misunderstandings it experiences in its life. In order to justify these two vastly different interpretations of the same text, students should analyze the effect of societal alienation on the monster and the effect that crazed ambition has on Dr. Frankenstein.

1. Summarize Frankenstein

The novel begins in the form of a letter from Captain Robert Walton to his sister, Margaret Walton Saville. While exploring the North Pole, Captain Walton and his crew stumble upon a nearly frozen Dr. Victor Frankenstein, who begins to tell the men a terrifying story about a scientific experiment gone horribly wrong. Dr. Frankenstein describes how his intense ambition led him to create a monstrous being, one that was so disturbing that it caused him to go into hiding. Upon his return, though, Dr. Frankenstein learns that the creature had embarked on a killing spree, murdering many of his closest friends. As the novel progresses, Dr. Frankenstein learns more about the monster's psychology and its motives for these deeds, ultimately leading up to the final confrontation between the maker and his creation.

Content Warning: Frankenstein contains several violent scenes, including terror, multiple murders, and an execution.

2. Identify Objectives for Teaching Frankenstein:

  • Explain the mythological relevance of the novel's subtitle, The Modern Prometheus.
  • Analyze how the narrative structure of the novel contributes to a greater understanding of Dr. Frankenstein and his purpose for telling the story.
  • Discuss the significance of the religious references in the novel.
  • Explain how Frankenstein includes characteristics of Gothic, Romantic, and science fiction literature.
  • Discuss the various ways in which the monster is characterized in the novel and identify how that affects the reader's understanding of his actions.

3. Pinpoint Key Facts and Literary Elements

Key Facts

  • Length: 208 pages
  • Publication Date: 1818
  • Lexile Measure: 1170
  • Recommended Grade Band: 11 – 12

Literary Elements

  • Allusion
  • Epistolary Narrative
  • Foreshadowing
  • Frame Narrative
  • Suspense
  • Symbolism

4. Understand Themes and Motifs

  • Ethics — By showing the consequences of Dr. Frankenstein's actions, the novel explores moral questions that can arise from scientific innovations.
  • Ambition — Though ambition is usually seen as beneficial to future success, it can yield dangerous results if it involves an obsession with the end goal.
  • Individual and Society — This novel examines the effect of societal alienation on mental health through the analysis of the monster and its actions.

5. Explore Related Works

Theme of Ethics

Theme of Ambition

Theme of Individual and Society

6. Employ Films and Other External Resources

7. Consider What Your Students Will Love

  • The novel's suspenseful and dark imagery
  • The themes of ethics and morality that add depth to a classic horror novel
  • Shelley's innovation of the science fiction genre during the Gothic and Romantic movements

8. Anticipate What Your Students May Struggle With

  • Comprehending frequent religious, mythological, and literary allusions
  • Understanding the epistolary structure within the frame narrative

9. Order Frankenstein Resources from Prestwick House:

Resource Format
Frankenstein Paperback Student Edition
Frankenstein Teaching Unit Reproducible Downloadable 30-Book Set
Frankenstein AP Teaching Unit Reproducible Downloadable 30-Book Set
Frankenstein Activity Pack Reproducible Downloadable 30-Book Set
Frankenstein Response Journal Reproducible Downloadable 30-Book Set
Frankenstein Multiple Critical Perspectives Reproducible Downloadable 30-Book Set
Frankenstein Levels of Understanding Reproducible Downloadable 30-Book Set
Frankenstein Complete Teacher's Kit 30-Book Set 30-Book Set

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