Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is one of the most timeless horror stories ever told. Though the story 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 those 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.

Piece together everything you need to know about teaching Frankenstein below.

Summary of Frankenstein

Key Facts

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.

What Your Students Will Love About Frankenstein

  • The novel's suspenseful and dark imagery
  • The themes of ethics and morality that add depth to a classic horror novel

Potential Student Struggles With Frankenstein

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

Learning Objectives for 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.

Literary Elements in Frankenstein

  • Allusion
  • Epistolary Narrative
  • Foreshadowing
  • Frame Narrative
  • Metaphor
  • Suspense
  • Symbolism
  • And more!

Major Themes in Frankenstein

Ethics — By showing the consequences of Dr. Frankenstein's actions, the novel explores moral questions that can arise from scientific innovations.

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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.

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Individual and Society — This novel examines the effect of societal alienation on mental health through the analysis of the monster and its actions.

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Other Resources for Frankenstein

  • Frankenstein has been adapted to film several times, most recently in 2015 in the American film called Victor Frankenstein starring James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe. Though this film may appeal to students because of its modern release date and popular actors, it is only very loosely based on the events of the original novel. (Watch the trailer)
  • The 1994 film Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, which was directed by Kenneth Branagh and starred Robert De Niro and Helena Bonham Carter, is considered to be one of the most faithful adaptations despite its additions to and deviations from the novel's plot. (Watch the trailer)
  • The Monstrosity of Humanity in Frankenstein
  • The Prometheus Myth
  • Analysis - The Monster Reads Milton: Paradise Lost

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 Reproducible Downloadable 30-Book Set

This free guide was originally posted in June 2014. It has been updated as of September 2019.